It will not have escaped the notice of the readers of these pages that the date of the Carlton Positively 4th XI’s final league outing of the season coincided with what would have been the 120thbirthday of Jorge Luis Borges, the great Argentinian writer. As they will know, Borges was the progenitor of a literary style now known as magical realism, which is characterised by a highly detailed, realistic setting being invaded by something too strange to believe. Readers will recognize that this is as good a definition of the majority of matches played by the Positivelys over the years as they are likely to get.
Borges wrote ‘Reality is not always probable, or likely.’ He also wrote ‘I have no way of knowing whether the events that I am about to narrate are effects or causes.’ Your correspondent has always been guided by these sentiments in his approach to recording the struggles of the Positivelys. Like the magical realist author, he is reticent, withholding information and explanations – the score for instance. As a narrator he is indifferent, his story proceeds as if nothing extraordinary had taken place – indeed as if nothing at all had taken place. Magical events, such as the skipper winning another toss, are presented as ordinary occurrences. The reader therefore comes to accept the marvelous, the ability of Carlton’s juniors to step with ease and poise onto the senior stage, as normal and common. Explaining the supernatural world or presenting it as extraordinary would immediately reduce its legitimacy relative to the natural world. The reader would consequently disregard the supernatural as false testimony. Thus readers understand that every word of your correspondent’s match reports reflect the highest truth. They are a commentary on life itself. Except perhaps those bits about Mahler’s bowling action, which he may simply have made up. Or not.
(Your correspondent can only wonder what the lamented former editor of these pages whose asides on his efforts were so helpful to readers might have made of that last passage.)
Your correspondent therefore looked forward to the final tussle of this frustrating season and hoped it would be a fitting tribute to Borges. In a peculiar twist of the fixture calendar, the Positivelys travelled away to Melrose as the home team to play Melrose who were the away team at their home ground. As far as magical realism goes this was a good start.
Melrose had comprehensively beaten the Positivelys earlier in the season, but would the Positivelys now be able to assert their home advantage in the return? There was some anxiety in the ranks, as the final personnel were only confirmed late in the morning. Stuart Dawson deeming himself fit following his unlucky broken fingers earlier in the season, ‘Just don’t put me in the field where the ball is likely to come, skip,’ he said. The skipper’s efforts to comply with this predictably meant that Stuart was the Positivelys’ busiest fielder. Isaac Foley would make his long awaited first appearance for the Positivelys.
In true ironic fashion after the wettest season in living memory, the sun beat gloriously down as the Positivelys arrived at Huntlyburn. The sky deep blue, and the gentlest zephyr of a breeze occasionally wafting across the ground. Magical realism? Perhaps.
The toss turned out to be only too realistic, there was not magic – there was no hint of home advantage as the skipper’s form deserted him to be comprehensively beaten for only the second time this season. The Positivelys were asked to bat.
The strip hadn’t looked particularly soft but, as Borges showed, appearances are nothing if not deceptive. Brian and Nahum soon found the ball taking deep divots and seaming every which way. Getting well forward and playing straight were essential. Any attacking shot was a risk. Nahum and Brian did well to survive the opening overs before Nahum fell attempting an attacking shot and was well caught in the covers. Paul and Brian soldiered on, the ball going past the edge too often for comfort and forcing shots failing to beat the field. Runs were a scarce commodity and calculations of a par score began to fall faster than Sterling’s decline on the money markets. Paul was caught at slip to put the score at 27-2 off 16 – and the skipper thought he would settle for anything over 100.
Something magical was needed and Shaun provided it. He refused to be cowed by the conditions and took the attack to the bowlers. A big six over the bowler’s head plunged into the rough. The search party unearthed 3 previously lost balls before the match ball was recovered. Shaun was motoring and the score leapt forward. He had got to 40 when another well struck blow seemed destined for the fence before mid-on’s hands magically got in the way and Shaun had to depart. His runs were worth their weight in gold. Al characteristically marshalled the remaining overs with some good help from Billy, Isaac, Fraser and Stuart to ensure that three figures were reached. The innings closed on 104-8.
Melrose, even though they were the away side had most generously agreed to provide tea and they made a fair fist at reaching Carlton standards. Tragically for them, the absence of empire biscuits meant that they fell just short.
It has been observed many times that a low score can exert considerably more scoreboard pressure than a higher score. Borges’ cricket writing is not at the heart of his oeuvre so he may not have said this, but he would have certainly enjoyed its inherent paradox. ‘The machinery of the world is far too complex for the simplicity of men,’ as he put it.
The paradox was not apparent at first as Melrose’s openers decided that on such a surface, attack was the best form of defence and they moved swiftly to 50 off the first 10. But there was always a risk. It was Shaun who did the first damage, successive balls in his second over knocked over the stumps as he found the seam at pace. Suddenly from a position of some confidence, Melrose were not so sure. The skipper turned to Isaac. Straight and full were the instructions. His first ball was just that and dislodged middle stump. Isaac’s next over took 2 more and Melrose were in trouble at 60-5. The winning total now seemed a long way off. Lofthus sought to turn the advantage back by trusting his eye – 2 huge sixes off Shaun tilted the scales back to Melrose, but the skipper went beyond the bounds of the possible and plucked a rasping pull as it sped past to bring Isaac his fourth wicket. Lofthus was gone. Borges would have approved the inexplicable. A smart catch by Nathan close in on the leg side gave Isaac his fifth wicket and the impressive figures of 5-3-5-5 – not bad for a Positively debut – both magic and real. He can only get better. Melrose’s back was broken. The Positivelys had made their home advantage tell. In a tribute to the mysterious if not to magical realism, the skipper came on and calmly swept up the tail, giving him the undeserved figures of 3-3. Melrose were all out for 89.
Borges wrote ‘The task of art is to transform what is continuously happening to us, to transform all of these things into symbols, into music, into something which can last in man’s memory.’ He might have had the skipper’s bowling in mind when he wrote this.
This was an excellent effort by the Positivelys – each member of the team contributed something essential to the outcome, even for once the skipper. Shaun’s innings and his 2 wickets were the foundation and in any other situation would walk the player of the match award. But he faces stern competition in Isaac’s immaculate bowling spell. A joint award only seems fair.
Many thanks to Melrose, who took their defeat in good heart despite it most probably doing their promotion prospects fatal damage. The Positivelys look forward to further enjoyable matches next season.