The evening of Tuesday 15th of January saw a collection of the finest minds of the Social Cricket world in the Talbot Hotel. The first social cricket focus group brought together many of those involved in the Taverners, Webster Cup and Masters cricket community. There was a huge turnout and a lively discussion. Among the items discussed was how Cricket Leinster could offer supports to the social cricket community without affecting the relaxed ethos of that group and their enjoyment of the game. Several specific initiatives to recognise Taverners and Social cricket will be instigated in advance of the 2019 season.
As a flavour of the type of match played at Taverners level Dave Robbins of the Evening Herald Taverners provided the following report from a 2018 match:
In the failing light at College Park, as the shadows lengthened and the Cavaliers’ fielders closed in, the Herald needed 18 runs off the last over to win. Hattaway and Whitington were at the crease, and the question everyone was asking: how had it come to this?
The evening had begun on a positive note, in that the Herald team turned up on time, with the exception of Dave Robb. As we had 12 players, and the Cavs had only a smattering, it was decided that the Herald should field first, a reversal of the usual state of affairs.
Gabriel Bruton, making his only appearance of the season, opened the bowling. His run-up – “short” does not do it justice – and his whipping action were familiar to the Herald men, and his long lay-off had not affected his pace or length. Both were variable, as of yore. In his two eight-ball overs, he conceded 12 runs, and it was good to see him back in action.
Bowman opened from the library end, and had one of the openers caught. Trevor White, who had looked menacing from the other end, also departed prematurely, again to a catch. Another wicket – caught again – fell to Henderson. Paul Kenny also took a wicket – yet another catch, before Whitington came on to bowl from the pavilion end.
O’Brien, one of the Tavs’ beefiest hitters, middled a ball through the covers. The crack of the shot could be heard from the boundary, and the fielders looked to see where the ball had crossed the rope. Except it hadn’t. Bruton had snaffled it at short cover, as smart a reflex catch as you will see.
The Herald fielding was not an uninterrupted orgy of catches and wickets. O’Sullivan leaked 17 off 2 overs, and Walpole the same number off 1. Michael Bartley, brother of Neil, conceded 12 off his over, and Robbins was hit for 7 off his.
Yet the wickets kept falling. Neil Bartley bowled a lovely spell, taking the only wicket bowled, and another Cav was run out. Whitington ended with the impressive figures of just three runs off his eight balls, with one wicket taken, thanks to the Cirque-du-Soleil pyrotechnics of Bruton at cover.
In the midst of the action, Dave Robb arrived and tried to insert himself into the field at midwicket, giving an impression of a man who had been there all evening. Dermot O’Brien confirmed later that this is a familiar tactic.
At the end of 15 eight-ball overs, the Cavs were 114 for 8, with only one batsman reaching his 20 (this was Padraig O’Neill, skipper of the Cavs on the night, but frequent Herald guest player too).
This was a mere bagatelle to the Herald men, who had chased much higher this season. Less than a run a ball. However, as usual, the Herald tendency for self-harm soon became evident.
Kenny and Bowman opened the batting, and to say that they were becalmed in the middle does not quite capture the sense of Beckettian futility they conveyed. Over followed over, and Godot still did not arrive. Both began to find their timing eventually, Kenny especially hitting some lusty blows, but after 7 overs, both were still there, and the score was 50.
Dave Robb went in at 3 and immediately called for a runner. This is usually a cue for utter confusion, run-outs and mid-wicket collisions, but the Herald managed it quite well for once, despite Robb being told to stand at square leg when he should have been facing.
Robb played some lovely shots through the off, got his 20, and put the Herald back on top. But the overs were being used up at an alarming rate. Henderson was run out trying to up the pace, as was Robbins. This brought Walpole to the crease.
Several dot balls later, Robbins, now umpiring at square leg as Walpole faced, began to coach his player. “Get forward, head over the ball.” Runs followed, and the coaching became more detailed. “There are runs through extra cover.” It was at that point that O’Neill and Ford, the Cavs eminences grises, walked to square leg and asked Robbins politely to shut up.
Walpole was stumped soon afterwards, having scored 8, and Hattaway and Whitington now held the fate of the Herald in their hands. We were well behind the rate now, with only an two overs left and five wickets in hand.
The pair settled to their task, both hitting twos and fours. Suddenly, the Cavs were barking their fielding orders with a renewed intensity. Game on.
The last over is what cricket is all about. It has something heroic about it, and yet something comical too. It was like a cross between the Battle of Helm’s Deep and a French farce. 18 to win, 17 to draw, 8 balls to face, the bowler coming in off a long run-up from the library end.
The first two were wides. 16 to win off 8. Hattaway, racing for a third off a lovely drive, was run out, and O’Sullivan came in to bat. He scored a single, allowing Whitington to take strike. Whitington, a left hander, had the short boundary by the rugby pitch, to his leg side. A two. A couple of singles. Then it was down to the last ball.
At this point, there was a heated dispute as to the exact score. Whitington maintained it was four to win, while the Cavs were convinced it was 5 to win and four to draw. The scorer, hardly visible in the fading light, sided with the Cavs.
The ball left the bowler’s hand, and Whitington played his stroke. A solid connection. No one moved. It the failing light, no one had a f**king clue where it went. It was eventually spotted, racing over the ground towards the legside boundary. The Cavs fielders picked it up too late to react. Four runs.
In the bar afterwards, events were parsed and analysed. It was a marvellous match with a finish to match. Whitington, given the crucial wicket he took and his twilight heroics with the bat, was surely man of the match. But Bruton and Robb, Kenny and Bartley, Hattaway, Henderson and Bowman, all made telling contributions.