Cricket grounds around the world are famed for their quirks, giving rise to some of the more idiosyncratic ground rules in sport. The former St Lawrence Lime in Canterbury is arguably the most famous example – no batsman could be caught from a rebound from its branches, and all balls hitting it were scored 4, even if heading for 6. The Famous Fives travelled to the undeservedly less storied Leith Links Arti, and took a moment to comprehend the wonder of the sight before them. For those who have not had the… pleasure of a game here, it might be difficult to understand the concept of a tarmac’d path bisecting the outfield parallel to and 7 or 8 yards from the edge of the strip – yet there it is.
This unique layout brings some equally unique ground-rules: (i) play shall be stopped for all children who meander aimlessly through the field of play; and (ii) anyone else is old enough to decide for themselves if getting hit on the head by a cricket ball is worth the 10 seconds saved by not walking around the boundary instead. Suitably briefed, skipper Keith sensationally won his second toss in a row and invited Leith FAB 2s to have a bat.
Keith has clearly been watching too much IPL in his downtime between Fives fixtures, springing an early surprise by electing to open with the leg-spin of properly spelled Euan Keatinge, partnering the more orthodox seam up option of Rory Ledingham. Had there been any traditionalists in the crowd they would have been muttering into their tea. Happily, the absence of a crowd in the usual sense rendered this moot; it is unclear if the numerous denizens of Leith who were so keen to wander very, very slowly right through the middle of a live cricket match hold especially strong views about leg-spinners opening the bowling. In any event, the two juniors opened up highly effectively, each producing unplayable balls from a length. Euan K had a great lbw shout turned down on the basis that the ball pitched outside leg and was missing off – a significant moral victory if not one in the scorebook. Euan couldn’t find a breakthrough but completed a threatening and miserly opening spell which really set the tone (E Keatinge 8-1-18-0). Rory pinched out an early wicket – the batsman getting a healthy edge on an away-swinger and sensationally pouched at the wicket by Max, diving full stretch to his left – and gave way to Ben Stronach, the young leftie posing some different questions with his line.
Continuing with the spin theory, skipper Keith invited Charlie Kentish to take over from Euan K, with immediate success in the form of a successful appeal for LBW. Your correspondent relieved young Ben (and Euan K relieved Max of the keeper’s gloves) and, despite suffering a few punishing swipes over midwicket, successfully removed Leith’s dangerous keeper/batsman (E Murray 4-0-23-1). Charlie continued and snared another, courtesy of John snaffling the second brilliant catch of the innings, one handed and on the dive at mid-off, a fabulous take (C Kentish 8-1-39-2). Ben stuck in really well in his second spell and deservedly induced a false shot, Charlie stepping in to take the catch (B Stronach 8-0-51-1). Freed of the gloves, Max came on for a twirl, brilliantly repeating the previous week’s efforts with three wickets (all clean bowled, no less) as the Leith lower order tried to get on with it – very confidently bowled (Max D’Ulisse 4-1-10-3). Rory finished off the innings from the other end and took his second with a comprehensive stump-rattler. 10-man Leith FAB 2s closed 9 down, 174 a.o. in the 39th over.
A sumptuous tea in the Leith clubhouse/nightclub set the Fives up for a chase which would have to be a good one; 175 a challenging target with a lush outfield to contend with. Grazing fulsomely on pakora, cake and delicious sandwiches, little could the team imagine that a truly momentous event in Fives cricketing history was about to unfold. Skipper Keith, rubbing ruefully at his right knee, indicated that he would prefer not to open the batting. The shockwave from this bombshell disclosure resonated through the ranks, who could only stumble back into the sunshine in a state of stunned disbelief. The words “K Murray”, indelibly etched in the No.1 spot in the scorebook, were amended in a hushed silence. John and Euan K padded up and prepared to face the music.
Happily, even in the absence of the doughty skipper, for the second consecutive game the opening partnership was a solid effort, 31 added in 9 overs and the new ball attack successfully blunted. John (making a habit this season of attracting quality dismissals) fell victim to a great catch at point, his perfectly middled cut somehow sticking (J Beattie 7). Charlie Kentish headed out to support Euan K, looking in great nick at the other end. Regular readers of this column will know that, historically, the Fives’ overwhelming weight of runs has come from the senior contingent, but the two juniors set about redressing that balance. Harrying the Leith fielders with sharp ones and twos, and confidently dispatching any bad balls to the fence, Euan and Charlie racked up a quite brilliant partnership of 85 for the second wicket. Too many highlights in this to mention, but the sight of the venerable/infamous G Fisher’s moon-balls being smashed out of the attack by Charlie will live long in the memory. Euan K eventually perished for a wonderful 42, deservedly applauded from the field by Leith who were just relieved to see the back of his lightning running between the wickets. The Fives were perfectly placed at 116/2 from 25 and with batting to come. Martin Robertson joined Charlie, looking to finish the job (potentially with rather fewer sprinted 2s). It wasn’t long before Charlie reached his maiden 50, and with Martin smoking a number of trademark straight drives the Fives soon overhauled their target. Most fittingly, Charlie finessed the winning run with a delicate dab behind square, jogging through to secure the victory by eight wickets (C Kentish 63*; M Robertson 32*).
Post-match, the consensus was that this might well be the most satisfying victory ever recorded by the Fives. Against very capable opposition the junior contingent won the game almost entirely by themselves – 35 of 39 overs bowled; 8 wickets from 9; 2 catches from 4; 40 overs of keeping; and 136 of 175 runs. Wow. Simply a great pleasure to watch them in action. A word too for Pauls Bailey and Stones, offering unceasing support in the field and in the unsung scoring/umpiring roles, but otherwise somewhat short of action this game due to the youngsters’ brilliance – but we don’t think that they really mind. Our thanks to Leith FAB 2s for a very competitive and good-natured game, exemplified by their generous praise, even in defeat, of the young Carlton players’ skills.