Time for a local derby in the 4th XI campaign to avoid relegation from Division 9.
The Phoenix team was Stephen Black, Lineesh R, Evan Chester, Arsalan Mehmood, Ijaz Ahmed, Calum O’Byrne, Aidan Chester (c), Monjur Ahmed, John Anders, William Clarke and Zafarullah Mohommed.
Another blustery day in the Park but the overnight rain had cleared and while there were showers around there was a decent chance of play. The Admiral called correctly to take his tossing streak to 2 from 2 and he had no hesitation in fielding first again.
Willie decided to open the bowling with the wind coming from the right to help his outswinger and inswinger bowling from the Chesterfield Road end! At the other end Zafar looked to continue his impressive work to date on the 4th XI. Three balls in and Willie struck bowling Faherty for a duck and a couple of balls later Zafar swooped on a ball at fine leg and Evan Chester was in a perfect position with the gloves to whip off the bails – Service were 1 for 2 after just the one over.
Both Willie and Zafar backed up by solid fielding from their team mates kept things very tight as the overs ticked by as Civil Service tried to get the score going on a very difficult wicket. After 10 overs the score was 32-2 and Willie threw the ball to Ijaz while Zaf bowled his 9 overs straight through (The skipper thinks he’s fit enough to do it!).
Ijaz bowled well to begin and kept scoring very tight. In his second over he bowled Ajay and then next over had another when he bowled Rehan and suddenly Service were 49-4.
The Admiral urged his team on and brought on for his first spell of the year on the 4th XI leg spinner Calum O’Byrne. His instructions to the young spinner was simple – “relax, enjoy and let’s try and get the ball up to the batsmen and see if we can tempt them!”
Calum was up to the task!
Sure, there were a few bad balls but when the Service mainstay Gaurave holed out to a great catch in the deep by Stephen Black off a low full toss Phoenix were well in to the Service tail enders. A good ball from Calum bowled Cliff and Adamm holed out to a very good catch by Lineesh who was putting on a top class fielding display. Next Ijaz trapped Hassan LBW and Service were tottering at 92-7.
Next, Willie took a steepler at short mid-wicket to give Calum 4 wickets and when Monjur got into the act with a beauty Civil Service were all out for 121.
The bowling figures were Willie 1-16 off 6, Zafar 0-34 off 9, Ijaz 3-20 off 9, Calum 4-37 off 9, Sunny bowled 5 overs for just 5 runs and Monjur 1-4 off 2.
The Admiral’s summary at half time was “a great fielding effort backing up the bowlers on a tough pitch and an even tougher slow outfield”.
Stephen and Lineesh got the Phoenix reply under way. Chasing small totals can be tricky sometimes and we needed to be positive and try to ensure that we got off to a good start. With the score on 10 Lineesh was bowled and Sunny survived a couple of close calls before being trapped LBW for 7. Phoenix were 26-2.
Ijaz was out next and when Stephen was bowled for 15 Phoenix were stumbling at 37-4.
Sometimes in all the mayhem and noise of a mini collapse some people stand tall and take on the challenge. On this day that person was Evan Chester.
With Monjurs help, Evan blunted the by now vociferous Civil Service attack. Every ball there was an appeal for something. A ball going wide down the leg side had the Service Keeper jumping with hands high in the air claiming a catch. LBW appeals for balls pitching outside leg stump all served to make the atmosphere very tense. In fairness the Civil Service skipper tried manfully to keep his team on the right side of fair but it was hard work!
Undeterred, Evan and Monjur got on with the business at hand. Monjur rotated the strike while Evan defended stoutly but pounced on anything loose. The only “6” of the day was one of the best shots but also a couple of “4’s” down the ground edged Phoenix closer to victory.
Service needed an opening and when Monjur fell for 14, Calum for 7 John Anders for 5 and the Zafar for 1 all of a sudden Phoenix were 114-7. Evan was judged to be LBW for 43 and Phoenix were looking like they were going fall at the final hurdle. 115-8
This left only The Admiral nursing a couple of cracked ribs and everyone’s favourite number 11 Willie Clarke to see if they could get Phoenix over the line.
Needing 7 to win this was not going to be easy as Civil Service were really fired up at this stage- “one more wicket, one more wicket” they cried.
This was a time to be totally “Churchillian” and quote about “battle, bravery , courage, fighting them on the beaches….”
Willie had gone a funny red colour and was having none of it- he was muttering under his breath as he displayed the full range of defensive shots- front foot, back foot it made no difference- he wasn’t going to allow Phoenix fall short.
The Admiral trusted his man and took any singles going knowing that Willie was resolute!
When Willie scooped the ball around the corner over short fine leg the batsmen ran two to tie the score and next ball Willie unleashed a smash down the ground for one and the Phoenix batsmen ran the required single to win the game.
It was a lot tighter than it should be but sometimes it’s more fun (really?) when they go so close to the wire.
The two teams shook hands and trudged off to record their own versions of the days madness!
For Phoenix obviously the plaudits go to Calum and Ijaz for getting us in position to win and especially to “our” Evan for being the only one to stand tall when his teammates needed a performance but really The Admiral and especially Willie dug deep to see the team home when needed (I’ll do it once a year he said modestly!)
Thanks also to Aidan O’Byrne for scoring – very much appreciated.
Phoenix win by 1 wicket – next up Carlow at home on Sunday
Finally, I just wanted to share this picture of Sankeerth after scoring his first senior ton in our first game of the season – well done Sankeerth – a great knock and more to come!!