Carlton U14 Falcons 162-3 (Charlie Kentish 41no, Matthew Restall 32no) bt Grange U14 Tornadoes 161-7 (Charlie Kentish 3-20, Archie Norman 2-9)
Captain Matthew’s summary: The game on Monday was one that you train for, taking it to the final ball. In a game that could have gone either way the team held their nerve to pull through to the end and bring home the victory. It was a great game with everyone supporting each other-a great team effort.
The Carlton Falcons gathered at Portgower Place to take on the mighty Grange Tornadoes under threatening skies (not to mention the threatening Grange clubhouse). Neither the forecast nor the dark grey clouds were particularly encouraging to cricket, but junior cricketers are nothing if not resilient to weather. Instead of staring despondently at the skies, they stared intently at dark red cricket balls hurtling about in the gloom of the warm-up, catching, fielding and bowling with considerable enthusiasm. Captain Matthew, the Tornadoes’ captain, and a coin were united for the timeless ritual of the toss. Grange’s coach spun the coin, Captain Matthew called heads, both captains looked on as the coin made its way to the grass and settled, heads-up, waiting for the next move. Captain Matthew announced his intention of batting. I forgot to ask the Tornadoes’ skipper what he would have chosen to do had the coin buried its head in the grass, but like all junior captains he looked pleased at the result, so I can only assume he would have bowled.
Cricket match reports are full of purposeful verbs describing batters, particularly openers, travelling from the pavilion to the wicket: they walk, they stride, they march … Anyone familiar with teenagers will know that they do not in general move that purposefully (except perhaps within a game of Fortnite); a nonchalant lope is the best we can usually hope for. But tradition dictates that opening batters walk purposefully, and so it is that Matthew and Kyle padded up (and what a pleasure it was to find two genuine volunteers to open the batting) and marched out. Matthew took a couple of balls to get going, then he and Kyle traded singles. In the second over, Matthew unleashed his imperious boundary-seeking off-drive for an 11-run over. Kyle meanwhile was mixing straight-batted defence with some elegant pushes into the off-side. All went smoothly for three overs, until Kyle unexpectedly mislaid his straight-batted defence and was bowled. Calum joined Matthew and wisely blocked the remainder of the over while he got his eye in. Once settled, he and Matthew continued the pattern of traded singles interspersed by boundaries, including one particularly brutal 15-ball over. Calum somehow managed to claim most of the strike, reaching 20 balls just before Matthew, when disaster struck: perhaps trying for the glorious ending, he swung at an innocuous delivery and was bowled for a fine 17. Matthew completed his 20 balls in safer fashion on the next ball and retired with 32 runs on the board.
Sergi and Charlie were therefore left as de facto openers, both without a set partner to help the partnership along. That didn’t seem to bother them though: Charlie opened up almost immediately, crashing a series of 4s and one magnificent 6 to all parts of the boundary. Sergi was more circumspect but no less busy, sending fielders scurrying after singles. They also punished fielding lapses, sharply running byes whenever they were on offer. The poor old dot on my scoring app began to question the meaning of its existence, it was getting so little use; for three 12-run overs on the trot it remained almost entirely idle. A hugely entertaining six overs later, Charlie reached 20 balls and retired with a terrific 42 runs. The partnership had amassed 62 runs, a valuable middle-order contribution. Sam joined Sergi and kept him company for his final, dot-less over, and Sergi joined the increasing band of retirees with 17 runs. The pace slowed somewhat as for the third time in the match two more-or-less new batters found their rhythm. Both Sam & Archie defended well, until Archie, growing in confidence, hit a great drive through a gap in the off-side field for 4. Two balls later, he mis-timed a repeat and was bowled. That left Rudy and Sam two overs to put some gloss on the score, which they duly did: Rudy hit a belligerent 14 off 9 balls, Sam ended on an unbeaten 9.
162-3 is a good score, but would it be enough? We’ve met several of the Tornadoes before, two in particular have made big scores against us. And the boundaries on Grange’s junior square are short and inviting. Equally pertinently, would the rain hold off?
By now, the general air of dampness had resolved into a steady spitting drizzle, threatening both scorers: I’m pretty sure my iPad isn’t waterproof, and having seen the evidence, I am absolutely certain that the Grange scorer’s paper scorebook isn’t either. The players seemed undaunted though, fielders arranged themselves around the pitch, and two batters strode out to open the Tornadoes’ reply. They started confidently against the canny combination of Kyle’s medium pace and Charlie’s spin, until the second over, when Charlie pushed one through the batter’s defences and bowled him. This brought together the two batters who had scored well on previous occasions, and this was no different. They began to hit everything, hard. Dougie & Rudy tried to stem the flow, but both batters were going well. It was with some relief that we saw number 1 retire, followed an over later by number 3. The pace of the Tornadoes’ innings slowed; Calum & Matthew bowled tight overs, until Matthew bowled number 4.
It was now, frankly, raining hard. Several conferences between coaches and players revealed a laudable enthusiasm for continuing the game from both sides, despite the pitch and outfield becoming increasingly damp. Several spectators were heard to mutter comments about Scottish cricketing weather. And so we continued. The Tornadoes’ number 6 was from the same hard-hitting school as numbers 1 and 3; after a few balls to get used to the increasingly low bounce, he cut loose, clearly determined that the dot should have more rest. Boundaries flew from his bat despite our bowlers’ and fielders’ best efforts, culminating in a towering 6 that easily cleared the spectators and landed on the path immediately outside Grange’s imposing pavilion.
At this point, the Tornadoes were 139-2 in the 16th over, well ahead of the run rate, and seemingly in control of the game. To their credit, the Falcons stuck to the task, and the game quite suddenly swung their way. First, the rain eased and then, oh joy, stopped. Then the bowlers imposed a measure of control: Archie bowled a mean over for 3 runs and a priceless wicket, well caught by Matthew at mid-off; and Charlie returned to take two wickets, one bowled, the other caught by Matthew, still lurking at mid-off. This brought the Tornadoes’ number 1 running – yes, running – back to the wicket, clearly itching to add to his score and finish the game. The match was interestingly poised: the Tornadoes were 149-5 in the 18th over, needing roughly a run-a-ball, with three retired batters available. Number 1 wasn’t hitting the ball as fluently as previously, probably because the ball wasn’t bouncing as fluently as it had in the earlier, drier, half of the Tornadoes’ innings. He added 6 runs before lofting a catch over the head of Matthew (did I mention he was at mid-off?) who turned, ran, dived, and collected the ball inches above the turf, a quite magnificent catch. 156-6 off 19 overs, 7 runs needed to win off 6 balls.
Last over, first ball: Rudy clean bowls the Tornadoes’ penultimate batter. Now it’s really interesting: 7 runs needed off 5 balls, only 1 wicket remaining. Rudy steams in again: a single is scrambled. And again: another single. And again: another single. 4 needed off 2. Rudy steams in, the batter jams the ball into the pitch, it rises, climbing high behind the wicket … and Kyle, deputising at wicket keeper, leaps acrobatically, high up to his left, and takes the ball in two hands to limit the batters to just a single. An astonishing save! 3 needed off the last ball, the batters scramble a final single, wise heads prevail in the field and the ball is lobbed gently back to Rudy to end the innings. The Falcons have won by one run!
What a magnificent ending to a highly entertaining game. Very well played to both sides, both in braving the rain and in playing enterprising cricket throughout. The Falcons’ spirit was excellent throughout, supporting and encouraging each other without descending to outright discouragement of their opponents. In addition to the standout performances listed in the headlines, I’d add Matthew’s three vital catches, Rudy’s accuracy in the final over with no leeway for error, and Kyle’s astonishing take, also in the final over, in what I think must be his first outing as wicket keeper. The fielding was committed and accurate throughout; every Falcon who dived on a shot headed for the boundary can legitimately claim they won the match. Thank you very much to Grange for sportingly carrying on in the rain, to Stevie for coaching the team, Brian for umpiring, and the small army of supporters cheering the team on. Next week: Stew Mel.