The 5th XI got off to a poor start last weekend as they slumped to a massive 102 run defeat away to Merrion at Anglesea Road. After a very promising 2013 campaign it was a tough start for Graham Mooney’s side. However they can have little in the way of complaint as both their bowling and batting came up way short of the standard required to make a game of it. Serious amounts of time in the nets are required by everyone involved as wayward bowling, including no less than 18 wides, and many loose shots saw the 5th XI go down with a whimper rather than a bang. Only Mooney, economical as ever going for 21 off 8 overs, and the inimitable Admiral, 47 (5 fours, 2 sixes), showed any signs of resistance.
On what was a thankfully warm and sunny day Phoenix, true to form, lost the toss and were inserted into the field. Merrion chose to bat with conditions perfect for setting a large total. With the short Pavillion boundary in sight and not a window in sight to be smashed.
Debutant Hasan Mumtaz took the new ball alongside Evan Chester. The early breakthrough came when Mumtaz Jnr had Naveed (0) caught by Ebbs with a legside strangle. It was a still a slightly sketchy opening by Phoenix with a few threatening deliveries here and there punctuated by the ball whistling away to the boundary. Mumtaz was again on the mark, though, as he took out Varma (3) by sending his off pole hurtling back towards the slip cordon. With Merrion on 23 for 2 there was a chance for Phoenix to make big early inroads but it was not to be.
Bibek Halder came into the attack soon after and he was unlucky to see a few shots miscued to the boundary as he found the outside edge more than once. However with his extra bit of pace and a short boundary in play what would have been catching chances on other grounds turned into a brace of sixes. Graham Mooney was the only Phoenix bowler who provided any measure of control. The skipper volunteered to defend the short legside boundary and returned an economy rate of 2.6 from his full allotment. He can also count himself unlucky not to have had something to show for it in the wickets column too.
It would be impossible to be critical individually to the rest of the bowlers as the malaise was endemic. Runs were too easy to come by for Merrion and the scoreboard kept rolling along at a steady pace. The profusion of extras offered up throughout proceedings only helped to exacerbate Phoenix predicament.
Merrion had put on a hundred stand for the third wicket before Prasan (52) cut Doc Ahmad to backward point where Mumtaz Junior held on to the catch. The Doc produced a very tidy spell of bowling and created a number of chances throughout.
Next to go for Merrion was Daniel Ivors (8) who, after a promising start to his knock, picked out Halder in the deep off the bowling of the Admiral. Phoenix finally got opposition skipper Upender (60) who was run out by a superb direct hit from Evan Chester. However Merrion had moved along to 149 for 5 at that stage and were in a position to launch a final assault on the Phoenix bowling. The away side did manage one more wicket as Doc Ahmad added Neela (6) caught by the Admiral to finish 8-1-37-2.
There was one final onslaught by the home side as Nolan and Krishna excoriated the Phoeinx bowling to move their side along to an imposing 215 for 6 from 40 overs.
To, quite literally, add injury to insult, Bibek Halder, suffered what looked to be a very bad knee injury trying to take a return catch with only 4 balls left in the innings. All his team mates wish him a speedy recovery and hope to see him back in action as soon as possible.
If there was a paucity of quality in the bowling attack of Phoenix on the day then the batting was utterly impoverished. Almost to a man the Phoenix batting line up looked in urgent need of extended time in the nets. Rusty batsmen and loose shots meant that the chase was over before it started. From the position of 14 for 4, and short a batsman, Phoenix were dead and buried. Only Admiral Chester kept any modicum of respecitbility in the scoreline as he looked a class above his team mates on the day.
Moore (0) was the first to go chopping on to the stumps with a woefully loose attempt to cut. Doc Ahmad (2) followed him back to the shed as he was snaffled, again trying to cut, with a good low catch. Mooney (8) was bowled with an ill advised hack across the line of the ball before Stevens (0) was pouched at first slip flashing at a wide one.
Asim Mumtaz and Alan Maginnis showed signs of rallying for a while as they looked to try and give their side a foothold. However Maginnis (10) fell foul of a loose attempted pull shot that he slapped straight to a fielder reducing Phoenix to 30 for 5 in what were excellent batting conditions.
The Wall and The Admiral did their level best to work their way into the game and they remained patient and placed a higher price upon their wickets than those who had gone before them. However Mumtaz (18) was undone by the drinks break. He seemed to lose all the focus he had when he resumed his innings and was cleaned up mowing across the line in the second over after the resumption.
The Mongoose was on the loose for the first time this season as Jonny Ebbs made his way to the middle. Ebbs (7) did play a couple of nice shots before those signs of lack of batting practice that were pervasive through the side showed up again and he was caught at Backward Square Leg with yet another loose shot.
The writing was on the wall at this stage and only the Admiral showed any real quality with the bat. He was patient when he needed to be and ruthlessly aggressive with the opportunity arose. Seven dot balls were followed by back-to-back maximums as the PoTY from last season showed how it should have been done.
Even Chester (0) fell bowled to take things to the brink. It was only then that Admiral started to hit out. Three consecutive boundaries took him within sight of his half century but he fell just short as he mistimed a full toss and was caught to end the innings. Aidan Chester posted 47 from 74 balls with 5 fours and 2 sixes.
The team gathered together after the game and were honest in their assessment of how and where things went wrong. Intensive time in the nets is what is required with a hectic schedule ahead in the coming month. The 5th XI have proven resilient since the reformation of the side in 2011 and this current squad is no different or less determined to bounce back. Next week sees the first home game of the season against what will doubtlessly be a very strong Swords side.
Merrion 215 for 5 off 40 overs
H Mumtaz 6-0-24-2
S Ahmad 8-1-37-2
G Mooney 8-1-21-0
Phoenix 113 all out off 29 overs
A Chester 47
A Mumtaz 18
Man of the Match: Aidan Chester 47 & 1/35
Phoenix: Mooney (c), Moore, Ahmad, Stevens, Maginnis, A Mumtaz, A Chester, Ebbs (wk), E Chester, H Mumtaz, Halder