The Fifth XI continued their winning start to the season as they saw off Lucan by 5 wickets at home last weekend. It was a game of many phases that shifted one way and then the other. Phoenix pinned their opponents down with some tight bowling to begin with but Lucan rallied on the new mat, which was conducive to batting, to set a good total. Phoenix seemed to be steady whittling down the target before Lucan rallied late in the day but the Fifth XI got over the line with five balls to spare.
To say it was a bitterly cold day wouldn’t do justice to the conditions in the park. There were a couple of heavy downpours early on which saw the game reduced to 37 overs a side. However once the heaviest of the rain passed it was just the stiff breeze and the cold that the sides had to contend with. Fifth XI skipper, Graham Mooney, showed he was the model of consistency by losing his third toss on the trot and Lucan elected to bat.
Phoenix opened with Naeem Shahzad and he could have had an early breakthrough as Vinay Kumar nicked off to slip with the second ball of the innings. However Alan Maginnis’ fielding was less than electric and the chance went to ground. It was a big moment in the match as Kumar (67*) was still there at the end of the Lucan innings.
Phoenix heads did not drop, though, and after a brief rain delay they were back in top form with bat and ball. Debutant, Dan Hazelden, took the new ball at the other end and produced a fine spell. It was the new man who made the initial breakthrough as he clean bowled Ahlwulla (4) to get his side motoring.
The bowling was good but the fielding was of just as high a standard. Phoenix flew around the field and put their bodies on the line and the runs for Lucan dried up. This put the pressure on the visiting side and they started to attempt some bigger and bolder shots to break the shackles.
The next wicket fell when skipper Mooney bowled Hashmi (4) to leave Luan 25 for 2 after 12 overs. It was a great start and a vast improvement on the previous two games by the Fifth XI. The extras count was way down and the fielding was vastly improved and it was making all the difference.
Mooney was again on the money as he bowled D Singh (9) with an inswinger that took out his leg stick and he then had A Kumar (14) in similar fashion. Lucan were 62 for 4 after 20 overs. Phoenix were in the driving seat at that stage but the job in the field was far from done. Mooney finished with superb figures of 8-1-15-3.
After drinks Phoenix did their best to maintain their efforts fielding. Paddy McClean, Tom Walker and Craig Nicholson in particular produced some spectacular stops. However having being reduced to 10 fielders there were more gaps for Lucan to hit and the freezing conditions made it all that more difficult in the outfield.
Lucan started to up the tempo and the rate a little but Phoenix struck again through Aiden Chester. What goes only shows up in the scorebook as a wicket in Chester’s column shows up in this match report as a dirty full toss down leg that was spectacularly held at Backward Square Leg by Craig Nicholson. It would rate as a fine catch on a normal day but to pouch a steepling catch in such a swirling wind was all the more impressive.
Chester struck again not long after as he had Ashraf (9) out bowled to reduce Lucan to 84 for 6. It looked as though Phoenix might be able to see off their visitors for a modest total but the Lucan batsmen had a different ideas. Kumar and M Singh really upped the rate in the final ten overs. The move the total along to 152 for 6 at the close leaving the home side a much stiffer total to chase than they may have anticipated at one stage.
That said the bowling was very solid from Phoenix. Naaem Shahzad finished with 8-0-16-0 and Dan Hazelden ended up with 7-0-29-1.
Mooney and Moore opened the reply in need of some runs after a sparse couple of weeks to start the season for both men. It was slow and steady to begin with as Phoenix looked to chase successfully for the second time this term. Both players were a little scratchy in the opening stages as they looked to adjust to the extra bounce in the pitch that the new mat afforded.
Unsurprisingly enough it was Mooney who made the most headway in the early going as he slashed a couple of boundaries down through the Third Man region. The start was unspectacular but also unflustered and Phoenix moved along to 30 for 0 after 10 overs. This mean the RRR had risen to 4.55 but there was no panic to be had out in the middle.
When the change bowlers came on the openers began to crank up the rate as they hit the gaps and picked up plenty of singles as well as taking of advantage of the bad balls when they came. It was very functional cricket and the run rate rose accordingly as Phoenix reached 80 for 0 after 20 overs.
The pair kept pushing along and the total was whittled down bit by bit. Mooney was the first to reach the half century mark as the target began to come into sight. Having passed the half century mark Mooney became a little more expansive in his stroke play and smashed the only maximum of the innings with a pull drive over Midwicket.
The opening stand passed the 100 mark as the pair stuck to their task. Moore then reached his half century with a cut to the boundary through point. The pair looked unflustered and unmovable as the total reached 131 for 0 after 30. Phoenix required 22 from the final 46 balls and it looked to be in the bag but the twist in the tale was just around the corner.
Mooney (69) was finally out adjudged caught behind having brushed his bat off the mat rather than getting anywhere near the ball. His superb knock had set up the victory and he made 69 from 86 deliveries with 4 boundaries and on 1 six.
Lucan then had Shahzad (0) out second ball to move the total to 131 for 2 with 6 overs remaining. The sensed they were back in the game and lifted their bowling and fielding accordingly. When Nicholson (1) was run out with the score on 134 it was very much a case of game on.
Chester was the next man in as he looked to be the Phoenix finisher for the second time already this season. Moore was next to depart as Phoenix looked to push every run. He was finally out for 58 from 106 deliveries with 4 boundaries.
When Mumtaz (0) was bowled two balls later it was still up in the air. It was left to Maginnis and Chester to try and see their side over the line. It was a simple equation as Phoenix needed 10 from 12 balls to win. The pressure was released early in the penultimate over as Chester cut through the covers for a boundary. It came down to the final over with 4 runs needed to win. Chester (12*) wasted no time as he pulled the first delivery off his hip to finish with a flourish.
It was a deserved victory and another fine performance from the Fifth XI in all three disciplines. Their skipper led the way with both bat and ball. The whole team chipped in, though, and they are now well set up for the season with three wins under their belt.
Next up is a trip to Pembroke in the T20 this Wednesday evening before a trip to Corkagh Park to face the much fancied Adamstown in the league at the weekend.