Phoenix v The Hills, 31 July 2021.
With both teams having lost their opening games in the BuaKit Premier League, the spectre of relegation was going to loom large for whichever team lost Saturday’s match between Phoenix and The Hills CC at the Phoenix Park. Phoenix had engaged in a major recruitment campaign during the close season, but a combination of injuries, international and interprovincial call-ups meant that it had been unable to field a full-strength team for much of the season, but on this occasion, apart from the injured Tyrone Kane, Phoenix was strengthened appreciably by the return of George Dockrell from International duty, and Nicolaas Pretorius from playing with Dublin University.
Tomás Rooney-Murphy, Captain of the Hills, won the toss and opted to field first. The Hills’ opening bowlers, Rooney-Murphy, and Dylan Blignaut, bowled with fire and accuracy, and Phoenix had only accumulated 9 runs by the 6th over when the first wicket (Mc Donough) fell to a brilliant run-out by Cian Nulty. Stephen Black was out LBW shortly after to the bowling of Tomás-Rooney Murphy. Two wickets fell in the 10th over, both of which were taken by Rooney-Murphy, with the returning Nicolaas Pretorius out first ball to a catch by Athar Farooqi. George Dockrell and Adam Chester set about rebuilding the innings and added 40 runs before Chester was caught by Farooqi off the bowling of Killian McGrane. The crucial wicket of Dockrell was taken as a result of a smart catch at first slip by Murray Commins off the bowling of Killian McGrane. The last four Phoenix wickets added 58 runs, and Phoenix was all out for 130 runs in the 36th over. The two young Hills’ bowlers, Nulty and McGrane, complemented the opening pair brilliantly, and each of them took 2 wickets. Rooney-Murphy took 3 wickets, and the other wickets fell to Blignaut and Sameer Dutt. The Hills’ fielding was a considerable improvement on the previous game, and Extras were restricted to 16 runs (11 wides, 2 no balls, 1 bye and 2 leg byes).
The target of 131 was reduced by 2 runs due to a rain-interruption, and the visiting supporters, all four of them, enjoyed a pleasant repast courtesy of Ms Rooney-Murphy while they contemplated a leisurely stroll to the target. To the certainties of death and taxes, can be added the facility of sports’ teams to induce all forms of stress and anxiety in their supporters as players contrive to make what appear to be straightforward tasks very difficult. In the first over of The Hills’ reply, Cormac McLoughlin-Gavin scored 8 runs off two beautiful shots, and in the next two overs, Phoenix conceded 17 Extras off a combination of wides and byes. The first wicket (Farooqi) fell when the score was 28, and McLoughlin-Gavin (21) and Murray Commins (18) brought the score up to 44 when McLoughlin-Gavin was adjudged LBW off the bowling of Aaron Cawley. Murray Commins’ dismissal when the score was 59 was similar to Dockrell’s – a catch at first slip when he nicked off to a ball from Conor Shiel. The next partnership, Dylan Blignaut and Mark Donegan, yielded 19 runs, but the brows of The Hills’ supporters were becoming increasingly furrowed as wickets began to fall with frightening regularity. Andrew Kavanagh was out when the score was 95, and four more wickets were lost for 29 runs. At 124 runs, with 5 required, Jonathan Tall, who had left the field due to an injury during the first innings, was obliged to limp to the centre as The Hills sought to achieve the required target. He faced 4 balls, and with a combination of forward defensive pushes and a deft flick, ensured that the onus would be on the imperturbable Dylan Blignaut to finish the game, which he did with considerable aplomb by scoring 4 runs.
Despite this victory, The Hills’ batting continues to give cause for concern. Blignaut (37*) batted superbly, and there were contributions from McLaughlin-Gavin and Commons, but the Extras conceded by Phoenix (39) were the top score of the day. Nevertheless, a win is a win, and the 20 points open The Hills’ account in the League. Until next Saturday’s visit of Merrion to The Vineyard, it’s onwards and upwards.