On a gloriously sunny day, Lisburn Cricket Club’s players, officials and supporters were welcome visitors to The Vineyard for the quarter-round game in the Irish Senior Cup. Lisburn lie top of the NCU League, thanks to a record of 8 wins and only 1 loss, and the “word on the street” was that Faiz Fazal, the overseas player, was a superb cricketer. However, it was emphasised that Lisburn’s cricket team was far from being a one-man band, and that it had a number of other very competent cricketers in its ranks. The Hills welcomed back Murray Commins after a long absence through injury, and it was hoped that his return would provide an extra impetus after the disappointing defeat against Clontarf on the previous day.
Lisburn won the toss, elected to bat first and The Hills’ opening bowlers were subjected to some very harsh treatment by Fazal (39) and Jonathan Waite (45). By the start of the 10th over, Lisburn had scored 80 runs, and Hills’ supporters were talking in terms of the team chasing at least 350 runs. Fazal’s wicket was the first to be taken, thanks to a smart catch behind the wicket by Mark Donegan off the bowling of Ashley Bain. Waite was clean-bowled by Tomás Rooney Murphy when the score was 97 runs, and two further wickets were taken in quick succession thanks to a run out and another clean-bowled by Rooney-Murphy. At 103 runs for 4 wickets, it appeared that The Hills had come back into the game, but it was at this juncture that Lisburn’s strength in depth became evident. David Millar scored a superb 77; there were also contributions from Adam Berry (17), Robert Rankin (13), and Mark Berry (25), and Lisburn’s final total was 248 runs all out after 41 overs. The Lisburn players and coaching staff were very disappointed that they had not succeeded in batting out the overs, and The Hills were very pleased to have clawed their way back into the game.
This was not one of The Hills better performances with the ball, and Ashley Bain (2 for 39) was the only bowler to have an economy rate below 4. Tomás Rooney-Murphy took 2 wickets for 45 runs in 7 overs; Jonathan Tall’s figures were 2 for 55 and Levon Shields took 3 for 45 in 9 overs. 12 wides were bowled, and the fielding continues to resemble the parson’s egg – “good in spots”.
The Hills did not have the hoped-for good start. The first wicket fell when there were 24 runs on the board, the next wicket fell on the same score, and the third wicket fell when the score was 50 in the 15th over. Murray Commins (56) and Mark Donegan (49) combined very well to bring the score up to 145 runs, and Hills’ supporters were daring the hope for a positive outcome to the game. However, in a situation similar to the Clontarf game, the batsmen who were in did not go on to accumulate big scores. After the departure of Donegan and Commins when the score was on 154 runs, there was big pressure on Dylan Blignaut to bring the team home. He batted competently, but again when he was well-set, he was out on 31 runs. Tomás Rooney-Murphy scored 12 runs; Extras were a very generous 33 runs, and The Hills ended on 215 runs which was a deficit of 33 runs.
It is important to maintain a sense of perspective and balance when commenting on a disappointing result. There is a good spirit among The Hills’ players, and they show a strong commitment to the club. However, it is necessary to take a long, hard look at the results of the past two days, and the common element in each game was that players who are well-set are tending to lose concentration and to make poor decisions in terms of stroke-making. Talented players do not suddenly become poor players, and confidence is a huge element in every sport and in every walk of life. The away game against Phoenix on Saturday next is the ideal opportunity for the players to return to their early season form. Until then, it is onwards and upwards.