After yesterday's match was cancelled despite the fact there was very little rain during the day, the invasion of several heavy showers combined with the constant presence of ominous low clouds surely meant that today's match against Granta would meet the same fate. But nobody reckoned on the superhuman efforts of Dave Norman who, as far as can be gathered, spent the entire day either protecting the square from the elements or answering the endless stream of phonecalls enquiring as to the status of the match. Somehow we did get a game in, and even had Dave as our ringer against his own club (themselves enhanced by a few first- and second-team players); that he wasn't going to get just reward for his extrordinary efforts became clear only in the final moments of the evening.
At the behest of the Granta captain we headed out to field and also played our first ``twenty sixes'' game of the year. Even though there were a number of suspiciously skillful batsmen in the opposition line-up, we dominated the early part of the match. Stas Shabala was the star, taking 3/16 (even if two off them were from full-bungers), and also scoring a run out with in a perfect return (even though he didn't realise the batsmen were actually going for a run). Dave Norman also had a pretty good time behind the stumps, taking two catches, making a stumping off a wide (trivia questions ahoy!) and completing Stas's run out.
There was a fantastic feeling in the field -- what greater pleasure can the, er, occasional cricketer have than watching more skilled opponents struggling at the hands of their somewhat dibbly-dobbly bowling? And Granta really were struggling: at 44/3 after 10 overs and 83/5 after 16 they were in danger of not even making triple figures. To be fair, the pitch was decidedly tricky; but you still have to put the ball in the right spot, and that's just what Stas, Chris McNeill (0/12 to go with a good catch), Andy Owen (0/14) and Daniel Mortlock (0/9) did. Arnie Garside (2/41) probably caused more trouble than anyone, every second shot seeming to be a top edge, until a final over blow-out mucked up his figures. And even after Granta had taken 42 runs off their last four overs we were still left with a target of barely more than a run a ball.
Rather annoyingly, it rapidly became clear that Granta had actually managed to post a competitive total in the conditions, their classy bowlers proving every bit as hard to get away as ours, but without dropping in as many four-balls. Dave Williams (54 off 53 balls, with 4 fours) and Nick Clarke (24 off 33 balls, with 1 four) set up a good platform for the chase, but they never quite managed to take control of the game. Then, after Nick was dismissed at the half-way mark, things fell apart: wickets fell about as fast as we could swap our communal pads while the required run rate climbed past eight an over. After our grand efforts in the field the match was slipping away: time to slap our trump card down on the table with a triumphant smirk.
Dave Norman was initially set to go in at seven, but found himself percolating up the batting order at about the same rate that Granta's bowlers were making their way through from the top down, eventually meeting the game mid-way. As he strode to the crease you could see his clubmates' hearts sink -- they knew that a few swipes of his heavy bat would be sufficient to win the match. Dave took guard, surveyed the field, and tapped his bat on the ground as the bowler ran in. Nerves pesumably shot at the prospect of bowling to a ex-county player, he sent down a rank long hop. Dave rocked back with the grace of a boxer dodging a jab and pulled the ball to midwicket . . . who promptly caught it.
At the other end, however, the other Dave was still there and scoring at about two runs a ball and probably would have been able to win the game single-handedly if Daniel Mortlock (10* off 13 balls) hadn't ended his charge with a classic ``yes-no-yes-sorry'' call. Even then we started the final over needing 15 to win, but neither Daniel and Arnie Garside (2* off 4 balls) could do much in the encroaching gloom, and we finished up a dozen runs short.
Well, at least we gave a strong side -- most of their significant contributions seemed to be from the second-team players -- a run for their money. (Not that we managed to collect any money from them, leaving Dave to play bailif as well as groundsman, wicket-keeper, barman, batsman, father, darts-player, . . .)