The 5s assembled at the Meadows for their first league match of the 2022 season. They had not played a match at the “Home of Scottish Cricket” for several years, something that the more experienced players had not greatly regretted. Due to a number of call offs in the higher teams, the 5s had drafted in some fresh talent to the side. The only experienced seniors were skipper Keith Murray, living legend Martin Robertson and talented all rounder Angus Turner. The backbone of the team was the 13 year old contingent of James Stronach, Robbie Murray, Hamish Turner and Lewis King. On senior league debut were Benji Risi, Jamie Aitken and 11 year old Tom Hathorn. Kindly agreeing to play at short notice was club Pitchero and KwikCricket maestro Martin Firth.
The skipper conducted the mandatory pitch inspection and advised the team that the wicket looked challenging. Two years out of action did not appear to have improved the surface, and it was unclear how the large collection of dandelions growing on a good length at both ends would play. On a positive note, the teams were serenaded by a harmonious Japanese mandolin performance playing nearby as the captains strode out to do the toss. The unusual musical accompaniment certainly intrigued the Carlton juniors.
The Marchmont skipper called incorrectly and the relieved skipper had no hesitation in deciding to bowl. As the Marchmont batsmen came out, there was further distraction as what appeared to be a glamour photo shoot took place next to the pitch. Robbie opened the bowling for Carlton and it became immediately clear that the pitch was going to provide considerable assistance to the bowlers. Balls that misbehaved either shot along the ground or lifted alarmingly off dandelion length. In the final ball of the first over, Robbie bowled a hostile delivery that reared up and hit the Marchmont opener, Eagar, on the nose. As blood gushed from the batsman’s nose and he retired hurt, the players pondered the wisdom of batting on the Meadows without a helmet.
Hamish opened at the other end and started well, also finding variable bounce from the dandelions at that end. Robbie picked up the first Carlton wicket in the 5th over, clean bowling the other opener. He got a second in the 9th over with the Marchmont number 3 plumb LBW. After 10 overs, Marchmont were 28 for 2 and Carlton had made a decent start. Angus replaced Robbie and bowled with his usual accuracy, tying down one end. Benji came on at the other end and bowled with good pace and intent, inducing the Marchmont number 4 to sky one to fine leg, where Hamish took a super catch in the now swirling wind. The rain then started, but not so heavily that the players considered going off. Angus then bowled the number 5 with a great ball that spat off the pitch. At 20 overs, Marchmont were 72 for 4 and Carlton were hoping to bowl then out relatively cheaply.
However, the 4th wicket brought the dangerous Neil Granger to the crease and he forged a solid partnership with the experienced Rob Trantor. Benji brilliantly ran out Trantor for a solid 29, with a direct hit from fine leg, but Granger motored on. Angus finished his tight 8 over spell (8-0-20-1). Jamie also ran in hard, (3-0-27-0), but Granger was starting to find the boundary with ease. Trantor’s wicket enabled Eagar to return to the crease, having recovered from Robbie’s earlier blow. The skipper decided this might be a good time for Robbie to come back and he duly had Eagar caught behind by James, with a brilliant diving catch to a ball that the batsman had flicked down leg. A really top catch by James. Robbie finished with excellent figures of (8-3-13-3). The skipper then turned to the spin of Lewis, but he was unable to force a breakthrough despite some fine deliveries (3-0-23-0). Tom then came on and bowled accurately, but was met with an onslaught of boundaries from Granger. Hamish returned and bowled again with good pace, but little luck (8-1-43-0), although he did effect a run out with a great take and throw to get the 7th wicket. Tom stuck to his task well and the skipper persisted with him to the end (5-0-55-0) and Benji came back to bowl the final over finishing with figures of (5-0-25-1). However, Marchmont had amassed an impressive 216 on a very difficult wicket, with Granger finishing on a belligerent 82*.
The Carlton fielding effort was excellent, with Hamish and Tom particular stand outs, and Jamie cheerfully going from third man to fine leg each over. Both catches that went to hand were taken and two run outs effected, but an extras total of 49 was too high, particularly the 29 wides. A special mention to James for having to keep on that wicket. He did a great job in very difficult circumstances.
In the light drizzle, the players enjoyed an Al fresco tea for the first time in 3 years, now that the Covid embargo on teas has been lifted. There was an excellent spread, with large quantities of sandwiches, pakora and cakes. Many Empire biscuits were harmed. The Marchmont players expressed their appreciation for the sumptuous feast. During tea, a large cycle event swept past the pitch and caused traffic chaos on the nearby roads.
The Carlton reply was opened by Keith and James. Keith batted about a yard outside his crease and scored largely through hitting welcome full tosses to the leg side boundary. The pitch did not play any better than in the Marchmont innings and there were regular wild variations in bounce. James was watchful, but was done in the third over by a shooter that trapped him LBW (J Stronach 0). Martin also batted carefully, but fell victim to an excellent ball that jagged back alarmingly and bowled him (M Robertson 3). Lewis then came out to face the music and got a completely unplayable delivery that reared up off a good length and all he could do was edge the ball to a sharp catch at slip (L King 1). Angus was next and he started promisingly, before being done by a ball that shot along the ground (A Turner 7). The skipper was joined by Robbie and father and son pressed on. Keith was adjudged caught off his glove from another ball that reared off a good length, but the Marchmont players sportingly withdrew their appeal after he pointed out that it had hit him lower down his arm, a fact he was able to evidence by the large bruise that was forming. However, he was out two balls later, LBW to yet another Meadows’ shooter (K Murray 39). At drinks, Carlton were 81 for 5, with all their experienced batting back in the hutch.
Robbie and Martin Firth sensibly decided that the Marchmont total now looked unachievable, so instead went after batting points. They doggedly defended the Marchmont attack and slowly edged the total upwards. First they secured a second batting point by getting to 90 and then pushed on, before Robbie was finally caught with the score on 108 having applied himself to the situation really well (R Murray 12). Martin was joined by Hamish, who looked to up the scoring with his well timed hitting and quick running between the wickets. They secured the third batting point at 110. Martin was eventually bowled trying to force the pace for an obdurate and important 18 (M Firth 18). Tom came out, but was another victim of the wild bounce, well caught off another lifter (T Hathorn 0). Benji then joined Hamish in a bold attempt to get the score to 130 for the fourth batting point. Some brilliant hitting from both youngsters achieved this in the final over with Benji finishing undefeated (B Risi 8*) and Hamish getting run out off the last ball going for a Kamikaze single (H Turner 16). The 5s finished on 134 for 9.
Overall, it was a very encouraging performance from the 5s, who fielded an inexperienced team against strong opponents. Granger’s innings for Marchmont was decisive and got them to a commanding total. The standard of fielding from the 5s was excellent and Robbie and Angus both bowled very well. Batting was always going to be very difficult on the Meadows minefield, and so it proved, but the lower order in particular showed great application and skill to secure 4 batting points on that pitch. It was particularly pleasing to bat our full 40 overs. With four bowling points also secured, a total of eight losing points from a maximum of ten available was a fine effort in the circumstances. Many thanks to all the players for their enthusiasm and endeavour. Congratulations to Hamish who, on the recommendation of the Marchmont players, was awarded the Five Star Award for 5s player of the match.
A big thank you also to Marchmont for playing the game in such excellent spirit. There were numerous acts of sportsmanship throughout the match and it was an absolute pleasure to play them again. We look forward to the return match later in the season, particularly as it will be on the Astro at Cavalry Park.