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Match Report
Derek Scott

An exciting match but a big Irish disappointment. The pitch was deceptive in appearance. Ireland chose to bat and found themselves on a low and slow pitch against all appearances and forecasts. Bowled out for 113 (with four LBW's), Ireland came back and had Berkshire 57 for six. Paul Prichard, ex Essex, then won the match for Berkshire. His 51 not out was the highest score in the match by 33 runs!

Molins, McCoubrey and Heasley were now all fit again and they returned with Kennedy, Armstrong JF Mooney and McGonigle going out. Jeremy Bray (Phoenix) was chosen as the only unqualified player allowed. He had been living in Ireland for four years. Botha, who had played in 2001, was injured. Unlike Botha Bray could not bowl up to International standard. A better choice, as an all-rounder in place of Botha, might have been some Northern professional or, from Dublin, Naseer Shoukat of Rush. The problem might have been that a win against Berkshire would be followed by a home match -v- Norfolk on September 12th. The unqualified player -v Berkshire would also have to play -v- Norfolk and some professionals would have left Ireland by then. Peter Davy, who was unavailable -v- MCC, was left out to accommodate Bray. The choice of who to leave out must have been between Davy and Joyce.

Berkshire used four bowlers and all bowled very well. They kept a full length on this low slow pitch and they could also, unlike the Irish, swing the ball. One of these was T. Henderson, a professional playing in a local league. He was a South African who had been in Ireland in 1999 with the South African Academy team. Keith Fletcher, a former England captain, was at the ground to watch Adrian McCoubrey with a view to signing him for Essex. Fletcher, before the start, predicted a low and slow pitch against all appearances. He was right! The ground was part of a public park and had a very lovely appearance.

After eight overs Ireland were 28 for four, and never fully recovered. The sixth pair put on 20 and the innings was saved from ignominy (82 for nine) by Neely and McCoubrey who put on 31 in six overs. The innings lasted thirty-five overs. Molins and Bray were the opening batsmen although O'Brien and White who had opened -v- MCC two weeks previously and put on 182 for the first wicket were both in the team. Denning and Henderson, both hostile opening bowlers, began for Berkshire. Bray was lbw in Denning's second over after a few previous appeals. Bray was on the back foot when the ball skidded through. 8-1-2.

In the next over (Henderson) Molins played a horrible slash shot with poor foot movement and was caught at the wicket - the ball again keeping low. 9-2-1. In the fifth over White was beaten by pace on the back foot and was LBW. 14-3-2. Joyce played a few shots but gave Henderson his second wicket in the eighth over. The ball seemed to "stop" and was spooned to mid-on. 27-4-7. McCallan joined Gillespie and faced most of the balls bowled in the next five overs. Henderson (two for 17 in five overs) went off to be replaced by a medium pacer, Naylor. McCallan snicked his fifth ball on to his stumps. 40-5-7. O'Brien, the century maker in Cork, now came in at number seven. He was "busy" from the start and not trying to score from every ball. Lambert, another quickish medium pacer, replaced Denning (two for 18 in seven overs).

The Gillespie/O'Brien stand put on 20 in 40 balls with O'Brien hitting the first four of the innings (there were only four in all) in the 16th over. Eventually O'Brien was bowled by the new bowler attempting to drive leaving a gap between bat and leg. 60-6-13. 14 runs later Gillespie became Naylor's second victim. He hit him for a straight four and was LBW in the same over. 74-7-16.

Heasley and Mooney put on five runs in the overs up to the 25 overs drinks break when the score was 79. The break, as it often does, produced a wicket. Heasley became Naylor's third victim, and the fourth LBW of the innings, when he hit across the line and missed. 80-8-5. Henderson returned in place of Lambert and got Mooney in the 27th over. It was a brilliant catch by wicket-keeper Wilton very wide to his right for which he had to dive. 82-9-5. Neely had faced only one ball when McCoubrey joined him in a last stand. It was the best stand of the innings, 31 in 50 balls. It was also Ireland's best last wicket stand in a Limited overs match. Both players recorded their highest score for Ireland, Neely 17* and McCoubrey 11 - the latter's first double figure score.

McCoubrey hit a four over cover in Naylor's last over (three for 28) and there was a double bowling change before the end, Lambert and Denning coming on for Naylor and Henderson. Eventually it was Denning who bowled McCoubrey (head up!) with the last ball of the 35th over. In the Autumn both Denning and McCoubrey were signed by Essex. All four Berkshire bowlers bowled well and had good figures and three of them took three wickets each.

After the break Ireland fought back in great style. In the sixth over Berkshire were 17 for four - three wickets to Neely, two with successive balls - both LBW. Then came Prichard. 50 was up in ten overs, despite another wicket falling at 41. The high run rate was because Prichard had five fours to his name when his score was only 21 and three came from successive balls in Neely's fifth over. The sixth wicket fell at 57. There ended Ireland's success. Prichard slowed down and hit no more fours. Naylor played steadily. In 16 more overs the remaining 57 runs were scored and only 27 overs were used in all. One had the impression that if Berkshire had needed a lot more runs this pair would have got them

Nurse and Perkins opened for Berkshire. Neely and McCoubrey bowled with the latter being watched at the sight screen by no less than three former England Captains - Keith Fletcher, John Emburey and Graham Gooch. 10 runs came in 15 balls. Then in Neely's second over, Nurse and, number three, Hall were LBW to successive balls. Nurse was squared up while Hall played back and missed. Perkins hit a four in McCoubrey's second over but was bowled in Neely's third the ball keeping very low indeed. This was the last ball of Neely's third over. The left handed Wood, Berkshire's captain, was now facing McCoubrey. The second ball again kept low and shattered his stumps. 13-4-0.

Prichard, who had not yet faced, was now joined by wicket-keeper, Wilton. Prichard's first ball was from Neely and he hit it for four to long-off. In Neely's next over he hit four fours with a cover drive, a square cut and an on drive off successive balls. For the 10th over Mooney replaced McCoubrey. His second ball was a long hop to Wilton who mistimed his pull on the slow pitch and lobbed a catch to short wide mid-wicket. Henderson arrived obviously bent on hitting everything. 16 runs were put on from 12 balls of which Henderson faced 10 and got 12 runs. Mooney's first over gave up nine runs but he got a wicket, admittedly on a long hop. In his second and last (!) over he took another wicket. Henderson tried one big hit too many and skied high to square leg where Molins took the catch. 57-6-12.

Prichard took five more runs off the rest of Mooney's over and was now 26 after 12 overs (the score was 62) when joined by Naylor. It was now obvious that Prichard would have to be dismissed for Ireland to win. If not, the remaining batsmen would have to be dismissed quickly leaving Prichard stranded. Neither happened! Mooney went off (two for 14 in 2 overs) and Heasley was tried for three overs. McCoubrey came on at Neely's end for two overs after Neely's seven over stint (three for 34). Two slips were put in but the batsmen moved quietly onwards at a steady average of three runs per over. The first spin of the match came at 80. White bowled two overs and McCallan four but there was no help for spin bowling.

Prichard did have an escape at 98 when McCallan shaved his off stump. Neely was given two more overs and then, with the score at 107, Joyce was tried. Seven were needed to win. Prichard hit a two and a single to bring him to 49. Naylor gave him back the strike with a single. What should have been the last ball of the over was a Wide to leave two required. An on-drive by Prichard for two off Joyce's last ball finished the match and made Prichard's score 51. He faced 66 balls with five fours all hit off the first 14 balls he received. Naylor played his part very well scoring 18 off 43 balls. McCoubrey and Neely did very well for Ireland but they were not as good as Berkshire's quartet of bowlers. Two weeks later Berkshire went on to beat Norfolk at Reading and qualify for a home match -v- a first class County in 2003.

18 players represented Ireland in the nine matches of 2002 (won four, lost five). McCallan, PJK Mooney, Neely and White played in all nine; Heasley, Joyce and Molins in eight; Davy and O'Brien in seven while Bray, Kennedy and John Mooney played once each. New caps were O'Brien, Kennedy and Bray, the 638th, 639th and 640th players to play for Ireland since the first match in 1855.

Most runs came from McCallan (249 @ 27.66) and he improved considerably. Molins was next with 238 @ 29.75. Also over 200 was White, 235 @ 26.11. Gillespie averaged 30.33 with 182 runs. The best average, excluding Neely's average of 49 from 49 runs, was O'Brien with 189 runs @ 47.25. Davy and Joyce had disappointing seasons.

Only Neely got into double figures (17) with wickets and he also had best average, 20.41. White had nine wickets @ 22.11. Heasley seven @ 26.28. The other six wicket takers all averaged well over 30.

Molins and Davy both reached 1000 runs. Molins did so in 40 matches and 41 innings. Davy in 44 matches and 45 innings.