balbriggan_v_cliftonville.pdf (91.22 kb)
Saturday 12th May 2012 and Balbriggan's ground has made a miraculous recovery from the midweek downpours thanks in no small part to the tremendous work of grounds man Gerry Brady and the rest of the lads. Indeed it was only on Tuesday that the makings of the black sight screens arrived in the pouring rain and the feeling was that they would not get their first airing on Saturday except maybe in a bowl out? How wrong we were. Saturday morning and the sun is out in all it's glory. The ground is still soft but the wicket is almost perfect. Balbriggan is ready to welcome Cliftonville for our first venture into an all Ireland cup competition. The scene is set for a close match we hoped?
The two umpires and skippers head out to centre to take the toss. Balbriggan skipper Barry Archer wins the toss and elects to field. 30 minutes to the off and teams photos and warm-ups are taking place. The new coloured kits of both teams are gleaming in the midday sun and the scorers take their seats and prepare the score books and ipad for the off. A team huddle by Balbriggan and we're ready to go.
Cliftonville openers Neil Cahill and Rory Thompson stroll purposefully to the crease and Cahill takes guard to face Balbriggan opening bowler, the evergreen Albert Harper. Four balls are bowled, three runs are on the board when off the 5th ball Thompson decides to take a second run betting against the arm of Duane Harper fielding at fine leg. The first mistake Cliftonville would make and one that would set the tone for the early part of their innings. Harper gathers the ball and lets fly at the stumps.
Keeper and skipper Barry Archer knows only a direct hit will see the first wicket fall so he raises his gloves to let the ball do the work and what a decision that was. The stumps are sent flying, the whole of Balbriggan and surrounding towns and villages scream "howzzzzattt" and glare at the square leg umpire. His finger rises high into the early afternoon sky and the first Cliftonville wicket is down. 4 for 1 and the perfect start for the home side and the home support is buzzing.
Next to fall is opener Neil Cahill when in the 7th over he nicks one to keeper Archer off Albert Harper with only 7 more runs having been added to the score. Phil Mulholland perished in the 10th over when his stumps were re-arranged by the swinging Kookaburra cherry delivered by Duane Harper. 20 for 3 and the bewildered faces of the Cliftonville players and supporters says it all.
In the 15th over, Owen Ivins, their wicket keeper and top batsman looked like he would run out of partners when Michael Turkington became Albert Harpers second victim and Cliftonville were struggling on 36 for 4. Enter skipper David Menaul. Surely he would steady the ship? Indeed he did and for the next 14 overs this partnership would add 41 runs until Menaul gifted a soft catch to Duane Harper off the bowling of spinner Paddy Martin. 77 for 5 in the 29th over.
James McManus was next in and he helped form part of the best partnership of the innings. The pair scored 42 runs in 8 overs and looked like they could rescue Cliftonville and put up a competitive total? However McManus was also caught off the bowling of Paddy Martin, this time it was Cliff Costello who gratefully accepted the invitation to catch the ball. McManus out for 7 and the score 119 for 6 with just 13 overs remaining. Ivins knows it's up to him to kick on as he is running out of partners. When James McNeilly was bowled by young Ali Qasim in the very next over with only two batsmen and the extras having made double figures it looked like the curtains were being drawn on a bad day at the office for the Belfast side.
But Brian Anderson had other ideas. He looked like he would help take the score somewhere close to the 200 mark when the by now half centurian Owen Ivins and he proceed to give the Balbriggan bowlers and fielders something to think about as they sprayed the ball all over the ground. But it couldn't last and when Ivins was clean bowled by the clever Ali Qasim in the 42nd over having scored over half the Cliftonville total of 141 at that stage, 200 looked a long way off. Ivins had faced 80 balls and scored 74 runs including 4 fours and one 6. Waqas Mohammad 8 off 19 balls and Frazer McFadden 3 n.o. off 9 helped take Cliftonville to a total of 170 when Brian Anderson became the 10th and last wicket to fall when Paddy Martin returned the favour by taking the catch off the bowling of Duane Harper off the last ball of the 48th over. His 16 being only the third double figures by a Cliftonville batsman. Pick of the bowlers were P Martin 3-32, A Harper 2-20, A Qasim 2-20, D Harper 2-35.
So time for tea and the usual half time analysis by the "experts" or Stu Daultrey impersonators.
So, Balbriggan needed to find 171 runs somewhere to advance to round two of the inaugural RSA National Cup and the man in form Barry Archer would no doubt play a big part in that?
Tea over and away we go again. Barry Archer and Glenn Russell make their way to the centre. The Navy and Sky blue gear is matched by the pads. Archer has navy pads and Russell sky blue. Perhaps one of them will be shouting for the skyblue half of Manchester the following day, if only to wind up Ivan Harper and the rest of the Utd supporters in the club? Anyway this was Saturday and the business in hand was getting 171 runs and hope the rain stayed off for the post match b-b-q.
The Cliftonville scorer, a lovely young lady and fiancée of the Cliftonville skipper David Menaul (I forgot to ask for her name and I apologise for that) asks how Balbriggan will go about getting the required runs. I said the only thing for sure is that the game would be over in less than 40 overs. I said we'd either get the 171 runs required or be all out with at least 10 to 15 overs to spare. "We don't hang about" one of the other guys added. "They don't like running and deal in boundaries only" another budding cricketer and perhaps future Cover Point correspondent and predictor quips.
Archer takes guard and off we go. Waqas Mohammad is the Cliftonville opening bowler and he is hit for 7 runs off his first over. The only surprising thing about that from a Balbriggan point of view is that 6 of those runs go to Glenn Russell not Barry Archer. James McNeilly is the next bowler and his first two balls are wides with two 4's and two further singles coming off the over. 19 for 0 off 2 and the trend is set. Both bowlers are struggling with the tempo of the Balbriggan response and at the end of the 4th over with the score on 31 without loss they are rested and on come Brian Anderson and Frazer McFadden.
However the prolific scoring continues with Russell being the most aggressive albeit that he seems to be stealing the strike more often than usual. The 6th over and Frazer McFadden's 1st is a 10 ball over with 4 wides and the score moves on to 44. The bewildered looks on the Cliftonville players and supporters sums it up. "What is going on with our bowlers?" one of them asks. "This is not normal" their scorer whispers to me. But the pace of the Balbriggan scoring does not abate.
In fact by now Barry Archer is getting a little bit irked by being out-scored by his partner so in the 10th over the 5th bowler, skipper David Menaul is hit for two sixes and Balbriggan are 66 without loss. Menaul does however help slow the Balbriggan onslaught in his next few overs and indeed bowls their first and only maiden over with his third and Cliftonville's 18th over of the afternoon. 93 for 0 off 18 and just 78 runs required. And so it continued. Archers 50 came in the blink of an eye and when he was dropped by the Cliftonville skipper from what should have been a routine catch the writing already on the wall was well and truly signed off. 134 for 0 off 25 overs and a welcome drinks break for the visitors at least.
"If they bowl another wide Barry could finish this in the next over" someone suggested! It was not a slight at the Cliftonville bowling attack more a reading of how Barry Archer was now in that zone. Drinks over and out they go.
Phil Mulholland is the new bowler and his first ball is sent high over the boundary and into the adjacent football pitch. The next ball is a wide followed by another 6 into the football pitch. Could the almost impossible happen? Sadly no as the next ball bounces once before going over that same boundary. The next two balls are byes with the last ball also going for 6.
25 off the over and 12 required to win. But this was not just the Barry Archer show as Glenn Russell had batted his way into the 40's and off the second ball of the 28th over he hit a two to take his score to the dreaded 49 mark. He blocked the next three balls and then off the last ball of the over he was given out LBW by the umpire. A disappointing end to a fantastic innings and an opening partnership 166.
So 5 required to win and in trots Derek Rooney. Barry Archer is on 92. Surely Derek will tell him he needs two fours for his second 100 n.o. in a row? Of course he will! Rory Thompson bowls the first two balls and Archer blocks them. Ball number 3 is hit for four. One required but it has to be a boundary to put the icing on the cake as far as Balbriggan and Archer are concerned? Thompson lobs it up and biff away it goes for four. Balbriggan 174 for 1 and a comprehensive 9 wicket victory and Mr Archer two n.o. centuries in two games and less than 30 overs to do it!
Oh and for the record, Derek "didn't" tell Barry he needed two 4's for his 100. Time to purchase an electronic scoreboard I think. Or if someone would like to sponsor one we would be delighted to accept. Contact Albert Harper with any offers.
Cliftonville were very gracious in defeat and conceded that the better side won on the day. They were a bit shocked at how badly they bowled and at losing so many early wickets. Perhaps they underestimated this very capable Balbriggan side and ultimately paid the price?
The b-b-q was being organised and the beers were cool and waiting for yours truly and a few others. The Cliftonville players and supporters joined us for post match burgers , beers and the match post mortem. Their skipper David Menaul thanked the Club for such a sporting match and the hospitality and but for the result and the manner in which they lost it would have been the perfect day. For Balbriggan it was.
Finally Balbriggan will now face Burndennett in round two on Saturday 9th June. A long trek to the north west of Ireland but something to look forward to nonetheless.