Report by Daniel Mortlock:
Cricket is a game of numbers, some happy (e.g., victory by 405 runs) and some sad (e.g., 60 all out). But the saddest number of all, at least in the context of the Remnants season, is 17:45. (Okay, okay, 17:45 isn't actually a number, it's four digits and an under-used punctuation mark, but it's number-ish.) The reason, of course, is that its appearance is an acknowledgement that the evenings are getting shorter and that the cricket season is drawing to a close. Still, there's no use living in denial, and solid cloud cover for most of the match meant that it was just as well we arranged with CUP to start early at the Cass Centre this evening.
We bowled first and the match was pretty evenly balanced initially. While we hadn't been able to take any wickets, the CUP batsmen had struggled to hit the ball cleanly on what they later informed us is always a difficult wicket to bat on. Their total of 39/0 after 8 (six-ball) overs was hence rather difficult to judge.
Four overs later, with the score now 56/4, it was rather easier to judge that CUP were in big trouble. The runs still weren't flowing for them, but wickets were for us. The inital breakthrough had been made by Remnants first-timer Andrew Granville, who not only took 1/18 with his canny medium pacers, but followed this up with a calm catch at mid-wicket. Ordinarily a regulation catch like this would barely have rated a mention, but it came right after some rather less regulation efforts. First Josh Nall most uncharacteristically dropped a dolly at mid-off and was so dismayed that he was oblivious to 'keeper Andy Owen's desperate calls to run out the now doubly-reprieved batsman. And then Naveen Chouskey managed the comedy grab of the season when he turned a straightforward boundary line catch into a moment of high drama, juggling the ball twice before finally holding it an inch above the ground, thus justifying his triumphant "fists aloft" pose that otherwise would have lacked essential motivation. (Contrary to rumours, this was not his first Remnants catch; he has, in fact, taken 7.) These chances of course require a bowler to generate them, and it was, as so often this year, Alec Armstrong who'd come to the party. But, rather than employing his usual method of dropping the ball on a nagging length, both catches came off full tosses; and, even more remarkably, these were the first two balls of his spell. Alec thus found himself in the rather unusual situation of being on a hat-trick without the ball ever having touched the ground while live. The field was brought in for the hat-trick delivery, only for Alec to make the mistake of pitching the ball - and while it was on a good length, the simple fact that the ball had touched the ground seemed to have broken the spell, and it was duly thumped to the now vacant cover boundary.
Moreover, Alec's wickets - he took two more, giving him figures of 4/11 - meant that he was the decisive winner of this evening's informal bowl-off between the season's three leading wicket-takers: Alec (who'd started the evening with 19), Faruk Kara and Daniel Mortlock (both on 17). Faruk (1/17) and Daniel (2/10) both bowled well enough, but it's hard to see Alec being caught now that he has 23 wickets, already one of the best season's hauls in club history with five matches still to come.
Once we'd broken CUP's stubborn opening partnership the floodgates really were open, and we bossed the game for the rest of our time in the field. (It's possible that the batsmen were distracted by their own teammates constantly walking in front of the sightscreen at the pavilion end of the ground, but if so they never complained and seemed happy to face even with a pair of padded up batsmen moving across the field of view.) The most decisive demonstration of this was from Khuzaimah Saeed, who came back from a 12-run first over (by far the most expensive of the match) to the CUP openers with a superb second spell of 3 overs, 1 maiden, 2/4, both wickets coming from searing yorkers delivered at serious pace. Add in a wonderful diving catch from Ferdi Rex at long-on, and we had CUP bowled out for just 88, which appeared way too few runs to be a testing target . . .
. . . until we tried to chase it down. A combination of clever bowling, sharp fielding, puddingy pitch and poor light meant that, if anything, we found it even harder to score than CUP had. After losing a couple of early wickets, old hands Andy Owen and Dave Williams steadied the ship - although the rest of us were starting to get nervous when we were just 45/2 after 11 overs. Ordinarily that would have been a dismal state of affairs (cf the Fen Ditton debacle), but was probably fine today - surely we'd be able to score 44 runs from 54 balls?
And, thanks in part to some dropped catches, we could indeed. The key change in the last part of our innings was that the bowlers started offering up a few loose balls, something that they just couldn't afford defending such a small total. And it wasn't even such a bad thing when Andy was dismissed (for 38 off 47 balls), as it brough Ferdi Rex (5* off 5 balls) to the crease, meaning that everyone in the team got to bowl or bat, albeit not much in Ferdi's case. In the end we won pretty comfortably, Dave Williams (33* off 43 balls) finishing the game with a boundary off the first ball of the penultimate over.
The fairly quick pace of the game - and the low-scoring, meaning not too much retrieving of the ball from beyond the all-but-invisible boundary line - meant plenty of time for a post-match pint, something we could actually have at the ground, where there's a well-stocked bar. Ideally the sky would have cleared so we could see what Daniel had spent the morning insisting to the BBC Today Programme would be the "spectacular" sight of the Perseid meteor shower, but in the end we had to be content with a rather nice rainbow.