Murrayfield DAFS 2
Murrayfield 2s opened their account for 2018 with a victory over Leith dominated by two sparkling performances from debutants Mike Barclay and Phil Hook, with a fifty and a five-fer respectively leading their new side to a 28-run win.
Overshadowed in the morning by persistent April showers that claimed a raft of games across the capital, the opening weekend saw a strong Murrayfield side travel to Leith Links to face last season’s promotees Leith FAB. After a delayed toss in the hope that the stiff breeze might dry a rather soggy-looking wicket, the away team were invited to bat.
Lewis Mulholland and Chris Owens took strike against an opening pair finding extravagant movement off the seam. Wahab was first to strike, removing Owens with a ball he did well to edge, and when in the next over Wahab found Hook’s edge with a sharp bouncer the batting side were teetering at 6/2. Worse was to come, as Leith‘s first-change bowler bowled an injury-enforced three-ball spell, the last of which pinned Regan Black in front for 7, before Mulholland fell to an extraordinary diving catch at first slip.
At 19/4 on a wet wicket, April looked to be the cruellest month for batsmen. But like his namesake over the fence at the other Murrayfield, Barclay came to the fore to stiffen the sinews, bolster the defence, and launch a crucial counterattack. A finely-crafted innings of 58 set his side on the road to a competitive total, with his flow interrupted only by a nasty injury to short-midwicket as he inadvertently intercepted a well-struck pull with his nose and lip. Thankfully, news of the stricken fielder is more positive than the sound of cannonball-into-wet-cement might initially have suggested, and after medical attention and stitches he is on the road to recovery.
With Barclay one of four to fall to handy off-spinner Patel in the latter stages, a total of 126 fell slightly short of what might have been expected at drinks, but after a tricky start in tough conditions it rated a gutsy effort and a sizeable target for a well-stocked attack to defend.
Perhaps inspired by the performance of his fellow debutant, Phil Hook wasted no time in making his own mark on the game. His first ball lifted sharply to strike the batsman in the chest, and just five balls later he had snared a double-wicket maiden in his first over for the club. Two further maidens, combined with a tightish but rather uninspiring opening spell at the other end, ensured that at 10/2 after seven overs, 126 looked a long way away.
The mountain looked ever steeper as Murrayfield welcomed back Kiwi escapee Tom Grey. Coming on first change with the low sun behind an increasingly high arm, Tom bowled a near-perfect first over, with flight, bounce and turn that was rewarded with two wickets in two balls: the first a fine, looping delivery that dipped late on the batsman, prompting an easy catch for Phil at mid-on; the second a quicker one that turned and bounced sharply, leading the batsman to follow it and nick to Lindsay Towns in the gully.
Chastened by the double strike, and in similar strife to their opponents’ earlier travails at 25/4, Leith now dug in. Despite questions posed by Regan Black and Devik Mehta, and good support in the field from Simon Perry and Muthu Ganesh, eleven overs passed without a wicket as the batsman rotated the strike and clipped the odd loose delivery to the short boundary, taking them to 87/4 at drinks with just 40 to win.
With Phil Hook visibly itching for a second spell (Carl Barton please see me to explain this concept), the bugle call went up and the opening bowlers returned. Hook swiftly removed the dangerous Dhiman, and when his opposite number removed Mann lbw for 38, swiftly followed by Shah for a second-ball duck, the writing was on the wall. All that remained was for Hook to complete his Michelle, which he did in great style bowling the last man with a yorker that just clipped the base of the off stump.
All in all a fine performance, made special by two exceptional performances and a very welcome return from Spin Academy President-Elect Tom Grey. Onwards and upwards!