THE pained expressions on the faces of SMRH fielders can only be imagined when opposing Barclays Grange cricket captain Neil McCallum pitched up belatedly for an Eastern Premier Division clash at Inverleith.
Widely regarded as one of Scotland’s best-ever batsmen and nominated for an ICC award four years ago, McCallum was always going to be delayed due to coaching duties connected with his teaching job at George Watson’s College.
But even McCallum could scarcely believe a scoreboard which read 120-0 on arriving at the 21st over of the Grange innings.
In the captain’s absence, Ryan Flannigan (63) and George Munsey (60) had laid magnificent foundations and, with the skipper’s prodigious talents still to be unleashed, it was no surprise Grange went on to win by 95 runs to set up a mouthwatering top-of-the-table clash with leaders Arbroath at Raeburn Place next Saturday.
Across the road, John McEnroe and Co will be strutting their stuff in the Brodie’s Champions of Tennis event but, for cricket enthusiasts, there is only one place to be and McCallum, who made up for lost time with an unbeaten 86 while Josh Edwards was not out 62, feels his team couldn’t be in a better place for the showdown.
He said: “By stringing together four wins after an opening-day defeat, we have made up lost ground and it was certainly pleasing to get such a big total (302-2).
“I received a text from our president, Bobby Frazer, while on the bus back from Dollar Academy telling me we were 46-0 after five overs and I felt a bit guilty walking in and padding up straightaway after others had done so well. However, I’m glad to have played a part because, as well as the lads putting on 140 for the first wicket, Josh and I saw out the innings with another solid stand.”
McCallum’s top score included two sixes and eight fours and took him past the 300-run mark for the season. He added: “Without a doubt, partnerships were key and it was the same with our bowling.”
Although Chris Sole removed dangerman Cedric English when he was caught in the deep by George Munsey for 47 after flicking a ball off his toes, Grange didn’t have things all their own way.
Confirming potential highlighting in the Evening News on Friday by English, the SMRH wicketkeeper/batsman Stephen Parker was a real thorn in Grange flesh.
Initially, he showed sharp reflexes to stump Flannigan but came into his own with the bat in making an unbeaten 83.
Support was limited, though, and, while Gordon Goudie produced the best return of 3-28, there was little respite from an attack also featuring Raj Routray, Andrew Brock, Chris Sole and Gregor Maiden as SMRH were pinned down at both ends.
“Parker really impressed us,” admitted McCallum, adding: “especially on a wicket offering some assistance to the spinners.
“Now, if we can get past Arbroath, that will set us up for a return to three rounds of the Scottish Cup before resuming the Premiership again.”
Carlton became the first team this Premiership season to topple leaders Arbroath when they won by seven wickets at Lochlands.
After electing to bat, Arbroath made a challenging 236-6 with Preston Mommsen taking four wickets while Omar Ahmad had a couple in a six-pronged attack.
It was a profitable day, too, for keeper Jamie Kerr whose two stumpings doubled his tally for the league campaign.
There were almost five overs remaining when Carlton got across the finishing line helped by Hamish Gardiner reaching 100 before being run out while Mommsen added to his earlier heroics with a knock of 83.
At Myreside, Watsonians got off the mark with an impressive six-wicket win over Stoneywood/Dyce, who are now hauled into the relegation zone.
Skipper Ewan Chalmers said: “We’ve jumped up to sixth after our bowling display was especially stronger.”
In fact, Stuart Chalmers had 4-29 and there were two wickets apiece for Peter Leggett, Mike Leggett and Dewald Nel as the visitors were dismissed for 134.
Ewan Chalmers led from the front with an unbeaten 55 as Sonians passed the target with four wickets down and plenty of overs in hand.
At Goldenacre Heriot’s, who visit Watsonians on Saturday, were in fine form to roll over Aberdeenshire.
Cammy Farrell top scored with 66 as Heriot’s posted 228-5 while the Dons’ reply lasted one ball short of their allotted 50 overs in being all out for 202. There were two wickets apiece for Mark Watt, Keith Morton and Craig Adams.
In Division One, RH Corstorphine took a backward step by losing at West Lothian despite three wickets and a top score of 32 from Joe Kinghorn-Gray.
Rain caused the postponement of Penicuik’s clash at Freuchie.