I had been sorely tempted to use this final column to ‘reward’ the farcical, the factious, and the fraudulent, to burn out rather than to fade away, and that would likely have been in keeping with the tone of my contributions this year.
All the same, although it is my nature to see the worst in everything, there were some very good things that happened in NCU and Irish cricket in 2015. So, here are my positive(!) reflections on the seven months that I have spent working for CricketEurope since the World Cup.
The Worst Innings of the Year and, perhaps, in the History of Cricket – Michael Taylor, 8 vs Carrickfergus, 29 August 2015
Okay, we start on a negative note, but I need the catharsis of this confession. On a slow and wet pitch, I struggled to 8 in 12 overs. I was dropped at second slip, dropped at first slip, and I should have been run out by half the pitch. I then clipped a leg-stump half-volley straight to mid-wicket. Sport imitating life?
The John 11 Award for a Comeback of Biblical Proportions – Carrickfergus
By the middle of July, they had not won a match. By the middle of August, they had won just the once. Yet they will finish with at least four victories, at least sixth place, and they have deservedly retained their Premier League status. Cowboys? Not a bit of it.
Sisyphean Hero of the Year – Philip McCormick
It was an awful summer. I’m not sure I played a single match on a consistently sunny day. It was therefore a testing season for groundsmen, not least at Stormont: in addition to a full club season that featured several cup runs, ‘Fluter’ had to prepare for an ODI, numerous interprovincial matches, and a fortnight of the Twenty20 World Cup Qualifier. I’m not sure that anyone did more, in such difficult circumstances, to ensure that so much cricket was played.
Best and Most Odyssean Hosts of the Year – Lisburn
For Ballymena, Wallace Park – where we did not win in seven years of Premier League cricket – has been like the land of the lotus-eaters. You get lost on the way there. You arrive, relieved. You see that everything is lovely. You are welcomed then overwhelmed by the hospitality. You stay behind after the match. Then, at last, you realize that you lost, again.
Best Interpro Hosts of the Year – shared
Despite what my commentaries may have suggested, there was quite a lot ‘right’ with this year’s interprovincials, at least from the point of view of ‘set-up’. Internet problems were confined – and for only a few moments – to Stormont; the North West and the White Horse kindly put us up during the matches at Bready; the view from Downpatrick’s pavilion is excellent; and Eglinton and CIYMS especially did superb work for their T20 matches on Friday evenings.
Thankless Task of the Year – NIACUS
Everybody errs, sometimes. But what we, as players, should never forget is that a cricket match features up to six hundred contests between batsmen, bowlers, and fielders. Umpires are required to pass serious judgment on only a few of those contests. It is therefore more than likely that the players themselves have made the mistakes that determine the result.
Local Match of the Year – CIYMS v Waringstown, Challenge Cup semi-final
Chasing 267 on a wearing pitch against Waringstown is never easy. Indeed, when you are 130 for 5 past drinks, it should be impossible. Yet Chris Dougherty and James Cameron-Dow put on over 70 for the seventh wicket to set up a finish that had even me (a neutral who despairs of cricket) on the edge of my seat. It was maybe the best local match in a long, long time.
Stolen Thunder of the Year – Liettres, France
The French village of Liettres, about twenty miles outside of Lille, may have hosted the first ever cricket match. A recently discovered letter in the French national archives describes how a young man called Estiavannet happened, in 1478, upon some locals who were playing a game involving ‘boules’ and a wooden post known as a ‘criquet’. The village is celebrating the news by hosting an international tournament later this month. Take that, Hambledon.
The Susan Sarandon Medal for Improving With Age – Kyle McCallan
No longer, perhaps, a feared batsman (amazingly, even I have scored more runs than McCallan this year), but at the time of writing he has taken 35 wickets at 10.34, conceding only 2.70 an over. If he and Kidd can bowl well in tandem this weekend, Waringstown will have a more than decent chance in the Irish Cup final.
Innings of the Year – William Porterfield, 107 v Pakistan, Adelaide
Against a ‘gun’ bowling attack, in a truly must-win match, when nobody else scored 30, the captain played one of his best innings for Ireland. It was not enough to secure victory, but Ireland went down swinging, kicking against the (ICC) pricks. It also says a lot about the neglect of Associates cricket that, in terms of ODIs, this was only three matches ago.
Statement of the Year – John Mooney, after the Zimbabwe match, in response to ‘that’ article by Robson Sharuko
“The main thing that gets me about this article is that it might prevent somebody from getting the help they need in the future, the reason I spoke to the press about my struggles was to promote mental health issues. Using the fact that I’m a sports person to reach people who feel they can’t tell people their problems, let me just say the day I told people my issues I felt a high sigh of relief. I don’t want people to see this terrible article say, ‘Oh, I’m not telling anyone, people will slag me off, or my name will be tarnished’. People will help you, people who you least expect will give you strength. Life will get better not worse.”
So that is all. My summer of post-doctoral limbo has come to an end. If you have enjoyed what I have written, I am glad of it. If I have annoyed you, I simply do not care. Good luck next year.