With storms sweeping through Edinburgh on Friday night and continuing to deliver stair rods throughout Saturday morning, an outing to Alloa seemed an unlikely outcome for the Carlton 5th XI. However, the sunny disposition of newly reinstated captain, Keith Murray, was testament to a mid-morning teleconference with the ground staff at Clacks; the covers were off, match was on and the sun was blistering.
A slightly disbelieving eleven loaded cars and set off on what most imagined was a wasted journey; an hour there, tea and an hour back, so perhaps not a complete jeremiad.
True to forecast, the sky brightened as the team crossed the Clackmannan Bridge, but that was merely the glow of recently fracked gas being flared at nearby Grangemouth. However, round the next bend and past the Indodrill Stadium, home to Alloa Athletic FC, and the clouds lifted, the sun put its hat on, and all was right with the world.
After weeks in a secret Menorcan location, skipper Keith was bronzed and as beautiful as before he left. Plenty of practice on the beach and only a choice of two, but the toss still went the wrong way and Carlton were batting.
Given the last batting performance of the 5’s, batsmen 1 to 8 were padded and ready to go, but Max and Keith had different ideas and set about blocking the Clackmannan onslaught as though their lives depended on it. Steady progress saw the openers off before Max was adjudged out (because the fielder caught it) with the total one short of a well-deserved 50 partnership.
Carlton 49 for 1 in 20 overs.
John Beattie strode purposefully to the wicket and another strong partnership was built. The pace was increased with another near 50 partnership carefully constructed. With the overs past 30, Keith realised that acceleration was required and a conference between the batsmen was called. Keith intimated that “perhaps we should speed the run rate up a tad; look to put some pressure on the fielder”. John heard “tip and run”.
Carlton 95 for 2 in the 31st.
Next up Martin Robertson. He defied his instinct to defend and whacked a few, the aim was to get 50 off the last 9 overs. Unfortunately, both Keith and Martin misunderstood the conversation this time, easily done at that age, and were going for 50 off the next 9 balls. Both batsmen’s heads exploded, and they were out from consecutive balls with Keith scoring a fine 60.
Carlton 130 for 4 in the 36th over.
With two new batsmen at the crease, Nahum Appleton and Freddie Megaw and not much time left, there was no ‘playing yourself in’. Both batted admirably without concern for sacrificing their wicket. Freddie was caught in the last over for a useful 5 and Ivan Dawson accompanied Nahum without facing a ball.
Carlton 144 for 5 at the close. A defendable total but maybe a bit light.
Those unfamiliar with Clackmannan County Cricket Club will be unaware that the club is one of the oldest in Scotland, being founded in 1868, just 5 years after Carlton. The club house, although not dating from that time, has a traditional tea room on a mezzanine floor above the bar. On climbing the short flight of stairs to sample the intra-innings feast, the building was felt to shake, and the lights dimmed. Keen geologists (as I myself O Grade Geology 1981 Grade A) will be aware of the Ochil fault line which is one of the best examples of a fault line scarp in the UK. Although it has been mostly inactive since the Carboniferous period, there have been occasional tremors felt in recent years, mostly around the tea interval at the Arns, when the massive additional weight of metamorphic rock buns, sedimentary tea cakes and the like have inadvertently tipped the delicate balance between zero and one on the Richter scale. No matter the rationale; for all involved with tea consumption, the earth moved.
Fully laden and with hope in their hearts, the 5s took the field with the sun high in the sky and a slight wind to chill the brow. A gross was a reasonable score to defend and we’d do our best.
The opening attack of Appleton and D’Ulisse tied the openers in knots. The batters progressed slowly but had the benefit of a drying outfield to speed the ball boundaryward.
We needed to try something else and the skipper turned Ben Stronach, who was on the spot from ball one. The run rate slowed, and Clacks opener swished and missed. LBW for Ben, batter No1 back in the hutch.
Clacks 38 for 1.
The other opener, Dow was similarly losing patience. He resorted to big hits, unfortunately for us it paid off as he swatted his way towards a well-deserved 58.
A bowling change at the other end brought Ivan Dawson into the attack. Two corking deliveries and two wickets in 2 balls for Ivan.
Clackmannan 51 for 3.
The hat trick ball failed to deliver, and Hunt strode nervously to the crease. We discovered afterwards that he had not graced a cricket field for 13 seasons, hence the nervousness. However, he will undoubtedly become a stalwart as his unbeaten 46 turned the game in Clackmannanshire’s direction.
Fine bowling spells from both Zaara Dancu and Freddie Megaw went unrewarded. A few chances failed to go to hand and Clacks inched towards the winning post. Although an earthquake might have invalidated the match result, it would have been an undeserved let off for the Famous Fives. Well played to Clacks and we look forward to future fixtures.
Clackmannan 146 for 4 in the 31st over.
Special mention must go to James Stronach, on his debut behind the stumps at senior level. He delivered the fielding display of the day and was undoubtedly man on the match. (Get yourself on Teamer James)