At a time of deep national mourning for Freddie Starr (except among hamsters), relieved not even by the arrival of another Royal baby, the Carlton Positively 4th XI prepared rigorously for their next encounter in the super-ultra-elite ESCA Positively 4th Division.
An early season visit to the windswept tundra of Peffermill usually necessitates the packing of every last item of thermal clothing. For the news that the ice ages ceased around 500 million years ago – a date beyond the memory even of the Positivelys’ venerable skipper – has been slow to make its way to Peffermill. And players younger than the skipper can recall shivering in the outdoor blast freezer as icy winds chilled them to the bone from all directions at once. There is therefore no clearer rebuff to the climate change denier than to visit Peffermill these days and to find players abandoning the third and second sweater they judiciously packed. It may not quite have reached the balminess of the Riviera in June but it no longer resembles Reykjavik in Feb.
The overnight rain had cleared and Peffermill’s newly acquired covers (the previous set had taken off towards Craigmillar in a late season gale a couple of years ago and can now to be found as essential assets of a local cannabis farm) had done their job and protected the track from the overnight rain. The prospects for a good competitive game were therefore high.
Few of the vast travelling support for the Positivelys will have escaped noticing that the day fixed for their encounter with the redoubtable Edinburgh University Staff Club CC marked the birthdate of Baron Munchausen in 1720 – the real character whose reputation for exaggerated accounts of his military achievements was the basis of subsequent, highly popular, fictionalised satires of bragadaccio. Over time the name has been used by doctors to describe the psychological condition of imaginary illness. An extension of this condition, Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy, in which a carer imagines illness in the person they are caring for, is a much used trope in TV drama (think of the final series of The Bridge), and latterly the condition of Munchausen’s syndrome by Internet has been identified. There are those among the travelling support who suspect the skipper of the Positively 4th XI to have been a long time sufferer of the more recently discovered Munchausen’s Syndrome at Cricket: a chronic condition, in which the sufferer will present accounts of cricketing feats with a conviction and sincerity that can lead the audience to believe his claims to be a cricketer. The players wisely keep their opinions on this matter to themselves.
Whatever their inner thoughts, the players were disposed to believe the skipper’s claim narrowly to have won the toss in a hard-fought struggle with his opposite number. He reported that they would take the field – evidence that the toss win might therefore have been a real event and not the skipper’s fantastical imagining. But 2 victorious tosses out of 2 is verging on the stuff that takes the sufferer of Munchausen’s Syndrome at Cricket into dangerous territory. The team recognised the danger – the skipper would have to be carefully managed – they were on edge.
Hutch and Stronach Sen opened the proceedings. A deafening early shout from Hutch was denied by the umpire but brought scant relief for the opener when Charles took the top of his middle stump a few balls later. Good shooting by Charles – the middle stump was actually a good inch shorter than its colleagues. Ewan had another strong shout denied by the umpire (Munchausen’s Syndrome of Not Out is being considered by psychiatrists as an incurable condition found in lower league cricket the world round). EUSC made steady progress and while Charles – 2-24 – took the second – a leg side strangle to Feds – they were reasonably well placed at 66-2 at the half way stage. At that point the radical step of compliance with the new ESCA rule against drinks breaks was solemnly observed. The time taken to do so lengthened the innings by several minutes.
Jamie was now into the attack. A morning football commitment had meant that Jaimie was late in arriving. Not as late, however, as his trousers which arrived some time after by special courier.
Jamie was soon into his stride – and his strides – in an excellent spell which would give him 4-28. In his final over Jamie missed his hat trick by a lick of paint as the ball fizzed past the off stump. Three attempts at what would have been a well-deserved Fivefer were also narrowly unsuccessful. Will Parker, making his Carlton debut , bowled well but without luck or reward. Al (suffering from Munchausen’s Syndrome of Bowling at the Stumps) will be subject to a disciplinary hearing by ESCA concerned that the unnecessary bowling of wides is lengthening the game. Nevertheless he snaffled a caught and bowled. Anish was the other wicket taker. Good outfield catches by Al, David and Feds – who took his despite having injured his thumb during his stint behind the stumps. He in the slow watches of the night later reported from ERI that it was broken, no Munchausening here, this was unluckily for real.
EUSC finished on 151-9 – skipper Sevak dong well to accelerate the scoring at the right time. With a drying outfield and a strong batting line up the Positivelys thought they were well placed to chase the total down. It may be that the startingly biscuit free tea failed to kindle blood sugar levels to the levels usually established after a Carlton tea, but the Positivelys’ response lacked energy.
The pitch slowed, the over rate slowed – the lack of a drinks break slowed things even further. And EUSC’s slow bowlers did the trick for them as scoring became difficult. One by one the pride of Carlton’s batting perished trying to force the pace. With boundaries hard to come by (what looked a certain 6 from Eric plugged a foot short of the rope giving him only a single) – more aggressive running between the wickets might have regained the momentum. But the lack of biscuits began to tell and the required rate began to climb.
Sufferers of Munchausen’s Syndrome at Cricket can be recognised by claims to have wrested unlikely victories from difficult positions. It was necessary to turn delusion into reality. The skipper, to whom the absence of a biscuit at tea was more than a small handicap, donned his pads with resolution . As Jaimie’s attempts to ramp EUSC’s fastest bowler met glorious failure as he was well caught at short third man, the skipper marched to the crease. The score was the transfixing Nelson – 3 overs to score 40 runs. Will was at the other end. The skipper had a bad attack of common sense – perhaps he was not a Munchausen sufferer after all. ‘Let’s get the next batting point’, he said to Will. With some smart running and a couple of decent shots from Will (top scoring at 23*) this was achieved and the Positivelys ended 18 short on 133-8.
A disappointing reverse for the Positivelys but well played EUSC who controlled the tempo in a way that the Positivelys couldn’t respond to. On to the next challenge then – a return to Peffermill this time as hosts when biscuits can confidently be expected. Can the Positivelys get back on the winning track? This will be a huge draw for spectators and Cricket Scotland have cause to be worried about the impacts on attendance at Scotland’s match with Sri Lanka which they have misguidedly planned for the same day.