Bonny Dundee feature high in league of gentlemen
IT'S that nail-biting business end of the season, with those make-or-break matches when destinies are forged and dreams destroyed. How refreshing, then, to find a club who seem sanguine about the death-or-glory scenario, and for whom playing the game for the game's sake is no Corinthian anachronism: Dundee High School FPCC, denizens of Dalnacraig.
The club were front-runners in the Duke's Strathmore and Perthshire Premiership after a six-win sequence, but their title prospects were dented by two successive defeats, in controversial circumstances, at rivals Mannofield and last Sunday at Strathmore.
Secretary Gavin Garden notes that with a mere four games left, including three away, it will be a tall order to reclaim top spot and the automatic play-off gateway to the SNCL, but he concedes that an imbalance of home fixtures earlier in the season boosted their position.
Captain Kenny Kyles observes: "We're just pleased to be improving and competing strongly once more after two rather disappointing seasons."
The team now have batting capacity right down the order, and the top four of Kyles, Kenny Mitchell, professional Trent Colley and elder brother Douglas Kyles, have generally provided a strong platform. The bowling line-up offers variety, led by Darren Milne and rookie left-armer Qadees Ahmed, and complemented by off-spinner Zuli Ali, ex-Norwood seamer Dinesh Bailwal and former Brechin and Montrose left-arm spin bowler Les Milne. Pro Colley has also taken a bagful of wickets, and Paul Scott, who is fresh from school, has impressed behind the stumps.
"I'd like to think we're a friendly, welcoming, sociable club with a heart," declares president Graham 'Spider' McLaren. "We're an open club with a mission statement: To provide enjoyable cricket at the highest level." He points out that in a city of more than 170,000 inhabitants, only four cricket clubs are left outwith the two universities, the others being Forfarshire, Norwood and Kinloch. "So we're a precious commodity!"
The club's second XI, Hoppy's Heroes, have been going well, too. They reflect a blend of experience with veterans Lindsay Ancell, captain Bob Hopkins and seamer John Bennett, and youth including Ancell's son Michael, and they recently lifted the Two Counties Cup. McLaren's last-over catch tilted the balance crucially in their three-run final victory over Strathearn.
Dundee HSFP have benefited greatly from some fine professionals over the past two decades, dating back to a prolific Indian from Bombay, Jayantilal Kenia, who racked up more than 1,100 runs in his first year.
Thereafter they have had 14 successive Australians, mostly New South Wales lads recruited through an association with Sydney's St George's District CC, Don Bradman's old club.
Shane Hadley bowled quick; the all-rounder Peter Wooden, later of Arbroath, excelled; Tim Lang is currently in the New South Wales team, and fast bowler Brendan Ford is leading South Northumberland's Cockspur Cup march to Lord's with another Dundee old boy, batsman Adam Heather.
Incumbent pro Colley is an outstanding coach and motivator, and has already notched more than 500 league runs at an average of 71 - plus some 20 wickets.
McLaren recalls that the club have enjoyed various days of glory: winning the Three Counties Cup in 1976, the Strathmore Union in '78, '89, '93 and '95 and the SCU Plate in 2001, their centenary year. Contrasting days of ignominy include being bowled out for 10 in attempting to chase a huge Heriot's total in the Scottish Cup, and being skittled out for 29 by Kirriemuir - who had earlier scored a mere 30.
But you gain the distinct impression that, whatever the outcome of their August endeavours, the Dundee troops will treat triumph and disaster in similar fashion. They are genuine sportsmen, a refreshing credit to the game.
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