Remnants vs. Churchill/Pembroke MCR

18:00, Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Churchill College

Churchill/Pembroke MCR (122/4 in 15 8-ball overs)
Remnants (108/6 in 15 8-ball overs)
by 14 runs.

Report by Daniel Mortlock:

If one word were to sum up today's match it would be: challenging.

The first challenge was to get a team. From a healthy "eleven plus a few 'also available's" on the weekend, we plumeted as far as eight by Tuesday morning, although after some last-minute e-mailing meant that we were back up to a full team by mid-afternoon.

At which point the weather, which had been causing havoc all week, provided a challenge all of its own. E-mails came flying in with doom-laden phrases like "I'd give you odds of 5-1 on playing this evening!" and "Even as I write, the rain has started to fall here in Cambridge" (good final line for an existentialist novel). Sometime Remnant Tom Collett was our host today; and, prompted by a pessimistic phonecall, he dutifully left his desk at the Institute of Astronomy and headed over to Churchill to check the condition of the pitch. The verdict was that it was a bit damp and that "one more heavy shower will be it", but that it was playable as things stood. The shower didn't come; we kept Tom's faith; and so we had two teams and a ground all ready to go at 6pm.

Then, for perhaps the only time all day, things actually seemed pretty easy: our faster bowlers sent down plenty of dot balls; our fielders (particularly John Young, Eli Ellwood and first-timer Rod Dennis) repeatedly cut off would-be singles; and then our slower bowlers started taking wickets to boot. The star here was Quentin Harmer (2/18), one of the last-minute draftees, who bamboozled the Churchbroke batsmen with a succession of ever-slower and ever-more-flighted deliveries. Sorties down the pitch inevitably ended with tame defensive strokes - and the fate in store for those who went through with their drives was even worse, as Richard Rex (at long-off) and Daniel Mortlock (at long-on) took solid catches from successive deliveries. Quentin's hat-trick ball beat the bat, but he had to be content with a two-for and the satisfaction of a job well done. Catherine Owen (1/20) also bowled well, at least until she got grumpy at being wided for a couple of leg-side balls and fell into the "try and bowl as fast as possible" trap. Whereas, in fact, it was becoming clear that bowling as slowly as possible was a much more promising approach, as Richard (1/24) showed - although of course it helps if you can take lightning return catches off your own bowling even while the suddenly torrential rain renders your glasses all but opaque.

The rain.

The rain let up as the teams changed over, and the general sense was that, with the uncovered pitch now a pudding, Pembrill's total of 122 might take some chasing. Despite the most perfect of starts - Andy Bell (6 off 7 balls) began our innings by hitting a boundary off a no ball - it soon became clear that batting was going to be very challenging indeed, especially once the pace was taken off the ball. Our top order singularly failed to with the increasingly bizarre mix of superb deliveries and errant balls about a foot or two outside leg stump. The proliferation of misdirected deliveries became increasingly frustrating. While it's pointless arguing about whether they should have been called as wides, there's no debate that it was down to us that they ended up as dot balls: if they weren't wides we should have been able to hit a few more of them; if they were wides then it was up to us to call them. (Some 12 wides and 7 no balls were called, but from the pavilion it seemed as if there could have been as many more again.)

The sun.

The opposition bowlers' erratic lines were challenging enough, but then there was the extra difficulty of the increasingly dark conditions. This was largely the result of the low cloud, but a significant contribution was made by one particular bowler who insisted on a fastidious ball-drying/shining routine before finally setting off on his 25-yard run up. (This whole pantomime reached its nadir when, after one particularly vigorous wipe-a-thon, he accidentally dropped the ball on the wet turf and so started again.) The net result was that our middle order of John Young (12 off 24 balls), Andy Owen (40* off 37 balls) and Richard Rex (15* off 21 balls) found themselves repeatedly trying to play pull shots at barely visible balls whizzing behind their legs. From the fairly disastrous position of 63/6 off 11 (eight-ball) overs they did at least lift us up to respectability, but we were never really in danger of completing a successful chase.

John Young models this season's backlift.

The final over was our innings in a microcosm: a collection of wides and no balls; a beamer that left Andy with a bruise he'll be able to show off for some weeks to come; the bizarre sight of Richard taking strike in a baseballer's pose (presumably in the expectation of more chest-high full-tosses); and, finally and fatally, yet more plays-and-misses.

Catherine Owen reacts to Quentin Harmer's gentle accusations that her friend's vitally important text doesn't require an immediate response.

Our victorious opponents headed off to the familiar destination of the Tandoori Palace, kindly inviting us to join them, although for most of us a home-cooked dinner or cheap beer in the Churchill bar proved a stronger draw. The one exception was Andy Bell, who admitted said "I'm hungrier than I am thirsty" and so headed off to join the students as they took on the classic digestive challenge of lamb bhunas and pints of Cobra.