Reporting by Third Man
Under normal circumstances, the start of a new cricket season can evoke all kinds of emotions, some of which are dependent on player movements during the close season, but in this Covid-dominated year, the overwhelming emotion at the belated start of the 2021 season was a sense of unbridled joy. At the outset, it is important to recognise and thank the Executive and members of the Hills CC for the way in which The Vineyard was presented for the home game against near neighbours, North County CC. The outfield looked brilliant; the pitch was superb, and the officials implemented the Covid procedures with great efficiency and good humour. Under a cloudless sky and in beautiful sunshine, all was set fair for a great day’s sport and for re-unions with old and new friends.
The Hills won the toss and opted to field first. The opening bowlers, Tomás Rooney-Murphy, and Dylan Blignaut, bowled with accuracy and pace, and ensured that North County did not get off to the proverbial flying start. At the start of the 4th over, there were only 7 runs on the board. In the 4th over, Tomás clean-bowled Niall McGovern, and 2 balls, later, Salman Aziz was out to a good catch by Athar Farooqi off the same bowler. At the other end, John Devane (29), was batting steadily and with the assistance of Jonathan Andrews brought the score up to 42 before Jonathan was clean bowled by Killian Everard. Killian also clean bowled Eddie Richardson when the score was 53 runs. The 5th wicket partnership between John Mooney (31) and John Devane added 52 runs to the score, but Devane fell to a caught and bowled by the impressive Levon Shields when the score was 105. The next two wickets fell for 2 runs, with the prize wicket of John Mooney falling to a smart catch in the deep by Cormac McLoughlin-Gavin, off the bowling of Tomás Murphy. Seán Sludds (21*) and Luke Whelan brought the North County score up to 137 runs for 8 wickets. The bowling honours fell to Tomás Rooney-Murphy (3 for 19), Levon Shields (2 for 9), Killian Everard (2 for 32) and Killian McGrane (1 for 24) with Dylan Blignaut bowling his 4 overs for 15 runs.
Spectators at games between Fingal teams know that it is unwise to speculate regarding what constitutes a winning score, and this became even more apparent when in reply, The Hills lost 2 batsmen (Cormac McLoughlin-Gavin and Murray Commins) when there was no run on the board. A superb partnership of 92 runs between Mark Donegan (47) and Man of the Match, Levon Shields (46*), brought about the necessary consolidation for the home side. Both players batted superbly; they ran well between the wickets and dealt firmly with any loose bowling. When Mark was out to a fine catch by Andrew Sheridan on the mid-wicket boundary off the bowling of Seán Sludds, the score was 92. Dylan Blignaut (27*) and Levon ensured that there were no further alarms, and the game ended in the 17th over with The Hills on a score of 139.
In many respects, this was a strange encounter because it lacked the passion which often permeates games between Fingal teams, and it appeared that everyone was delighted to be playing and looking at cricket. Normally, mistakes on the field can be the subject of recriminations but today, good humour and tolerance were abundantly in evidence and the beautiful sunshine added to the carnival atmosphere. Being aware of the adage that “one swallow does not a summer make”, any conclusions which might be drawn from this game are by their nature very tentative. The Hills’ bowling quintet of Tomás Rooney-Murphy, Dylan Blignaut, Killian Everard, Levon Shields, and Sameer Dutt, looks to be a very competent unit, and the batsmen, Mark Donegan, Levon Shields, and Dylan Blignaut did all that was required to win the game. On a day when cricket was the winner, it is onwards and upwards for the game against Phoenix CC at the Phoenix Park on Saturday next Third Man.