Your correspondent made his way to the Inch, that verdant jewel of a sporting mecca in the heart of Edinburgh’s south side and the appointed venue of the latest episode of the Carlton Positively 4th XI’s adventures in the ultra-super-elite ESCA Positively 4th Division. There he found the skipper in sombre mood. For he had learned that morning of the passing of Franco Zeffirelli, the celebrated Italian opera and film director. He recalled wistfully how in 1968 he was cruelly overlooked by the maestro when casting Romeo in his celebrated film of Shakespeare’s tragedy. To this day he fails to understand Zeffirelli’s decision. For was he not in his youthful demeanour the very model of a star-crossed lover? But the maestro call did not come, and the skipper returned to his mundane existence without the challenge of climbing Veronese balconies. The skipper asserts that he is not a man to bear a grudge. However, your correspondent notes without comment that over many years he has resolutely declined to select Zeffirelli for the Positively 4th XI. So it may for reasons other than his untimely death that today’s chosen XI once again took the field without the name of Zeffirelli on the team sheet.
The opposition, the mighty Hawick and Wilton CC, had arrived in good time and awaited the Positivelys as they made the long and arduous overland trek from Sainsbury’s car park. The skipper’s own arrival had been delayed by moments of panic at having to establish the whereabouts of the stumps, commonly agreed to be a necessity for a functioning game of cricket. They were mysteriously not in their accustomed place at Grange Loan. The skipper was about to report their disappearance to the Serious Crime Squad when the news came through that they were in use by the primary team and, by that fact, had in fact already arrived at the Inch.
Even by their own standards the Carlton selectors had favoured youth in today’s line up of the Positivelys with several debutants in the line-up. Out of the eleven, your correspondent could only identify 3 grown-ups – and that required him to include the skipper, about whose emotional maturity there are always doubts. By contrast, his physical maturity is never in doubt having receded into distant memory long past. Nevertheless the skipper pronounced himself fit enough to conduct the toss.
Those world-wide millions of followers of the Positivelys will know that the skipper has enjoyed an exceptional run of form this season. No opposition skipper has got close as he has maintained a 100% record of tosses won. Having carefully limbered up, the skipper strode out to this modern form of man-to -man duel with coin in hand. He looked at his youthful opposite number through narrowed eyes. ‘You really want to do this?’ he asked. ‘You can back out now. Return to your family. Grow old gracefully.’ H&W’s skipper gulped. He stared down the barrel of the 50p coin. ‘Do it, old man,’ he gasped. As the orchestral accompaniment swelled to a climax, the coin spun in slow motion.
It was no contest. The skipper’s 100% record was maintained by a creditable margin and the Positivelys prepared to bowl.
The age range of Carlton’s 8-youth bowling attack was from 12 to 17. They strove valiantly in the merciless sun. Each had moments of brilliance but struggled for consistency of length and line. There was lots of potential on show, which more game time and focussed practice will improve. Charlie Kentish was the pick with 3-28 from his 8 overs. Fraser’s catch off his brother’s bowling was the stuff of legends – he waited calmly under the towering parabola of the ball to take it safely. But their efforts could not stop H&W making steady progress, assisted by the short boundaries and a remarkably fast outfield. Ivan – a perfect yorker, Nahum – a sharp take at slip by Paul, and Ewan – a stumping by Eric off the final ball of the innings, were the other wicket takers. Hawick finished their innings on 249-6.
Youthful the side may have been, but they were full of wisdom in their recognition of the importance of the empire biscuit to the Positively experience. There was a satisfying abundance which gave the Positivelys heart that the total was not beyond reach – all it needed was for their batting to fire. The youngsters looked at their seniors – ‘We’ve done the bowling – it’s now over to you old men.’
The Poitivelys’ innings was a tragedy of a different character than Zeffirelli might have imagined. There were few moments of poetry. But there were many tears in the watching gallery. The weight of expectation on the seniors was too much. Together they contributed a mere 11 – a total swelled by the skipper’s outstanding contribution of 0, or zilch in plain English. The H&W attack was the stuff of nightmares for the skipper – 2 left armed seamers followed by a leg-spinner. The betting was therefore keen on who would do for him – those who backed the leg-spinner earned a modest return on their stake.
Max’s potentially match-winning innings was cruelly cut off by an unfortunate run out. Max made sure that Ivan understood that when they both come of age, Ivan owes him a drink. In between the regular tumble of wickets there was a decent contribution from Nahum top scoring with 20; Mark’s solid 17 gained the Positivelys valuable batting points.
Never was there a greater tale of woe………..with the final wicket the ghosts of Zeffirelli and Shakespeare cast a shadow across the Inch. The Positivelys mustered only 98 in reply to lose by a margin commensurate with the skipper’s margin of victory at the toss.
Warm congratulations to Hawick and Wilton. The Positivelys look forward to revenge in the reverse encounter later in the season.