Kelburne came into this friendly match on the back of one of their most thorough pre-season schedules of all-time. For the past two months, everything cricket-related including running around the pitch and other cardiovascular exercise, had been shaped towards getting some crucial time in the middle before the season commences in earnest. One late adjustment was made to the Kelburne line-up, batsman Kenny MacLeod making way for wicketkeeper and 2nd XI captain Martin Pollock.
Kelburne bowled first on a wicket more lively than in previous seasons, thanks to some recent scarrification action taken on it. This liveliness was outlined by the fact that opening bowlers Steven McLister and William Allan both got the ball to whizz past the batsman?s nose with their very first delivery. Allan also seemed to hurry St Michaels? No.2 batsman defensively a couple of times too. St Michaels got off to a steady start, their No.2 garnering a couple of boundaries. He rode the bounce of an Allan delivery down to third man for four, before cracking him off the back foot past Andy Robin at extra cover. His opening partner started a little more shakily, with an uppish back-foot drive just landing safe for two, before playing and missing with an expansive shot to the following ball. Nevertheless, it was the St Michaels? No.2 who was the first to go for 10, after a ball from McLister kept a bit low, hurrying his defensive stroke and clean bowling him. McLister almost had the other opener out in his next over, but couldn?t quite hold on to a firmly struck straight drive from their New Zealand professional. The final over of his first spell saw their pro almost holing out to Hamilton at mid-off, before pulling him beautifully over mid-wicket for four. He accrued another four and a two off the over, though neither shot was totally convincing. Donald Campbell and Scott Hamilton came on to bowl, and the latter immediately began with the first maiden of the innings. In Campbell?s third over, he got one to bounce on their pro, whose pull shot went high in the sky, but Allan at mid-on slightly misjudged the ball?s flight, and the chance went down. That drop began to look costly when their pro lofted Hamilton for consecutive boundaries. However in his next over, Hamilton bounced back like a bouncy backy thing, as the pro found Allan at mid-off with an aerial drive, and the teenager made no mistake this time as he moved smartly to his left to pouch it like a kangaroo. The tall batsman left the field having made 36, with a fine partnership of 57 coming to an end. That brought St Michaels? New Zealand amateur to the wicket. Like his counterpart, he also started a little unsteadily before getting into his stride and launching Hamilton over mid-off, just a yard short of being a Dorothy (six). Drinks arrived with St Michaels well placed at 84 for 2 after 20 overs, no doubt looking to post a total somewhere in the region of 200.
Straight after the break, Campbell got their amateur to play and miss twice, before he edged him right into the waiting hands of captain Ian Bennett, who snaffled the catch. Bennett himself achieved instant success with the ball; their No.3 drove him aerially to Robin at extra cover, and fell for a steady 17, having faced 52 balls. Suddenly 84 for 2 became 85 for 4. 15-year old Ross MacLean?s first over was a maiden, the No.6 failing to make contact with any of it, and playing and missing four times. In the 5 overs after drinks, St Michaels had lost two wickets for only three runs as the pressure intensified. A slight misfield from Allan, however, preceded an upward surge in the run rate, and St Michaels? No.5 brought up the hundred with a lofted four over MacLean?s head. This surge was rather short-lived though, and in the same over, the same batsman got out the same way as their pro did, finding Allan?s safe-as-houses hands at deepish mid-off. Their No.7 came in, and looked somewhat uncomfortable against MacLean. After hitting one agriculturally inches short of Hamilton at mid-on, he tried to repeat the dose somewhat unconvincingly. A third successive attempt resulted in the batsman having his stumps rearranged. Three strikes and he was back in the pavilion, with St Michaels on the ropes at 108 for 6 with just 10 overs to go. MacLean?s last over proved equally miserly, as he sent down a second successive maiden to finish with the impressive figures of 2 for 7 from 5 overs. This will no doubt give the 1st XI selection committee something to think about when they kick off the season against East Kilbride. In Bennett?s last over, St Michaels picked up the pace again, though a fierce cut was hit in the air to Robin?s left. He made an excellent effort, but was unlucky to put it down. With 5 overs left, the score was 124 for 6. Allan, who had their No. 6 playing and missing a few times since he was brought back, finally broke through his defence, bowling him for a hard-working 13. Just after Craig McLardie came within a pencil?s breadth of effecting a smart run out, the St Michaels? No.9 lofted Hamilton to MacLean at mid-off, who took a straightforward catch. Campbell rounded off a fine spell of bowling with three successive maidens, ending with 1 for 14 off 8 overs, ensuring MacLean was not the only one peeling an orange in his pocket as far as giving away runs to the opposition was concerned. The final over was tight, though St Michaels snuck three from the last ball courtesy of a couple of overthrows, which meant they got to 133 for 8 from their 40 overs, having scored just 32 runs off their last 13 overs. This stingy bowling performance ensured Kelburne gave themselves every chance of getting one over their bogey team (also the 2nd XI?s bogey team last year, so there are a few noses to be unpicked) before the start of the domestic season.
The reply saw young Ryan Morrow get his first chance to open for the 1st XI. In the first over, St Michaels had a sustained appeal to have David Miller caught at the wicket turned down, but it was not long before they did break through. Morrow fell in similar fashion to the St Michaels No.2 batsman, as he was unfortunately clean bowled without scoring. Robin came in and made a confident start, but then got a corker of a yorker from O?Brien that swung in the air and beat his defensive stroke, turning his stumps to matchwood. That left Kelburne 8 for 2 and in mild peril. Hamilton came to the wicket and soon rectified Kelburne?s start with a three and a four. Miller played and missed and edged a couple at the start of his innings, but fought well against some very good bowling, and got into double figures with two successive boundaries. By the end of the tenth over, Kelburne had recovered to 32 for 2. St Michaels duly brought on Scotland U19 left-arm spinner Brockwell, who forced Miller to play and miss in his first over. His next over went for 11 though, but it did include a half chance given by Hamilton that the point fielder diving away to his right couldn?t quite cling on to. A bigger chance came at 60 for 2 in Brockwell?s third over when Miller advanced down the wicket, but didn?t get all of it in the middle. The long-on fielder settled under the ball but couldn?t take the catch, which appeared to be a crucial moment in the match as the run rate required fell below 3 an over for the first time during the Kelburne reply.
Matters did not get any easier for the away side, and by drinks, Kelburne had raced to 99 for 2 after 20 overs. In the over after the break, Miller brought up his well-deserved half century by taking 10 off it, and moving serenely to 58. He added one more run before he was retired with the match almost sewn up. Hamilton then greeted the return of O?Brien with a sumptuous extra cover drive for four. A few overs later, he pushed Brockwell to mid-off for a single to bring up his own half century. The partnership between himself and Miller was key to the strong position Kelburne worked themselves into, and he immediately retired with only four runs to win. Bennett and McLister replaced the retired batsmen. With two to win, Marcheider came back into the attack and instantaneously removed Bennett, who bottom-edged him through to the keeper and walked, having scored 7, one more than Robin. So early bragging rights went to the captain, as the battle for which of these two batsmen can score more runs this season hots up. The frying pan is simmering nicely for probably THE most exciting exhibition of the year, given that Robin appears unlikely to carry out the shall we say rather interesting spectacle that he promised if England lost the second Ashes Test in Australia. The said spectacle would no doubt gain him exposure to the public in more ways than one, say no more than that. St Michaels? attempt to give Kelburne a late fright ended with 76 deliveries left, when McLister sealed the winning runs with a four over the bowler?s head to give the home side a seven-wicket win. Both sides agreed to play on, in order to utilise the unused overs and also give their players more valuable time in the middle. Unfortunately, McLister was to miss out on this, as the supposedly ?wannabe ginger? ended up narrowly short of his ground when running a quick single to point. Marcheider picked up a couple of wickets in his last over, the first of which was a good one, bowling Pollock off-stump for 5. Having guided the bowler for a four the previous ball, Allan was somewhat unlucky to find mid-wicket with a well-timed pull shot from a relatively short delivery. This wicket gave Marcheider excellent 8-over figures of 4 for 22. After a mini collapse from 132 for 2 to 149 for 6, McLardie and Campbell provided the crowd with an fine array of blazing hitting to add to the superb burgers that master chef Graham Patterson was distributing to them for their delectation. Both batsmen hit three fours in an over to take the score up towards the 200 mark. They shared 39 from 30 balls before McLardie was retired on 23, giving MacLean an opportunity to bat with three overs still remaining. He and Campbell each added a boundary to their score, though MacLean lived something of a charmed life, surviving three lbw appeals, and skying one that went rapidly towards space before being dropped by the fieldsman. The following ball made a mess of Campbell?s stumps as he tried to swing it away through the leg side, but by then he had made an aggressive 24, which included a couple of glorious boundaries. With 7 balls still to go, Kelburne elected not to return their retired batsmen to the middle, thus closing their innings at 200 for 7 to round off a convincing victory against a side that will have a good chance of promotion this season.
By beating the team they twice slipped up against last season, Kelburne can go into the new season with fresh confidence. They will also be looking forward to playing against Freuchie next Sunday, a team famed for winning the National Village Cup 22 years ago, a tournament in which a mammoth 639 teams took part that year. All in all, today saw some good cricket played by both teams, despite a few dropped catches. Hopefully this improvement on last year?s disappointment against St Michaels, and a continuation of their sparkling form at the end of last season, is a sign that Kelburne are making good progress towards their ultimate goal of promotion at the end of the season. With the likes of Hillhead and East Kilbride also gunning for that accolade, the Paisley outfit will have to be at the very top of their game all season, but they have made a good start to their preparations for this season, so long may it continue.