Breaking news: the famous East Anglia university town of Cambridge is abuzz with rumours of a vicious Shark attack on the evening of Wednesday, July 22. We are getting garbled reports of a brutal massacre at the Fitzwilliam College playing fields on Oxford Road, to the north-west of the famous town centre. Several victims, all members of Remnants Cricket Club, have provided eye-witness reports of the events, and it has been possible to piece together a picture of the horrid events of the evening.
On what seemed an ordinary weekday evening, it appeared that all would be well initially, with the Remnants top order of Faruk Kara (8), Nick Clarke (48) and Dave Williams (69) "scoring exclusively in boundaries", according to Geoff Hales, 61, of Romsey Town. The quality of Clarke's and Williams's innings was also independently verified by the results of a post-season poll amongst the Sharks players for the best innings played against them this year:
The first hints of the violence to follow arrived when, according to Dave Williams, 53, of Newnham, "a thumping straight drive from Nick [...] bashed me in my groin". A little later Nick himself was the victim of an injury when, in the words of Churchill College fellow Dave Green, 53, he "pulled his back upper thigh (i.e., lower bum)" and "had a runner (Quentin Harmer) for the latter part of his innings". This resulted in some "comical calling but no run outs", according to Mr Williams, who by this stage was dominating the scoring, taking 6 6 4 . . 6 from what he described as the "ante-penultimate over" of the opposition's off-break bowler. By this stage Dave was accompanied by Oliver Rex (23), and together they took Remnants to the seemingly safe score of 161/4, although Dave noted that the total would have been even higher but for "tigerish fielding from the Sharks [which] stopped many a hard-hit shot from getting full value". Still, the bouyant mood of the Remnants players at this point was summed up by Histon resident Les Collings, 17, who thought that this total meant "in a 20 over thrash [we were] sorted". And the figures back him up: in three decades of evening cricket the smallest total Remnants has ever failed to defend was 157/3 against The Computer Laboratory back in 2004.
Any notions of a big victory were quickly dispelled as the Sharks' batsmen began scoring freely from our opening attack, as Oliver Rex (0/21) and Les Collings (0/19) both conceded more than a run a ball. This shouldn't have been fatal, given the required rate of 8 runs an over, but clearly the Sharks smelled blood, and what Les described as a "feeding frenzy" ensued. Dr Hales lamented that "there was at least one full-toss and one half-tracker every over" and Dave Williams concurred that we fed them a "diet of medium-slow long-hops [and] full tosses [which were] carved at will through the gaps". Other than the Remnants opening bowlers, only John Moore (0/27) went for less than 9 an over as he "bowled with good control off his re-modelled run up, including two of his 'mystery' wrist-spun leg breaks that bamboozled the batsmen already well set". The cricketing massacre was reflected on the field as well - not only was Nick struggling with his leg, but Dave Green went down with what he described as a similar "back upper thigh" injury too, after which "Andy Owen subed for me, in [a] tasteful blue shirt, jeans, and brown boots". Our best chance came when one of the Sharks' openers came down the track and 'keeper Rob Harvey "took the ball cleanly, swiped the stumps [...] only to [...] miss, and having passed the stumps, by the time he went back to try again, the batsman had easily made his ground." Other than that about the only moment of hope was when "Olly [Rex] nearly took a stunner of a catch at backward point, diving to his right and at full stretch getting a hand on the ball about six inches off the deck . . . but it didn't stick".
To Prof Green it seemed likely that "despite our good score, it would be a 10 wicket defeat" but Remnants did finally get a couple of consolation wickets when "John Moore took a juggled catch in the deep" and then "the new batsman was bowled first ball he faced". Faruk Kara and Martin Law (both 1/18) were the successful bowlers, but really it was the two Sharks openers who owned this game. According to the Sharks' match report they both broke the young club's record for the highest innings, Tony Barber (72 of 56 balls) breaking the old mark before getting out, only to see his partner Clive Sandhurst (74* off 48 balls) pass him a few balls later. Needless to say their 156-run opening partnership was a club record as well (and only just below the Remnants record). In the end Remnants were probably lucky to be beaten with just the 8 wickets and 12 balls remaining, The Sharks completing the biggest ever chase against us with ridiculous ease.
The dominance of the Sharks' openers left both teams pondering whether their preferred "retire at 25" policy would have been worth considering, an idea that was marinated in the jugs of medicinal alcohol being used to treat the wounded. Maybe more important than the cricket itself was that, according to Mr Collings, the match was "played, from the start, in the best spirit I've seen for some time [...] hands were shaken, backs [were] slapped, and [the] jokes weren't all directed at my fielding for a change." However those readers who miss that particular vein of humour are referred to the Little Paxton game.
The evening's events have also fuelled a variety of conspiracy theories, the most intriguing being that the results of any Remnants game in which Dave Williams is playing is determined by his personal score. Daniel Mortlock, 36, an astrophysicist at Imperial College London, has noticed that Remnants win if Dave makes a low score but lose if he makes more than 40. The evidence, if not compelling, is certainly intriguing: he failed to pass 40 in his first five innings of the year as Remnants tied with Rosmey Town and then beat The Cavendish Laboratory, Fen Ditton, Churchill College and Coton; since then he's passed 40 every time he's gone into bat, the result being losses against Fen Ditton, FAS, John Hill's XI and the Sharks today. So the key to a Remnants victory would appear to be getting Dave out cheaply, possibly by judicious use of a "yes, no, sorry" calling strategy, forced retirement or, failing that, instant triggering the moment the ball hits his pads.