Intra-Carlton U14 friendly at Grange Loan: Carlton Kookaburras 86-5 (D Firth 18no; F Foley 3-10) bt Carlton Penguins 85-9 (C Beech-Brandt 20no; M d’Ulisse 3-14; O Stones 2-10)
The second game of the July friendly under-14 series was to have been against Penicuik. Alas, 24 hours before the game, Penicuik realised that they couldn’t raise a team and withdrew. Carlton juniors however are nothing if not enthusiastic: about an hour of emailing and texting later, I had rustled up a second Carlton team with hardly any effort. And so it was that the Penguins and Kookaburras met at Grange Loan to do battle.
Spirits were high – many of the players had spent all day at Stevie’s cricket camp, everyone was eager and determined to play a leading role. Unusually for junior cricketers, we had enough opening batters to fill a middle order; an abundance of wicketkeepers; a whole banana-crate of slips; and a level of noise more akin to an aging boy-band concert. In the sort of lucky chance that I generally try to dress up as great planning, we had an odd number of players, but also an injured one, so somewhat to my surprise (er, entirely as planned) two teams comprising exactly 10 players took to the field.
Captains Dougie and Zaara repaired to the outfield for the toss: captain Dougie correctly called Tails (but – splutter – doesn’t he realise he should always call Heads? What is the world coming to?). Dougie politely but firmly invited the Penguins to bat first, and repaired to the field to make some sense of a bowling order with 4 opening bowlers. Zaara performed similar arithmetic miracles with a batting order comprising 4 openers and 6 middle-order batters. Euan and Keith were detached from a group of senior players animatedly discussing Law 19.8 to oversee proceedings in the middle – and a game of cricket erupted out of apparent chaos in that curiously unexpected way that junior cricket always seems to break out.
Kyle and Issac marched purposefully out to the middle to begin the Penguins’ innings. Kyle blocked the first two balls of Oli’s opening over, and briefly looked set for one of his trademark 20-ball vigils. Oli however hadn’t read the script, and send down a fast, full-length delivery that flattened Kyle stumps (although, being self-standing astro stumps, they rather cheekily sprang right back up again). This unfortunate start brought Fergus out to join Isaac – yet another of what I suspect will become a regular partnership of Foleys. They sailed on, majestically untroubled, for a couple of overs, until Isaac chopped a ball viciously onto his own foot and hobbled off to recover. Sam N replaced him, and looked in good touch with a couple of good shots, but Oli returned to the attack with his left-arm seamers and clean-bowled him. To the delight of onlookers who enjoy occasional scenes of brotherly competition, Jack entered the arena, just in time to face Gaby. Jack clobbered a fine 3 (we’d set the boundaries unusually wide), leaving Fergus to face Gaby’s riposte, which manifested itself as a fast straight ball which smacked into the stumps. Captain Zaara appeared in the pivotal number 6 position, which persuaded Captain Dougie to bring himself on to bowl. She played some good, clean shots, which suggested a batting recovery for the Penguins before a rush of blood had her swinging at a straight one, to be bowled by Dougie. Max came on next over and bowled the dangerous Jack; and Robbie returned for his second mini-mini-spell and bowled Blair with the first ball of his over.
At this point, a breathless 8 over had passed, the Penguins had scored a none-too-threatening 35 runs, and had lost 6 wickets. Furthermore, Isaac was nursing a bruised foot. Astute readers will also note that all 6 wickets have been clean-bowled, a testament to some excellent straight bowling by the Kookaburras. Luckily for the Penguins, they had two secret weapons remaining at the crease, in the shape of Calum (scorer’s note: the tall one) and Hamish (rather less tall). For 5 overs, these two batted chancelessly, calmly and steadily accumulating runs in a way that made onlookers wonder what had happened to the pitch-demons that had mischievously accounted for the Penguins’ entire top order. Freddy, Freddie & Liam bowled well, but Calum & Hamish simply kept tapping out runs – 30 of them in fact. Hamish retired on 20 balls, followed by Calum an over later. John and a miraculously-healed Isaac took over carefully adding to the score, but Isaac was run out (maybe he’d mis-judged how well his foot was), to bring Hamish back again. Dougie turned to his tricksiest bowler, Max – who duly tweaked out John. This brought Calum and Hamish back together again – unfazed by the pause since their first partnership, they carried on where they had left off, although they found it hard to score off first Gaby then Sam. Off the very last ball of the 19th over, Max finally ended the partnership by bowling Hamish. Between them, Calum & Hamish had faced 63 balls and scored 23 runs – just over half the balls faced, and just under half the runs scored off the Penguins’ bats.
The interval chat: Pizza! (And 85-9 was probably not a match-winning score?)
The Penguins took the the field, and Sam M & Harry strode out to open the Kookaburra’s innings. They found it hard to score against the Penguins’ opening bowlers, Kyle & Calum, runs coming at about 3-an-over; OK as a start, but not in itself a match-winning run rate. Sam was unlucky to be bowled off his 20th ball. Max joined Harry, and the run rate accelerated to a heady 4-an-over, until Harry reached 20 balls and retired for a fine opener’s 10. Gaby came and went, bowled by Fergus; Freddie C joined Max … and the scoring slowed as new batters got to grips with the pitch. In an attempt to speed things up a bit, Max inadvertently chipped the ball to Fergus, lurking at point, off Hamish’s bowling (ct Foley, b Foley, another scorebook entry I think we’ll see a lot of). Freddie was struck painfully on the thigh by a rising ball, and went off for some R&R, which brought Dougie and Robbie together. The match situation at the half-way point: 29 runs scored, 57 needed to win, 3 wickets down. Dougie & Robbie hit 12 off the 11th over, but slowed again. 13 overs down, 45 runs scored, 41 to win. Dougie started hitting more strongly, including a couple of firm fours up the slope. Blair teased Robbie into nicking a catch to Isaac behind the stumps, and Freddie returned, his thigh somewhat recovered, to resume his innings. Dougie finished his 20 balls with 18 runs; after 17 overs, the Kookaburras had scored, 74, 12 to win off 3. A tidy over from Hamish to Freddie & Liam returned just 3 runs. Freddie C retired, and Freddy BB joined his brother. The final over loomed: 5 runs needed, 5 wickets in hand. Captain Zaara turned to her straightest and quickest bowler, Fergus, who struck with the first ball to remove Freddy! Oli walked confidently to the crease, and struck a single with his first shot. Two dots and a Liam single followed, bringing Oli back to the crease for the final ball with 3 runs required. Fergus raced in, Oli took a huge heave, connected – and he & Liam scrambled 3 runs to win!
But wait, what is this? In an unprecedented move, the scorer had spotted a short run, and persuaded Keith at square leg to signal it. The game was tied! Super over!
The excitement and noise at this news crescendo-ed to unprecedented levels. Super over! Never let it be said that Carlton are not up with the zeitgeist. Admittedly, the excitement abated a little when players realised that they couldn’t all bowl the super over, nor bat it. The captains had to think quickly to nominate their champions, particularly when the coaches added the rule that the same player couldn’t bat and bowl. Captain Dougie channeled his inner Eoin Morgan and selected a classic right-left combination, featuring his highest-scoring batter (entirely uncoincidentally, himself), and his most powerful hitter, Gaby, with Max in reserve. Captain Zaara nominated her most experienced bowler, Calum. Gaby strode purposefully to the crease and waited for Calum’s first ball. A wide! Gaby struck the second well, completed a run, and turned for a second only to find to his horror that his skipper had slipped on the dewy astro and was lying spreadeagled in his crease instead of loping towards him half-way down the wicket. Dougie nobly got up and started running forlornly, thus ensuring that he was run out rather than Gaby. Calum’s radar let him down – another wide, then Gaby & Max exchanged singles. Gaby clattered a no-ball for an additional run, and the pair stole a bye off the final ball to post 8 runs. In the context of this game, 8 was a good score from 1 over – double the combined run-rate of the game so far.
Captain Zaara nominated Fergus & Jack to bat for the Penguins. Captain Dougie, still channeling his inner Morgan, went for youth over experience, and selected his young opening bowler Oli. In marched Jack and Fergus, in ran Oli to bowl to Jack: 2 runs! A dot followed, then traded singles. 5 to win off 2 balls. Jack swung another 2. 3 needed off 1. The field spread, Jack swung again, but hit the ball only to a fielder, who wisely held the ball and lobbed it gently to his ‘keeper. The Penguins had scored 7 runs, the Kookaburras had sneaked home by a run. (That was just as well: on review, the scorer’s assertion of a short run was shown to be incorrect. In truth, the scorer did not have a good evening: on review, several details of the Penguin’s innings were shown to be pretty much a work of fiction. Thankfully, the total score was confirmed to be entirely factual.)
That was a great evening – very well played to all the players. The standard of bowling and fielding in particular was a credit to years of Stevie’s coaching, and the levels of energy and enthusiasm throughout were astonishing. Thank you very much indeed to Euan & Keith for umpiring; Florence, Lidia & Mary for cooking a constant stream of pizza; and to the legion of spectators and dogs who watched, applauded and encouraged the players.