North Kildare v County Galway Championship - 17th July 2021

Note to self. The bus to Kilcock comes once every half an hour. Under no circumstances are you able to comfortably walk into town in the sweltering heat and catch same at the Halfpenny Bridge, when you give yourself only 25 minutes to do so. You should also probably go for the earlier bus, as opposed to the one that gets you there 45 minutes before the start just in case something goes wrong. Unfortunately, on Saturday I didnít listen to the above advise, and just managed to catch the last possible bus to Kilcock by one minute, sweating like a sinner in a church having had to jog most of the way. It was not a pretty sight.

But get there I did, just. The reason I was off to Kilcock was that in April, having seen County Galway had entered the Championship, I offered my services as their scorer for the season, thinking Covid restrictions might make it difficult for them to bring someone to Dublin to score, and also might make it difficult for me to see some quality cricket if I hadnít a role at a senior club. It would thus be beneficial to both of us.

It helped that I knew some of the Galway lads, having played with a number of them on tours in either Torrevieja or Ibiza, or both, and also due to a number of them having club experience in Dublin. Conor Mullen the captain had played for both Terenure and Rush for a number of seasons, as had Subramanya Ramnathpur. Prashanth Viswanath had represented Rush. Danish Ali, Iliff Sumit, Mitch Galav and Sukhpal Singh had all played for Terenure at some point, Farman Yousafzai for Old Belvedere, YMCA and North Kildare. Ramgokul Srinivasan had also played for North Kildare as well as Civil Service and DLR County. Thus, while the team was new to Leinster cricket, Leinster cricket was not new to most of the team.

A number of the North Kildare team were familiar also, Josh Uddin and James Smith in particular, who had both played for Terenure. Monil Patel and Danny Coad had also joined from Leinster recently, and Waqar Azmat from Clontarf, three excellent recruits, and the evergreen Manjeet Singh and Wasif Ali were also in their ranks.

So, despite not having played 50 over Championship cricket in a number of years (2017), they were also a side packed with Championship experience. I got to the ground around 11.10, following a short walk from Kilcock down the splendid and picturesque Grand Canal Way, the former canal towpath that has been converted into a walking and cycling path. The Maws looked splendid. It really is a facility suitable for top level cricket, and as such it's great to see North Kildare back up in the top leagues.

I settled myself in for the day, out of the sun in the comfort of the excellent scorebox, which was made even more comfortable thanks to one of the North Kildare members providing a fan for Ronan, the other scorer, and myself. (The numerous offers of ice cream throughout the day were also very much appreciated.)

North Kildare won the toss and elected to bat, as any right-minded team would do on such a sweltering day. It was going to be a long one for the fielding side, with wickets needed at regular intervals to stop the fielders from losing concentration. Coad and Uddin opened up for Kildare, Ali and Sumit for Galway. On 17, in the 6th over, Coad, who was attempting to move the score along was bowled by Ali for 8, bringing Patel to the crease. Uddin fell soon after in the 9th over with the score on 29, well caught by Sumit off Ramnathpur. This brought Waqar Azmat to the crease. One more now, and you got the feeling Galway could possibly go through them. But that one didnít come.

Patel, batted with a lot of patience, Azmat more aggressively and the two took the score to 95 before Azmat was dismissed just shy of his 50 (48), caught at short 3rd man by Farman off Mitch Galav in the 25th over. The runs had by now started to flow more easily for Patel, who was joined at the crease by the busy Husnain Maroof. These put on 80 in quick time before Patel was dismissed for a fine 70 off 82, caught behind off Farman in the 37th over.

From here Galway did well to pull it back. Wickets fell at regular intervals, as the 8th Galway bowler Viswanath took 3 wickets, ably assisted at the end by the excellent Ramnathpur who finished with 3/30. Some questionable running by the North Kildare batting also didnít help their cause, Kildare being all out for 240 in the 49th over.

Tea was had, each player and official having brought their own due to the Covid Restrictions, and then it was back out there. Shariq Nasim and the keeper Vageesh Shivaprasad opened the batting for Galway, Ali and Sherzad the bowling. Sherzad struggled with his lengthy early on, not used to the artificial surface the game was played on, and both batters took a liking to his bowling. Ali on the other hand, after a poor first over, soon found his line and length. In the 6th over he caught a skier off his own bowling from Shivaprasad (10), making it 27/1.

Viswanath and Nasim were going along nicely, having taken the score to 44, when Ali struck again, Viswanth caught behind by Uddin for 9. Singh, clean bowled by Ali and Ramnathpur, soon followed, again dismissed by Ali, this time LBW, with Umpire Long showing a technique Billy the Kid would have been proud of. Next Ali got the important wicket of Nasim for 35, LBW again, leaving Galway in real trouble at 70/5 and Ali with a much-deserved Michelle.

He had bowled beautifully, a spell full of control, made even more impressive by the fact he bowled 10 on the trot in that heat. (5/41 off 10) Galav was bowled next, this time by James (JimJam) Smith, who had been bowling equally beautifully from the other end, perfectly complimenting Ali, with his control. (1/14 off 7). It was great to see James back bowling well, and long may it continue.

Mullen and Farman set about trying to save the innings, Farman hitting some big balls, Mullen dinking it behind square on either side of the wicket. They put on 26 before Farman was caught off Singh, making it 99/7. Mullen was going well though, and Danish Ali was batting sensibly. The two took it to 119 at drinks. At this point, Uddin, came off injured to be replaced by Coad behind the stumps. Definitely not a bad reserve to have.

Mullen fell first ball after drinks, having possibly lost concentration, LBW to Singh for 26. Patel and Singh (3/21) then finished it off, Galway dismissed for 126 in 35.3 overs.

I packed up, said my goodbyes and headed to Athlone for the night. Kilcock was on the way after all. While the 100 plus run victory would suggest a hammering, both sides can take many positives from the game. Galway stayed positive throughout, and got themselves back into the game toward the end of the Kildare innings.

They have a bowling unit who will trouble sides, Ramnathpur in particular. It may take their batters a while to get used to the Championship again, but theyíll get there.

North Kildare, were solid with the bat, and never let up with the ball or in the field. Coad, Azmat and Patel have added steel to the batting, and the experience of Ali and Singh with the ball will be of great benefit to them throughout the season.

And in The Maws, they have a venue fitting of Championship cricket. Letís hope the Championship, or higher, is where they stay.