It would be nice to claim that Remnants have given Cambridge Granta a run for their money in the past . . . but that would be crap. Since first beginning hostilities ten years ago, we've managed just one tie and one win in a dozen completed fixtures (and six of our ten defeats have been by more than 35 runs or 4 wickets). In short, Granta's elevens have, by and large, been too strong for ours. That's no surprise, given that they're one of the largest and strongest clubs in Cambridge and could clearly field teams that would humiliate even the best Remnants side every time. But given also that Remnants would thump Granta's fifth team, which plays in the Junior 5 CCA league, the likely result of any Remnants vs. Granta game is probably largely determined by the mix of players they select (or are available). Back in the days that these fixtures were listed as being against "Cambridge Granta III" there was occasional grumbling when a match was dominated by an errant first-teamer (as in 2003), but it maybe makes more sense to think of the game as being against some selection of players from Cambridge's largest club, with the presence of any refugees from Cambridgeshire's top leagues being an opportunity to really test one's skills. Certainly that was the case today, as we came up against a side that included several seconds players and one young ex-Granta regular, Jonny Atkinson, who'd scored his first century in the East Anglia Premier League on the weekend.
Having lost the toss and been asked to field in the baking heat (well 26 C heat, according to the Cambridge Weather site), we seemed to be pretty decisively out-gunned as the two seconds batsmen smashed our bowling to all corners of Clare College's huge ground. After 13 (six-ball) overs Granta were 100/2 and a monster total appeared to be in the offing, especially given that we'd been trying out all our available bowling combinations without notable success . . .
. . . except maybe there was a flicker of hope thanks to the well-pitched seamers of Simon McAdam (1/28) and the loopy, if somewhat erratic, leg-spinners of Matt Hughes (1/29). Indeed, Matt could have had several wickets, but for our inability to take out-field catches, and so when Quentin Harmer took a nice running catch closer in, his reaction (some serious fist-pumping) was entirely understandable. Our comeback was then consolidated by George Speller and Daniel Mortlock (both 1/22), who restricted the new Granta batsmen (one of whom was the aforementioned Mr Atkinson, who lasted only a dozen balls today) to just 21 runs from the last four overs of their innings. In the final over one of the Granta batsman insisted on playing straight-bat defensive shots and then calling "Wait!"; and, when reminded by his partner that there were only a few balls to go, indignantly replied "Well I'm not going to get myself out now!" Needless to say the final ball of the innings was calmly blocked back down the pitch and Granta finished on "just" 148/4 - whilst it was clearly a good total, they could have scored maybe a dozen more if they'd all put the team cause ahead of personal averages (or whatever else was the motivating factor for this conservative late-innings batting). By contrast, we could easily have conceded a dozen more runs if we hadn't chased tirelessly in the late-afternoon heat: John Moore, Richard Rex, John Richer, Chris McNeill and George spent almost the entire innings cutting off would-be fours on the boundary without complaining or letting their guard down, and as a result we were still in the match.
Still, for all this good work, we could hardly be said to be winning - even on the batsman's paradise of Clare it was going to take quite some work to score at more than 7 an over for the entire innings. Form batsmen John Richer (27 off 32 balls) led the way with some fine cuts and drives, the highlight of which was when, frustrated by some of the fielders' near-continuous chatter, he took a few steps down the track and blasted the ball back over the opening bowler's head. But Granta predictably reeled things in over the next few overs as John found scoring harder and harder and Richard Rex (9 off 25 balls) struggled to rotate the strike. With the score at 55/2 off 10 overs we needed 94 runs from 60 balls, and the match was slipping away from us, especially when John was then dismissed.
But this brought George Speller to the crease, and his mood was instantly revealed when he smashed his first two balls to the boundary with such powerful shots that some of the more impressionable Granta players insisted on examining his bat, possibly as a potential future purchase. If George could keep this up we'd be a good chance, provided only that we could supply him with partners to knock singles (and maybe even strike a few telling blows of their own). Plausible candidates for the job were experienced finishers Andy Owen and Daniel Mortlock, but they lasted just four balls between them, Andy getting caught in front and Daniel getting involved in the worst running mix-up we've seen all year. Aside from anything else, Daniel and George's farcical series of uncertain calls and mid-pitch U-turns once again demonstrated the mantra that there's almost always a single whenever you hit the ball. More importantly, though, George did finally get some more useful support from John Moore (8 off 6 balls), Simon McAdam (6 off 7 balls), Chris McNeill (2 off 6 balls) and Quentin Harmer (2* off 3 balls). Even though nobody stayed around for too long, the main thing was that we never lost momentum as everyone went for their shots and played "tip and run" otherwise.
With 3 overs to go we needed 30 runs and the match was pretty evenly poised (which was already a nice shock to some of the more confident Granta players, who were starting to bicker about who to blame for the increasing number of overthrows and misfields). But they kept us to 16 runs from the next two overs, meaning we needed 14 from the last six balls. A couple of huge cow corner mows from George followed: the first was almost brilliantly caught and kept to two by the boundary fielder; the second sailed over his head and onto the nearby tennis courts. We really were winning now, a fact which might have induced the big leg-side wide that followed. That allowed a surprisingly relaxed finish, with George knocking a gentle single from the penultimate delivery to take him to a match-winning 65* (off just 37 balls) and us to a fabulous victory.
Not only had we beaten Granta for just the second time ever, but we'd also pulled off our third successful 140+ chase of the year (following similarly satisfying efforts against St Barnabas and The Technology Partnership). To put that in perspective, Remnants have been faced with 140+ targets in 20-over matches 58 times in its history, but we've only chased successfully on 12 of those occasions. The apparently anomalous number of big chases this year can probably be explained in part by overall trend that scores have been steadily increasing over the years; but it should hopefully bolster our confidence next time we face such a stiff target.
It all called for a nice cold drink, of which there were plenty in the Clare/Granta pavilion, even if it wasn't entirely clear the fridge was the best place to store bottles of Old Speckled Hen . . .