The host captain of a match of a 'friendly' match is the hardest job in cricket, with the exception of one. That is the host captain of a 'friendly' match in which is it absolutely the aim that the home side wins.
Marty Block was the man lumbered with the role. The recent winning run of Leinster in the White Stick Trophy has started to reach a worrying length. We (as this is for the LCU&SA website, we are allowed to be biased) have won eight of the last nine encounters, and our great relationship with our officiating brethren in the NCU would hardly be helped by another drubbing.
The news before the match was not good. Word from up the M1 was that NIACUS were struggling for numbers. Normally that is code for, "We may get eleven, but they may not be very good". This time it turned out to mean "We are struggling for numbers". Even worse news for Captain Block was that Leinster has far too many players to choose from, and there was bound to be disappointment. The days have long gone when players would have been drafted into play for the LCU&SA on the back of giving a lift to Liam Keegan on a dark night back in August. Unless you have umpired a full season, there is little chance of getting a match.
So Blocky gritted his teeth, clenched his buttocks and gave the visitors three of our squad of 13. It was to be a ten aside match, which ideally would be a close affair, with Leinster coming out on top by a comfortable margin.
The early signs were not good. Despite the number two ground in Malahide offering a lovely mat to bat on, a silky smooth outfield, and as good as weather as was experienced all summer (and the match was played closer to Christmas than the summer equinox), the NIACUS batting line up quickly found themselves struggling against a determined Leinster bowling attack. Sum Wijesundara bowled a typically parsimonious spell, going for only 15 from 7 overs, whilst at the other end Ossie D'Souza reaped the rewards, with 3-38.
When Alex Matthews and Steve Wood also took wickets, NIACUS were in the mire at 53-5 and then 89-6, play stopped for a lengthened ice cream break, as the Malahide Castle Ice Cream man received an unexpected boost to his bottom line. On resumption Block and Bala Kailash tried to bring the NIACUS total up to something approaching respectability, and in the grand tradition of friendly matches, 152 from 35 overs seemed about right. The fact that NIACUS got anywhere near that total was down to the day's only 50 from Ronnie Balfour, and some lusty hitting at the end from Adam Gardiner and Michael Foster.
The three loaned players from Leinster did their bit for the cause, by scoring 13 runs for twice out between them. At the interval the thinking was that NIACUS had probably got a few more than we would have liked, but there shouldn't be any problems.
For much of the chase, those problems were as distant as the nearest cloud on what was a beautiful September afternoon. The Wexford pair of Steve Wood and Aidan Seaver put on 49 for the first wicket, and on Wood's felling, Alex Mathew joined Seaver to take the score to 67, and even when Seaver and Paul Reynolds departed, Leinster were still strong favourites.
Sameer Dutt strode to the crease, a man with an impressive pedigree (if not much recent batting practice). Dutt had reeled off five or six man of the match performances in this fixture over the years, and surely this would be another one? Along with Mathew (the leading run scorer in all forms of Cricket Leinster cricket over the last five seasons), the pair would help us stroll to victory. Well, maybe not.
Mathew was caught behind off the bowling of Adam Gardiner to make it 93-4. Block came in to knock off the 60 runs, and for a while it seemed as if this would indeed happen. With the score on 139, Sameer was dismissed for the first time in 25 years of this fixture (possibly), when he miscued a flick over square leg.
Most of the top 6 were guilty of leaving the run-scoring to the others. Unfortunately, between them, the top six were 30 short of what they should have scored, and the others batted as if they needed to catch the last Dart. 139-4 quickly became 140-8, and despite Marty Block's best efforts (or maybe because of them), NIACUS had triumphed by 6 runs.
At the after match meal, Bruce Topping and Paul Reynolds picked up MOM and Champagne Moment awards (neither of which this article has done any justice to), and the White Stick Trophy was presented to Michael Foster, the NIACUS winning captain.
Many thanks to Helen Caird, Peter Thew and Arthur Short for the officiating and Malahide CC for letting us loose on the ground when may other grounds had already closed the doors for the winter.
The Leinster squad will be training all winter, and will be determined to bring the White Stick back to it's rightful home in 2015. As always, the main thing with this fixture is that opportunity to meet up with so many friends from the NCU, and the result is secondary. Honest.
LCU&SA Vs NIACUS
|Toss won by||NIACUS|
|Umpires||A Short - P Thew|
|Scorer notes||Helen Caird|
|Player of Match||R Balfour|
|J Kennedy||c S Dutt||b O D'Souza||0||8||0||0|
|R Balfour||run out P Reynolds||56||77||3||2|
|D Dockrell||c D Ryan||b S Wijesundara||6||7||1||0|
|B Topping||c O D'Souza||b A Matthews||9||11||1||0|
|K McConville||c S Dutt||b S Wood||6||21||1||0|
|V Jacob||c P Reynolds||b B Kailash||3||5||0||0|
|A Gardiner||c A Matthews||b M Block||28||19||6||0|
|M Foster*||b O D'Souza||28||36||2||1|
|J Jeffrey||not out||4||11||0||0|
|D Milne+||c A Matthews||b O D'Souza||5||5||0||0|
|extras||(b2 lb1 w4 nb0)||7|
|TOTAL||9 wickets for||152|
|1-8(J Kennedy) 2-17(D Dockrell) 3-31(B Topping) 4-41(K McConville) 5-53(V Jacob)|
|6-89(A Gardiner) 7-131(R Balfour) 8-144(M Foster) 9-152(D Milne)|
|S Wood||b V Jacob||14||40||2||0|
|A Seaver||c&b B Topping||29||39||5||0|
|A Matthews||c D Milne||b A Gardiner||30||25||4||1|
|P Reynolds||b K McConville||2||9||0||0|
|S Dutt||c M Foster||b J Kennedy||33||30||5||0|
|M Block*||not out||15||57||0||0|
|S Wijesundara||c D Milne||b M Foster||0||4||0||0|
|O D'Souza||b M Foster||0||2||0||0|
|B Kailash||b J Kennedy||0||1||0||0|
|D Ryan+||not out||3||5||0||0|
|extras||(b4 lb3 w12 nb1)||20|
|TOTAL||8 wickets for||146|
|1-49(S Wood) 2-67(A Seaver) 3-88(P Reynolds) 4-93(A Matthews) 5-139(S Dutt)|
|6-139(S Wijesundara) 7-139(O D'Souza) 8-140(B Kailash)|