Coming off the back of a much needed win away to Railway Union last weekend the 5th XI entertained Bagnelstown this Sunday in Castlenock College. The game was moved forward to 12:30 start time thanks to a very accommodating away side in order to allow everyone time to get home to enjoy the World Cup Final.
Regular 5th XI skipper, Graham Mooney, stood down for the day after a prior engagement saw him imbibing to the wee hours of the morning on match day. The 5th XI had been on the verge of revolt anyway as Mooney’s inability to win a toss this season was all too much to bear for some. Aidan Chester had gone 2 for 2 having assumed those duties in recent weeks. If further proof was needed that the problem has been strictly Mooney related it was provided when the stand in skipper won the toss and put Bagnelstown in to bat.
Nathan Kearns took up his regular role as opener and, in the absence of Denis Kearney, Phoenix new boy, Mohammed Younis, took the new ball at the other end. The pair bowled excellently in the opening stages and were very hard to get away. Kearns saw a couple flash through the slip cordon while Younis got some good away swing from his end.
Runs were hard to come by for the visitors who were no doubt tired both physically and mentally coming off the back of an agonising 2 run loss in the Minor Cup the previous day. Kearns was taken out of the attack when it was clear that the visitors were just looking to see off his bowling. However Younis kept toiling away at the other end and finally got the breakthrough when skipper Stapleton (8) was caught at Short Leg by Phani Kumar.
One wicket brought another as Younis was again on the mark in his final over as he cleaned up Purcell (10) with a lovely Yorker to leave Bagnelstown 29 for 2.
The levels of fielding have gotten better week-by-week and there was plenty of sharp fielding by Phoenix through. The youth of Evan Chester was key to that but Mike Clucas and Nathan Kearns in particular were on top form. Phoenix continued to squeeze their opponents and never let up with the pressure. And, as a result, the score at drinks was 33 for 2.
There was a shift in mindset after the break, though, and the visitors came out in a much more aggressive fashion. A couple of boundaries came in quick succession. However Phani Kumar still managed to finish with incredibly frugal figures of 8-5-13-0. He was very unlucky to go wicketless but his addition in the spin department as been a real boost in recent matches.
With skipper Mooney finally awake he was brought into the attack and picked up the wicket of O’Neill (11) LBW as he was hit on the full trying to give the bowler the charge.
A couple of lusty blows by R George looked to try and swing momentum in Bagnelstown’s favour. However Evan Chester, who produced an excellent spell of 5-0-8-1, made sure that they were held in check. He got his just rewards for a fine display when he bowled Farrell (4) to make it 53 for 4.
George and King continued to counter for the away side but Phoenix stuck to their task well and kept the levels of intensity high all day. George (18) was still looking to go downtown when he was outfoxed by Admiral Chester who deceived him with a loopy full toss. In fact, as the bowler himself added, they key was that it was a ‘slow’ full toss. A cunning plan!
Nathan Kearns came back into the attack to finish out his allotment and got the wicket he deserved when he bowled Shorthose (2). Smith (5) nicked off to Mooney and the catch was well taken by Ebbs behind the sticks. Bagnelstown tried to run two off the final ball of the innings but Mike Clucas was too quick to the ball and his arm too strong. He gunned it in over the stumps to Ebbs who did the rest as Bagnelstown finished on 87 for 8 off their 20 overs.
Phoenix rejigged the batting order for the chase with Doc Ahmad and Asim Mumtaz opening the batting. Bagnelstown skipper, Ray Stapleton, was hard as ever to get away and the pair were watchful in the early going. However they soon began to pick up the pace and try some more adventurous shots. Mumtaz (6) soon perished caught on the leg side boundary as he managed to pick out the only fielder in the deep. Phoenix were 9 for 1.
Mike Clucas came to the crease and looked calm and assured. He blocked the good deliveries but was quick to pounce on anything loose. He drilled a couple of massive hits straight down the ground and came up about a foot short of a maximum on either occasion. His breezy knock of 19 off 16 balls with 4 boundaries came to an end when Baker held on to a good catch in the slips.
The Doc and Jonny Ebbs continued to press on, though, and the runs continued to flow. The Doc cracked a couple of boundaries while Ebbs ran hard and made sure singles were turned into twos. Doc Ahmad (33) fell to a blinding catch by that man Baker again but not before he had put his side within sight of the winning line at 82 for 3.
There was a little stutter in getting over the line as Ebbs (14) perished to a third great catch by Baker and then Evan Chester (0) was bowled. However it wouldn’t be a 5th XI performance without the Admiral coming in to close the show and he duly obliged and closed out a 5 wicket win.
It was an excellent team performance and a game played in good spirits by both sides. Phoenix can look forward to a trip to Bagnelstown in September. But before that they take a trip to Sydney Parade next weekend to face Pembroke.