With thanks to Tom Mullen for the report. 13th August 2023.
Football fans will be familiar with the old adage: “Can they do it on a rainy night away at Stoke” – the classic litmus test for team resilience away from home.
For the Hills 4’s, the equivalent runs something like: “Can we do it on a showery day in the long grass at Swords”. The answer on Saturday was an emphatic yes, as an increasingly hardy Hills 4’s beat Swords 3’s by 70 runs.
A day’s play away in a Swords meadow, where you bring your own sambos or starve, and the rasping flow of the M1 traffic hisses just beyond the unkempt boundary copse, can be a tough test of cricketing mettle.
Having lost the toss and put into bat first, the Hills 4’s faced into the challenge to post 228 – Swords 3’s having made no higher total than 208 at home so far this season.
Matt Richards (11) and Tom Mullen (26) laid the initial foundations, digging in to protect the shed early on through showery, treacherous conditions. But the centre piece of the Hills innings was undoubtedly a fine century from Nithin Thambi (107) – his first career hundred and first for The Hills.
This was a wonderfully timed knock from Nithin – full of graft and guile early on, watchful of the better balls, playing a straight and steady hand to drinks. From there, he cruised into higher gears once the zest was sapped from the Swords attack, peppering the rope and sending several balls to be devoured by the bracken beyond the boundary. Falling on his sword in the final over, Nithin’s tonne was ably supported by partnerships throughout the Hills order, including positive front-foot hitting from Peter Stead (23), James Courell (19) and Usama Shah (16). Nathan Maguire (2*) and Max Brophy (4*) put the finishing touches to a fine team innings away from home.
Buoyed by runs on the board, on a ground where they don’t flow freely, the Hills 4’s took to the field. Usama Shah made the first breakthrough during a pacey opening spell – thanks to a stunning slip catch from Jay Magee – a blistering edge off a full-blooded heave, snatched at head height at fly slip.
Having warmed the hands with that super grab, Jay continued some fine recent form with the ball, taking 3 wickets with his classical swing bowling. Now entering the ‘silver fox Ravenelli’ phase of his long Hills career, with that 3 wicket haul Jay edges ever closer to a double-century of wickets for the Hills (195), whilst also approaching a century of catches (90), with over 4,000 runs to boot – knocking on the door of The Hills Hall of Fame with each further notch on the field of play.
As Swords sought to mount a charge at the Hills’ total, the chase was punctuated with regular wickets – Max Brophy claiming a wicket with a battling spell, and one for Nithin too as he tied up an end with some rhythmic off-spin. All of which was backed by a superb fielding display from ball magnet Usama Shah who bagged no less than four athletic catches, covering hectares of yardage out in the deep.
As some late summer sunshine emerged for the dying embers of the Swords innings, the Swords batsman complained one end had become unplayable facing into the low-beaming sunlight. Captain Andy McGirl sportingly decided to allow the opposition to face all remaining overs from the more hospitable end. For those veterans of the game who may think they have seen it all, Skipper McGirl continues to confound with his knack for conjuring seldom seen scenarios on a cricket field.
Forcing his bowlers to finish all remaining overs into the breeze and blinding sunlight, the Stead brothers (Peter and Max) relished the challenge, bowling in tandem to stamp out any remaining Swords defiance and claim the final wickets. The brothers combining to steal a sharp run out, and Peter clean bowling the final two Swords batsman to finish with 3 wickets in the match.
This surely won’t be the last time the Stead brothers bowl The Hills to victory – the future is as bright as the low-lying late season Swords sunshine.