The great JM Barrie had this to say about cricket: “It has been said of the unseen army of the dead, on their everlasting march, that when they are passing a rural cricket ground the Englishman falls out of the ranks for a moment to look over the gate and smile.”
Last Saturday at Crathie was a day when any enthusiast, from any country, would have gladly looked on and enjoyed the idyll of playing cricket in the sunshine, on a freshly mown outfield and with a smattering of supporters in attendance - it was a lovely day.
Crathie entertained a youthful Huntly XI at Balmoral, and after a friendly discussion between the captains over the likely duration of the game, the home skipper decided to bat first.
The established pairing of Matt Taylor and Rhod McEwan opened the innings and after a stolid start they gained a fluency with Taylor in particular hitting some attractive drives. Having run each other out in the last two games their calling erred, understandably, on the prudent side but their patience was rewarded with another 55 run partnership. Just as the Improver (43) was getting into his Rolls Roycian stride he pulled a ball that stayed low, playing on off an inside edge.
Andy Shore (1) came in at 3 and took time to find his feet before being contentiously caught and bowled by the bowler.
There was a hint of it being a bump ball, but without the aid of DRS it was too difficult to adjudicate in his favour and he was forced to drag himself off. This brought Forbes Macdonald to the crease, a player who is often inspired by Uncle Ogg, a loyal kibitzer, and who luckily was present at the match (together with another loyal supporter Ian Grant).
However long one has played at Crathie it takes time to acclimatize to the extremely slow bounce and Macdonald played straight and responsibly, fearful perhaps of incurring the wrath of the Strathdon Ogg tongue. He soon found his rhythm, and with the injured McEwan unable to take quick singles Macdonald (68*) was taking the sensible route of smiting boundaries to all parts. One in particular was sweetly timed, a strong hit over midwicket, pictured above. McEwan (103*) was nurdling singles and playing the occasional pull shot and between them this pair added 162 for the third wicket, allowing the skipper to declare at 231 for 2. Huntly employed 10 bowlers and while they didn’t offer great penetration the youngsters kept their lines and lengths pretty well and the batters had to be ever watchful.
Huntly had 50 overs to negotiate but faced with the usual opening partnership of Mick Bestwick (3 for 20) and Bob McAra (2 for 21) they were soon in trouble.
While Bestwick supplied the menace McAra regained his metronomic consistency, and with Macdonald (2 for 18) bowling with new-found control Crathie were able to exert pressure on the visiting side. Their captain Rufus Gandhi (48*) played an anchor’s role, and almost saved the game but he ran out of partners in the 48th over, the visitors all out for 99.
Mention should be made of a very smart catch by Macdonald at silly mid-on, and also of a rare over bowled by Crathie’s Danish cricketer Peter Cunningham. Crathie had the game won through the percentage run rule, but it was a matter of pride to bowl them out within the 50 overs.
There was confusion over Crathie’s bowling allottments, and while the Huntly youngsters are obviously coached well, it might be beneficial for them to learn how to score and keep a book tidy – this is an important but often overlooked part of cricket.
McEwan’s century for Crathie was his first for a decade, and the game was played in a fine spirit; Huntly must be commended for rearing their young talent in such a courteous and unassuming way.