Remnants vs. Hart-McLeod

18:00, Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Fitzwilliam College

Hart-McLeod (153/7 in 20 6-ball overs)
Remnants (130/7 in 20 6-ball overs)
by 23 runs.

Report by Daniel Mortlock:

Thirty-odd years ago Graham Hart devoted himself to the task of ensuring Remnants victories, an endeavour in which he was so successful that the club only lost 5 matches across the two seasons that Graham was our captain. For most of the time since, however, he's been trying to achieve the opposite by leading teams from his company, Hart-McLeod, in their annual matches against us. After the rude shock of three consecutive losses in the late naughties, Hart-McLeod's recruitment policy mysteriously expanded to include premier league club cricketers from around Cambridgeshire and even the occasional international player. Being so repeatedly out-classed can be a bit frustrating, but it's also given a number of Remnants the chance to rise to the occasion - and it's probably no bad thing to be reminded of where we really are in the pecking order. But today was to be the last such chance, as Graham has announced his retirement both from the company he founded and from leading its cricket team. Even though Hart-McLeod had guaranteed a winning record against us (8-5 in their favour going into tonight's match), it was no surprise to see some familiar ringers from previous matches - although it was possibly even more worrying that there were several suspiciously athletic-looking young guys who we'd never seen before.

Graham Hart and Daniel Mortlock about to toss up.

Given all that, the way we began the game was either an act of hubris or an act of stupidity: both Daniel Mortlock (2/15) and Jeff Beaumont (2/31) produced superb deliveries to take wickets in their first overs. The problem, of course, was that the batsmen in question seemed to be of the "not-ringer" variety, whereas those that followed them very much were. Still, even though we were faced with the likes of Johnny Atkinson (currently topping the Tucker Gardener premier league averages for Granta I and already with his own CricInfo player page), we simply had to bowl and field as well as we could, and the batsmen still had to hit the ball - reputation and past deeds don't actually score runs.

One of Hart-Mcleod's non-ringers and Remnants 'keeper Andy Owen follow the ball (most likely to the boundary).

And so it is a delight to be able to report that we really stuck to our guns, bowling and fielding uniformly well, and occasionally brilliantly. Perhaps inspired by his parents looking on, Eli Ellwood (1/26) got the ball to drift nastily, repeatedly befuddling seriously good batsmen and, once we'd got his field right, restricting their run-scoring as well. Eli's wicket came when the batsman sliced an off drive hard and flat and Daniel moved round well to pick up the ball inches off the ground - in the end the catch was taken comfortably, but Daniel's elated "Yes!!" once the ball stuck revealed that it was far from certain.

Felix Serby puts and his match face.

Felix Serby (0/22) then faced up to what is presumably one of the greater cricketing challenges he's had in his 13 years. But he was well and truly up to it, delivering an immaculate spell that was more than 50% dot balls. Felix's reward was immediate banishment to the boundary, where he was impeccable in both stopping hard-hit balls and running in to prevent second runs that the batsmen were confidently calling off the bat. Our fielding was also top-notch closer in, as Dave Williams and Tom Serby, in particular, got down to stop hard-hit cover drives with the grace of Roger Federer - and Tom also added a catch that he took with the calmness of Rafael Nadal.

All this great cricket meant that we'd restricted Hart-McLeod (well, the random band of pro-level cricketers using that name today) to a rather pedestrian 59/4 after 11 six-ball overs. Unfortunately, Mr Atkinson was still batting and now started to cut loose. We knew that we were going to struggle to protect the short leg-side boundary on the pavilion side of the ground, but he started to make the long boundary look pretty irrelevant as well, flicking a sequence of huge sixes. Robin Eddington (2/27) was given the muggins job of bowling the final over, and once Atkinson got on strike perfectly decent balls that half of us would struggle to hit were being dismissed in whatever direction was chosen for them. The final delivery of the innings was again back of a length and Atkinson cracked another pull, only this time directly towards Daniel on the boundary. Given that the two earlier catches he'd taken had required significant lateral movement, this was a dolly by comparison . . . but then it started to swerve away in the wind, and suddenly Daniel had been condemned to the classic numpty manouever of running in to watch the ball land where he'd been standing a few seconds earlier. Still, the ball was just about within reach, so it was worth at least poking out a hand in its general direction to avoid ridicule . . . except it stuck! And so an elated but rather embarrassed Daniel was generously clapped off the ground, and was then able to gaze upon the sight that all Remnants covet: a total of six stars (i.e., two three-star catches) next to his name on Sally's official scoresheet.

That was all good fun, but the hard fact remained that we'd conceded 153 runs and needed to score at 7.70 an over to get one last victory over H&M. Wonderful news, then, that we flew out of the blocks, racing to 66/1 after 7 overs. Tom Serby and Robin Eddington were both playing beautifully at this stage, Tom opting for a simple "stand and deliver" approach, while Robin played a sequence of lovely deflections square of the wicket on both sides. With 88 runs needed off 78 balls (and 9 wickets in hand) we were winning - even if it was hard not to think that we hadn't yet seen everything the euphemistically-named Hart-McLeod attack had to offer.

Still, when Graham came begging for a substitute fielder, our sense of optimism only increased - now they were trying to get ringers from us! And, stupidly, we gave them a good one, sending Felix Serby back onto the pitch. Even worse, he out-did his efforts for us in the field, taking a superbly-judged catch on the leg-side boundary to see Robin heading back to the pavilion for an effortless 25 (off 17 balls). Then, next over, Hart-McLeod And Associates played their trump card: one Jackson Fry, who's previously been called up for state junior squads in Australia and has been opening the bowling for NCI's first team this season. He wasn't off his full run today - just 25 yards or so - but still had the wicket-keeper some 15-17 yards back from the stumps. Sending the ball down at a pace that, to our eyes, can only be described as "considerably faster than Joe", he proceeded to wreak havoc in the now rather gloomy conditions. New batsman Dave Williams (0 off 2 balls) had his middle stump extracted like a decaying molar, and then Andy Owen (0 off 1 ball) was called through for an over-ambitious bye and run out by a direct hit from the 'keeper. (Dave, in particular, was unlucky, as he was in fact dismissed off one of the several big no balls that the umpire missed . . . at least until Eli's dad started making highly vocal "no ball" calls from the pavilion.) Our score was now 68/4, which just didn't have quite the same ring to it; much as we might have liked to pretend otherwise, our challenge had been killed off in the space of six rather eventful deliveries.

Much to our surprise, Fry was given his full allottment, finishing up with figures of 4/14, to say nothing of Nick Johnson's rather painfully bruised hand off the one delivery he dug in a bit short. Nick just kept on batting, though, making it to 16 (off 25 balls) before eventually succumbing to Fry.

X-ray of Nick Johnson's hand, showing the "boxer's fracture" on the left metacarpal.

We thus found ourselves needing the small matter of 32 off 6 balls, meaing that Graham could finish the match in manner he'd presumably always intended, by sending down the final over himself. Felix Serby (8* off 5 balls) at least managed a moral victory by nabbing a couple of lightining fast twos, but in the end we had to concede an honourable defeat by the rather comfortable margin of 23 runs.

There were handshakes all around (well, not by Nick, since that was too painful) and then a brief presentation ceremony, in which Graham presented Remnants president Geoff Hales with a lovely silver salver engraved with a bell and announced as a "ringer's trophy". After that it was time for dinner: the Galley Slaves fish'n'chip van was in attendance, thus ensuring that we retain our superbly athletic physiques.

Graham Hart pointing out the bell (i.e., ringer) on the silver salver to Geoff Hales, while the ghost of Faruk Kara slides past.

Geoff Hales thanks Graham for a decade's memorable cricket.