Carlton U14 Falcons 157-5 (Dougie Firth 48no, Ally Paul 25no, Freddie Megaw 24no) bt Livingston U14 96-9 (Freddie Megaw 3-10, Rudy Adair 2-5, Dougie Firth 2-7)
Captain Freddie’s summary: We went into the game confidently and with a good team spirit and we played confidently along with that. We batted incredibly with many players retiring and for Dougie getting 48 runs which got us into a very strong position. Overall our batting was very strong and even though we had a couple of younger players they still stood their ground.
Our bowling was just as strong as our batting with Rudy and Ally making a very strong opening bowling partnership and together I think they took 3 or 4 wickets. Bowling fast and straight as a team we managed to get them out on the 19th over but they didn’t hit many runs at all of our bowling. Overall we had a very high morale and played extremely well.
On the hottest day of the year so far, we made the trip out to Livingston’s attractive ground, where we were greeted by warm sun and an equally warm welcome from our hosts. Journey times varied: if like me you’d taken the naive route along the bypass, you’d arrive 35 minutes early, having had a “where on earth is all the traffic today” journey. If like most others, you’d taken the sensible route, avoiding the obvious danger of the bypass, you’d arrive half an hour later, knowing all-too-well the answer to my traffic question. No matter, the team assembled, and something looking remarkably like a warm-up sparked into life, ably led by Captain Freddie.
Reams and reams of internet storage have been expended in recording the events at the toss (and not just by me). Having now actually witnessed three of these hallowed events after several seasons of not really having a clue what went on, I am somewhat disappointed to report that I have no clue what goes on. As far as I can tell, someone hurls a coin into the air, one captain guesses wrongly which side will face up, the other captain chooses whether to bat or bowl, and the first captain reveals that they’d have chosen the opposite anyway. What is the point? Anyway … all that came to pass as usual, and Captain Freddie happily returned to his team with the news that they were batting first. This brought the second problem of the match: the batting order. The Falcons, I’m coming to realise, are a team made up almost entirely of middle-order batters. If they could all have their choice, we’d have no openers, no tail, and a crush of middle-over sluggers.
A batting order was negotiated, and Rudy & Ally were dispatched to open the innings. They started carefully, scoring mostly in singles and stolen byes, then accelerated in the third over until quite unexpectedly, Rudy played all around a straight one and was bowled. Calum joined Ally, who by now had found his range and was clubbing the ball to all parts, including only the second sighting this season of the lesser-spotted junior 3. Not only that, but he farmed the strike expertly, reaching 25 runs off his 20 balls and retiring, to leave Calum & Freddie, neither of whom had faced a ball in the match yet. Far from being a team of all middle-order batters, they were all having to bat like openers. Freddie took a few balls to get going, then struck a 2, followed by a single, so that Calum finally, finally reached the business end, almost two overs after arriving at the middle. Freddie continued serenely towards his own retirement, until on his penultimate ball, he hit an uppish pull straight at deep square leg, who unluckily fumbled it over the boundary for Freddie’s first 6 of the season. He dead batted his final ball and walked off relieved and happy.
Dougie joined Calum, onto his third partner without having seen a wicket fall yet. Cheeky, coaching expertly on the sidelines, had been exhorting batters to have a plan before they set out for the wicket. It seems unlikely that the plan he & Dougie hatched was to launch straight into aerial mode, but that was what happened. Dougie had fond memories of this ground from last year, and had several goals for this innings, all of which involved scoring lots of runs. He was particularly brutal on anything short, starting “quietly” with four 4s, but moving up to 6s, including two consecutive ones straight at the same spectator fielding beyond the deep midwicket boundary … who dropped them both. Calum meanwhile carried on slowly accumulating, and became the Falcons’ third retiree on 16. Dougie, now accompanied by Sam, motored on, ending his innings with another 6 and a final mis-cued 2, to register a brutal 48 not out. Sam & James tried to keep the momentum going, James unleashing one particularly elegant off drive. Alas, in striving to keep the runs flowing, Sam was run out misjudging the strength of the fielder’s arm. John, playing for Carlton U14s at Livi for the second week in a row, joined James in an extraordinarily youthful partnership. It is a sign of the continuing strength in depth of Carlton juniors that these two could be playing Under-14 cricket for another four years. Runs kept on coming – until James was bowled trying to keep them coming even faster. Caitlin joined John, and scored off her first ball, but was fooled by the old bowlers’ trick of a wide followed by a straight one. The match, and I’m sorry to say the scorer, became a little confused: Ally returned and added a 4 to his total, before a classic last over mix-up saw John run out, and Freddie return for a cameo as the last-ball non-striker, usually a sure-fire way of getting run out. On this occasion however, sense prevailed, the batters stood still, and the innings ended on a fine 157-5.
Livi’s openers strode in, to be greeted by Rudy marking out his longer run-up (I’m not convinced he has a shorter one …) and James, reprising his role as the Strangely Familiar Wicketkeeper, wisely almost as far back from the striker’s wicket. Rudy launched the first ball fast and straight, I think the unfortunate opener simply hadn’t expected anything that quick, and had no chance to adjust and stop the ball shattering his stumps. That’s a most unlucky innings. Number 3 stole a single, and number 1 played a most elegant flick off his pads for 4, but then the runs stalled. Ally bowled a maiden, then Rudy topped that with a wicket maiden, accounting for number 3. Number 4 hit a 4 in the 4th over, but was bowled by Ally off the 3rd (bother) ball. Number 5 came and went, bowled by Dougie. Livi’s number 2 hadn’t seen much of the strike through all the coming and going at the other end, but when he had been facing, he’d looked untroubled. He and number 6 set to work patiently rebuilding the innings. Caitlin & John took over bowling, but were unable to force a breakthrough. Dougie returned, and promptly trapped a highly disappointed number 6 LBW. Number 6’s disappointment was compounded when he discovered that Hawkeye had unaccountable not been installed for this Under-14 match.
The match drifted a little. Livi’s number 2 was still firmly in residence, and looked capable of scoring runs. But the required rate was somewhere around 11 an over, which is a tall order, and Livi had only 4 wickets left. Sam bowled a widen, and Livi’s number 2 reached 20 balls and a hard-earned retirement, but Sam and Calum couldn’t persuade either batter to part with their wicket. Somewhere in all this, Livi’s number 7 slipped almost unnoticed through a patient 20 balls and also retired. Suddenly, the game changed again: Freddie came on and took a wicket with his first and third balls, the second a fine catch by Sam at mid off-ish. James bowled a tidy over for a single, and Freddie returned to inveigle Livi’s limpet-like number 8, who had stuck fast to his wicket through 15 balls, into lofting a catch to Ally. That brought Livi’s two retirees back, who added a handful more well-worked runs, before James bowled number 7 to end the match.
That was a great match, not mainly for the result, but for the enthusiastic spirit in which it was played. Livi were welcoming hosts, their players were positive and enthusiastic throughout, even when things weren’t quite going their way, and our players were equally generous in victory. Well done to both teams. For he Falcons, there were many standout performances: four retired batsmen, five bowlers taking wickets, confident performances by two 10-year-olds, and a captain’s performance from Freddie, appearing in both the batting and bowling headlines. Thank you very much indeed to Cheeky for imparting his considerable coaching wisdom, Brian for umpiring, and our trusty squad of drivers/supporters who drove the players there and back and long-sufferingly watched the action unfold in between.
Next week: we’re back at Grange Loan for the first derby game of the season.