The Remnants season finally went into the black last night, our win against IPH being our seventh as against six losses. But to gloat over the colour of our ledger would be to ignore the nature of some of those losses, which included a truly horrific thrashing by Fen Ditton a few weeks ago: our response to their retirement-laden 170/2 was to amble our way to a pointless 34/1 off 11 overs before some late slogging gave an illusion of respectability. So nothing but a win would be acceptable tonight - and, really, a revenge thrashing was what we were really after.
We certainly had the team to do it, and even a basic plan: win the toss; pile up 170+; and unleash the hounds. It went wrong right from the start, when the Fen Ditton organiser (strangely deputising for their captain) called correctly at the toss . . . and elected to field. This decision induced a disbelieving "Are you sure you want to be chasing in this light?" from Michael McCann (playing for them, not us), who'd clearly seen the forecasts for heavy clouds and rain. But it quickly seemed like a pretty good decision when Fen Ditton captain Adam Wilson delivered two of the fastest and liveliest overs we've faced this season, after which he had figures of 1/3 and Julius Rix (1 off 8 balls) was back in the pavilion. And after Robin Eddington (15 off 14 balls) was bowled we were 22/2 in the 6th (six-ball) over, any plans for 170+ in tatters.
Our third wicket pair of Grant Kennedy and Dave Norman were effectively starting from scratch, and Fen Ditton seemed to sense that this was a potentially critical moment for the match. Wilson brought himself back onto bowl, presumably gambling on getting Dave out early, and he was also inspirational in the field, diving to stop a bullet cover drive off Dave and then, when Dave mis-timed a similar shot two balls later, leaping up to take an effortless catch . . . that somehow slipped through his fingers. The two teams were unified in both their disbelief and the knowledge that a second chance was unlikely to be offered.
And so it turned out, Grant (69* off 51 balls) and Dave (85* off 47 balls) staying together for the rest of the innings as they compiled a 153-run partnership (the sixth largest in club history) off just 89 balls. Dave's innings was all about power - it's hard to remember anyone hitting so many balls so hard - and even though Fen Ditton fielded brilliantly (possibly a fringe benefit of playing their Saturday cricket up in Junior 1), the ball reached the boundary a dozen times. It would be tempting to leap to the conclusion that this was a one-man show, but Grant went very close to matching Dave, hitting ten bounndaries of his own. They were also well matched in their approach to running between wickets, the dominant strategy being to amble the first under the assumption that the ball would reach the boundary and then to leave any second run so late that they had to sprint home. This strategy reached its apotheosis when Dave hit a lovely cover drive that both batsmen assumed would be a four, Grant reaching the striker's end and standing for a good few seconds observing events near the boundary line . . . and then, when the ball was stopped, sauntering back to complete an easy two. The only problem was that Grant had never grounded his bat - and if we'd noticed from the pavilion it seemed likely that square-leg umpire Andy Bell would as we- yep, sure enough, the craziest "one short" any of us are likely to see. Not that it really mattered: we passed our target score with one final "maximum" and then clapped Dave and Grant - and the Ditton fielders - from the ground.
Defending 175 with a full-strength bowling line-up was, of course, going to be a doddle, an assertion that was rapidly proved to be utter nonsense as Fen Ditton raced to an incredible 103/1 after 9 overs. While significant credit for this goes to Rob(?) Smith, their hard hitting opener who scored 70 of these runs, the main reason for the blow-out was some extraordinarily awful bowling and fielding by us. While space restrictions prevent a full blow-by-blow account, some lowlights are worth mentioning:
This last issue was at least rectified after Dave Norman, fielding at slip, instructed Joe White (1/35) to bowl "top of off - we'll get him that way"; Joe duly delivered and the batsman slapped the ball towards cover fielder Daniel Mortlock who, despite losing the ball briefly, he held on to the catch - cue high-fives all 'round . . . until our eyes gradually turned back to umpire Andy Bell who was holding his left arm out: Joe had over-stepped and "no ball" had (correctly) been called. Even then, it ought not have mattered, as next over Alec Armstrong (0/14) beat Smith twice in one ball: he came down the track and got a thin edge, giving 'keeper Julius Rix his choice of catch or stumping, but the ball popped out of his gloves and sufficiently far from his reach that, in the end, there was almost a bonus run. By this stage we'd all but given up - or, maybe more correctly, it felt like the game was lost. And that despite fielding a full-strength side and approaching the match with a "no quarter given" attitude. Our field placings were completely shapeless; we were all but silent in the field; and, at one point, we tried six different bowlers in the space of seven overs.
But the seventh of those bowlers was Dave Norman (1/8), who had an immediate impact that was, possibly, even more significant than his earlier runs: he also got Smith's edge and this time Julius - presumably with heart very much in mouth - held on. The batsman, who'd already earned our respect with his shot-making, now got it twice over, as he immediately headed to the pavilion without waiting for the umpire's verdict. Fen Ditton were still winning - with 54 balls to go they needed a very manageable 59 runs with 8 wickets still in hand - but were in the match for the first time since we'd been batting.
The whole team came to life again: the fielding was immediately sharper, with Olly Rex, John Richer and Joe making some great stops, and suddenly fielders were being placed with some logic, rather than just left to wander in the open spaces. We also got a bit of luck, a brief rain shower causing the ball to start keeping low, whereas before it had been bouncing up nicely. This fact was exploited very effectively by Daniel (3/12) and Olly (2/22), who completed our comeback, allowing just 36 runs from the last 8 overs of the innings. The result was an apparently comfortable 15-run victory - the sort of margin that wouldn't warrant a second look - but this was actually exactly the sort of hard-fought win that most of us will remember long after most mid-week games have blurred together.
Still, we did our best to make our memories a little blurred, with about half of both sides staying on to enjoy the fact that Dave now has beer on tap and Grant had bought a big jug.