Men are born for games. Nothing else. Every child knows that play is nobler than work. He knows too that the worth or merit of a game in not inherent in the game itself but rather in value of that which is put at hazard. Games of chance require a wager to have meaning at all. Games of sport involve the skill and strength of the opponents and the humiliation of defeat and the pride of victory are in themselves sufficient stake because they inhere in the worth of the principals and define them. But trial of chance or trial of worth all games aspire to the condition of war for here that which is wagered swallows up game, player, all.

This quote from Cormac McCarthy’s novel Blood Meridian probably says it all about a new cricket season and so it came to pass that the Admiral got to lead the 4th XI as they got their Division 9 league campaign underway against Malahide 4’s in The Park on a cold, windy and bleak Saturday afternoon

The Phoenix team was Raj Gopal, Lineesh R, Sankeerth Karpe, Arsalan Mehmood, Ijaz Ahmed, Calum O’Byrne, Aidan Chester (c), Grant White, John Anders, William Clarke and Zafarullah Mohommed.

There was a gust of Artic wind as the toss was made which somehow managed to blow the coin on the side the Admiral had called and he had no hesitation in fielding first.

The wind was blowing from the Magazine Fort End and it was no surprise when Willie decided to open the bowling with the wind at his back!

At the other end Zafar learnt what it meant to be the “junior pro” on the 4th XI as he faced the prospect of bowling into the wind! The Admiral threw the gauntlet to his bowlers- bowling  outside off stump and the fielders will back you up.! It was going to be a challenge for every bowler with or against the wind!

The “evergreen” Brian Gilmore opened the batting for Malahide and had no hesitation in the first over to run out his partner without facing after a swift piece of work from Ijaz in the gully and an even swifter piece of work by the “equally evergreen” Grant White behind the stumps. Scoring was slow particularly as the both Willie and Zaf had focused on line and length early on. Zaf was unlucky as he bowled with pace all day and should have had a few wickets. Willie teased and tantalised the Malahide batsmen and probably should have had a couple of wickets if the Admiral had been able to hold on to a couple of sharp chances (I’m saying they were sharp and based on the bruising on my ribs this morning that’s what I’m going for!).

Ijaz and Sunny came on next and scoring was still unspectacular. Another quick single and this time Ijaz was behind square on the leg side and again Grant had the bails whipped to leave Malahide 50 for 2 off 15 overs.

At drinks the score had moved onto 83 for 2 which Phoenix were pleased with.

After drinks the Admiral decided to shake things up and brought on Sankeerth and the 100 game man John Anders (the former skipper looked 10 years younger now that the captaincy had been passed on!). Straightaway Golden Arm and the ball swinging which caused a lot of concern for the Malahide bats. Second ball and the Malahide’s Kadan holed out to The Admiral at mid-off 90-3.

Malahide had obviously decide to up the tempo after drinks and a nifty piece of fielding and a direct hot from Zaf had Malahide 92 for 4 almost immediately.

All the while Sankeerth was loosening up and bending his back for an impressive 6 over spell had Gilmore trapped LBW for an excellent 47 and in a space of a couple of overs Malahide had been reduced to 107-5. Another two wickets came quickly – another LBW for Sankeerth  and a good steepling catch by Calum O’Byrne of Sunnys bowlers and the 4’s were in good shape with Malahide 146-7.

The Malahide fight back started with Sean Drumm leading the way. He scored a belligerent 45 backed up by young Ben Askew who finished 16 not out. H Ali came in a slogged his way to 25 with 5 boundaries. Ijaz bowled Sean and Zafar capped a fine personal bowling performance with the wicket of Ali clean bowled with a quick ball.

The Malahide skipper, Howard Askew,  came in at the end and made sure Malahide batted their 45 overs. They closed on 231-9.

From a Phoenix perspective the fielding effort was good for the first 25 overs, the bowlers stuck to their task all day but our fielding was not as good in the last 20 overs. The Admirals summary was “we gifted them 60 runs but 231 was probably still 30 runs short of a par score on a cold but fast Phoenix outfield”.

Sankeerth got 2-24, John 1-48, Arsalan 1-35, Ijaz 1-46 and Zafar 1-33. Willie was unlucky bowling 9 overs 0-31.

The Admiral’s “half time speech” was simple – If we bat our overs we can get over the line!

Raj and Lineesh got the Phoenix reply under way. Raj was going to be positive and try to ensure that we  got off to a good start.  In fairness it was a very positive three minute before Ben Askew bowled a inswinging Yorker and Raj was back to the pavilion bemoaning an inside edge??

Sankeerth and Lineesh pounced on a couple of wide deliveries to get us going.  The pair then set about moving the Phoenix score along with a mixture of positive strokes and sharp running. The run rate never dipped below 5 an over. Lineesh tried one big shot too many and was out for a well-made 26. Arsalan joined Sankeerth who never looked in any trouble. The quick outfield meant that good shots were rewarded all the way to the boundary and Sankeerth kept going. First up he reached his 50 and Phoenix reached 100 runs off 23 overs.

Malahide were wilting under the relentless scoring every over as Phoenix knocked off the runs. Sankeerths innings grew more impressive as the runs accumulated and he reached his first ever senior ton with a fine shot. He finished with 104 (scored off 132 balls with 10 fours). Sunny was playing a patient hand at the other end but between them the put on a partnership of 159 to leave Phoenix on the brink of a good win when both were out leaving Phoenix on 226-4 needing 6 to win with 2 overs to go.

Ijaz and Calum ensured there was no last minute hiccups and the win was secured with an over to spare.

A great performance from Lineesh, Sunny but especially Sankeerth gave Phoenix a 6 wicket win.

A special mention too for our umpires Joe and Ghan who helped the game flow so well and special mention to Golden Arm Anders playing his 100th game for Phoenix- one for the old guys!

Having played with Sankeerth through the years on the 6’s and the 5’s it was an honour for us to see Sankeerths first century- a great knock full of patience and sparkling shots.

Last year’s reports often quoted from some guy called Claudio who had led his team of impossibles to a league win- this year Claudio has left the scene and we seek a new inspiration.

As a lifelong Gunners fan this is easy…..

“If you eat caviar every day it’s difficult to return to sausages.”

Aidan Chester