The 5th XI travelled to Adamstown last weekend badly in need of a win to get their season off the ground. After back-to-back defeats against Merrion and Swords a third defeat in a row would have left the 5th XI in a precarious position even this early into the campaign. However, despite gaining and ceding control on a number of occasions in the game, Phoenix managed to produce a powerhouse batting performance to claim the most emphatic of victories.
As the poet once said, “history, with all her volumes vast, hath but one page”, and it Sunday’s game seemed to bear this out. 51 weeks earlier Phoenix had travelled to Corkagh Park and chase a total of 158 thanks in no small part to the batting of Aidan Chester. On this occasion the total chased was slightly higher at 166 but once again the Admiral, in tandem with Adam Bampfield, produced the goods as Phoenix knocked off their total with plenty to spare.
Under leaden skies and atop sodden turf Phoenix lost the toss, as usual, and were asked to field. Despite the tricky conditions for the bowlers things started brightly. Hasan Mumtaz and the spin of Gordy Millar got things underway and there were early inroads for the visitors.
With only one run on the board there was a mix up mid pitch between the Adamstown batsmen. Gordy Millar collected the ball off his own bowling and fired to Ebbs behind the stumps who ran out his man with yards to spare. Things got even better for Millar who claimed a neat caught and bowled after Rajagopolan (3) skied one to leave his side in trouble.
Phoenix really took control of the game in the early going and Hasan Mumtaz was next to strike. The left armer has proved a useful addition to the 5th XI armoury opening the bowling this year and he added yet another cleaned bowled to his list of victims for the season. Mumtaz and Millar were both in top form and helped their side into a strong early position. Mumtaz finished 8-3-20-1 and Millar, who could easily have had another 3 wickets, finished 8-2-19-2.
Phoenix were in form in the field and the next week came courtesy of a superb catch from Adam Bampfield. Mann (9) smashed one into the covers only for Bampfield to extend his left hand, parry the ball in the air, and collect at the second attempt. It was a brilliant catch and a fine start of what was to be fruitful day for the Aussie.
At 18 for 4 Phoenix had the chance to really take the game away from the hosts but, as has been their wont this season, they failed to take advantage of the situation. The home side rallied and moved things along to 50 for 4 at drinks.
The breakthrough came soon after the restart, though, as Doc Ahmad bowled Balasubramanian (20) as he tried to give him the charge. The Doc struck again next as he had the opposition skipper Cutinha (27) trapped in front. Phoenix were working hard to gain control of the game again but the Adamstown tail started to wag and some big hits were produced.
It took a run out to get rid of the big hitting Matharoo (13) after he unleashed a couple of sixes. Mooney fired the ball into Ebbs after another mid pitch mix up and the keeper did the necessary. Ebbs was in action again soon after with a brilliant reflex catch high to his left off the bowling of Mooney as the Phoenix skipper claimed his first scalp of the season.
At 124 for 8 it looked as though Adamstown would be held in check but once again Phoenix let them off the hook. The last two wickets yielded 42 runs before Millar hung on to a good catch in the deep of the bowling of the Admiral and then Mooney snagged a catch in the covers off Bampfield to wrap things up.
If the truth be told Phoenix spurned a number of opportunities to really take control of the game and give themselves a much easier task in the run chase. Mumtaz and Millar had set things up well but the bowling thereafter was a bit too easy to score from. However, with a run rate of just over 4 required, it was still a manageable total.
Adamstown started off well in the early going as their openers maintained their line and discipline. Moore (4) was the first to fall as the caught a leading edge looking to turn one to leg before Maginnis (0) departed soon after to leave things looking rather grim at 9 for 2.
That brought together the Admiral and Adam Bampfield and the game winning partnership. 158 unbeaten runs later the pair walked off the field having carried their side to an emphatic victory but that only tells half of the tale. The lovely cover drives and massive sixes will all be expanded upon later but it was the temperance shown by the pair that really impressed.
Phoenix ended up winning with 34 balls to spare which shows that the batsmen were never really put into a pressure situation. However it is worth noting that both Chester and Bampfield had only amassed 11 runs for their first 40 balls faced each. That’s 22 off 80 between them. And yet, through patience and temperament, they played themselves into the game and eventually laid waste to the home sides bowling.
Phoenix were slowly and steadily moving along as the duo made sure that, following the quick double strike by Adamstown, the game didn’t get away from their side with another collapse. Bampfield took 15 balls to get off the mark and Chester took 19 as the two slowly warmed to the task.
Although they were behind the required rate there was no hint of panic. The Admiral showed the first signs of what was to come as he smashed a 6 and a 4 off the last two balls before drinks to leave Phoenix 59 for 2.
107 off 120 balls was always going to be well within reach and even more so with wickets in hand. However those wickets were not to be needed as the rest of the Phoenix batting lineup were reduced to the role of spectators. That was no bad thing, though, as the pair in the middle started to unleash some devastating strokes yet all the while simply blocked the good deliveries back down the pitch.
Bampfield, with his low crouching stance, started to make hay, springing onto the back foot and whipping the ball through third man for an exquisite boundary. He began to cut and drive through the offside and, despite the long grass in the outfield, which was further slowed by the heavy rain, began to find the boundary rope.
At the other end the Admiral decided to forgo sending the ball to the rope in favour of clearing it by miles. He hit two maximums in a single over and while the first cleared the line by so much it drew massive cheers from his team mates the second went even further and left the onlookers with jaws agape.
In the midst of turning the screw the batsmen never lost sight of the basics of the game. They took singles where on offer and ran well between the wickets. Adamstown visibly began to wilt in the face of the Phoenix onslaught. Chester was the first to pass the half century mark as the total required began to rush into view. And he was followed not long after as Bampfield posted what is sure to be the first of many half centuries for his new club.
The end was nigh for the hosts as the Phoenix batsman became ever more belligerent. The Admiral produced another massive 6 as he flicked one over Midwicket with a Pelican shot. Then Bampfield finished the game off as he scorched a drive through the covers for four to seal the victory.
Numbers alone can’t do justice to the innings both men produced and their team mates were very privileged to witness the 158 run partnership. Chester finished on 82* from 104 balls (7 fours, 5 sixes) while Bampfield finished 64* from 84 balls (8 fours, 1 six).
It was a much needed win and now Phoenix can move on and look forward to back-to-back home games in the park against Railway Union and Pembroke. It was just the lift the side needed after a poor start and one which they will look to build on. And, once again, our hats go off to Aidan and Adam for producing a display of such quality in very testing conditions.
Adamstown 165 all out
G Millar 2 for 19
H Mumtaz 2 for 20
S Ahmad 2 for 31
Phoenix 167 for 2
Men of the Match: Chester 82*, Bampfield 64*