Bat first so everyone gets a bat. This is the golden rule of pretty much up to test level. Eoin Morgan always bats first because if he doesn’t Chris Woakes gets sulky and has to sit on the edge of the pitch hoping Ben Stokes gets out so he can have a go. So Dougie must know this. Or if the other guy won the toss then he’s getting all fancy and needs taking down a peg. (Which is actually what happened -ed.)
Last time we played Stew Mel they thumped us by 74 runs. It was of those miserable damp evenings, so much so that the umpire (that tall scruffy one) gave Sergi out LBW just because he wanted to go home. This time the heat was on, the ground was hot to the touch and the sun blazed down for all of 4 seconds. Then the clouds came over, the adults fetched their coats and the white walkers started scraping at the walls.
The Mighty Shaun and the Great Wall of China opened the innings. It should be known that The Mighty Shaun doesn’t do defence. The Mighty Shaun wouldn’t know a forward defensive shot if it kissed him on his grinning face and ran its fingers through his golden locks. No, The Mighty Shaun rains fire on his enemies, smiting the ball with a weapon more akin to a battle axe than a length of English willow. Two clean boundaries were hit in the first over and three in the second. The ball could heard cursing its own creation as it zinged over the outfield scorching the turf on its way.
The Great Wall of China took over for the third over and oh boy, had he been looking and learning. Three boundaries off three balls and his mother watching was worrying about the monster she’s unleashed on the world. He looks such an innocent boy but will anyone in whites be safe again on a warm summer’s afternoon? Next over The Mighty Shaun struck his first six. Huge. Into at least the first circle of hell. The ball wasn’t cursing any more it was burning up on re-entry. It knocked a chunk out of the space station. And he just kept going. From the final six balls of the first part of his innings he hit 28 runs including two more mighty sixes and an audacious reversed swept four, taking him to 56 from 20 balls. His father watching was still muttering about a solid defence and keeping out the good balls. Good balls! The only good ball is a ball sent into orbit.
The Mighty Shaun and the Great Wall of China retired within a couple of balls of each other. They had made a stunning 100 runs in 7 overs, helped along by fair few byes and wides. Take a breath.
Things settled a little after then. Archie came in at three and played well; got his bat behind the ball and knocked some singles and even coaxed the opposition into give him four over-throws. The poor kids fielding were getting a little ratty with each other, and understandably so. Unfortunately Archie was bowled by the opposition’s star player, captain of the Eastern Knights, the famed Harry Armstrong. Nothing to sulk about there. Calmly ticking over at the other end was Calum playing in much the same way until he also was bowled. Captain Dougie came to the crease on his fourteenth birthday, on the cusp of manhood, and played what I’m sure was a lovely shot for 2 and knocked a single only to be bowled soon after trying to ping yet another hole in the space station. Maybe The Mighty Shaun’s old old man might have a point about a solid defence. There seemed to be an awful lot of people getting bowled.
We haven’t mentioned Rudy, also celebrating a birthday, though a whole year behind Dougie in both age and wisdom. Rudy played an actual proper defensive shot, you know, with and angled bat and soft hands and all that old fashioned nonsense. I mean, who does that in this day and age? Next thing he’ll be using a dial-up modem and wearing a bowler hat. The Mighty Shaun probably thought he was suffering a concussion. Fortunately it didn’t last long. He hit Harry for a boundary and then another in the following over. Meanwhile, at the other end, Sergi was playing with the snap and crack of a fresh whip. He doesn’t merely run those singles, he plucks them out of the air before opposition have blinked. He’s smart lightening, striking anything loose. He scorched a ball to the long off boundary but dammit the first ball of the following over his was bowled trying to flick one through the leg side. Fortunately this brought probably the classiest batsman in the team to the crease, a kid whose smile could no doubt score a century before lunch at Lords without breaking a sweat. It was none other than James Stronach. His bat is no battle axe, it’s more of a Samurai sword, arcing and cutting the air like Miyamoto Musashi, slaying opposition bowlers. While Rudy went to full strike rotation mode, scoring 6 singles in a row, James filled the gaps with a precision any artist would be proud of and a beauty straight from the angels, playing to all parts of the ground with a range a shots that simply shouldn’t be in the possession of one so young.
Rudy got bowled. Well, this is getting boring. He says he was trying to up the strike rate, which at this point had dipped to just below ten an over. I think he was just getting chancy. Sam came to the crease but it wasn’t to be his day. And then The Mighty Shaun returned. Another huge six and we thought just maybe the scoreboard would tick up to 200. 7 balls to go and only 18 more needed. The Mighty Shaun thinks nothing of such things. A couple of wides were even thrown in by the opposition to help things along. But James got bowled. I didn’t even think that was possible. And then it was almost as if the Great Wall, also returning, remembered last week and how he was stranded at the non-strikers end. With a giggle he forced the Mighty Shaun off strike and kept the score to a mere 189. Gee.
A change over was had and Harry and his partner the other Harry walked out into the field of dreams. And dream they would have to. But bigger totals have been chased this season so this wasn’t a time for complacency from the fielding side. Nine and a half an over was all that was needed. The Mighty Shaun began, bowling in much the same way as he batted. The ball flew hard and hot and in all directions. Harry took him for a boundary and 5 wides were given over the course of the over. They were pretty much with the rate. Then Calum, whose bowling as improved a huge amount this year, blew the other Harry away. Another good scalp for him, the other Harry also being an Eastern Knights player. The Mighty Shaun sent down a more controlled over, giving just a couple. The batsman must have been wondering what they’d done to offend. And they had been so kind to The Mighty Shaun an hour earlier. Already there was already a feeling the opposition weren’t going to chase this and that only intensified when Calum’s next over also only went for a couple. Sam, another much improved bowler, took a bit of stick from the opposition’s number three, the sort of player who you thought might just play the kind of innings we had seen from The Mighty Shaun. A couple of punchy drives back past the bowler were all class. But Six Gun Sam got him. Bang Bang and he was gone, kippered by a full, dipping ball that he had no answer to. You can have all the flashy drives you want, you can have a stable full of Ferraris, but Sam will shoot you down in the end.
There was still Harry to deal with, lurking up the other end of the pitch, cool as they come with back foot shots copied neatly from the coaching manual in old school ink and a forward defence printed in Teflon. But Rudy’s birthday hadn’t made him any more generous, hadn’t blessed him with a giving mood. He bowled 8 balls at Harry and gave him nothing, not even a stale sandwich from the bottom of his bag. Not even a broken pen with which to write some runs into the score book. Harry retired with nothing much more than a string of dots to pack in his bag.
Dougie took up pretty much where Rudy left off. 9 dots from 12 balls and just the one boundary. These birthday boys just weren’t in a giving mood. Maybe they weren’t happy with what came in the post that morning. Meanwhile, the required run rate had risen to 12 an over. Dan Burgess, the opposition’s number 4, is also a talented player. Eastern Knights and all that. Clobbered Sam for a six last time we played them, although Sam got him in the end. Like I said, he always does. But this time it was Sergi who rattle snaked him, stumps shattered, with just his second ball. How’s that for some poison? Surely the game was won. Well, it was by the time the Great Wall and the raven haired Archie had been sparked up and pointed in the right direction. The Great Wall had his man with yet another bowled; how many is that in this match? Really, as The Mighty Shaun’s dad previously asked, what has happened to keeping out the straight ones? So the Great Wall said thank you very much and on came Archie. The batsman couldn’t judge the pace, was early on the shot, and shoveled the ball straight to Sam at cover. Simple as you like. And with that the game really was pretty much cooked. Some random bowlers brought the overs to the required number and off were walked with another thumping win as the fireworks filled the sky and the commentators packed away their microphones. But more was to come. However, first we should mention the keeper. They say the best keepers are the ones you don’t notice and today’s match was probably a good example. No stunning catches or whipped stumpings but where the opposition keepers, for there were two, gave away 24 byes, our young keeper gave away just 1. That’s probably the lowest all season so a big shout out to James for being a black hole into which stray balls just vanish. And then there really were fireworks, if quite small ones. And chocolate cake. And a rendition of happy birthday led by the Carlton fifths team’s leading wicket taker and superstar in the making Max D’Ulisse. Could there have been a more entertaining place to be in Edinburgh that evening. Sixes struck, stumps shattered and cake. Cake!
Thanks to Martin for scoring like a pro and to Charles who is so professional he actually runs to the wickets to replace the bails after a batsman is bowled. Runs! Gee, that is taking things a bit seriously. And to Cheeky for giving Rudy the joy of bouncing Harry Armstrong without widing him.