Fresh from long(er/ish) format victory on Saturday, the Famous Fives reconvened at the infamous Inch 2 for a sure-to-be-fireworks-laden T20 friendly vs Edinburgh South 2s. A brief stock-take indicated all required elements for a proper Fives match present and correct – yet another senior debut, this time for U12-er Hamish Turner; no less than seven ultra-talented juniors, glittering cricket careers ahead of them; the remaining functioning parts of four gnarled seniors, once-glittering futures still just visible in life’s rear-view mirror; a playing surface which a good-natured liar might, after a couple of drinks, generously describe as “quirky”.
Skipper Keith veritably swaggered into the toss, oozing confidence from his record run of decisive top-of-the-podium finishes. And well placed it was too, yet another resounding victory, and this time no hesitation in having a bat. “But why?”, chorused the juniors, wide-eyed, many of whom had experienced the sage decision to field first mere days earlier. And this, of course, is where the Captain – living and breathing embodiment of the spirit of our wonderful game, august custodian of its time-honoured traditions of gentlemanly conduct and the very highest ideals of sportsmanship – is responsible for passing on cricket’s lessons to the next generation. “Because,” replied Keith, “it’s going to be absolutely bloody pitch dark by the end of the second innings, and we definitely want them to be batting in that”.
Experienced senior hand John B and regular batting tyro / wicketkeeper James Stronach headed out to the middle to open things up. But double disaster struck very early – John feathered one which lifted brutishly off a particularly nasty spot on the astro (and passed on a genuine lesson to the youngsters by walking immediately in the knowledge of a nick, even as the umpire indicated that he had heard no noise), while James swept a full one hard but straight into the clutches of square leg (J Beattie 1; J Stronach 1). This brought Paul S and the skipper himself to the crease, an immediate crisis to avert. Mission mostly complete, although not without some… interesting calling/running and a corresponding number of slightly tense conversations between overs – but both found gaps in the field to go with some hard-hit fours, and the score advanced respectably. Paul eventually perished when coming down to the spinner and swinging hard, unable to recover his ground as the keeper removed the bails (P Stones 14); the elder of two young Foleys in the form of Fergus joining his captain in the middle. This presented something of a problem given the relative speed over 22 yards of Ferg and Keith… but a good partnership ensued with Keith finding plenty of runs on the sweep while capitalising on more than a couple of lives thanks to generous South fielding. Not much to save him though when losing his middle stump while looking to smash a straight one, but an innings-anchoring knock nonetheless (K Murray 34). The elder B variety of Stronach joined Ferg, and with overs remaining ticking down both were very busy running between the wickets. Ferg also found time to pulverise a low full toss many a mile over square leg for six, a shot leaving your correspondent both purring in appreciation and simultaneously ruing his own inability to bat with anything like such effectiveness. Ferg eventually fell to the canny left-arm darts of J Blood but plenty of damage had been done to the South attack (F Foley 30). Ben and Ollie Stones managed to steal a couple of final quick singles each (B Stronach 2*; O Stones 2*), and the Fives had amassed a solid looking 99, leaving a round ton the target to defend.
Kyle Burgess and even-newer-kid-on-the-block Hamish Turner took the new pink ball in the gathering gloom. Kyle settled straight into his work and delivered a consistently threatening and parsimonious opening burst with due reward – probably his best spell for the Fives to date, well bowled (K Burgess 3-0-10-1). Hamish T (complete with a run-up the likes of which Michael Holding in his pomp would be proud – anyone who, aged 12, can be bothered to run that far just to bowl has a nailed-on future as a dominant quick) forced a couple of half chances without quite putting one in the wickets column – but also kept things lovely and tidy, plenty of early pressure telling as a few rather panicked singles were scrambled (H Turner 3-0-12-0). Hamish F and Ollie were on first change and there was little let-up in the pressure. Ollie struggled a little early on in his spell with the awkward footing but was supported brilliantly by Hamish F who claimed another two senior scalps in his second over. That made space for to Ollie to gather himself really well for his final over, ripping out off stump with a proper pearler to finish up (O Stones 3-0-22-1) – a great example of bowling in tandem.
No let up for South as next change brought arguably the Fives’ most potent firepower into the attack in the intimidating forms of Ferg and Ben (in spite of your correspondent warming up conspicuously in sight of the captain – the view from the top clearly being that enthusiastic, talented youth (or indeed any sort of other bowling whatsoever) would be markedly preferable). Time too for some brilliance in the field, cricketing karma repaying John B quickly for his earlier actions as he conjured a magnificent gather, turn, and direct hit from mid-off to effect the run-out. Fair to say that the South lower order was finding the Foley / Stronach combo a deeply unappealing prospect as the light dwindled; both meted out sharp raps to the gloves and body, and left batsmen groping helplessly at thin air more often than not. Each comprehensively demolished the stumps at regular intervals – Ferg & Ben each took a couple (F Foley 3-0-11-2) but the South batsmen simply found no means of scoring from Ben’s line at his pace (B Stronach 3-0-6-2). Hamish F was summoned to deliver the penultimate over and closed his account immaculately for a quite brilliant 4-0-17-2. This left one over to bowl, with 22 needed for the win and a solitary wicket in hand for South. And finally skipper Keith grudgingly acknowledged your correspondent’s incessant arm-swinging from deep midwicket, which had now been going on for 19 overs. Fortunately, a very-much-less-than-confident-looking number 11 needing an implausible number of runs to win in sketchy light is *the* scenario tailor-made to fit the skill profile of this particular bowler… a healthy edge was duly delivered to James S’s safe clutches first ball. This resulted in some peculiar figures even by the Fives’ high standards (E Murray 0.1-0-0-1).
Fives win by 22 runs, yet another consecutive win in this season-that’s-not-quite-a-season. Maybe we should have a pandemic every year? It’s certainly bringing the best out of a sensational crop of junior cricketers, who seem effortlessly able to cope with long/short formats, pink/white/red balls, setting/chasing, and everything in between with great skill and tenacity. Many thanks indeed to Edinburgh South 2s for hosting a particularly enjoyable game of cricket – this was a good one.