So having had a couple of days to reflect upon the activity of last weekend,
I can confirm that it was indeed a privilege to be appointed for my first match in nine months, and at the most beautiful cricket ground in Ireland, no less.
Punctuated by good humour, and on a day during which the weather was consistently dry, the game was thankfully played in the right spirit.
Galway went down fighting, but it was not enough to avoid what ultimately turned out to be a crushing defeat to Kerry, at the Oyster Oval on Sunday. In the Munster Premier League, each side has fifty overs, but dependent on the weather conditions, the pitch, and other factors, it is never really easy to gauge what is actually a good score.
So when County Galway made 218 from their allocation of 50 overs, after being put into bat by County Kerry, you could have been forgiven for thinking that it was a reasonable score, and one which might take some getting.
Indeed, despite losing a couple of early wickets, Galway middle order batsmen Danish Ali and Sumit Sukhpal came in and steadied the ship for the Tribesmen, putting on an impressive third wicket partnership of 97, despite some excellent bowling from Kerry openers Khuram and Kashif.
Sukhpal was aggressive and looked to score quickly, by contrast Danish was steady and looked to build an innings and just hit the bad ball. Thus 18-2 off 6 overs became 100-2 off 25 overs prior to a fairly innocuous delivery from spinner Alam being met with the faintest of nicks, before Sukhpal (58) made the walk back to the changing rooms.
Although Danish took up more of an aggressive role, Galway found it difficult to push on. At 146-3 after 35 overs the potential was there for a score around the 300 mark, but a major contributing factor which limited the Galway batting was the superb bowling from Yaqoob, who kept things tight from umpire Ger O’Sullivan’s end.
Indeed, just when Galway could have been pressing on, Yaqoob ensured that the run rate was kept down, and with wickets falling at regular intervals, Yaqoob finished with excellent figures of 3-24 from his spell of 10 overs.
With captain Kashif coming back for a second spell at the other end, and also taking wickets, Galway went from 168-4 off 40 overs to 218 all out after 50 overs, the only notable exception to a whimpering tail, being some big hits from Umair, whose positive batting caught the eye late on and bumped the score up a bit for the visitors.
After an exquisite Biryani lunch, courtesy of the wife of Kashif, Galway took to the field looking to take early wickets. In the third over, Arshad struck, but it was small consolation for the hammering his opening bowling partner was getting at the other end.
Bowling with swing is always difficult, finding the right length particularly so, especially with a bit of a breeze, and young right-arm paceman Kartikay was certainly most unlucky to concede 24 runs off his third over, with perfectly decent deliveries on the middle stump smashed to the boundary by Khuram, who was not in the mood to hang around!
When Arslan came in to bolster the Kerry attack, after Danish Ali took two wickets in successive overs, the Kerry batsmen accelerated the scoring. From 88-2 after 10 overs (by contrast Galway had been 29-2) they pushed on despite good bowling from Tabish Ali, who came on in support of Danish and Arshad.
Khuram went on to make an excellent score of 61, and Arslan, who was dropped by Ali in what proved to be a major turning point in the game, went on to make some very strong shots, and all with a confident smile.
Kerry started hitting regular boundaries, including a huge six that actually landed in the sea (no doubt the ball can be retrieved when the tide goes out!) and so 125-3 off 15 overs quickly became 187-3 after 25 overs, and by drinks it was evident that the match was over in terms of a contest.
Indeed, knocking off the remaining runs became a formality, therefore what had for a long time been a very competitive and interesting match turned out to be a very one-sided result, with Kerry winning by 7 wickets with 23 overs to spare and man of the match Arslan Anwar top scoring with 97 not out to his credit in addition to the wicket he took with the final ball of the Galway innings.
Both sides will meet again in the quarter-finals of the National Cup this month – I’m sure it will be as good a game as this one.
Well done everyone, thanks to Kerry Cricket Club for the pictures and to Munster Cricket Union for giving me the opportunity to have the best seat in the house, for what was an entertaining and enjoyable game!
Carl J Ashley
Weds 4th July 2018