Carlton U14 Falcons 104-7 (S Smith 24*, R Adair & M Restall 15*) beat Watsonians 100-7 (M Restall 2-8, K Burgess 1-5, S Mackinlay Vich 1-6, R Adair & D Firth 1-7, S Smith 1-8)
The final week of the U14 league season turned out to be somewhat accident-prone. First, Watsonians accidentally cancelled their fixture against the Falcons, citing clashes with the start of the new school year. Then, shortly after I’d very deliberately rustled up some opposition from within Carlton, they realised that they had accidentally raised a team anyway, and reinstated the fixture. Furthermore, their team accidentally comprised 10 players as opposed to the prescribed (but probably not more normal) 9. Carlton players were not immune to the accidents either: Archie was (I hope accidentally) knocked off his bike and fractured his arm; we all wish him the best recovering from that. Then the end-of-Festival fireworks display was accidentally scheduled for the same day, and swallowed up Sam. The accidents didn’t stop there: Ally had accidentally played far too much sport and injured [something – quite possibly most parts of his body]. To cut a long story slightly shorter than it is about to become: Watsonians accidentally convened at Grange Loan to play the Carlton Falcons on an evening where the sun, possibly confused by Watsonians attempts to cancel the game, shone brightly and warmly.
The toss: I was there! Momentously, the Watsons skipper called (wrongly, of course) tails, but the coin accidentally landed the wrong way up, wagging its tail cheekily at the sun. “We’ll bat” announced the Watsons skipper, I presume accidentally, as for the first time this season, Captain Matthew looked momentarily nonplussed and announced that was what he would have chosen too. The world briefly stopped on its axis, pondering how this accident had come about … and then carried on turning – this is cricket after all, strange things happen, otherwise what would there be for match reports to be padded out with?
Watsons openers strode menacingly out to the wicket. Rudy limbered up menacingly at his mark. The first over included a lot of running, but mostly in stolen byes and leg byes. Fraser replaced Rudy; the Watsons openers weathered that over, and were beginning to look well set. Rudy returned, bowled three dot balls, then the Watsons opener had the effrontery to chop him for 4. Rudy put an end to that nonsense with his next ball, bowling him. Fraser and Shaun bowled an over each mostly to number 2, who was looking well set and scoring freely. Matthew brought himself on to stop the rot, and succeeded admirably: number 3 was bowled, and number 2 was adjudged LBW. The first ball of Shaun’s next over brought the wicket of number 5, and the complexion of Watsons innings suddenly changed. Having been scoring at around 7-an-over, numbers 4 & 6 shut up shop, and clearly decided that was enough wickets. The pace of scoring slowed dramatically; several overs passed with few runs, but even fewer wickets.
Eventually, numbers 4 & 6 retired. Their replacements were as determined not to score runs, and were probably equally determined not to lose their wickets, but were more accident-prone. A wicket each for Dougie, Kyle and Sergi brought the innings to a close on exactly 100 runs. A curious side effect of the blocking tactics of Watsons’ middle and lower order was that 6 Falcons bowlers posted figures of [1 or 2] for [something between 5 & 8]; Matthew was the pick of the bowlers, with 2-8.
The half-time chat: surely the Falcons could overhaul 100 – they did after all have a strong batting line-up.
Euan and Kyle strode out to start the Falcons’ reply. the first ball was fast but loose, a no-ball. Bang! Euan dispatched it for 4 runs. The second was fast and loose, not a no-ball, but an inviting full toss. Bang! Euan dispatched it for 4 runs. My scoring app, clearly unaware of the propensity for accidents to happen in cricket, was making some very odd predictions about the likely length of the Falcons innings. The third ball was merely a single, which brought Kyle to the striker’s end. Unfortunately, the bowler had found his range by now, and bowled a beauty: a low, swinging yorker which gave Kyle – and his stumps, no chance at all. Rudy scampered a bye to return Euan to his natural home. Bang! Another 4 runs. Watsons bowler however had found his range, and bowled Euan with the final ball of the over. That was an eventful start: 15 runs, but 2 wickets. The second over was almost as productive – Rudy & Calum scampered byes and exchanged 4s: 28-2 after 2 overs is certainly unusual. Watsons opening bowler returned; Rudy hit a single off the first ball, and Calum was bowled by a carbon copy of the ball that accounted for Kyle, off the second. This was getting serious: 29-3 in only the third over, and Matthew in at number 5 somewhat earlier than we had hoped. Matthew carefully blocked the rest of the over. He and Rudy carefully played out the fourth over – in most games, that would have constituted the end of the openers’ spells, and could realistically have been hoped to herald some respite from fast and accurate bowling. To their horror however, Rudy & Matthew saw Watsons opening bowled limbering up for a further assault on the Falcons wickets. Rudy scampered a single, and Matthew, normally an entertaining attacking batter, hunkered down to see off the rest of the over. Gone was the check of the field between each ball, gone was any attempt to score runs. Matthew had decided, in true captain’s fashion, that what the innings needed here was to see off this bowler’s third over without the loss of any further wickets. In a magnificent piece of defiant defence, Matthew simply blocked the rest of the over. The opening bowler retired to graze at mid on, and we sensed that a corner had been turned. Granted that the Falcons had scored only 35 runs for the loss of 3 wickets, but it felt that – barring a complete accident – we had probably just witnessed the match-winning innings, even though that innings at this point totalled just 3 runs.
The game settled down into a more familiar, less frenetic pattern. Rudy and Matthew sailed on calmly to retirement, by which time the Falcons were over half way to their target. Shaun looked like he was going to repeat last week’s fireworks and blast the Falcons to victory, but the ball wasn’t leaving his bat quite as sweetly as then, and would-be 4s were dropping harmlessly into single-land. Sergi, Fraser and Freddie briefly flickered in support but were out, then Dougie joined Shaun, and the innings steadied again. It looked as if these two were going to see the Falcons home, but on 99, Dougie was bamboozled by Watsons mystery spinner and was bowled. This brought Matthew back from retirement for a well-earned cameo. Shaun hit a single to tie the scores, and looked surprisingly reluctant to run, but was firmly called through by Matthew, who deservedly struck the winning 4 off the next ball.
The players celebrated with cake, and a rousing rendition of a Happy Birthday to a slightly startled Freddie (it turned out I’d accidentally jumped the gun by 2 days) – a suitably jolly way to end the season.
That was a hugely entertaining match, with a bit of everything: fast and accurate bowling, sharp fielding, and doughty batting. The highlight was of course Matthew’s innings – he will rarely play a better one, even though he will often score more runs. But everyone contributed well, either with the bat, the ball, or in the field – or in most cases all three disciplines. And all turned out to be excellent singers and cake eaters.
Thank you very much to everyone who helped to put that game on: Frances and Craig for setting up the pitch; Bruce for being cajoled into umpiring; the legions of spectators who turned out once again to watch the Falcons finish their season in style. But most of all thank you to the players – both the regular squad and the willing band of substitutes who filled in for the victims of accidents.