A magnificent knock from Alan Maginnis saw the 5th XI over the line in a tense top of the table clash last weekend. The Ulsterman was quite simply magnificent in the most trying of batting conditions as he led his side to victory. No praise is too high as the usually flamboyant batsman showed true grit that Rooster Cogburn would have been proud of.
The 5th XI showed no sign of letting up as they continued their charge towards the top of the league table with a fourth consecutive league win this time away at leaders Swords. For the second game in a row Phoenix got to avenge a home defeat. Having let Swords off the hook when facing off in the Park there were no mistakes this time as, despite the absence of skipper Graham Mooney, the 5th XI claimed a hard fought six wicket victory.
Despite the absence of their skipper there was still no chance of Phoenix winning the toss and Swords duly elected to bat. The mat in Newbridge Demesne offers pretty extreme bounce for even moderately paced bowlers. However that is a double edged sword. Hitting a good length meant the batsmen would struggle to work the ball away but the arch sin of dropping short would almost certainly lead to being punished severely.
The weather was bright and breezy as Phoenix took to the field and Tom Stevens and Conor Hughes took the new ball for the visitors. With the youth section of Phoenix on the up and up it is definitely worth mentioning yet another super performance from one of our young players. However, it has to be said, it comes as no surprise that Tom had no trouble dealing with opening the bowling in senior cricket. He has looked more than at home each and every time he has appeared for the 5th XI and opening the bowling, as a spinner; away from home against the league leaders did nothing to faze him.
Stevens and Hughes held very good lines to get their side off on the right foot. Stevens extracted turn and bounce from outside off stick while Hughes hit a good nagging length time after time. Stevens can consider himself unlucky to have seen a couple of thin deflections not gathered close to the bat while Hughes was just impossible to get away.
Stevens made the breakthrough when he had Roshen Zacharia (23) neatly caught by Hazelden at Square Leg to reduce the hosts to 40 for 1 in 15 overs. It was a stifling start by Phoenix despite the lack of wickets coming their way. Stevens would finish 8-0-30-1 and Hughes would turn 8-3-14-0. The top notch bowling was backed up by fielding that was as good as had been seen all season and the hosts were restricted to a fairly stagnant start.
It was important that the change bowlers didn’t let up and Dan Hazelden and Hashmi Khan did not let their side down. Khan, who boasts the best economy rate at the club, had an uncharacteristically loose first over but soon reined things back in. Hazelden found a nice rhythm early on and Phoenix kept firing on all cylinders.
Next man to go was Joseph (23) who perished to the bowling of Hazelden thanks to a fine catch in the deep by Michael Fahy. What goes around comes around and Hazelden, who had held a tricky catch for the first wicket, was repaid by having his team mate back up his bowling just as well.
Hazelden made it a quick fire double as he knocked backed Varghese’s (3) off and middle stump to leave Swords 64 for 3 just after drinks. That was to become 66 for 4 as Hashmi Khan had Sacharia (12) trapped in front LBW to put Phoenix on a roll.
Swords didn’t get to the top of the table by chance, though, and they dug in and fought back with Mohandes and M Jacob getting them back on track. However while they did their best to scrap their way back into the game Phoenix never let up with the dual pressure of tight bowling and excellent fielding. Walker, Hazelden and Fahy led the way in the field with even the wizened Maginnis and Chester throwing in the odd stop or two!
With a nice partnership building it was time to turn to The Admiral and he did not disappoint. Mohandes (3) slashed one to Backward Point and Moore clung on to break the 28 run stand. M Jacob (30) soon fell to Chester and when Michael Fahy had A Jacob (2) caught behind by Ebbs, who held a swirler, it looked as though Phoenix might clean up the tail.
However Swords fought back hard again and despite losing Madhai (4) to Chester they scrapped their way to 134 for 8 at the close. The Phoenix fielding was top notch all the way through and it was no less than their bowlers deserved. Admiral Chester finished with 6-0-25-3, Hashmi Khan 8-2-23-1 and Dan Hazelden 6-0-16-2.
While a run rate of 3.35 to chase may not have seemed imposing it was clear it would be a tough track to bat on and with the league leaders bowling it would be that bit tougher. The perspicacious Maginnis noted that 134 on that pitch was probably worth 50-60 runs more on a normal pitch and he wasn’t wrong. However, thankfully, his judicious reading of the pitch wasn’t where his impact on the days batting would end.
Batting was extremely testing for the openers to say the least. Both Chester and Moore struggled to get the ball away early on. A Jacob used the new ball, the slope and his express pace (for the level) to maximum effect while M Jacob at the other end was tricky to get away. Phoenix got bogged down in the early going and Moore (1) was first to go when a ball he looked to drive bounced and caught the shoulder of the bat and flew to slip. 8 for 1 was not the start Phoenix had been looking for.
That brought Alan Maginnis to the crease. A player usually known for his ferocious stroke play and aggressive nature he seemed to take the pitch, conditions and match situation into account like never before. Maybe it was a summer spent reading up on WWI that put him in the right mind frame but whatever the reason Maginnis and Chester took to the trenches to see off the opening barrage from the hosts.
42 for 1 after 20 overs might (in fact definitely) would be cause for panic in other sides. However the 5th XI have been a cohesive unit all season and have talked at length about game management and picking the right moment to strike. 95 off 120 required with 9 wickets standing looks a simple equation on paper but, given how things had shaped up on the day, a lesser team, and lesser men, would have succumbed to the pressure.
Not the 5th XI, though, and the kept on ploughing ahead. They were stung by the loss of Chester (26) leaving them 63 for 2. 26 off 78 balls with a solitary boundary doesn’t sound like a particularly impressive innings but it was one of his best of the season as it provided his side with exactly what they needed in keeping the ship stable.
Ebbs (4) came in and hooked his first ball for 4 before hooking his second ball to the Fine Leg fielder making it 68 for 3. Mumtaz was the next man in and The Wall lived up to his name at the start of his innings. He was calm and collected and got his eye in to begin with before starting to play some shots.
All the while at the other end Maginnis controlled the Phoenix innings. His running between the wickets was as good as it has ever been as he knew there was a single run to be wasted on the day. With the introduction of the 5th and 6th bowlers for Swords he knew it was time to seize control of the game and the shots started to flow. The long grass in the outfield meant boundaries were hard to find but twos and threes were taken as Phoenix upped the tempo.
Mumtaz (15) upped his rate as well before finally being bowled by Mohandes. That left the 5th XI at 94 for 4. 15 might not seem a lot but yet again it was just the little injection of pace Phoenix required.
41 off 48 with 6 wickets standing. Again, a simple equation on paper but the reintroduction of A Jacob for Swords last throw of the dice meant that it was anything but a done deal. That A Jacob would finish with figures of 8-4-14-0 should show that his final three overs coming late in the game meant that things were still in the balance.
Maginnis was clearly in unflinching mood and prepared to see out the job and he found he perfect ally in Michael Fahy. It was time for bat on ball and both men knew it. While their team mates on the sideline were fraught with nerves the pair in the middle showed supreme composure.
Maginnis flicked to leg and punched the ball square of the wicket. Fahy showed his technique and hit through the line of the ball. Agonisingly the tally came down bit by bit. The line was within touching distance and the duo would not be denied. 2,2,2 from the first three balls of the penultimate over saw their side home. It was a superb win and one which puts Phoenix right back into the mix with a genuine shot at both the league title and promotion.
Somewhere on the sunny continent skipper Graham Mooney cracked open a beer to celebrate his sides win in his absence while the rest of the 5th XI were left to head home late on a Sunday evening with normal Monday morning service about to resume! There would be no Monday morning blues after such a fine team performance though.
Man of the Match was undoubtedly Alan Maginnis. 62 from 92 balls with 3 boundaries. Positively tame figures compared some of the other knocks he has produced in his three seasons at the club. However you will have to go a long, long way to see a better innings. Tenacity mixed with timing. Ability blended with awareness. And most commendably of all, a blood minded determination to set the highest price on his wicket and grind, and grind, and grind the opposition until he saw his side to victory.
Phoenix now move on to face Clontarf away in St Anne’s Park this weekend. Another tricky away game in which they will be hopeful of continuing their good run but will know they are in for a tough game as usual against Clontarf.
Swords: 134 for 8 after 40 overs
M Jacob 30
S Joseph 23
A Chester 3/25
D Hazelden 2/16
Phoenix: 135 for 6 after 38.3 overs
A Maginnis 62*
A Chester 26
M Fahy 16*
Phoenix won by 6 wickets
Toss won by Swords who elected to bat
Man of the Match
62 off 92 (3×4)