Cork Harlequins CC vs County Kerry CC Sun May 5th
The sun shone in Cork Harlequins, but a chill breeze ensured it was never warm. And on a day when the ball moved throughout, neither team dominated.
Wickets never fell in clatters but runs never flowed. And so the game went down to the wire.
Having won the toss Kerry batted first. Typically, the new ball moves appreciably in Quins, but after losing a wicket early, Alam Morshed and Bilal played with the requisite patience to first survive, and then thrive.
They punished the bad ball and were helped by wayward bowling which yielded a number of extras. At 68-1 after 16, and given that Harlequins scored 275 the previous week, the signs were ominous.
But edges were forthcoming, though they evaded the fielders, and spinners Kieran OíReilly (1-38) and Ruadhan Jones found appreciable turn. It was against the run of play however when OíReilly made the breakthrough, Bilal (32) out caught in the deep.
But Awais Saighir joined Alam, and as the two most accomplished Kerry batsmen, they had the platform to build a partnership. The score ticked along steadily; Awais preferred to sit on the back foot, while Alam attempted to use his feet but neither batsman could find the boundary. It was not a surprise when Alam (27) skied a catch off Jones and Niall Riaz departed shortly after to the same bowler.
Now it was Harlequins turn to drive home their advantage. But as was the pattern of the day, a momentary lapse and a dropped catch allowed Yaqoob Ali and Awais to slowly rebuild. And it was a slow process because new bowlers Brian OíLeary and Amaan Meer did not let the pressure abate.
Quins spread the field and played on the batsmenís patience. Awais was the most fluent; he scored 58 at nearly a run a ball with eight boundaries, his trademarks being a wristy pull and elegant cover drive. Putting together a seventy run partnership with the Yak, he took Kerry to the brink of the final ten overs usefully placed at 164-4.
Halfway through the 40th , Amaan (1-16) served up a leg stump half volley which Awais duly chipped into the hands of Cian Egerton at mid-wicket. The Quins men cheered with relief; it was over an hour since their last wicket and equally long since they had last created a chance. But now the momentum was with them.
Seanan Jones returned and set about clearing out the tail; he dismissed the Yak (24), caught at third man, had Moshin Taj caught behind, before zeroing in on the stumps with two pinpoint yorkers.
Ruadhan Jones (3-20) took one from the other end, and the scorebook looked a family affair as the last six wickets were shared between the two. But it was not the immediate clatter of wickets implied by the scorebook, taking until the 48th over to dismiss Kerry for 207. It was simply not that kind of day. Although, perhaps it was.
Cork Harlequins have made it an unfortunate habit to lose wickets early and Khurram Khan and Kashif Ali are two bowlers capable of taking advantage. At 30- 3, the Joneses came together again, but were quickly parted, Seanan the victim. Kieran OíReilly, the hero of the previous week, joined his captain; but he failed too, unable to cope with the Yakís mystery spin. So after 16 overs, Cork Harlequins were 56-5 and staring down the barrel.
But Cian Egerton, once again proved himself a cool head on young shoulders. He found a method to cope with the Yak and enabled his skipper to tick things over at the other end. Jones took a particular liking to the off spin of Alam, striking his first ball to the boundary and easily manipulating the strike. Yaqoob experimented with his bowling options as the partnership built, but to little effect. The partnership grew and Jones went to fifty with a pulled four off Alam (1-41).
But Mohsin Taj, a former keeper, proved himself a surprise weapon for the Yak. His accurate medium pace swingers were ideally suited to the wicket and threw off Egertonís (21) timing; after twenty overs and 75 runs without a wicket, Mohsin (4-36) picked up two in an over. So with 15 overs left, Quins required 77 runs and Kerry 3 wickets.
It was hard to choose the favourite; with Jones still at the crease, the scale was balanced but it seemed to rest on his shoulders. He responded positively, finding the boundary and milking the strike. But shortly after the eighth wicket fell, Jones became the ninth, falling for an excellent but potentially futile 80.
When he was out, Kerry needed only one wicket and Quins 30 runs. Yaqoob (1-20) brought himself on for his final over with an eye to finishing off the game; instead, Mushtaq put him over the long boundary for six, bringing the target to twenty. Brian guided one to thirdman; misfield, two. Seventeen to win. The big fast bowler, Kashif, back on. A nick, but dropped! And a single. Now a couple more squeezed through.
Awais returns, the ballís still swinging. But another couple, a scrambled three. Itís under ten. Kashif to continue; a wide, then another, useful runs. They keep ticking off, just one shot away now. Itís not going to fifty overs, Kerry need a wicket. Ah, a yorker from Awais Ė but itís too straight! Mushtaq guides it for four to fine leg and shouts of joy from the Quins dugout: victory, just about.
It can hardly be described as a convincing performance, but it shows great character to claim victory from the jaws of defeat.
Perhaps Kerry deserved to win, but the calm heads of the Harlequins final pair, the grit of their captain, and an element of fortune was enough to seal their second victory in as many games