Cristiano Ronaldo once said – “I’m living a dream I never want to wake up from” – so it was for Instonians and Nathan Smith on Saturday lunchtime at The Vineyard, home to The Hills.
Nikolai Smith won the toss inviting the home side to bat, his namesake Nathan delivered an explosive opening spell showing exactly why the Irish selectors picked him for this week’s inter-Continental Cup game against The Netherlands.
With the new ball moving around Smith left The Hills top order in a daze and before the crowd had even arrived The Hills were reeling at 18-4.
For the neutral it was compulsive watching; in the third over Mark Donegan was clean bowled, then two balls later Sean Terry lbw. In Smith’s next Hamid Shah had his stumps splayed and by the end of the 7th over Cormac McLoughlin Gavin had edged him to Rory McCann.
The key men for The Hills were always likely to be Albert van der Merwe and Max Sorensen, but the script didn’t see them in the middle before the 8th over. Local wisdom was that the home side wanted to post 300 and bat Instonians out of the game.
The pivotal moment as the dream ended, an awakening that turned into a nightmare; diving forward for a catch that would have left The Hills 23 for five former international Andrew White caught his finger on the ground resulting in a severe dislocation.
For Instonians this was the latest in a series of hand injuries that have dogged their season. As White headed for a local doctor van der Merwe and Sorensen began rebuilding. When Nikolai Smith replaced James Magee, Sorensen welcomed him with two sumptuous shots through the leg-side.
At the other end van der Merwe was a study in concentration and application; when Sorensen was trapped lbw by Shane Getgate for 51 containing 10 boundaries and off only 43 balls his partner had merely contributed 10 to the 71-run partnership.
In Getkate’s next over the 22nd Tomas Rooney Murphy was clean bowled, The Hills were on the ropes again 98-6, it was to be the last success of the afternoon for Instonians.
South African Ryan Cartwright joined van der Merwe and the pair put on an unbroken 146 in the last 28 overs. By the end, in the absence of White to give variety, Instonians looked a side bereft of ideas and perhaps the final nails in the coffin were delivered by Cartwright as the last two balls of the innings sailed into the nearby field.
Van der Merwe (82 not out) faced 129 balls with eight boundaries and Cartwright’s 78 came from 90 balls with five fours to accompany the two maximums.
244 may have been less than The Hills wanted but it was a long way from 18 for four.
Instonians by now a crucial batsman light opened with the captain and James Shannon, the pair dealing comfortably with the opening salvos from Nazeer Shoukat and Cartwright, the introduction of Luke Clinton changed the tone.
Clinton does the basics well, wicket to wicket giving no width, Smith ramped him for four, tried to repeat the shot next ball and was caught by Mcloughlin Gavin. Four overs later he bowled McCann and then crucially found the edge of Shannon’s bat, Donegan tidying up behind.
From there the spin of van der Merwe and Yaqoob Ali strangled the middle order, the pair bowling 19 overs at a cost of 49 and picking up 4 wickets three of them to the former. All Instonians offered was some late order resistance from Nathan Smith (23) and Eugene Moleon (18 not out) but the margin was 119 runs.
A masterclass from Leinster Lightning coach Albert van der Merwe and after a season which promised so much Instonians now only have five league games left to move clear of the Gardiner Brothers Premier League relegation zone.