Remnants vs. Cambridge Granta

Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Clare College

Cambridge Granta (145/5 in 20 6-ball overs)
Remnants (145/8 in 20 6-ball overs)

A rare away match for Remnants (only our second this year, and the first more than a kilometre from Fitz) meant the inevitable: several players arriving late because they'd gone to our home ground to ``just to check Dave Norman wasn't lonely'' or ``to stand watch over the pitch''. The minor tardiness of a few Remnants was the least of our worries, however, as only one or two Granta players were in attendance at match time, and they were bearers of the bad news that ``we've only got seven 'cos we had three people drop out in the last ten minutes''. So it seemed Cambridge's largest cricket club wasn't even going to be able to field a team, and we'd be left with a pointless semi-internal nine vs. nine yawn-fest. The prospect was unenticing, to say the least, although in the end they managed to recruit two more players and, come 6:30pm, a Remnants XI took on a Granta IX.

Granta's opening batsmen initially made good use of our numerous full-tosses we served up, but neither lasted long, John Moore (2/19) removing both of them as Daniel Mortlock and Andrew Lea took neat catches. Tom Jordan (0/19) continued the good work, bowling the most economical spell of the innings, although it was also the unluckiest. When Granta's top-scorer charged four yards down the track, missed the ball as it turned past his bat, and didn't even bother trying to remake his ground, there was just no way that Tom could end up with figures of none-for anything. And yet he did as 'keeper Andy Owen, in his eagerness, took the ball in before it had passed the wicket, thus invalidating the stumping . . . although even then the dismissal would undoubtedly have stood were it not for the presence of an unusually observant and knowledgeable umpire at square-leg. For his part, Andy at least seemed to have learned his lesson as he completed a legal stumping off Daniel Mortlock (3/22) a bit later in the innings.

And while it was all well and good getting a few more wickets, the real problem was that Daniel and Tom were the only bowlers to concede less than a run a ball. The rest of the attack struggled with both line and length; and, even more fatally, we were beyond lacklustre in the field. There were very few dives to stop anything not immediately within reach, the tentatively out-stretched foot being the preferred method; and when the ball did pass the fielder most chases seemed to be in slow motion -- which at least was better than the way in which boundary fielders seemed content to wait to for the ball to come to them, rather than coming in to meet the ball, thus donating Granta several needless second runs. In short there seemed to be no sense of desperation, none of that feeling of really trying to put in for the team's benefit. If we had, then Granta's eventual total of 145/5 could have been 10 or 20 less than that, and a quick glance at this year's results is enough to see that this is often the difference between winning and losing.

Still, given their polite refusal of our offer of substitute fielders, there were always going to be gaps in Granta's nine men field-placings, and the early indications were that the bowling was going to be tight at best. With so many twos and threes on offer even for defensive shots, it's no surprise that we were able to keep well ahead of the required run rate, although we also managed to gift Granta enough soft dismissals to keep them interested. Aside from Andrew Lea, who played with infinite sensibility in blocking the straight ones and smashing everything else, only captain Andy Owen (11 off 12 balls) even made it into double figures. And yet somehow it didn't matter -- at 113/4 in the 14th over, and with Andrew now well past his half-century (not that we noticed 'til he was about 65), a win seemed to be a formality. The key thing was that we now needed less than a run a ball, and all it required was sensible batting from here on in.

Unfortunately that's not quite what we got -- a tiring Andrew went down a gear and new batsman Paul Jordan (9 off 18 balls) never even made it out of neutral. The lack of hunger that had afflicted us in the field hit again, with conservative running the greatest crime of all: with wickets in hand there was nothing to lose by going for risky runs -- and there's never anything to lose by putting a bit of pressure on sweaty-palmed fielders in such tense situations. Lest there be any doubt about how badly things were going wrong, even the normally staid Sally Hales was starting to barrack with increasing fervour, and she responded to yet another call of "Wait!" with a bellowed "Yes, but what for?!?" Geoff, for his part, just ground his teeth, although he was moved to ask Sal if she'd "been drinking at lunch". Some more dot balls and a couple of quick wickets left us needing 6 runs from the final 4 balls of the match, and we really were losing for the first time all day. Daniel Mortlock hit 5 off the first 3 of these balls to get us to a tie, thus leaving us in exactly the same position that Granta found themselves in last time we played them at Clare. Back then they scampered the winning bye off the last ball, but today we couldn't quite manage it, Andrew and Daniel both ending up stranded mid-pitch as they forlornly attempted a hopeless leg-bye.

Overall a tie was probably a fair result from what was, given the inauspicious start, a surprisingly enjoyable game. And there was even the hint of intrigue at the end, with Daniel's and Andrew's seasonal batting averages an amazing 177.00 and 134.00 (respectively) before that final ball, and so it's just possible that the eventual batting award might have been decided by the fact that Daniel ended up just a few feet closer to the wicket at the moment it was broken. Still it's hard to see Andrew's fabulous should-have-been-match-winning knock of 83* off 59 balls being topped this season, just as Les Collings's spell of 5/27 yesterday (which took him to the top of the bowling averages with 8 wickets at 7.88) will most likely remain the year's best bowling figures. But the really salient statistical point is that we ended our week having all but matched our opponents with 283 runs to their 288 runs, and yet came away with just one maddening tie to show for our efforts.