This evening we had a taste of what cricket might be like after the apocalypse. For the first time all year Remnants left the cosy confines of Cambridge and headed out to Girton College, where most of us spent a good ten minutes trying to access the ground itself. What greeted us was a scene of desolation, with a hot, dusty wind whipping across a desert of yellow grass, at the centre of which a pitch could just be made out. To add to the sense of loneliness there were only three members of each team present at 5:50pm, the sort of situation that usually signifies some sort of stuff-up in terms of date or venue (or that everyone else had been vaporized in a atomic fireball). But suddenly another half-dozen Remnants arrived en masse and so we headed off to change in the expectation that we'd field. Having found our way to the dressing room - well, dressing shack, really - a casual conversation with one of the Tektronix players revealed that he'd never played cricket before, and that we "shouldn't expect much" from his team-mates. That impression was reinforced by the fact that several of the opposition players (most of whom had now arrived, facillitating a toss, which we won, electing to bat) were in shorts or tracksuit bottoms.
The generally anarchic feel got even stronger once play (finally) began. The wind was now so strong that the bails kept blowing off one set of stumps, and the distant straight boundary had to be shortened to avoid players having to stand in what looked like a furrowed field. The Tektronix opening bowler (a big, blond bloke who had been rather implausibly announced to the scorers as "Jamal") was one of the shorts-wearers, and so openers Nick Clarke and John Young presumably expected to be greeted with a few dibbly-dobblies or long-hops . . . but instead he bowled with serious pace, swung the ball a mile, and got absolutely incredible bounce out of the pitch. His best balls were absolutely unplayable, and the batsmen played and missed those with the same sense of hopelessness that England used to play Curtly Ambrose in the West Indies. The difference, of course, was that there were also plenty of bad balls, and some of the good balls leapt off the pitch so fast that we got byes off them as well. (It was at about this point that some Japanese tourists came by and asked tentatively, "Is this cricket?" The answer they got: "Sort of.") With John Young (12 off 11 balls) and Nick Clarke (compulsorily and unhappily retired for 33* off 34 balls) hitting some runs of their own, we were scoring at a healthy 7 per (six-ball) over.
We lost a few wickets in the middle of the innings, but then Tom Serby (12 off 11 balls), Oliver Rex (30* off 25 balls) and Keith Turner (28 off 24 balls, with a runner as he'd done his Achilles tendon) combined to ensure we were going to have a 150+ total to defend. Of particular note was the excellent running, with all the batsmen (well, not the virtually immobile Keith) looking to steal runs whenever they could, and several times we got a second run with the ball in the unalert fielder's hands. With a big score on the board, our only real problem was time: it had taken Tektronix about 100 minutes to bowl their overs, in large part due to the 29 wides that had to be rebowled (suggesting that maybe we should have gone with their "two runs but no extra ball" rule). Even worse, the bright sunshine had now been replaced by dark clouds, and the sharp temperature drop had everyone thinking about winter (possibly nuclear) for the first time in weeks.
The second innings finally began at about 7:50pm, and we set about both restricting the Tektronix batsmen and getting through our overs as fast as possible. The conditions demanded we use our bowlers in pace order, bowling our "quickies" while it was still light enough to see them. We thus started with Olly Rex (1/17), Daniel Mortlock (0/5) and Simon McAdam (0/25), with Olly in particular troubling the Tektronix top oder. With his shock of black hair (as distinct from the traditional Remnants grey) and his slingy left-arm action, he had something of the Mitchell Johnson about him - so it's presumably only a matter of time before he too acquires the affections of a national karate champion and ex-model. But as well as our openers bowled, we weren't getting through the Tektronix batsmen, with just the one wicket (and a retirement) in the first 10 overs.
That all changed when we slowed things down a bit, as both Ferdi Rex (3/23) and Tom Jordan (3/14) quickly got into the rather long Tektronix tail. Both bowled well, obviously, but maybe even more pleasing was the way the rest of the team backed them up. This included each of them responding to Daniel's requests for particular deliveries that, in both cases, yielded immediate wickets and, more importantly, some great fielding. Russell Woolf (twice), Daniel and Simon all clung onto skiers; 'keeper Tom Serby snaffled a leg-side edge; and Tom Jordan, Richard Rex and John Young were all energetic around the boundaries (although Tom did find himself on the "naughty step" at one point when an unnecessary ping at the stumps resulted in an overthrow and the loss of vital seconds of daylight). The good out-fielding should have yielded a couple of run outs, but we kept mucking up our chances closer in: John responded to repated shouts of "Keeper! Keeper!" by lobbing the ball gently to the bowler; Daniel intercepted a good long throw and then missed the stumps with a gentle roll when he could have wandered up to lesuirely remove a bail with the batsman still yards short; and then Tom Serby, with the ball safely in his gloves, failed to heed Nick's increasingly manic screams to run out an injured batsman who, whilst his runner was safe, was wandering around aimlessly a few yards out of his ground.
Not that such details mattered, as it was obvious that Tektronix weren't going to get close to our total, and it was also clear that we had sufficient slow-bowling resources that there'd be no appeals against the light. Russell Woolf (1/11) got to apply the coup de gras, although we all stood around after the last wicket expecting the retired opener to come back in. But it turned out he'd gone home early - who could blame him for escaping back to civilisation as quickly as possible? And that was what the rest of both teams did as well - hopefully the bar will be open for a post-match drink after the return fixture at Fitz in a few weeks' time.