Report by Daniel Mortlock:
What a shambles.
On a grim, dark, windy, wet day -- on which nobody thought there'd be any cricket at all -- it's no surprise that Remnants and UCLES didn't play out the most fabulous of matches, but what transpired wasn't far above farce for the most part.
Even before a ball was bowled it was discovered that we'd run out of new ones, although luckily UCLES was able to help us out there. They also, if understandably more reluctantly, agreed to let us bat first (on the grounds that only about half our eleven were present ten minutes before the start time), thus condemning themselves to chase in the dark. With the clouds low and thick over the ground, Dave Green wisely suggested that the game be reduced to 13 or 14 eight-ball overs; but this notion was rejected, and so the match finally reached its conclusion in conditions best (and previously) decribed as "silly".
Which, actually, most of the rest of the game was too, right from the first ball which John Moore "bottled" (his words) as he ended up almost treading on his stumps while facing fine-leg. After that Nick Clarke (20 off 22 balls), John Richer (7 off 18 balls before being bowled by the ball of the day), John Gull (13 off 10 balls) and Joe White (31 off 36 balls) kept the score ticking over at a fair clip, but most of the interest lay in the steadily mounting pile of extras (which top-scored in the end).
The root cause of this was that the UCLES bowling attack was highly erratic, being as likely to produce a deadly beamer as a superb leg-cutter on off-stump, or apt to deliver an exquisite leg-spinner from way outside the return crease. This shouldn't have been too big a deal, but our umpiring was a bit unreliable as well, with plenty of confusion about what constituted a no ball (or a wide) and also about which umpire should do the calling, and there was a certain amount of disgruntlement in the UCLES camp as the "no ball" calls were made on a somewhat ad hoc basis. So, at the risk of repetition, here are some direct quotes from the Laws Of Cricket:
Maddeningly, those last few are a bit ambiguous, not explicitly stating the clear intention that "no ball" be called, and also requiring a subjective decision about the speed of the bowler. Neither do they explicitly mention which umpire it is that should do the calling - free beer to anyone who can find an explicit reference to the silly ruling that the umpire at the non-striker's end has to make these calls (but can ask his counterpart at square-leg for confirmation). At any rate, most of the difficulties today could probably have been avoided if everybody on the field knew the rules of the game they were playing.
Meanwhile, we were still scoring steadily, with Stas Shabala (5 off 11 balls, with some superb running between the wickets) and Dave Green (4* off 1 ball) now supporting Joe. As were the fielders - fresh from being dropped five or six times on his way to 80* in the internal game the other week, Joe twice hit the ball straight to square-leg, only for it to pop out of the assured-looking fielder's hands. He was caught in the end, but it took a superb running effort by John "Judas" Richer, who excelled himself while fielding for the opposition.
Joe, as noted last week, is one step closer to becoming the first Remnant ever to top both the batting and the bowling averages. Having been alerted to this possibility, Joe has apparently devised a subtle strategy to maximize his chances, and he arrived at the ground today claiming to have "strained his side". This meant he was "unable" to bowl, thus resting on his single-figure bowling average while his competitors got carted around the park, with the result that he returned to the top of the table without even marking out his run-up. It also meant that he was more likely to get promoted up the order, and he duly took the opportunity to have the proper sort of innings so often denied him, finally qualifyied for the batting averages when John completed that catch. The final part of Joe's plan was a dastardly fielding scheme in which, despite playing comfortably the highest standard cricket of any regular Remnant, he'd just happen to "misfield" rolling balls and "drop" sitters from his competitors' bowling.
Not that this last finesse seemed necessary when we finally headed out in the field, as our attack, which has been so tight and disciplined all year, served up an anomalous smorgasbord of leg-side full-tosses and half-trackers. The UCLES top-order lapped up the buffet bowling, cutting and pulling their way to 66/1 after 7 overs, and it seemed they were going to take their side to victory well before the light became a serious issue. The best we could do was chase the ball tirelessly 'round the outfield, and John Richer (not that he took any spectacular diving catches for us), Richard Rex, Dave Green and Stas Shabala were all superb in this capacity, cutting off enough would-be boundaries to at least keep the match alive. Closer in things weren't quite working so well, with the batsmen stealing singles that should never have been there while we only managed a succession of wild throws at the wickets (which were, of course unattended). The nadir came when 'keeper John Gull, having just been told not to have take a pointless ping at the stumps, instead threw the ball to the captain, hitting him square in the side of the neck while he was distracted by the task of herding still more fielders over to the leg-side.
From there, though, things could only get better, and we finally found a bowling combination that the batsmen didn't like. Alec Armstrong (1/16) and Stas Shabala (2/17) warmed up by delivering the first tight overs of the innings, and then turned the game with three wickets in five balls. Whereas the UCLES openers had been trundling along without a care in the world, their lower order suddenly found themselves faced with task of scoring at more than a run a ball in dark and slippery conditions, and it was simply too hard a task as Daniel Mortlock (2/15, including a cool reaction catch a few inches off the ground) and Julian Chilvers (4/22) mopped up the tail. The complete change in our fortunes was epitomised by Julian who, having drifted down the leg-side in a first over that cost a dozen runs, came back on to bowl superbly at the death, taking 4/10 in eleven rather eventful deliveries. By the time Julian was delivering his (and the game's) final over, both the batsmen and the fielders were struggling to see the ball, and it was hence a most impressive effort of UCLES's last man to have smacked a big drive in the direction of long-off. Alec Armstrong was waiting there in the deep, but at first he didn't even seem to be watching -- and even when he'd been alerted to the impending arrival of half a pound of leather he clearly couldn't locate the ball in the gloom. A disastrous impact seemed to be on the cards until, at the last moment, he obtained "missile lock" and took the cleanest of catches to complete the most tarnished of victories.
The refuge of the bar was about as welcome as it's ever been and, with most of the UCLES staying on 'til about 10pm, they hopefully got sufficiently drunk that the evening will be reduced to the fuzziest of memories by they time next head over to Fitz some time in 2008.