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Match Report
Derek Scott

The dream provoked in the previous round by the wondrous defeat of Surrey was shattered 21 days later by an easy win for Northamptonshire. Sent in Ireland made a respectable score of 263 but, bowling badly, Ireland conceded this score with no less than 49 balls to spare.

The match was played one day after the scheduled Saturday for this round. Northamptonshire (Northants) finished a County match at Hove on Friday and thought they would just have to drive up the road to The Oval -v- Surrey. The logistics were more difficult to get to Dublin. Irish Cricket Union readily agreed to a 24 hour delay and also voted to keep the "winning" ground at Castle Avenue. The day was pretty awful. It was chilly and there were frequent showers. Ireland started on time but the innings took six hours to complete due to 167 minutes being lost in three interruptions. Northants did not start until 4.50 p.m. and were lucky to get the match finished as there was a one hour stoppage. In fact the match would not have finished but for the quick scoring rate of Northants. The winning hit came at 8.50 p.m. Ireland were forced into one change for this match. Eagleson was injured and was replaced by PJK Mooney who had, by now, recovered from injury. Dros gallantly returned from South Africa to be a part of this match.

On paper Northants were not as good as Surrey. In practice they were better. Their captain, DJG Sales scored a double century on debut in first class cricket. Usman Afzaal had three Tests for England in 2001 and had previously played for Notts -v- Ireland in C. & G. Trophy in 2002. Off Spinner G. Swann was a one-day International. Their two unqualified players were M van Jaarsveld, a South African Test batsman and J Louw, an opening bowler also from South Africa. Northants wicket-keeper, GL Brophy, has an Irish passport and indeed played for Ireland in the NatWest Trophy match v Shropshire in 2000. Ireland had played Northants five times previously, three times in the Nat West Trophy in 1982-'87-'94, and twice at home in friendly matches, in 1989. All five were lost.

Molins and Bray did not have a long stand. They did start briskly. Molins hit both opening bowlers (Louw and Jones) for fours in their first overs. That off Louw was off the first ball of the match - a back foot force through the covers. Next ball after the second four off Jones Molins fell across his stumps (as he is inclined to do) missed and was lbw. 9-1-9. Botha came and went quickly - in the fourth over. He played an uppercut at a Jones off side long hop and was caught at square third man. 20-2-6. Dros joined Bray who was getting little strike but playing very well. His first three scoring shots were all fours. Dros hit a four to mid-wicket off Louw but was out in Louw's next over (the 9th). Dros got a faint nick and Brophy brought off a good catch, low and diving to his right. 37-3-7.

Gillespie then joined Bray in what became the highest stand of the Match by either side. Despite two long breaks for rain, at 61 and 110, they put on 115 runs in 28 overs. Both reached their 50s within the stand and Northants conceded only one extra in those 28 overs. The stand ended in a horrible run out in over 37. In the last 14 overs Ireland scored 112 which was excellent from new batsmen coming in but how much more would it have been if the Bray/Gillespie stand could have gone on?

Gillespie was obviously in form. He was off the mark with fours off Jones - a square cut and a back-foot force. 50 were up after over 12. In Jones's last over Bray hit two off side fours the second of which resulted in a lost ball. It went along the ground into a back lawn. It could not be retrieved. Then came the first rain break. On resumption Philips (medium) & Brown (off spin) were the bowlers. From that point to the end of the match bowling was not easy, the ball being wet and greasy. Six overs went by without a boundary but the scoring rate of four an over was maintained.

Gillespie hit Brown for a four in over 19 - a lovely extra cover drive. Two overs later he snicked a lucky four. Swann, another off spinner joined Brown for over 23. 100 came up in over 26. After one more over came the longest of all the rain breaks - 106 minutes in all. Bray was 49 and went to 50 in 78 balls at 112 in over 28 when play resumed. It was his fourth successive score of more than 50 achieved over 2003-4. This was previously done by EDR Shearer over three matches in 1937. SF Bergin did so over 2 matches, 1950-1 and JD Curry over four matches in 1996-7. Gillespie, meanwhile, had hit a couple of fours and Bray added his seventh four in over 29.

The 30 over score was 127 for three. If all went well the forecast was about 260, or even more if the 4th wicket pair were together at the end. Then Swann bowled a maiden to Bray only the second of the innings. Phillips (33rd over) came back for Swann who, in fact, just changed ends. Bray cover drove Phillips for four and now the stand was exactly 100 in this 33rd over and had taken just under 25 overs and it had begun in adversity. Three overs later Bray hit Swann over mid-wicket for six to bring up 150.

Then came disaster. Bray played Phillips to third man on the first ball of the 37th over. It was an easy single and a possible two. Bray turned and started for two. Gillespie held up his hand to stop him but Bray kept coming despite two more refusals from Gillespie. Bray arrived in Gillespie's crease. Swann threw from the boundary and it went to the bowler via the wicket-keeper. Gillespie tried to give himself up but the Umpire ruled that Bray was out. 152-4-76. Bray faced 108 balls and hit a six and eight fours. Gillespie was now 50 having got there in the previous over (82 balls) and the stand was 115 in 28 overs. It beat Ireland's previous record 4th wicket stand in this competition of 100 -v- Surrey at The Oval in 1984 by Warke and Prior.

White came next. He and Gillespie had a nice little stand of 26 off 26 balls. In successive overs Gillespie hit Phillips and Swann for sixes to long on. Over 41 saw Jones return for his seventh over. In it he took two wickets. Gillespie (third ball) tried to cut when the ball was too near him. He was bowled for 66 from 91 balls with two sixes and six fours. It was his 11th score over 50. 178-5-66. Two balls later Johnston, in his debut innings, was out. He was caught at mid-off. 180-6-2. 55 balls were left when McCallan joined White. As against Surrey these two had a brilliant partnership of 60 off 40 balls. Jones, Swann, Cook (two overs for 22!), and Louw were pitted against them for more than six overs. All were put to the sword. McCallan hit Jones for four to third man and then snicked a four off Cook. White cover drove Jones for four. Then came two expensive overs. The 46th (Cook) gave up 14 and the 47th (Louw) added another 14. The feature of over 46 was a six over mid-wicket by White who, next over, hit three fours - one in the air to extra cover, one to mid-wicket along the ground and the last through extra cover.

Next over Jones, who had changed ends, took two wickets. White leg glanced a four but was caught at deep extra cover. His 44 was off only 36 balls with a six and five fours. 240-7-44. McCallan crossed on White's dismissal and was out next ball. He swung rather wildly and was bowled for 22 off 19 balls. 140-8-22. Now Morgan, demoted to number 10, joined Mooney with 14 balls left. They made the most of these 14 balls putting on 23. There were only two dot balls. Facing nine of the 14 balls Morgan snicked a four in the 49th over and hit a six over wide long on in the last over to which Mooney contributed a four in a 14 run over. Despite the wet conditions and slow outfield Ireland hit five sixes and 27 fours - 52% of the 263 score. This was a very respectable score but would it be enough?

Northants used six bowlers. The outstanding bowler was Jones. He did concede nearly six runs an over (56) in his 10 overs but he took 6 wickets. The only other bowler to take a wicket was Louw, one for 50 in 9 overs. Phillips gave up six runs per over. Brown and Swann conceded four each per over and Cook's two overs cost 22.

Northant's innings began at 4.50 p.m. with Roberts and the left handed Cook. Johnston's first ball was a no-ball and the "free hit'" that followed was hit for six by Roberts. Mooney was hit for two fours by Cook so the score after two overs was 22. It did improve to the extent that the five over score was 32. Then it deteriorated again. 14 runs came in Mooney's third over - all to Roberts. His three fours came from a pull, a cut and a back foot force to extra cover. Then another pause. Johnston's fourth over gave up just one run. Botha replaced Mooney (8th over) and began with a maiden to Cook. 50 arrived in the ninth over.

Ireland's first success came in the 12th over, Botha's third. Roberts drove a four and a two and was then bowled attempting another drive. 64-1-39. van Jaarsveld began with two fours in Johnston's seventh and last over in this spell (35 runs). There was a square drive and a clip to square leg. In the next over (11th) Botha took his second wicket. He moved a ball away off the seam to Cook who edged it to Bushe diving to his left. 74-2-17. The left handed Afzaal came next. Dros bowled a couple of overs for 12 runs. Botha went off after seven overs (two for 18) leaving White and McCallan to bowl as a pair. 100 came up in the 21st over. After 22.3 overs came the only rain break in the Northants innings. It lasted 61 minutes and the score was 108 for two.

Play resumed at 7.28 p.m. with 27.3 overs to be bowled. Had such an amount of overs been required the match would have had to go into the second day, taking the light into account. In fact Northants knocked off the 156 runs required in 19.2 overs - a rate of seven runs per over and the win was achieved at 8.48 p.m. Afzaal began with a square cut four off McCallan followed by a straight six off White. Next ball he hit wide of mid-wicket, ran one, started on a second which was not there and which Van Jaarsveld rightly refused. A throw to the bowler ran out Afzaal as he attempted to get back. 124-3-27. Sales came in and a sustained assault began in over 28. Sales square cut McCallan for four and hit White for six to square leg next over. Another six went over long on from McCallan in over 30 during which 150 came up. Mooney came back for White (six overs for 36) but the flow of runs did not cease. Van Jaarsveld took two fours off successive balls from McCallan. A six off Mooney over long-on brought Van Jaarsveld to his 50 off 58 balls at 177.

McCallan came off after over 35 (at 195). His seven overs cost 46. So, unusually, the two off spinners had a bad day giving away 82 wicketless runs in 13 overs. The last seven overs of the match were shared among no less than five bowlers. Sales brought up 200 with a four off Botha in over 36, after which over 61 runs were required. They came in 5.5 overs! In over 37 Sales hit Johnston for six to square leg and got out for 49 in Botha's next over (38th). He was lbw. His 49 came from 46 balls and the stand with Van Jaarsveld put on 91 runs in 76 balls. 215-4-49.

Botha's first ball to Swann was a wide which went to the boundary (five runs). Two balls later Van Jaarsveld hit a six to square leg. White bowled the 39th over and Swann hit a four wide of mid-off. Botha's 10th and last over was the 40th. In it Swann hit three successive fours - a drive wide of the bowler's right hand, another to mid-wicket and a snick through the vacant slip field. Johnston bowled the 41st over, his 9th. In it Van Jaarsveld hit successive balls for 4-4-6 and the score moved from 246 to 261. Now only three runs were needed. McCallan was called up. Van Jaarsveld took a two to equal the scores and hit a four off the fifth ball to win the match. His 93 not out from 81 balls (3x6, 8x4) rightly won him the Man-of-the-Match Award.

Ireland used six bowlers. Only Botha took wickets, three for 51 in his 10 overs. He was the only bowler to bowl 10 overs. The other five bowlers gave away a run a ball. The wide count rose to 12 bowled and one went to the boundary.

Both teams hit 27 fours but Northants hit eight sixes to Ireland's five. This meant over 50% of runs from boundaries which was remarkable taking the wet outfield into account.

So Ireland's massive 10 match sequence of victories was at an end.

Castle Avenue, Clontarf