Midsummer week sees the annual Melrose Festival. Your correspondent eagerly studied the programme. The Common Riding, the Installation of the Melrosian, the Festival Ball – all the expected prestigious events were there. Even a community bike ride. But your correspondent was non-plussed – what was surely the crowning event of the week’s celebrations did not feature. There was no mention of the visit of the Carlton Positively 4th XI as the guests of Melrose CC. The tussle for league points in the increasingly competitive ESCA ultra-super-elite Positively 4th Division promised a spectacle to match any of the pageants featuring in the official programme. But mention of it was there none. Your correspondent has drafted a sharply worded rebuke to the Festival’s organisers. He awaits their response.
Nor, perhaps more understandably, did the programme feature any event to mark the 70th birthday of Meryl Streep. For the great Hollywood actor has limited linkages with the jewel of the Borders. Her lack of familiarity with bannocks has long been a hindrance to the otherwise perfection of her performances. It was therefore left to the Positivelys to consider how best to mark this great occasion through a suitable tribute to the star. Debate was keen. Early enthusiasm for a mid-innings recreation of dance scenes from Mamma Mia waned with the realisation that this might involve more moving of the feet than has been seen in recent Positively outings. Instead a simple tribute was decided upon – the Positivelys would endeavour to concede fewer wides than her birthdays , for the number of wides conceded have been the bane of recent matches. 70 presented a reasonable target.
It was therefore with this firm resolve that the Positivelys journeyed in good heart to the pleasant environs of Huntlyburn. The ground lies in the shadow of the Eildon Hills, where legend has it King Arthur was buried. Of course this is only one of many places that the legendary king is said to have been laid to rest. But there is as much evidence for its claims as those of long-time favourite burial site Glastonbury, where it is now understood that the local monks made the Arthur legend up in the 12th Century for the shallow commercial reason to promote tourism to the Abbey when it fell on hard times.
The weather was balmy – almost midsummer like. The pitch dry but with a covering of grass. It didn’t look like a bat first surface to the skipper. This begs the question as to what surface would look like a bat first surface to him, but there was no time for discussion of that hypothetical possibility. The skipper strode with confidence to perform the toss with his opposite number. The Positivelys paid no attention – there was no mystery or uncertainty, so compelling has the skipper’s form been this season. It was therefore with some incredulity that they learned that he had lost the toss – and by a margin that suggested that his technique needed careful reconstruction in the nets. However the opposition skipper was obviously tender hearted – he responded to the distress he had caused by opting to bat. The Positivelys therefore took their place in the field. ‘Remember Meryl Streep ,’ they chanted in their huddle, ‘ we do this in honour of her. 70 wides or fewer!’’
Jamie opened and reeled off a string of maidens. A fitting tribute to Ms Streep. 8-4-6-1. Other bowlers were not so respectful and, even with the generosity of the umpires whose arms remained by their sides when many other teams would have been flapping them ready to take off, the wide count began to mount. Melrose batted carefully as the pitch gave the bowlers some assistance. Sadly the Positivelys shelled a couple of chances – the first time the catching gremlins had damaged them this year. But as the half way point approached, Melrose had to up the pace and this gave Ewan the first wicket as Scott was caught on the midwicket boundary by Paul. 70-1 off 20. Another 10 overs went by. Nelson had come up, and for once it proved fateful as Ewan struck in his final over. Eric demolished the stumps as King was stranded stumped and immediately after Nahum’ cool head and accurate return took advantage of a mid-wicket debate between the batters as to the merits, or not, of attempting a run. 111-3. The Positivelys then chipped away – Nahum took one, Jack returned to bag 2 – 8-2-25-2 and there was a promising but luckless debut spell by Fin. Melrose finished on 160-7. The tribute to Meryl Streep was effective – only 24 wides conceded – a distinct improvement on last week’s 30.
Despite the fact that the match did not feature on the Festival programme, the crowd had now been swelled by an enthusiastic squad of Festivalling Melrosians in celebratory mood. The famous Western Terrace at Headingley seemed restrained by comparison as they gave full vocal support to their townsmen. They recognised the skipper as the parent of one of Melrose RFC’s star players and duly gave him tribute throughout the rest of the proceedings. ‘Neldo’s Dad! Neldo’s Dad!’
Regrettably, the Positivelys seemed overwhelmed by the boisterousness of the Festival crowd and offered little resistance. The Melrose attack exploited the seam friendly conditions efficiently particularly the movement off the seam. Not even – or more correctly particularly not – Neldo’s Dad could prolong proceedings. Only Mark Mackay reached double figures with a couple of determined thumps to the boundary. Until Mark’s effort it looked like the Positivelys were also dedicating their innings to Meryl Streep’s birthday aiming for 70 or fewer. They were all out for 77.
The bright start to the Positivelys’ season now seems a distant memory as they have tumbled down the league table in a run of humbling defeats. Neither bowling nor batting is functioning on full cylinders. They have a blank week next week to gather themselves for the second half of the season.
Many thanks to Melrose and the Festival crowd. A greatly enjoyable humbling.