National champions again
THE HILLS replicated their 2012 heroics and captured their second-ever Irish Senior Cup on Saturday in a thrilling victory against Clontarf CC at Castle Avenue.
The final was billed as the quintessential bat v ball fixture as Clontarf's batting extends throughout their squad and in Max Sorensen, Luke Clinton and club captain Nazeer Shoukat, The Hills arguably have the best bowling attack in the country.
It was the latter which won out in the end as once again The Hills brought the game right down to the final over and international bowler Sorensen held his nerve to help the Skerries men record a slender nine-run success.
'Tarf won the toss and on a sunny Saturday morning they put the visitors into bat. Openers Nicolaas Pretorius and Patrick Byrne both went early on, but it was the partnership of Mike Baumgart and Cormac McLoughlin which really steadied the ship.
Baumgart in particular hit some audacious shots, including eight boundaries on his way to building a total of 63 from 62 deliveries. He was eventually stumped, but returned soon after as McLoughlin picked up an injury and the South African stood in as a runner.
McLoughlin, despite the injury, battled to a total of 75, aided by Pretorius, and it was a key partnership in the game, but once his wicket was taken The Hills suffered a collapse. They lost seven wickets for 35 runs and eventually were bowled out for a total of 239 after 48 overs.
There was a point in which The Hills looked to be headed for a total around the 260/270 mark, but the collapse really appeared to have dented their chances. However, it seems customary now for Skerries to take the difficult route. After lunch though they tore into the 'Tarf attack and with Sorensen and Shoukat both taking early wickets the game swung back in their favour.
It then became very much a carbon copy of the opening innings as the hosts gradually steadied themselves, steadily building the run rate much the same as The Hills did after their shaky start.
Luke Clinton was brought into the attack but couldn't break the burgeoning partnership, but right after the drinks break Hills 12th man William Archer made the catch which stopped the hosts in their tracks. They were now 95-3 after 25 overs.
Mark Dwyer delivered a low, full-length delivery which was nicked by the 'Tarf batsman and Pretorius picked up the catch, and after that the large partisan support quietened considerably.
With 20 overs to go the hosts had reached 107-4, and with Shoukat and Sorensen having a rest another batting partnership began to take shape.
Sorensen, having already bowled five overs, was drafted in once more to try to break it, but this time with no success.
With 10 overs to go Clontarf needed 75 runs and with six wickets in hand the game was shifting slightly in their favour. A dropped catch really signalled game on as Sorensen and Clinton went for the same chance and neither made the ball stick.
Manu Kumar then tempted one of the batsmen into a shot which flew high off the bat and Baumgart caught it deep in-field to trigger another fall of wickets.
With 3.3 overs to go the game's only real controversial moment came when indecision between the batsmen resulted in a run out, with the home side protesting fervently that one of them had been blocked, but the umpire kept his finger raised.
After an exchange of words, the game resumed and with two overs to go 'Tarf needed 20 to retain the Bob Kerr Trophy. Sorensen conceded nine runs in the second last over before Baumgart's catch in the 49th over sealed victory for The Hills, with 'Tarf all out for 230.
It's the first of a potential cup double for the Skerries side as they face Clontarf again at Pembroke in the Alan Murray T20 Final this Tuesday night.
The Hills: Nicolaas Pretorius, Patrick Byrne, Mike Baumgart, Max Sorensen, Johnaton Andrews, Cormac McLoughlin, Nazeer Shoukat, Manu Kumar, Mark Dwyer, Tomas Murphy, William Archer.
•Despite their cup success, The HIlls face a real battle to retain their Division 1 status after losing to arch rivals North County on Sunday. The Balrothery side prevailed by four wickets to take a huge step towards safety.