Ruadhan Jones (CricketEurope)
Cork Harlequins vs Limerick City Sun 28th May
Though high scoring, the tempo of this match was relaxed rather frenetic. The key was to remain disciplined and patient. That Cork Harlequins won is testimony to the unflappable temperament of their younger players and to their ability to build partnerships.
They chased down Limerick’s 259 for the loss of 7 wickets and with 5 balls to spare. Limerick batted first having won the toss. For both teams the first innings was one of whatmight-have-been.
Seven batsmen reached double figures but only two passed 20: captain Zia Khan (43), and Murtaza Sidiqi, the fulcrum of Limerick’s innings, who made an even 100*. There was never a period when the ball dominated but it did enough to keep the batsman honest, if one stuck to a good length; this Quins did not do quite enough, although wickets fell regularly.
Limerick began brightly but by the 23rd over they were 104-4, Zia dismissed by Matt Brewster. It was a loose shot on a day more so than most that careless shots cost wickets. It was in many cases the only means of getting a batsman out.
After Zia was dismissed much depended on Murtaza. His presence and the constant threat he posed meant that although wickets fell, Quins could never attack outright. Equally, Murtaza had to bide his time. It was not until an audacious switch hit in the 43rd over that he broke free, but he then reaped the reward for his patience.
A succession of boundaries (and three drops) saw him through to his hundred in the final over and he gave Limerick much needed impetus, taking 41 off the last 5 overs to reach 258.
258 was more than Limerick should have scored, had Quins held their catches; but it was less than Limerick would have liked given that they went at 4.5 RPO throughout. This owed much to the bowling of Matt Brewster and Luke O’Reilly, who bowled in tandem for an extended period after drinks. They maintained exemplary lengths and gave no room for Murtaza to free his arms. Their partnership, their discipline, ensured that Limerick could never break free.
It was a discipline that Quins top order failed to match, Ted Williamson excepted. Too many began brightly then tamely fell away. Bowled, chipped to cover, nicked off; each batsman contrived a way back to the dugout. Quins collapsed to 66-5 by the 15th over, with Limerick, unsurprisingly, buoyed.
It was at this point that the second key partnership for Quins began, this between Seanan Jones and Kieran O’Reilly. They all but won the match together in their 150 run stand. It began quietly, almost anonymously, ticking the game along. Neither was tempted to follow the other but one compensated if the other was under pressure. If Kieran slowed, Seanan sped up and vice a versa. That Kieran scored straight and Seanan square meant the bowlers had to adjust quickly, but for the most part they couldn’t.
Fielders wilted in the sun and the field went quiet; the partnership grew and grew. The pair knew if they kept the rate to seven an over for the final 15, and this they did without breaking a sweat, the game was theirs. They fell in quick succession just as they looked to have it won.
With the target still 28 runs away and only three wickets left, it appeared the game was open. But one final partnership, between Joe Hourihane and Cian Egerton, eased Quins home.
Whereas Limerick were effectively a one-man show with the bat, and struggled to maintain pressure with the ball, Quins managed to build three partnerships, one with the ball, two with the bat, and this was the difference between the teams.
The final duo remained level-headed, taking their boundaries as they came and otherwise scampering between the wickets. The winning runs came off the first ball of the last over, courtesy of four overthrows, and it was greeted with a measured but warm cheer from the Quins dugout.
Three from three to start the season: a job well done.