Remnants vs. The Beehive

Tuesday, August 1, 2006
Fitzwilliam College

Remnants (89/5 in 20 six-ball overs)
The Beehive (86/8 in 20 six-ball overs)
by 3 runs.

From my vantage point in the Pyrenees it was all too easy to get all judgemental from on high as I started reading Dave Green's and Joe White's colourful reports on the Remnants vs. Beehive match that was happening a thousand km north and two km closer to sea-level. Heavy rain preceding the match even in this hottest of summers? A record three no-shows? Setting a lame target of 89 in a full twenty overs? It was enough to make me cut short my trip and come rushing back to Cambridge in the hope of restoring some order -- or, failing that, at least seeing the disaster with my own eyes. Fortunately such impulses subsided as I kept reading . . .

To start at the beginning (or even a little before that), it seems that several Remnants took one look out their office windows and decided no good could come from a hit and run inspection of the pitch at Fitz, leaving just eight of their more optimistic club-mates to try a different sort of hitting and running on it. This proved to be no easy task, the rain having left an old-style sticky wicket on which only openers Nick Clarke (33 off 37 balls) and Joe White (23 off 46 balls) had any success, and even they only managed their first boundary after an overthrow.

Cruelly, the most notable failure was Lucas Oliver, The Beehive's twevlth man, who'd kindly agreed to play for us today. His debut innings for us was as short as it was eventful: after his ambitious first-up pull missesd, the ball hit him harmlessly in the chest . . . only to drop down onto his pad, bounce off at a funny angle, hit the back of his bat as he followed through, and from there to somehow balloon to first slip. It was the sort of thing Inzamam Ul Haq would be proud of; and the nicely paradoxical sending off of ``We didn't even have time to sledge him'' was also of international standard.

Still, we were in reasonable shape at 70/1 after 14 overs -- a nice little acceleration and we'd be nudging up towards a run a ball . . . except we instead managed a paltry 19/4 of our last six overs, the absolute nadir being when, even in this desperate situation, a regulation single was refused off the final delivery of the innings.

Olly Rex and Ev Fox watch pain dry.

So: we had to defend a meagre total of 89 -- the only lower first innings total all year was Hart-McLeod's 73/9, and that had led to a ten wicket loss (and even with a full fielding side). We at least began well, with Joe White (0/4) and Paul Jordan (1/12) giving nothing away, and the fielders (now numbering eleven thanks to more Beehive generosity) backing them up superbly. Miraculously the game was about even at the half-way mark -- The Beehive were just 28/1 after 10 overs, and the required run rate had even crept above a run a ball, clearly very demanding on this stickiest of wickets.

People playing cricket.

It was roughly at this point that we were treated to one of history's classic battles: that between the raw, talented, innocent young upstart and the gnarled, grizzly warrior with diminished skills but boundless experience. In Greek tragedies it was the battle between father and son; for Shakespeare it was Hamlet vs. his uncle, Claudius; in the movie age it's been everything from Luke Skywalker facing off against Darth Vader to Maverick out-flying his instructor in Top Gun. And now, on Fitzwilliam College's green grass, Tom Jordan, who's celebrated wickets and birthdays in about equal numbers, found himself bowling to Beehive stalwart Roy Page, with thousands of runs (amongst other things) straining at his belt. Tom's first ball was pitched up; Roy bizarrely tried to hook it and missed by a mile; the ball turned and spun past off stump. The next ball was over on leg stump and took the edge, but the 'keeper couldn't hold the catch. Tom's third delivery wasn't so good, being a bit shorter, and Roy decided he was going to end this battle on the spot, making to smash the ball out of the ground. The bat swung through the line, but only as the ball turned and he got a leading edge, the ball going a long way up, but only as far as short mid-wicket, where the fielder took a superb catch. So that would be youth 1, age 0? Well, not quite: the diving fielder was the one player who has even Roy licked on the experience front -- it was Geoff Hales, making his 375th Remnants appearance. (And, in a nice contrast, Lucas, making his first Remnants appearance, got his revenge by catching the Beehive player who'd caught him earlier in the day.)

Over the next few overs the battle was more even, with one batsmen striking a few big boundaries while we kept the pressure on in the field. Thus, as so often this year, the game had come down to the final over, from which The Beehive needed 12 runs to win. Captain Rupert Brown (who'd already done his bit with a superb spell of 2/7) threw the ball to a rather surprised Nick Clarke, who soon turned into a rather unhappy Nick Clarke when his first delivery was hit for six. Nick then showed the value of an uncompromisingly competitive attitude, bowling the troublesome batsmen next ball. That was followed by a dot and a two, and then a frantic diving run out when an easy single was mysteriously refused by the striker. Said batsman then found himself faced with a task as difficult as it is simple: hit a four to win off the last ball of the game. He couldn't: Nick delivered another dot ball, and we'd won a miracle match by three precious runs.

The final, unbelievable score.

``Unaccustomed to public speaking as most of my previous audiences wish I was . . .''