Carlton finally reach end of the rainbow

THEY have been branded the “nearly men”, “chokers”, and even “pea-hearts”, but on Saturday Carlton became Scottish cricket’s new champions.

They did so without bowling a ball in anger after their title play-off clash with Aberdeenshire was a victim of an unplayable Grange Loan pitch.

It took Arbroath’s victory over Forfarshire at Forthill to confirm Carlton’s new-found status, but few would disagree that, over the course of this rain-ravaged season, the Edinburgh club have been the best team.

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Certainly Fraser Watts, the captain, was able to reflect with pride on his side’s achievement before the party swung into full flow on Saturday evening.

“We are all so pleased and proud,” said the Saltires batsman who would have missed Saturday’s match with a broken finger. “We have often been tagged as under-achievers so it is particularly pleasing to prove people wrong.

“Although there has been a lot of disruption with the weather this season, with one day to go we have managed to complete ten games and have won nine of them. That proves that we are a good side and at times we have also had to show our resilience as well.”

Watts revealed that there had been additional pressure on the first 11 to perform from other sections of the Grange Loan ranks.

He added: “Our seconds and thirds and juniors have been winning titles in recent seasons and there was a feeling that it was the firsts who were letting the club down. We sat down at the start of the season and decided that we needed to change a few things.

“I think the result is that we have been a much more disciplined unit and we will no longer make excuses when things go wrong. When you make excuses you are accepting failure and that’s not what this club wants to be all about.”

Given that Carlton still have the chance to win a third national T20 Cup in four seasons next weekend, Watts is perhaps being unduly harsh on the team’s recent achievements.

However, he added: “Although we’ve had a fair amount of T20 success at local and national level in recent seasons, it is the National League which means most. Hopefully now that we have won our first one we can go on and claim a few more.”

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If there was joy in the Capital, there was double disappointment at Forthill where the title chances of both Forfarshire and Arbroath came to an end.

Forfarshire needed to beat their local rivals to stay in contention while their visitors required a combination of a victory for themselves and defeat for Carlton.

In the event, Arbroath had the match-winners with skipper Fraser Burnett’s 72 propelling his team to 205-7 from their reduced allocation of 40 overs before Harsha Vithana and Benny McGill shared seven wickets as Forfarshire fell 20 runs short.

It was a case of abject despair at Greenock where the home side’s narrow seven-run defeat to Stirling condemned them to relegation.

A miserable day for Greenock was complete when Richie Berrington sustained an injury which will almost certainly keep him out of the Saltires team for today’s CB40 fixture against Hampshire.

Ironically Berrington was backing up a throw at the stumps from Saltires team-mate Luke Butterworth, but succeeded only in splitting his hand open.

While dropping down the order, Berrington bravely batted through the pain as Greenock attempted to overhaul Stirling’s 166.

He lent valuable support to Jonathan Hemspey, who made 57, but the Glenpark men fell agonisingly short. Gavin Anderson had earlier top-scored with 48 for the visitors.

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Carlton’s hangover was evident yesterday as they crumbled against Arbroath – ensuring the runners-up spot for the Lichties.

The champions were shot out for only 119, a target which Arbroath cruised to in the 26th over for the loss of three wickets.

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