by Conor Dillon
After a narrow reversal against Railway Union followed by a free weekend Captain David Ford thought a pre match net session was in order for his men to face Laois. Battan, Wardell, Nazir and De Wet were absent although three of these four were back in the Tillain Cup team the following evening. Stephen Neill, Nitin Naik, Kaleem Sheikh and Rory Anders were the four replacements. Phoenix won the toss and inserted the visitors. The Phoenix team was: D Ford, M Gregg, S Neill, N Naik, K Sheikh, R Anders, E Cleere, Masud Ahmed, L Savage, V Vaidyanathan, A Chester.
Phoenix got off to a good start as Anders had Mughal caught by Chester behind the stumps for 4 and in the third over Sheikh caught and bowled Ozenbrook. Shazad and M Auret began patiently building an innings for Laois but after Ford and Masud both took a wicket in their third over Laois were 62 for 4. However, Shazad survived and batted on with Meraj until he finally fell lbw to Gregg for 56. Meraj batted from over 18 until over 44 and his 83 from 99 balls saw all the bowlers he faced take some punishment. At 40 overs Laois were 200 for 5 and the last 10 overs saw the ball travel all over the ground with number 9 Yasim rubbing salt into the wounds as he made 42 from 24 balls. The innings closed on 295 for 8 with Ford and Masud Ahmed both taking 2 wickets and Sheikh, Anders, Gregg and Neill all taking 1 wicket.
Phoenix needed Masud to have a long innings and when he was out for 9 the challenge facing the rest of the batting line up moved more sharply into focus. Savage was unable to repeat his previous day’s contribution for the 1st xi and when Captain Ford was run out for 3 Eoin Cleere must have been wondering who would stay with him. Vaidyanathan batted a while for 6 but it was Stephen Neill who proved the most durable and productive on the day as he made 35 from 53 balls. Sheikh also proved adhesive and Phoenix struggled on to pass 100 but the batsmen never threatened the visitors’ total with Captain Ford summing up the day afterwards by saying that the pre match net session was what he enjoyed most. Khan had the best figures in a good bowling performance by Laois with 3 wickets for 13.