Another weekend, another “home” match for the Famous Fives – this time, a very rare trip to Kirkbrae’s Double Hedges ground (courtesy of a double- double- booking at both Peffermill and the Inch, surely some sort of organisational mishap record for long-suffering fixture secretary Amelia to sort out…) against second-top outfit Gala 2. Double Hedges is perhaps something of a misnomer; with Edinburgh, Craigmillar and Liberton castles all visible from the outfield (possibly another record, although one which your correspondent only momentarily considered attempting to confirm) maybe “Triple Fortress” might be more apt. Or indeed, given the impenetrable swathes of gnarled, spiked and extravagantly tendrilled vegetation lying inches beyond the boundary (and into which the Fives’ opponents would, as we shall soon see, regularly dispatch the ball), perhaps “Nettle & Bramble Rash Field” or “Better Bring Six Balls Per Innings Park”.
In any event, the weather was set fair for a lovely lower division match in late July – cold and damp with the threat of rain in the air. The pitch – in some places discernible from the outfield – looked lush and concerningly Meadows-like. Skipper Keith, once again crushing the opposition skipper underfoot at the toss, looked warily at the surface and suggested that the Fives would have a bowl. As if waiting for this exact pronouncement, the mist rolled in across Arthur’s Seat and a persistent mizzle settled in across the ground – difficult conditions indeed.
Unperturbed, Keith rolled out the Fives’ big guns in the shape of Kyle and Harry. Both gave a good account of themselves in their opening spells, keeping it tight and extracting some bounce and turn respectively, but the Gala openers looked determined to grind on. With the drizzle making finger-spin grip increasingly awkward, Harry gave way (H Charman 4-1-14-0) to Joe for a burst of left-arm wrist-spin. Not much for Joe to like in these conditions either, and the Gala openers took the opportunity to crunch the first couple of balls into the merciless clutches of the undergrowth, never to be seen again (J Ward 4-0-21-0). Zaara’s medium pace was arguably better suited to the conditions and she produced a number of threatening deliveries that slowed the Gala charge somewhat. At the halfway mark, Gala’s openers were still going strong the with the score 79/0 and even worse, your correspondent had squelched, muttering about the conditions, into the attack. Eventually a mistake was made – J Imray bowled off his pads to break a wonderful opening partnership of 93, with the Gala No.3 following in identical fashion a few balls later (E Murray 8-1-42-2). Oli came on to see if some left-arm pace might do the trick, but despite bowling very accurately and drawing a couple of false shots there was no joy for the youngster. Returning, Kyle finally dislodged M Hastings for a brilliant 78 – quite a knock in the conditions, superbly batted, and it took a great delivery from Kyle off his final ball to get rid of him (K Burgess 8-2-21-1). Zaara and Oli were entrusted with the final overs – no easy task with a middle order given licence to hit out by the runs already on the board, a soaking wet ball and some pretty treacherous ground underfoot. None of this was helped by the drizzle becoming rain and the players jogging off for a 25-minute break while the shower pushed through. Returning to the field, Zaara’s persistence paid handsome dividends and she struck twice while maintaining an excellent wicket-to-wicket line (Z Dancu 8-1-37-2). Oli was no less persistent but suffered at the hands of some late-innings hitting; nevertheless he kept running in hard to his last ball – a great effort (O Stones 8-2-50-0).
Gala had set a very challenging total of 196, and it would take some effort for the Fives to match them. As this was being discussed, it became clear that the promised improvement in the weather had suddenly arrived – first brightness, then warmth and sunshine. And as all of the surface water on the pitch rapidly dried, a good old fashioned sticky was brewing nicely out in the middle…
… as Keith found out in the second over when Gala’s sometime policeman opening bowler (“he doesn’t play in the 1s because he doesn’t get many Saturdays off”) welcomed him to the crease with a snarling bouncer which leapt cobra-like from back of a length and seared past the skipper’s grille. Semper vigilo indeed. Not really the sort of thing one usually sees in Division 7, but Keith and Lewis withstood the barrage with great fortitude – (mostly) avoiding bouncers while scoring from any looser balls. Having seen off the early salvos Keith was snared by another one which lifted alarmingly and which he could only nick into the cordon (K Murray 12), Martin joining Lewis at the crease. With the opening bowlers now rested, Martin looked to pick up the pace, but his lean run of form continued as he misjudged the line and was bowled by Gala/Carlton crossover star Maisie Maceira (M Robertson 4). At the other end, Lewis had found some good rhythm but the still-damp outfield meant that he was getting little value for his shots, and he departed for a frustrating 12 which could in different conditions have been many more (L King 12). Lewis’s departure brought the in-form John to the crease, but this wasn’t his day either and he was quickly on his way back, another undone by some bounce and drawn into a nick behind (J Beattie 0). John, as ever, sportingly walked.
The Fives’ hopes were now firmly with Mike – both for making a game of it and to make sure that Gala had to spend at least some time hacking about in the bushes looking for the ball. Mike did not disappoint on the latter front and thwacked several monster drives deep into the cabbage for a modicum of sweet revenge, well supported by Harry who looked for more delicate cuts and dabs behind square to keep up the momentum. The introduction of some slow left arm did for Harry, only able to spoon it back to the bowler (H Charman 8), and when Oli suffered a second-baller, caught remarkably in the keeper’s elbow, to the same bowler (O Stones 0) it was over to Joe. Mike kept looking for his shots, but eventually skied a pull that was safely taken, an entertaining knock though and at least it cost Gala a couple of extra balls (M Kennedy 41). Joined by Zaara, Joe offered stout resistance but found that one of the perils of Fives cricket is the potential for running out juniors and then feeling really, really bad about it… Zaara accepting the optimistic call, but nowhere near making it (Z Dancu 6). Shame, as she was just starting to get going. The lesser of the Murray batsmen came out – frankly mostly hoping that the rozzers wouldn’t be coming back on to bowl – only to watch Joe pinned in front (or, in his telling, considerably off to the side) whilst trying to play an extravagant reverse sweep and sent on his way (J Ward 11). Kyle nudged a single to bring your correspondent back on strike, but the inevitable conclusion was a leading edge chipped up to square leg and the Fives’ race run (E Murray 1; K Burgess 1*). Carlton Fives 108 a.o.; Gala 2 win by 88 runs.
Bit of a tough old day at the office this for the Fives – but massive credit to the Gala openers, and wicketkeeper/batsman Hastings in particular, for as good a knock as you will likely see in Division 7 in very difficult conditions. The Carlton bowlers all bowled very accurately, with hardly any extras. The ground fielding was generally good, although a number of catches of varying difficulty did go down towards the end of the innings. However, the damage had largely been done by then. A good opportunity for the youngsters to learn about bowling, batting and fielding in more difficult conditions, and a challenge which the juniors rose to with their customary enthusiasm (and the seniors welcomed with their customary resignation). Well played Gala. Fingers crossed for some better weather next time…