This evening Remnants and The Computer Lab played out yet another memorably dramatic encounter to continue the rivalry that began in 1980. However it was revealed after the match that it might also have been the last between the two clubs, as The Computer Laboratory CC might not continue beyond the end of this season. Hopefully that doesn't come to pass - but if it did, then bragging rights for all eternity would hung on the result of today's game.
Whatever the future holds, it was certainly a sufficiently eventful match, with dropped catches, huge boundaries, arguments about LBWs and disputed no ball calls - and that's all in the first over. The latter two points are worth clarifying for future reference: the only mention of the ball pitching outside the off-stump in Law 36.1 is that "the striker is out LBW if . . . (b) the ball . . . pitches in line between wicket and wicket or on the off side of the striker's wicket"; and, regarding front-foot no balls, Law 24.5 states that "for a delivery to be fair in respect of the feet, in the delivery stride . . . (ii) the bowler's front foot must land with some part of the foot, whether grounded or raised, behind the popping crease." The latter caused the most trouble, with the bowler, a fielder and both batsmen offering the umpires their contrasting opinions; but, fortunately, it was the cricketing battle that was more significant. And the first over boundary was the most significant of all, as it was a glorious straight drive by Stuart Cronin, who, back when he was known to us only as "Stuart ???", maimed our bowling in the previous Computer Lab game this year, and was now fresh off a century at the weekend. Combined with the fact that serial Remnants thrasher Martyn Livett was at the other end, we were likely to be chasing leather until such time as we could engineer a breakthrough.
Unfortunately Martyn and Stuart both seemed pretty comfortable with the bowling, and so when a full toss was hit straight to Chris McNeill at short mid-wicket even a simple dot ball was a welcome relief. Except Chris's return was a bit over-enthusiastic, and captain/'keeper Ev Fox then found himself having to chase the rebound as the non-striker called his partner through for an overthrow. But then Ev gathered the ball, turned on the spot and hurled the ball at the stumps with Stuart still short of his ground. I suspect if we made Ev (or anyone else) repeat this drill they'd be able to hit the stumps maybe one time in twenty, so the odds were very much in the batsman's favour . . . but the ball bounced kindly, nicked a bail, and we had the wicket we so desperately needed. The cliche that "one wicket brings another" then came into play as the new batsman popped the easiest of return catches to Daniel Mortlock (1/8), and the game had completely changed complexion in just a few minutes.
Which, ironically, was how long the number four batsmen took to get to the wicket - it was tempting to appeal for "timed out" just to ensure a question in the end-of-year quiz, but of course that would have ended Remnants vs. Computer Lab games there and then, and one suspects that Geoff, even if he would have quite liked to have such an unusual dismissal on his umpiring CV, wouldn't quite have approved. Either way the game continued into a new and most interesting phase as we slowed things down with the most unusual choice of first change bowler in Dave Williams. Dave (2/19), despite not having bowled a single ball this season, did brilliantly, inducing Martyn to play several risky aerial shots before finally bowling him with a big-spinning leg-break. From here on it felt like Remnants was dominating, although the facts were not so clear-cut, as The Computer Lab continued to score at more than a run a ball by taking singles even if the ball was hit straight to a fielder and always getting one on the arm if the ball was hit into the gaps. Maybe the fielders were too deep; maybe the batsmen were weighting their shots well; maybe the huge outfield was just too big to cover. Whatever, we couldn't stem the flow of runs, and so it was critical that we kept taking wickets, which both Chris McNeill (1/25) and Julian Chilvers (1/13) did rather well. But the real body-blow was dealt by Les Collings who, despite sending down a few balls several feet outside leg-stump, ended up with the most absurd figures of 3/1, included in which was a superb slips catch by a diving Matt Hughes. As a result The Computer Lab's innings finished with 20 balls still remaining, and we had a target of exactly 100 to chase.
Anything less than a run a ball should, in principle, be a doddle, but for the fact that plenty of previous games at Caius have seen similarly low totals defended, largely by The Computer Lab against us. And, sure enough, our top order got precisely nowhere: the first four batsmen scored just 18 (off 47 balls) between them, and we lurched from an unhealthy 8/2 off 5 (six-ball) overs to a surely terminal 27/4 off 11.
The Computer Lab's bowlers were all over us, and where their batsmen kept finding ways to get singles, we were forever calling "wait . . . no". It seemed our only plausible route to victory was to wait patiently for the epidemic of knee injuries to spread fully through the opposition ranks; but really we were 9 overs away from one of our most humiliating defeats ever - the idea of not even getting close to a target of 100 is just pathetic . . .
. . . and yet even in our horrible predicament a cool, rational consideration of the numbers revealed that the requirement was still eminently plausible: score 74 runs from 54 balls and the game was ours. With Nick Clarke and John Gull at the crease you'd almost bank on it . . . but instead it was the inexperienced Oliver Rex (who'd scored just 43 runs in 5 previous Remnants innings) and the out of practice Ev Fox (who's batted just twice since 2006) who were faced with the task of constructing a miracle win. Ev (23* from 24 balls) got going first, hitting a couple of nice boundaries to at least take us past our lowest ever score (34), and then Olly simply went on the rampage. Even though the fielders had worked out he wanted to hit everything to the leg-side, they were powerless to stop it, and he smacked a succession of huge boundaries (including the game's only six) as Remnants went from abject submission, to being rank outsiders, to being in the game, to actually being ahead in the blink of an eye. With three overs to go we only needed 14 to win, which would suggest just knocking ones and twos - but it hard to change gear so quickly, and Olly kept going for his big shots, which meant a few more dot balls than we'd have liked but sufficiently many fours to compensate. A two at the start of the final over tied the scores, and that left Olly with the task of completing his masterpiece, as he needed a boundary to go to his maiden Remants fifty. The bowler craftily tried a slower ball (which took so long to reach the batsman that one fielder had passed comment on it before it reached the batsmen) and Olly smacked it through mid-wicket . . . or, sadly, to mid-wicket, where the fielder held a good catch. Olly bowed his head and walked from the field to applause from fielders and team-mates alike, having all but won us a lost match with a superb innings of 46 off just 31 balls. That left Dave Green with the task of getting just a single run from four balls. If you think that's trivial, just ask Lance Kluesener, who couldn't manage it in the 1999 World Cup semi-final against Australia . . . but Dave succeeded where "Zulu" failed, pulling his first ball into a gap to finish the match.
And so thus ended one of the greatest come-from-behind victories in Remnants history, being every bit as implausible as Mortlock's miracle against Hart-McLeod in 2000, the Computer Lab drought-buster in 2005, the CB XI game in 2005 (in which Geoff hit the winning runs), the Owen stump-a-thon against Phil's Watsonians in 2006 and Gull's Girton game (also in 2006). If it was to be the final match between the two sides it was a pretty memorable way to go out, although maybe that's just from our point of view -- hopefully the desire for revenge might help induce The Computer Lab to play on for at least a few more years.