Balbriggan edge The Hills in cup thriller
Congratulations to our 1st team on a magnificent, if hard fought victory in the Leinster Senior II cup final against our Fingal neighbours The Hills.
On a sunny but showery Sunday afternoon on the new and beautifully prepared Malahide ground The Hills won the toss and elected to bat. The wicket, having endured the heavy rains of this so called summer was hard if slightly damp and the feeling was that a score in the region of 180 would be par.
The Hills openers Mal Byrne and Amir Raza found it difficult to score runs against the Balbriggan opening attack of Duane Harper and Sarfraz Anwar. Indeed when Balbriggan made their first bowling change after 10 overs The Hills had only accrued 26 runs. Duane Harper was replaced by Albert Harper and his first over was the 2nd maiden to be bowled. At this rate 180 runs seemed a long way off and it wasn't until the 14th over that we had the first boundary of the match when Mal Byrne took that honour off the bowling of Sarfraz Anwar.
When drinks were taken after 25 overs the Balbriggan side and supporters were the happier with The Hills having scored just 60 runs but more importantly for Balbriggan they had lost 3 wickets. Amir Raza and Patrick Byrne fell to the bowling of Anwar and ex Balbriggan man Thomás Murphy became Roger Kears victim when caught by Paddy Martin. However the drinks break seemed to favour the batting side as they steadily got to grips with both the pitch and the Balbriggan bowlers.
Mal Byrne was slowly creeping towards his 50 and with the more aggressive Joseph Clinton they took the score to 137 and a partnership of 77 when Byrne (having reached his 50 of 148 balls) was bowled by the young spinner Ali Qasim. Joseph Clinton went on to make 57 not out and helped the Hills to 171 runs for the loss of 6 wickets at the close of their innings. So, a very completive score and one that at tea looked a long way off. Best of the bowlers for Balbriggan, Sarfraz Anwar 10 overs 2 for 23, Roger Kear 10 overs 1 for 22, Paddy Martin 8 overs 1 for 36 with young Ali Qasim also taking a wicket.
So tea was taken and I'm sure both side were thinking they had done well on a wicket that in a way helped both the bowlers and batters. It was slow going for a long time but Joseph Clinton showed that runs could be scored at a descent rate. Balbriggan would need to get off to a good start and hope that Barry Archer and Glenn Russell could set a platform for the rest of the side.
At this stage I must compliment and thank the Malahide tea ladies and Malahide Cricket Club for their excellent tea and superb hospitality.
Back to the match and Messrs Archer and Russell head purposefully to the centre with a confident gait to their stride. Indeed the writer could see the Russell in particular looked more determined than usual. And so it proved as unlike the first innings it took just 10 balls for the first boundary and it was from a superb cover drive from Russell. 6 for 2 off 2. Game on.
This partnership were scoring at around 2.8 per over for the first few overs as just like the first innings runs became hard to come by. However they looked quite comfortable at the crease. But then the rain came and off they trotted with the score on 26/0 off 9. Back on they go but after a couple more overs they’re off again as the clouds hang over the ground and a steady shower of rain pours down once again. It finally passes and play resumes with Balbriggan on 33 without loss. When they stopped after 25 overs for drinks (although the organisers had forgotten to have them ready) Archer and Russell were still there and the score had reached 77.
Just 95 required to take back the Senior II cup to Balbriggan for the second time in two years. But as the drinks were not ready the umpires decided one more over should be bowled. Not an ideal situation for the batters and maybe their concentration would be tested by this unfortunate double break? But it seemed to have the opposite effect as both Archer and Russell almost matched each other run for run for the next 6 overs with the 100 partnership coming in the 29th over. Barry Archer completed his half century off 81 balls and Balbriggan now needed 60 to win with 10 wickets in hand and 19 overs remaining.
It’s time for a bowling change. The Hills bring on Andrew Moore as Thomás Murphy, Wasim Acktar, Joseph Clinton, Emmet Branagan, Nadeem Acktar and William Archer all tried and failed to break this wonderful opening partnership by the Balbriggan pair.
Moore is bowling from the Castle end to Russell. He bowls his first delivery and Russell lobs it straight back to him. “Out”, caught and bowled. What a change. Balbriggan’s first wicket is down with the score on 112. That was to be the start of a mini collapse. What looked like a cruise to victory became an edgy and nervy 19 overs, when from 112 without loss unbelievably The Hills got right back into the match by taking 4 more wickets in 11 overs and reducing Balbriggan to 147 for 6 off 42. Derek Rooney (5), Barry Archer (56), Roger Kear (0), Adrian Harper (6) and Sarfraz Anwar (18) and fell to Joseph Clinton (10 overs 3 for 38) and Andrew Moore (9 overs 3 for 32). Just 2.2 overs later with the score on 156 and Balbriggan still 16 runs short of victory Ali Qasim perished when he tried once too often to launch one out of the ground and was clean bowled by Clinton. So with just 5 overs and 3 wickets remaining the crowd were on their feet and the results well and truly in the balance.
At the crease were U15 star Nathan Rooney and the very experienced Duane Harper. Albert Harper and Paddy Martin waited on the boundary probably hoping they would not be needed. Nathan Rooney was superb. He looked the coolest player on the field and his 6 n.o. from the 8 balls he faced showed maturity beyond his years. Between them they brought the score to 157 for 7 with 4 overs remaining. Over 47 was a big one for Balbriggan with 8 runs coming from it and victory all but assured. 7 required from 18 balls. A doddle in normal circumstances but this was far from being normal.
Breaths were being held all around this wonderful ground. The smell of bar-b-q burgers wafted around and the smoke alarm going off only added to the hot atmosphere. Andrew Moore’s first 3 deliveries are dots. Harper looks at the by now broken down score board and seemed a bit confused. However he takes guard and Moore delivers. One step down the wicket and “Bam” the ball goes soaring through the air and over deep mid wicket’s head. The fielder turns, runs but the ball is way beyond him. It lands is it a six or a four? The fielder (I couldn’t make out which player it was) sportingly signals a 6 and the umpire obliges by doing the same. The scores are tied. One run required and that comes off the very next ball. Duane Harper scores the winning run but it was a team effort and a very, very, close shave. In the end Balbriggan deserved their victory and credit to The Hills team for not giving up when all seem lost.
Man of the match was Barry Archer.
The only negative I would say was that the actual Senior II cup was not available for the presentation as the previous winners had unbelievably mislaid it. There was a cup of sorts presented but the LCU should be ashamed for presenting it. It was a dirty grimy thing with finger prints embedded in it from some far off distant attempt to clean it. Shame on you LCU. I do hope the cup or a replacement is on the way?
Finally may I say CONGRATULATIONS to BALBRIGGAN and hard luck to The Hills