18th June 2022
The visit of Pembroke, the newly crowned League Cup champions, to The Vineyard was eagerly awaited as The Hills sought to continue its unbeaten league run. Pembroke won the toss; chose to bat first and lost 3 wickets for 26 runs, with Matthew Weldon and Dylan Blignaut being the successful bowlers. A stand of 126 runs between Theo Lawson and Poonish Mehta threatened to bat The Hills out of the game completely, but Blignaut returned to the attack, and clean-bowled Lawson. The next two wickets fell for 41 runs, and at 193 runs for 7 wickets, The Hills sensed the possibility of keeping Pembroke’s score below 250 runs, but Paul Lawson (34) and Mehta (144*) brought the Pembroke score up to the very daunting total of 282 runs for the loss of 6 wickets.
This was not one of the better Hills’ bowling displays and conceding 89 runs for the 7th wicket partnership changed the complexion of the game completely. Allied to a less than competent bowling performance, the fielding was well below the standard which would be expected of a Premier League team. Mehta batted brilliantly, but he was dropped when his score was in the mid-60s; Theo Lawson was also dropped, and the ground fielding left a lot to be desired. However, cricket is a game of two innings, and the more optimistic Hills’ supporters suggested that with a perfect batting wicket, and a lightning-fast outfield, the Pembroke score was only slightly above par.
Cormac McLoughlin-Gavin has been in a rich vein of form, but he was unlucky to pick out a fielder when he had only scored 9 runs. Andy Kavanagh (18) was clean bowled by Mehta; Dylan Blignaut suffered a similar fate, and the prospect of The Hills even making a game of it seemed to be remote. A partnership of 63 runs between Mark Donegan (51) and Athar Farooqi (28) gave The Hills a modicum of hope, but the required run-rate was climbing, and risky shots became the order of the day. Donegan batted beautifully for his 51 runs but was caught on the boundary by Robin Kelly. Levon Shields scored 46 runs; Tomás Rooney-Murphy scored 26 and the eighth wicket fell in the 41st over with The Hills on 209 runs. William Archer came into this crisis situation, and to add to his difficulties, he was batting with a runner because he had been injured while fielding. It is one of the anomalies of cricket that injured batsmen bat better when they only have to concentrate on hitting the ball, with running between the wickets being delegated to another person. William played very well for his 39 runs and his wicket was taken when the score was 237. Ashad Farooqi (9) and Matthew Weldon (10) brought The Hills’ score up to 260, and this left Pembroke the winners by 22 runs.
This was one of the games when supporters and players of The Hills talk about what might have been. A margin of only 22 runs shows that The Hills were always in the game with a chance of winning, but a much more clinical attitude to bowling and fielding is required if the team is to beat the top teams as distinct from giving them a good game. It is certain that the less than satisfactory aspects of the performance will be addressed by the coach and the captain, and an immediate opportunity existed to rectify these matters with the visit of Cork County to the Vineyard for the Irish Senior Cup game. Until then, it is onwards and upwards.