On Saturday morning I checked the rainfall radar at about a quarter to eleven, and the leading edge of the rain had just reached Cork. The system wasn't moving that quickly, so it could well be five in the afternoon that it reached Dublin. There was certainly going to be enough time for one innings, but would there be time for 20 overs after the break?
The strategy had to be to insert the opposition and try to bowl them out as quickly as possible, and then pass the D/L par and stay there. The weather was still fine when I arrived at Castle Avenue, some ten minutes after some gurriers toting Kookaburra gear bags had exceeded the speed limit to force their way past me on the approach to the Eastlink. Aussie Rules players, obviously!
The Clontarf ground looked in great nick as the schoolboys finished their game and the two teams warmed up in the outfield. Umpires Bala Kailash and Clive Colleran invited the skippers to toss. John Anderson won for Merrion and asked Clontarf to bat. At one o'clock, Bill Coghlan and Bobbo Forrest squared up to Dom Joyce and . . . . Ben Ackland?
Ackland gave his offies plenty of width, and in Joyce's second over Coghlan followed a ball that moved away from him (but that he needn't have played) and nicked off to Tim Lang at second slip. Mitch Watterson took a single, then Forrest got another that moved away off the seam, nicked it, but was dropped by Ackland at slip.
With wides and sloppy fielding (hand up, Ross Watkins) the score moved to 48-1 by the end of the mandatory power play. Then Watterson (16), who loves to tuck the ball off his middle stump to mid wicket, tried to force that shot from just outside off, got an inside edge into his stumps, and it was 57-2. Sanjay Saharan took over from Ackland at the Castle end, John Blakeney relieved Joyce from the Killester end, and both took a couple of overs to get their line right.
It was 74-2 off 15 when Anderson called the bowling power play, and Saharan got his stock ball, the medium pace leg break, to hold its own, have a shout, and win the lbw decision over Forrest, out for 29. Next over, Alex Cusack didn't quite get to the pitch of a near half volley from Blakeney, the ball skewed low into the covers, and Anderson dived forward to take an excellent catch.
Andrew Poynter and Joe Morrissey observed the maxim of Julius Caesar, festina lente, and made haste slowly to 81-4 at the end of the power play. Then JoMo called a very dodgy single and would have been run out by a yard and a half if Rory Allwright, at mid off, had hit the bowler's end stumps.
Two overs later, Blakers bowled a waist high full toss which Poynter fetched from just outside off stump and deposited in the hedge at square leg. Umpire Colleran called no ball. I wouldn't have, because the ball wasn't above waist height (are you reading this, Matt Dwyer?), but as long as umpires are individually consistent in their interpretation, I don't think it matters.
Anyway, the Merrion fielders poked around in the hedge for five minutes before Anderson went off and got another ball. Blakers served up a near half volley outside off stump which Poynter flat-batted straight to Anderson, who held a good low catch to make the score 90-5 in the 23rd over.
Saharan was bowling quite tightly, throwing in the odd "googly" to keep the batsmen guessing, a far better display than I saw the previous Saturday in YMCA. Morrissey was joined by Matt Mangan, a young Aussie who came over with Watterson, who looked a well organised bat, if a bit strokeless. But the pair took their singles and Mangan began to play some nice shots off his legs.
Saharan finished his spell with figures of 10-2-28-1, and the 30 over score 124-4. Ben Ackland, now bowling from the Killester end, tried an outrageous lbw shout against JoMo (it wouldn't have hit another set) which Clive Colleran ignored, but it had the desired effect because Joe flogged the next ball across the line to Dom Joyce at mid wicket.
Richie Reid, the Shoebomber, likes to get on with it, but swished at Ackland and nicked the ball to Kade Beasley behind the stumps. Beazo, who was later to drop Mangan, didn't drop this one. It had started to spot rain, and I packed away the cameras. Mark Collier defended well while Mangan grew in confidence, and the pair took the score from 142 to 185 in 11 overs.
Mangan tucked a ball off his legs and through Saharan's for four to take him to 49, then drove just over Rory Allwright at mid off to reach 51. He then miscued Damian Poder to Ben Ackland at mid wicket. Next ball, Vijay Gopal went walkabout and was smartly stumped, but the hat-trick ball, an intended yorker, was a full toss easily defended by Adam Craig, a very promising left-arm medium pacer.
Craig had a swing at Poder and was balletically caught by Dom Joyce, giving Poder 3/27 out of 187 all out. Joyce and Blakeney each recorded 2/40, and Ackland 2/46. With a slightly early tea, could Merrion bat for the necessary 20 overs afterwards to get a result?
It's a no-win situation for umpires. It never actually stopped raining: sometimes it was lighter than in the 45 minutes before tea; sometimes about the same; sometimes a little heavier. My own view now (although not then) is that the umpires were wise not to start, because that would probably have given only Merrion the chance to win.
The Merrion view was that there was an hour at least where conditions were not really much different from what they had bowled through, so why wasn't there at least an attempt to play? About six the rain got heavier and the plug was pulled.
Looking at the other outcomes on Saturday afternoon, with an easterly wind the four inland matches, at College Park, Sydney Parade, Rathmines and Terenure, reached a conclusion, while two of the three coastal matches, at Castle Avenue and Milverton, didn't. How Kenure produced a result, I don't know!