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The gentle thwack of plastic against rubber

It's just not cricket - or is it? South Morningside primary school in Edinburgh has won the Scottish National Softball cricket finals for the past two years. But its chances of a hat trick were very nearly ruined by a "fixture clash" when the Edinburgh group qualifying matches were fixed for a day when the school's P6 and P7 pupils would have been unable to take part.

As is so often the case in primary schools, however, when many conflicting interests compete for time, other schools were in the same boat and the champions were allowed to proceed to the final without a contest.

But the Edinburgh team cannot expect such an easy ride in the final, when it will face the best of 77 primaries entered in 10 Scottish regional tournaments.

South Morningside is one of three schools, the others being Buckstone and Sciennes, "adopted" by Carlton Cricket Club under a scheme run by the Scottish Cricket Union and the Morrison Trust.

Carlton's Indian professional Robin Singh gives the children two hours' coaching a week, while the youngsters are also able to get some practice at the club itself. The number of children involved has increased to 18 this season from 10 last year.

A parent, Mrs Eveline Traynor, who has a son in P6 and is also head of German at St George's School, has been running softball "kwik-cricket" at South Morningside this year.

She admits that some people look down on this version of the game but points out that there are some 16 primary school playing in Edinburgh- and says that they all find softball cricket more than useful.

"It gets everyone involved more and removes the chance of lower-order batsmen never getting to the crease," she says.

Apart from the softball version of cricket, South Morningside also plays other schools at 20-overs-per-side games with an ordinary hard cricket ball in what Mrs Traynor describes as an "informal league".

Opponents have included teams from Cargilfield, as well as the junior sections of Stewart's-Melville, Fettes and Edinburgh Academy.

A cricket enthusiast herself, Mrs Traynor does regret that so few girls take part.

"At South Morningside, cricket is for boys and girls," she says. "But there's extra pressure on the girls not to make mistakes and they take some ribbing if there are only one or two of them at practice."

She suspects that what the pupils have most enjoyed about their trips to Edgbaston forthe British National Softball Finals has been receiving their sports bags from the sponsor, the chewing gum manufacturer Wrigley.

Whichever Scottish school reaches that stage this year, however, at least nervous teachers or parents should have something other than their fingernails to chew.

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