The 5th XI kept their promotion push alive, but only just, as they produced their biggest chase of the season to claim a 4 wicket victory from the penultimate ball of the match against Clontarf. The visitors had set an imposing total of 220 for the home side to chase and, at various stages throughout the innings, it looked like it would be a bridge too far for Phoenix. The total was ground down bit by bit. Aidan Chester was the man to steer his side home with an unbeaten 73 but crucial innings from Tom Walker, Hashmi Khan and a bright start from returning skipper, Graham Mooney, were key to the victory in what was a thrilling game.
The day started with the rarest of all occurrences as Phoenix won the toss and elected to field first. Conor Hughes and Vanessa Kelada took the new ball for the home side and made a very solid start. They strangled the Clontarf innings and the openers could not get away. McShane (0) fell as he popped one up into the covers off the bowling of Kelada and Moore came around from point to scoop up the catch.
Hughes and Kelada bowled very well in tandem and, in truth, the pair were a bright spot on what would end up a pretty bleak day for the Phoenix bowlers. Hughes was extremely unlucky not to pick up at least a couple of wickets as he saw some edges flash through past the keeper and slip fielder. Hughes finished 8-2-28-0 and Kelada finished 8-2-25-1 to leave Clontarf 53 for 1 after 16 overs.
It all went downhill thereafter for Phoenix, though, as their normally reliable change bowlers got some serious tap. It did start brightly for Aidan Chester as he cleaned up Cormac Devilly (32) in his second over but Clontarf really started to accelerate after the drinks break.
Hashmi Khan, making his final appearance for the club, was the next Phoenix player to make a breakthrough as O’Brien (51) holed out to Alan Maginnis at Mid On after a fine half century. Clontarf were picking up the pace and batting nicely though. They moved along to 127 for 3 after 30 overs and were about to really put their foot to the floor for the final 10 overs.
It would be Kevin McDermott who did the damage as he laid into the Phoenix attack. He would finish unbeaten on 75 with 4 fours and 7 sixes. Amidst the carnage Mooney had Gilbride (4) clean bowled and Brennan (12) caught at Long On as well as running out Quinn (25) after a good throw in from the field by Khan after he’d put down a catch. James Maginnis came on to bowl at the death and held his nerve well in very testing circumstances. However the momentum was all clearly in Clontarfs favour as they closed out their innings at 220 for 6 from 40 overs. It left Phoenix facing a very stiff task if they were to keep their promotion hopes alive.
Graham Mooney returned refreshed from his holidays and got the innings off to a start at a good pace. He crunched the second ball he faced through the covers for a boundary and kept up a brisk pace while he was at the crease. He took three consecutive boundaries from the 6th over of the game before going for one shot too many. Mooney nicked off after a quick fire 25 from 17 balls that included 5 boundaries.
That brought Alan Maginnis to the crease and his stay was brief. He left the first ball, hit the second for a boundary and chopped the third ball back onto his stumps. Maginnis (4) was on his way back to the shed and Phoenix were 45 for 2.
That left Moore and Chester at the crease and Phoenix started to rebuild their innings. While the run rate was high two wickets had gone early and there was little sense in throwing away the game in the early stages. The pair batted as they normally do when together at the crease and Phoenix maintained a steady run rate even if it was a little less than they required. At 79 for 2 at drinks it was still very much in the balance but with the run rate at 7.05 it was time to up the tempo a little.
That is exactly what the pair tried to do but Alan Maginnis was to intervene. Doing his best Ray Charles impression Maginnis gunned Moore (21) with quite possibly the worst LBW decision in 5th XI history. Luckily Adam Chester was on hand to snap a picture of Maginnis’ ridiculous ham fisted blunder and that was enough to curtail his post match assertions that the ball was hitting half way up middle when it was, in fact, going well over the top and down leg. Rumours are abound that Maginnis has been offered a place as the DRS umpire for the forthcoming Ashes series this winter.
That brought Tom Walker to the crease and he picked the perfect time to produce his finest performance of the season. While Chester kept on playing in his own inimitable way Walker kept the run rate rattling along. That came only after he did his level best to run himself out first ball. That early bit of jitter aside he played nicely throughout his knock with all his runs coming from authentic strokes. A lofted drive over Mid Off for 4 was one of the shots of the day.
The pair took the score along to 136 for 3 at drinks. That left Phoenix needing 84 off 60 balls to win the game. It was still a very stiff ask but the pair kept pushing forward and eroding the runs required all the while. Walker really started to let loose and lofted a massive straight six down the ground. He fell soon after, though, as he lofted one to Mid On and was caught. Walker finished on 42 from 44 balls with 3 fours and 1 six. It was precisely what Phoenix had required and wrestled the momentum back towards the hosts in a partnership that was worth 86 runs.
Phoenix needed 43 off the last 30 deliveries as Hashmi Khan made his way to the middle. Hashmi has had a better time with the ball than with the bat this season but he produced a cameo which gave the home side real belief they would win the game and turned the screw on Clontarf. The running between the wickets was crucial at this stage of the game and he put bat on ball and ran hard on every occasion. Khan was stumped after smashing 16 off 8 balls to put his side back in the mix.
All the while Admiral Chester went about his business unperturbed. He bided his time and when the opportunity came to strike he did not fail to strike. Two massive sixes into the leg side came just in the nick of time as things got ever more tense as the game came to a gripping conclusion.
In the end it was a simple equation. Phoenix required 8 balls from the final over to win. When Asim Mumtaz (1) was bowled first ball of the over it seemed as though things had swung back in Clontarfs favour. However Jonny Ebbs came in and put bat on ball immediately and ran hard for 2. The next ball was a wide and now Phoenix needed only 5 runs from 4 balls.
Ebbs cracked another one down the ground to cut the gap further before taking a single from the fourth ball of the over. With two runs required and only two balls remaining it fittingly fell to Aidan Chester to finish the job. Finish the job was the team mantra for the day and that is exactly what he did as he lofted a drive agonisingly over the reach of Mid Off and Phoenix ran two to win the game with one ball to spare. It was a thrilling contest and those who stayed around to watch the game were treated to thoroughly exciting fare.
It was a tough loss for Clontarf who must have thought they’d put enough runs on the board to have won the game. However it was a contest played in the finest spirit of the game and despite the close nature of the loss they were gracious in defeat.
Many thanks to those who came to watch the game and to Emma for scoring. Also a big thanks to Adam Chester for some excellent photos of the days action.
The 5th XI now have a week off to get themselves ready for the final crucial clash away to Lucan on September 15th. It has been a long and testing season but after putting 10 league wins on the board they will be hoping to eek out one more win and promotion to cap what has been a fine season for the clubs newest team.
Clontarf: 220 for 6 after 40 overs
K McDermott 75*
S O’Brien 51
Mooney 2 for 55
Kelada 1 for 25
Phoenix: 221 for 6 after 39.5 overs
A Chester 73*
T Walker 42
F Quinn 2 for 36
S Devilly 1 for 18
Phoenix won by 4 wickets
Phoenix won the toss and elected to
Man of the Match
73 off 105 balls (6 fours, 2 sixes)