It has been a few weeks since this correspondent penned a report on the Phoenix 4th XI. While I apologise for the gap, there is a very good reason for it. It is very hard to type a report when one has buried one’s head in the sand.
To say July has been a tough month for the 4s would be an understatement.
It started off with a double weekend against Leinster. First up was the Intermediate Cup away and then a league game the next day at home in Castleknock College. There were very few highlights from both games. A number of players made their debuts on the 4s over the two games – Muhammad Younas, Denis Kearney, Harry Fay and Louis McDonagh. A few familiar faces returned in the form of Michael Brown and Mick McDonagh.
Michael Brown’s 37 was probably the only highlight of a lacklustre defence of the Intermediate Cup. Leinster won by too many runs for me to remember (I am working with my therapist on blocking out the month of July from a cricket perspective).
The next day in the wonderful setting of Castleknock College saw another poor performance with the bat. Something that would haunt the 4s again later in the month. With the magic of Murali Millar (4 for 25), Leinster were restricted to a score below 130. Outside of 38 from Grant White, there was nothing to report from the rest of the batting. A first league defeat of the season.
The chance to rectify the situation came against Leinster (yes the 4s played them 3 times in 2 weeks) in Observatory Lane on the 19th. Your report wasn’t present. (Editor – Allegedly he was injured but we think he was still in therapy at the time). The star with the ball was Denis Kearney who took 3 for 35. Chasing 194 to win, Phoenix got off to a great start. However, the task was made slightly harder when Phoenix were penalised 5 runs for running on the pitch. It didn’t matter as Phoenix got home with 2 balls to spare. Raj Gopal with 53 lead from the front but Ian Anders stole the show with a beautiful 72.
The next Monday, the 21st, saw the 4s back in The Park to face Mullingar in a refixed league game. 6pm start. 20 overs each. Mullingar limped to 102 off their 20 overs. Their top 3 batsmen were run out having scored 7 runs apiece. Grant (15), Adam (37) and Naeem (14) set the 4s well on their way to their target of 103. However, the innings stalled from the 14th over onwards and the 4s ended up 1 run short. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory!! A second league defeat.
On the 27th, the 4s welcomed Sandyford to The Park. Captain Anders knew from experience that Sandyford are a tricky side to play. Their batting relies on one or two players. Unfortunately, the Bodu Effect hit Phoenix. He scored 88 on the way to a team total of 249. At tea, the 4s knew they had a chance. The pitch was in great condition as was the outfield (it is hard to find a better place to play cricket when the ground is in such wonderful condition). Anders knew his team could score 250. An opening partnership of 76 from Raj (44) and Junaid (17) set Phoenix on their way. But the loss of Raj and then Ian Anders (25) slowed the scoring rate down for a bit. But Adam Bampfield (76) continued to battle away. Despite some big hitting from Dev (ask him about ‘that’ six), the 4s fell 22 runs short.
From defeat must come some lessons. Bowlers need to concentrate to the very end of their spell. In the field, the chances must be taken. No point catching everything before the game! When batting, the quick 1s and 2s add up. Keep the scoreboard ticking over and bat all the overs.
The Bank Holiday weekend sees the 4s play on the Saturday and the Monday. Saturday is away to North County in a top versus second battle. On Monday Swords are the visitors to The Park. Two very big games in the context of the season. Time for every player to stand up and be counted. Otherwise this reporter will end up in a rocking chair in some home making chicken noises!