The Fifth XI got their season off to a spectacular start as they chased down 213 runs to notch up an opening day win away to Leinster at Observatory Lane. Ian Anders magnificent 94 not out proved the key to victory as he saw his side home with 17 balls and 6 wickets left to spare.
When the fixture lists came out there would have been few who would envisaged so many runs being amassed so early in the season. However, despite the weather so far this year, the pitch was in superb condition and both sides made the bowlers and fielders toil all day long.
When Leinster piled up 213 for 4 from their 40 overs the odds lay heavily in their favour but thanks to some resolute batting from Phoenix they got a foothold, then dug in and finally took the charge and took the game away from the hosts.
As ever the 5th XI, led by Graham Mooney, had a mix of old campaigners, new faces and youth as the club continues to grow through it’s recruitment of new members and it’s expanded Youth policy. Making their debut for Phoenix were Bibek Halder, Monjur Ahmed and Tom Walker. Ian Anders and Evan Chester represented the youth section. John Anders, Alan Maginnis, Paddy McClean, Stephen Moore and Aiden Chester, on his return to action, made up the lineup.
Leinster won the toss and elected to bat on what looked a very nice wicket. Conditions were breezy and extremely cold with dark skies overhead.
It is never policy to be overly harsh of any of our sides or players in match reports but everyone on the 5th XI acknowledged that the bowling and fielding in the early stages was not up to scratch. There were far too many extras given away with wides and no balls a large factor in Leinster’s quick start. Phoenix conceded 25 extras in the first 10 overs as Leinster raced to 62 for 0 without being tested.
Things were looking ominous but in times of crisis there is only one man to call on. Old Golden Arm Anders came on for his first spell of the season and dispatched Cassidy (22) in his second over. Skipper Mooney took the opportunity to rally his troops and called for a greater effort in the field especially.
While the wickets weren’t forthcoming Phoenix did manage to slow the flow of runs. After taking 62 off the first ten overs Leinster managed only 37 off the next ten, although, extras were still a factor, leaving the score 99 for 1 at drinks.
It was time for Phoenix to step up their game as Clive Colleran was looking well poised to pile up the runs for the home side. The initial turning point of the game came with the introduction of Monjur Ahmed into the attack. He bowled superbly on his debut and even the well set batsmen struggled to get him away. His final figures of 8-3-9-0 deserved to have at least a couple of wickets in the final column but it was not to be as a couple of sharp chances went down off his bowling.
Phoenix kept grinding away and finally got the second breakthrough as Mooney had Dunne (18) caught low down in the covers by John Anders leaving the score 134 for 2. Going into the final 10 overs with 145 for 2 on the board and 8 wickets in hand it looked as thought he hosts could post a mammoth total. However Phoenix came to life in the field with Paddy McClean in particular making some superb stops. The sharper fielding aided some much better bowling as Bibek Halder’s second spell was much more frugal than his first while Ian Anders showed some good pace.
Leinster started to really push for each and every run as the game entered the final few overs. Colleran was approaching his ton and started to pick the gaps at will. Phoenix needed to make something happen. Ian Anders managed to clean up Marley (8) but the big wicket was that of Colleran.
And cometh the hour, cometh a somewhat unlikely hero in the form of Aiden Chester. Making his return to action he could have had Colleran three times over. From his first delivery he had him dropped in the covers. Then two balls later he was dropped on/over the boundary, for a six, and it looked as though it was going to be one of those days.
However Aiden finally got his just desserts as John Anders finally snagged Colleran (89) to put an end to a fantastic knock by a man better known for his umpiring these days. It left Leinster 190 for 4 with five overs remaining. Phoenix turned off the taps for the final overs and instead of a flurry of runs Leinster were held to a modest 23 off the final 30 deliveries to set a target of 213 to win when it looked at one stage as though 250-260 was very much on the cards.
The Phoenix reply didn’t start in too bright a fashion. Some good bowling by Crangle and O’Neill restricted the visitors in the early going. Mooney (2) was the first to go as he was trapped lbw by O’Neill. That brought Alan Maginnis to the crease and he went about his work in his customary fashion. Not a man made for running he contented himself with waiting for the loose stuff and sent it to the pickets.
The score had moved along to 31 before Moore (6) departed bowled by Block after a terribly executed attempt at a sweep. This brought Ian Anders to the crease to start of what would turn out to be a stunning innings.
It would not be overly harsh to say that Ian Anders took a while to get going. The fluency of the shots that marked the second half of his innings was not there in the early going. However the key was that he held his discipline and worked himself into the game ball by ball.
At the other end Maginnis was as dashing as ever moving the score along and a nice pace. For all the superb talent The Electrician has in stroke play he lacks severely in game awareness and he provided a few hair raising moments along the way. He did his very best to run out Anders early on in their partnership before almost running himself out after being caught off a no ball. Instead of retaking his ground, oblivious to what was going on, he wandered around like Moses in the desert before diving to retake his ground at the last second.
All that aside Maginnis (56) finally fell to LBW to Prendergast after a superbly entertaining knock that consisted of 7 boundaries and 1 six from 50 deliveries and put his side in a great position to have a real crack at the total leaving his side 89 for 3 after 21 overs.
If that partnership was a lesson in punishing loose deliveries then the following partnership, between Monjur Ahmed and Ian Anders, was an object lesson in taking every single run on offer. Ahmed was keen to drop and go while Anders hit the gaps. As a result singles turned into twos, twos turned into threes and they even managed to turn a three into an all run four. The pair put on 52 off 42 balls and really started to turn the screw before Ahmed (11) was finally out caught Mullen off the bowling of Crangle.
The tension was starting to rise as Phoenix realised the game was there for the taking and Leinster sensed that the game might be starting to slip from their grasp. Aiden Chester joined Anders at the crease with Phoenix needing 73 from 66 balls.
The start of Chester’s innings was marked by a number of fine shots that were hit straight to a fielder. It would have been easy to get frustrated or panic at the rising run rate but both batsmen knew the chances to score would come and the vast expanses of the outfield could be exploited.
Having gone up through the gears bit by bit Ian Anders started to come into his own. He passed the half century mark with a nice flick to Third Man. His celebration of his first senior half century was a cursory wave of the bat towards the balcony as he immediately got back to the business of winning the game.
He ran through the gamut of all the textbook shots as the total began to inch closer and closer. While Anders was accumulating at one end Chester got going at the other after having a sufficient sighter. And with that came the winning of the game. Phoenix went from 154 for 4 after 32 overs to 212 for 4 after 37. 58 runs off 30 deliveries turned the game on it’s head.
Chester punched a couple of boundaries and ran very well but at the other end Anders turned on the afterburners. He smashed 35 off the final 20 balls he faced clocking a run rate of 175.00. The game went from a tight contest to a foregone conclusion in the blink of an eye.
The only shame was that there wasn’t enough time for Ian Anders to reach a well deserved century, which he he would have given sufficient time. That will unquestionably come but it will have to be another day. It was Aiden Chester who finally saw Phoenix over the line was he cut through point for a boundary to clinch the win.
Ian Anders finished unbeaten on 94 from 87 deliveries with 9 boundaries. Aiden Chester finished unbeaten on 28 from 30 deliveries with 3 boundaries.
It was a hugely eventful, unexpected and exciting opening day to the season for the 5th XI. Despite the freezing conditions the game was very enjoyable. Leinster are to be thanked for their hospitality and graciousness before the match, on the field and in the bar afterwards and we look forward to hosting them later in the year.
The Fifth XI move on to face Dundalk this weekend without the services of Ian Anders but the his knock will live long in the memory of those who were there to witness it!
A big thanks to Adam Chester for taking the photos and Emma Lee for keeping the book.