Graham Mooney posted his first half century at Phoenix as he drove the 5th XI towards a much needed victory away at Castle Avenue. Mooney opened the batting and only departed in the 38th over with his side in sight of the finish line. The 5th XI’s big hitters, Nicolaas Leeuwenberg and Michael Godwin, saw their team home in a tense finish with the winning runs coming with only two balls to spare. It was a well paced chase and a dramatic victory with the bat but it had been a good all round performance from the start of the day that helped the side home.
The 5th XI had a new, if veteran, look. It was time to call in the cavalry for and Graham Mooney, DR Pigot and JMR Brown all added their vast pool of experience to the mix. Jack O’Neill, Ian Anders and Evan Chester provided the youth while 5th XI stalwarts John Anders, Leeuwenberg, Godwin, Moore, McClean and Convery made up the rest of the side.
Clontarf won the toss and elected to bat with conditions overhead looking fairly good. There were a couple of showers during the course of the day but for the most part the skies were clear, the temperature was up and the deck was good.
It was cat and mouse to begin with as Phoenix, through Ian Anders and Michael Godwin, tied the hosts down for the most part but anything loose was getting punished so neither side really held the advantage in the opening exchanges. It took the introduction of Paddy McClean to get the breakthrough as he had James (18) caught at point by Moore. It was a timely breakthrough as the openers were starting to settle in. With the initial dent made it was time for old Golden Arm himself and the senior Anders did not disappoint. K McDermott (11) was first to go as he chopped on to his stumps before the dangerous Smilie (4) was snapped up by a good catch at Midwicket by Carl Convery. At 40 for 3 Phoenix were well in the game and looking to press home their advantage.
Clontarf, rallied, though and did their best to negate the bowling. Desperate times calls for desperate measures and the Phoenix skipper came in to bowl. Foley nearly went in the first over but, despite an athletic and superb effort from Jack O’Neill behind the sticks, the chance went down. However the chances were coming and that was the main thing. Mooney came in to join Moore in the attack and saw a nick off his bowling flash through the slips in his first over. Phoenix were getting closer, though, and Moore had McShane (17) nick off to Brown in the slips soon after. Moore followed up with the dismissal of the impressive Foley (24) as he fell for the old three card trick and was caught and bowled.
The pressure was starting to mount on the home side to set a total and it told when Ritchie (2) was run out. The ball was clipped out to Mooney at point and a run was called but it was never really there. Mooney made the right decision and went back to the bowlers end where Moore completed the run out. At 95 for 6 the game was nicely poised for the final 10 overs. A McDermott had kept plugging away and was proving a thorn in Phoenix side but the bowlers kept to their task manfully. Godwin came back into the attack and picked up a much deserved wicket as Mooney held on at Mid On and McCarthy (12) was on his way back to the shed.
Unsurprisingly enough it was John Anders who had the final say with the ball as he came back in to clean up Foxe (0) and Clontarf skipper, Rob McDermott, (0) in consecutive balls. With the hat trick on Anders delivered a tester but Smyth had the discipline to let it go. Along with the defiant A McDermott the added 13 before the end to take their side along to 142 for 9 off 40 with A McDermott (29*) and Smyth (7*)
The bowling and fielding had been of a high standard from Phoenix with John Anders, Nicolaas Leeuwenberg, Paddy McClean and 12th man, Evan Chester, helping to cut down the runs. Ian Anders 7-0-14-0 was very unfortunate to not finish with a wicket but he played a key role for his side with such stingy figures. McClean 5-0-22-1, Godwin 8-1-32-1, Mooney 5-0-16-0 and Moore 8-1-28-2 were all good as well but John Anders, not for the first time in his 5th XI career, stole the show with 7-2-21-4. The innings finished just as the rain came and the covers were rolled on just in time. Luckily enough the rain didn’t even last as long as tea so there was no delay of the reply as Phoenix set about chasing down 143.
John Anders and Graham Mooney opened the reply for the visitors. The bowling from the hosts was tight, though, and runs were hard to come by. Anders did manage to unwind a couple of pulls for boundaries to help release the pressure. However Mooney had no such luck as he crunched at least a half dozen great shots straight to fielders in the early going. It was frustrating but he stuck in well and didn’t give it away knowing that the runs would come eventually. John Anders (11) fell caught and bowled at the introduction of Smilie into the attack. That brought DR Pigot to the crease for his first outing of the season. A season at Phoenix just wouldn’t be complete without a DR Pigot on the scorecard.
Along with Mooney he ticked the scoreboard over and moved his side into a decent position. Pigot (11) can count himself unfortunate to have been out to a superb stooping chance and point after cutting with great venom. They had added 34 valuable runs, though, and moved their side along to a good position with drinks around the corner. Next to go was Moore (2) who was out caught at Mid Off from a horribly mistimed pull shot. Luckily for Phoenix, though, Mooney was unmoved at the other end and was starting to move through the gears.
He played some classic cover drives that found the fence as well as nudging and nurdling the 1’s and 2’s to keep his sides momentum going. JMR Brown (1) was next to perish as he nicked off leaving his side 72 for 4 with 27 overs gone. Nicolaas Leeuwenberg was next man in having returned to action after a long time out of the side. His composure and solid hitting had been missed and he settled in quickly.
With 10 overs to go Phoenix needed 58 runs with 6 wickets in hand. Clontarf were still bowling well and fielding extremely well so a tense finish was in store. Mooney moved to his half century with a flicked single into the leg side and posted a much deserved, and long awaited, first half century for the club. He was back to business straight away, though, and got down to the task of seeing his side over the line.
Things got more and more tense with each passing over. 50 from 8. 42 from 7. 36 from 6. 32 from 5.
Things seemed to hit the skids for the visitors just then as they only managed 5 runs off the next 2 overs. That left 27 runs required off 18 balls. Mooney decided to seize the initiative in the 38th over as he smashed consecutive boundaries to put the pressure back on the bowling side. Mooney (67) was then cleaned up by Rob McDermott to bring an end to a superb innings that saw his side within sight of the line. Graham Mooney scored 67 from 111 balls with 8 boundaries.
Big South African, Michael Godwin, came to the crease to try and close out. It was a perfect combination for the 5th XI as their two big hitters were out in the middle at the key time. That said they still played smart cricket as it became a case of hit and run to close down the total. A super shot for 4 from Godwin brought things down to single figures and some hard running meant Phoenix picked up 10 in the penultimate over to leave them needing just 4 for victory.
Three singles were taken off the start of the final over before Leeuwenberg drove down the ground for another boundary to seal a dramatic victory. Leeuwenberg finished unbeaten on 25 off 31 balls while Godwin hit an invaluable 10 off 6 balls. It was great finish to a closely fought game and one which was badly needed by the 5th XI. The mixture of experience, youth and 5th XI regulars really worked well and will probably be the blueprint for the future!
Overall it was a great days cricket played in the right spirit on a fantastic ground with some, unusually, good weather.
While John Anders stole the show with the ball the plaudits must go to Graham Mooney who battled to 67 after fielding 40 overs (and bowling 5 overs) in spite of carrying a very serious injury into the game. As soon as he is off the painkillers there will be a well deserved pint or five aimed in his direction!