by Conor Dillon
The sides had emerged from their consecutive league and cup clashes at Phoenix with honours even and this fixture arguably comprised a “best of three” decider. Victory for Pembroke would give them the Division 2 title whereas Phoenix’s path to the top depended on Pembroke’s final match also ending in defeat and a home win for Phoenix against Rush. Without the suspended Theo Lawson, the absent Rohit Bahl and the talented Robin Kelly the home team were arguably understrength but still included three Balbirnie brothers and Phoenix without Masud Ahmed were also arguably a more makeshift eleven. Pembroke won the toss and chose to bat first.
The eleven who took the field for Phoenix were: Captain Conor Kelly, wicket keeper Syed Ali, Eoin Cleere, Joe McKay, Jan Hendrik Steenkamp, Corie Dickeson,Thomas Anders, Adam Chester, Sadaf Raza, Rory Anders, Coach Matt Lunson.
There was personal disappointment for Tucker when he was run out without facing in the first over but Andy Balbirnie began to cash in with one boundary off Steenkamp and a few against Thomas Anders. Baugh (apparently a relation of the West Indies deputy wicketkeeper) was next to go lbw to Steenkamp for 4 and Beukes went quickly for 2 caught by Steenkamp off Raza. After a ponderous start Nicol took some of the pressure off Balbirnie with 7 in one Raza over and 14 and 7 in consecutive overs from Lunson. Balbirnie and Nicol fell in Raza’s ninth over to make it 124 for 5 but McCarthy and Eastwood were soon giving as good as they got to Chester and the returning Thomas Anders. The return of Steenkamp to the attack steadied things a little for the visitors but McKay in only his second spell of the season delighted the Phoenix supporters by picking up 3-17 in 4.5 overs. Steenkamp got two more scalps and the overall effect was that the home team was all out a ball earlier than they would have liked for 236.
McKay and Cleere began the reply with both perhaps under a little more pressure than either would have been with Masud at the other end. Cleere was first to go for 7 to make it 22 for 1. McKay and Anders batted well together and their stand had passed 50 by the time Anders fell to McCarthy to make it 74 for 2. Steenkamp struck a couple of early boundaries but the next boundary came from McKay and brought up his maiden 50 for Phoenix which was greeted warmly by the Phoenix supporters including Mr McKay senior. McKay was lbw next ball and overall batted 89 minutes, faced 68 balls, struck six fours and one six.
Dickeson took on the role of aggressor with Steenkamp backing up but the loss of Dickeson and Captain Kelly close together left the South African in charge of the run chase and at 152 for 6 on his dismissal Phoenix looked to be some distance from victory. Rory Anders held up an end but Chester and Raza did not detain the bowlers unduly and it was Coach Lunson who struck a defiant 20 before being the last man out with Phoenix 28 runs short of the target.
Phoenix man of the match: Joe McKay 50 runs, 3-17
Pembroke man of the match: A Balbirnie 62 runs, 3-42