The 5th XI produced their best performance of the season to defeat Pembroke on Sunday at Sydney Parade and in doing so moved out of the relegation zone for the first time this season. The recent back-to-back away wins have come at just the right time for the side and with four home games to come their chances of avoiding the drop have vastly improved but they are by no means out of the woods yet.
Pembroke won the toss and elected to bat on Sydney Parades second pitch and the decision looked a wise one in the early going as their openers made hay. Evan Chester and Ian Anders were Phoenix youthful new ball combination but despite some good stuff from both they found it hard at times with the short boundaries. Ryan and Cresswell ticked along nicely for the hosts and the score was soon almost up at the run a ball mark.
However the breakthrough was finally made by Ian Anders with the second last ball of his opening spell when his hard work reaped it’s reward as he had Cresswell (30) trapped lbw with the score on 48. It was the opening Phoenix had wanted but they had to continue to work hard to keep Pembroke in check.
John Anders came on to replace Chester and he was unlucky not to have Pembroke skipper, Craig Senior, nick off to him on a couple of occasions but the chances just didn’t go to hand. It looked as though the visitors might be made pay as the score ticked along to 70 for 1. However Conor Hughes came in to break the partnership as he had Senior (12) caught down the legside my McDonough off his glove.
70 for 2 was still a very good start for the home side so Phoenix knew they would have to work hard to fight their way back into the game and that is just what they did. The intensity level rose after the drinks break as Phoenix really began to put Pembroke under the pump.
Graham Mooney’s excellent spell, 8-3-12-4, was key to that and the man who has now been, somewhat bizarrely, christened ‘The Can Opener’ put Phoenix right in the driving seat with his superb display of swing bowling. First to go was Jones (16) who was sent on his way with a prodigious inswinger. Ryan (22) followed shortly afterwards in similar fashion and when McNamara (2) also had his off stick pegged back Pembroke had fallen to 105 for 5.
It wasn’t all just about Mooney, though, as Craig Nicholson’s excellent spell in tandem at other end helped dry up the runs and put on the pressure. On another day Nicholson would have had his share of the wickets but in the end he had to settle for one wicket with the knowledge that his spell was key in turning the game.
In fact it was Nicholson who held the catch for Mooney’s fourth wicket of the day as S Gupta (7) chipped one up to Mid On. Nicholson then got the wicket he deserved as Koos (4) tried to pull one that wasn’t really there to be pulled and was clean bowled.
With Nicholson, 8-1-29-1, bowled out Evan Chester came back into the attack and claimed his maiden senior wicket soon after. Chester held a tight line all day and probed the batsmen throughout. Samil Gupta (0) had a flash at a wide one which was held at about 4th slip by Moore.
The end was nigh for Pembroke and old Golden Arm himself, John Anders, came back to finish the job. Diramuid Tucker (6) prodded one back for a caught and bowled before Lacey nicked off the very next ball to leave Anders on a hat trick but with no one left to bat! Pembroke finished 125 all out to leave Phoenix with a very managable chase.
In a break from the norm the visitors took up the chase immediately. With two games on at Sydney Parade on the day there was a slight SNAFU with the lunch situation so it was agreed that lunch would be taken after 20 overs of the Phoenix innings.
Mooney and Moore opened the batting for Phoenix and they made a slow but steady start. Mooney was his usual self finding the middle of the bat on more than one occasion but picking out the fielders with each well hit stroke. The runs came at a steady rate, though, and there was no need for panic.
Mooney (12) will have been disappointed with his dismissal as he lobbed one tamely into the leg side off the spin of Senior to leave Phoneix 20 for 1.
Alan Maginnis then came to the crease and was about to launch into one of his trademark innings. The only thing more electrifying than his performance on the day was his very dubious hairstyle. That mattered little, though, as he laid into the Pembroke attack with his standard panache and flair.
He was to rack up 7 fours and 3 sixes in his knock and the first of those lust blows came early in his knock as he pulled over backward square for a maximum. Maginnis and Moore went along nicely until Moore (17) got a rush of blood and nicked off to a wide one from Senior. The score was 64 for 2, though, and the visitors were well placed.
Come drinks and lunch Phoenix were 79 for 2 with Ian Anders settling in alongside the hard hitting Maginnis. Both batsmen got into their stride well after the elongated break and the scoreboard continued to tick along. Maginnis brought up his half century with a cracking straight drive for four. The target was being whittled away bit by bit as Pembroke did their best to find a breakthrough.
Craig Senior came off is long run in an effort to get his side back into the game but he couldn’t find a way through. Ian Anders in particular dealt with his testing spell with great aplomb.
Diarmuid Tucker came back into the attack and finally removed Maginnis (54) trapped in front LBW. It was a brilliant knock from Maginnis having moved from opening to number three. The slight move in the order clearly agreed with him and his innings was the key to the chase. Ian Anders (25) then also fell to Tucker after having complied a classy and patient innings to help his side towards their target.
At 116 for 4 there was no need for panic at the quick double strike and Nicholson and Nicolaas Leeuwenberg looked assured at the crease. Leeuwenberg has had the knack of being the Phoenix finisher this season and this game was to prove no different. He ended the game 11 not out after having smashed a huge straight six to bring things to a conclusion.
It was an excellent win by a Phoenix side that is benefitting from being much more settled in the second half of the season. With a nice home run in to finish out the campaign things are finally looking up for the 5th XI.
Next week sees the visit of Old Belvedere to the Park.