Remnants vs. The Woozlers

Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Fitzwilliam College

The Woozlers (160/5 in 20 6-ball overs)
Remnants (128/6 in 20 6-ball overs)
by 32 runs.

This evening saw Remnants with its first ever quasi-return fixture. It would have been just a standard return game if our May game against The Woozlers hadn't been rained off, but that left the unusual Remsey Town vs. Woozlers Sunday game as the only time we'd come up against them this year. We struggled for most of the match before centurion John Gull, along with Joe White and Andy Owen, led the most stirring of fightbaks, as we/they eventually went down by four tantalising runs. With both Joe and Andy in the team today the scene was set for quasi-revenge, although maybe moreso if we'd gotten to bat first rather than having to bowl in the late afternoon heat.

John Richer (at point) and Ev Fox ('keeping) hoping that Woozler Ryn Bridger will miss one.

Heading into the field against an old rival it's always interesting to see who they'll send out to open the batting, and today we had the familiar figure of Ryan Bridger at one end, partnered by a curly-haired mystery man . . . who soon revealed himself to be a decidedly decent bat and, it transpired, a one-time Cambridge University seconds player. With such hindsight it was thus no surprise that The Woozlers got off to a healthy start, although in the end they were pegged back by Joe White (0/31), Daniel Mortlock (2/18), and the fact that they'd decided to send in an eleven-year-old boy as their number three. To come clean, Edward Hyde (son of Woozlers supremo Anthony) is a county juniors player who essayed quite an array of disturbingly proper cricket shots; but the fact that he weighs about half as much as all the other players [insert fat joke here - ed.] meant that the ball never went very far. That is, until he finally got hold of a wayward leg-side ball and made an easy two . . . which Ryan, running to the danger end, decided to turn into a three. He made it home, but Edward was left stranded, leaving Ryan with the unenviable role of ``nasty adult player who runs out kids''. There was some suggestion that we were the villains of the piece for completing the run out, but if you're going to expect sympathetic fielding on the grounds of limited leg-speed then the corollary is that you shouldn't push for extra runs, in much the same way that one shouldn't ask for gentle bowling to a junior only for the friendly deliveries to be smashed to the boundary.

Woozler Ryan Bridger gets onto the front foot and sends the ball into the neighbouring gardens while, from left, John Richer (at point), Geoff Hales (umpiring), Joe White (in his follow through), the non-striker, ??? (at gully) and Ev Fox ('keeping) can only look on.

At this stage The Woozlers were only going at about a run a ball, and a manageable total was on the cards if we could get rid of Ryan . . . but we couldn't, and he made use of any imperfections in length or line to launch a seemingly endless series of boundaries. We did drop him a couple of times in the outfield, but otherwise he appeared to be in complete control, and his only real error was surrendering the strike in the final over to strand himself on 92* (off just 66 balls). All of which might appear to indicate a one-man show, but Ryan's partners (and extras) scored 68 between them as well, primarily because all the batsmen were brilliant between the wickets, backing up far enough that there was a single on any hit and, like The Computer Lab two nights ago, always getting two to an outfielder. This approach does involve some element of risk, of course, and aside from Edward's run out above there was another which resulted from an exquisite piece of fielding by Colin Anderson, who dived full-length to stop a hard-hit ball at mid-wicket and then calmly lobbed it to the bowler to complete the dismissal. There were some other good efforts in the field, with Joe White and John Richer making some good stops close in and both Deepak Gajjala (as distinct from ``Deepak Gaffala'' and ``Deepak Gaffari'' previously mentioned in dispatches) and Oliver Rex tireless in the outer. Our bowling, however, was rather impotent -- other than Daniel the only bowler to not concede more than a run a ball was Tom Serby (1/12) who took the pace of the ball to great effect. The overall impression was that if we'd bowled slowly but accurately all innings we wouldn't have been facing a total of 160/5, which was comfortably the most we'd conceded in 20 overs all year.

Our pursuit of this fantasy target never really got going -- Ev Fox (40 off 40 balls), John Richer (14 off 14 balls) and Andy Owen (17 off 25 balls) all played the perfect support innings for such a situation, but of course there was no rampant batsman to support. In large part this was because The Woozlers employed the bowling strategy we maybe should have, based on being slow and straight, rather than medium-paced but a bit wayward. Almost every ball seemed to pitch in-line and, with the possibility that it would keep low and hit the stumps in the batsmen's minds, that meant an innings of rather careful strokes, rather than the free-hitting that's possible when you know there's no danger if you miss the ball. At 51/3 after 9 (six-ball) overs we were only 5 runs behind The Woozlers at the same stage, but from there the progress totals diverged alarmingly. By the time Daniel Mortlock (18* off 17 balls) and Joe White (20* off 10 balls) came together, a victory would have required boundaries from most of the remaining deliveries. Needless to say that didn't happen, although both Daniel and Joe managed the cricketing equivalent of a ``spite check'' in chess when they offered up out-field chances that were not only dropped, but induced finger injuries in with the bargain.

The sun sets on the Remnants chase. From left: John Richer (who doesn't seem too perturbed by this); Colin Anderson (sick of the papparazi); a small part of Bryan Lea; Joe White's mum (sitting in the brown top) and twelfth man Jon Steele.

So that was that: a 32-run hammering at the hands of The Woozlers when it seemed we might finally be in with a chance of ending a week undefeated. Although of course maybe that was the problem: in this season of ``win one, lose one'' weeks how could we possibly hope of victory today after already winning on Monday? Indeed it's even possible that The Woozlers had Googled us before the match and had arrived supremely confident that the fates would see them through so as to ensure that Remnants would lose. Maybe that is stretching things a little, but the facts are that seven of the eight weeks in which we've played two games have ended this way (and the other one would have if we'd scampered a single off the final ball against Granta). All of which makes next week particularly intriguing: our Wednesday match-up against George Speller's Pretty Boys is standard enough, but before that we come up against, well, us, in the annual Remnants vs. Remnants fixture. So how will the god of patterns find a way to deal with this? The obvious, if depressing, answer is: rain.