Report by Daniel Mortlock:
The most remarkable thing happened in Cambridge today: it didn't rain. Indeed, it was even gloriously sunny. Dave Norman threatened to send a text stating that "it was too hot to play", and while that wasn't true, the uncooperatively pleasant conditions did present a serious challenge: something else was going to have to see to it that today's game was cancelled. Most promising was that we were playing a new team tonight, The County Council, who were to be playing their first ever game - other newly-formed sides had found actually gathering together eleven players a lot harder than getting an expression of vague enthusiasm in the pub, and we'd previously lost fixtures to, most recently, Littlehey Prison. But against this was the fact that The County Council (itself, rather than its cricket team per se) is headed by Nick Clarke, and he surely knew that he'd never be able to show his face at a Remnants game again if he'd presided over a cancellation. In the end it was clear that we had no option: we were going to have play some cricket.
Tonight's game began as so many other Remnants games have, with Daniel Mortlock coming in off his mini-run; the difference this time was that, thanks to the horror run of early-season wash-outs, it had been some nine months since he'd last touched a cricket ball. Either dross or an instant injury were on the cards, but in the end he delivered a pleasingly solid, if unthreatening, "spell" (actually four separate overs) that yielded figures of 2/10, thanks in large part to an impressive running catch by Andy Bell off his final delivery.
Even though this was the only catch we took (and not through lack of chances), we actually put in a pretty good fielding effort, with Andy tireless in the big spaces at the northern end of the ground, Tom Serby and John Gull making some excellent stops, and Phil Hastings firing in some pin-point throws from in front of the club house. We also effected two run outs, both of which involved the fielders in question remaining calm as they lobbed the ball to the well-attended stumps. In one case it was Phil again, teaming up with bowler Andy Owen; the other was a bit more dramatic, when 'keeper Rob Harvey, having taking an unnecessarily fast return, then mounted a multi-part attack on the stumps, first breaking the wicket with his lower arms and then, motivated by uncertainty about the legitimacy of his initial assault, pulling a couple of the stumps out of the ground in an ultimately failed attempt to hold the ball up to one. By this stage the batsman had already made his ground, and a tragi-comic non-dismissal was on the cards until umpire Geoff Hales reassured him that it was okay to use any part of him below his shoulder (thus opening up the enticing possibility of some truly specatular run out attempts in future games in which Rob takes the gloves).
More important, maybe, was the reason for the run outs: the County Council batsmen were desperate to boost their score any way they could, with the traditional method of hitting boundaries proving ineffective due to a combination of largely excellent bowling (Andy Owen, 1/15; Joe White 1/17; Phil Hastings 1/11; Andy Bell 1/22; Faruk Kara 0/21) and the still understandably soft and slow pitch. After Phil got the crucial wicket of Nick Clarke we seldom felt under serious threat, and in the end it was only the superbly opportunistic succession of quick singles which even allowed The County Council to make it into triple figures.
And then, it was own rather less, er, enterprising approach to this same cricketing art that meant the game remained balanced on a knife edge for the next hour. The situation was summed up in microcosm in the first two balls of our innings, both of which deflected off the pads of Tom Serby (5) and into an invitingly large gap at square-leg; neither Tom nor John Young (8) acted decisively and so the opportunities for two potentially comfortable leg-byes went begging. Nor did things (well, this thing) improve when John Gull and Dave Williams (12) replaced our openers at the crease - as we ambled along at 5 an (six-ball) over, the dominant sound was the increasingly desperate baying from the pavilion to "run that one!" or to "push for two there!" mixed in with some classic "yes, no, wait, sorry"s from the middle.
With the asking rate now up around 6 an over (not trivial with the pitch so slow and the arrival of dusk) the most horrific possibility of all reared its head: a close loss to one of Nick's teams (even if he wasn't actually captaining). And when The County Council suddenly unearthed a very classy-looking medium pacer (Why hadn't he bowled earlier?) whose first ball was considerably too sharp for new batsman Daniel Mortlock (10*) . . .
. . . the ball leapt up off the pitch and hit Nick, performing 'keeping duties, smack on the nose. The result was a lot of blood, a change in personnel . . . and an even greater change in the feel of the game. A flurry of boundaries in the next over, followed by the previously immaculate bowler suddenly losing both his and his length, and suddenly John had hit the winning runs with some 9 balls to spare.
The players left the field just as Nick was coming out of the "A&E" (really just the changing rooms) - his first question was a desperate "Who won?" the answer to which was not to his liking. John also had a question for the scorer, our own Russell Woolf, when he saw that he'd totalled 49*: "Can you give me one?" Stranger things have happened, but Russ made the point that he'd had the opportunity to, er, "give himself one" several times when he'd turned down quick singles or third runs. Still, John had played a match-winning innings, scoring 10 more than anyone else in the game (and in about half the time).
Even more pleasing than a Remnants win, though, was that just about everyone stayed on for a drink (and not in the two one-team clusters that sometimes innocently develop), and there's already talk of organising two Remnants vs. County Council games next year (assuiming that the relevant elections go the "right" way).