Report by Michael McCann:
SUPERB SERBY MAKES IT REMNANTS' DAY
A classy unbeaten 87 from Sam Serby gives Remnants a fourth win from five matches, defeating visitors Academicals.
Sam Serby has not yet become a great batsman, but he is already capable of playing outstanding innings. A rare gift that many club cricketers would die for. "Youth is to all the glad season", wrote Thomas Carlyle, and Serby is less than half the age of many of his fellow cricketers. Who says just how far this young man can go?
Serby's eminent batting talents were evident in abundance, as his unbeaten 87 from 68 balls led Remnants to a comfortable win over the Academicals at Fitzwilliam College. Before play the young man had admitted to not scoring over 14 across the previous two months, but what followed showed that class is permanent, and form is temporary.
Opening as the visitors won the toss and elected to bowl, he was playing one game, whilst all other batsman on both sides seemed in another one altogether. On a gloomy night, and on a slow pitch where orthodoxy and conservatism would have been understandable, Serby largely disregarded these rules of engagement in a bevy of brilliant batting.
Serby showed his timing early, taking 14 from opening bowler Retter's first overs, including three boundaries. The beautiful placement exhibited behind square on both sides of the wicket was an apt metaphor for what followed. Proud father Tom, watching at the non-strikers and possibly spurred on, hit four boundaries of his own before departing for 18 off 13 balls, mistiming a drive to Academicals captain Richard Rex.
Hardly requiring parental supervision, Sam continued untroubled, despite watching Matt Samson get bowled pulling for a golden duck in the following over. Thus began a partnership of 97 with John Young, who dropped anchor whilst Serby pressed on mercilessly, including a spell of just 40 runs in 22 balls faced, with just one dot.
What one noticed watching was how Serby actually took virtually no risks. Batting is easy in the pavilion in the same way driving is easy in the back seat. It is easy for one to sit there and criticise others, whether it be one's own batsman, or the opposition bowling and fielding, and talk up their own abilities. It is another altogether to go out there and actually display the runs and talent to go with that - the best do that and make it look easy. Serby unquestionably did so.
The drives, cuts and clips off the legs were crisp but the ability to seize on anything loose was also a lesson in concentration for any young batsman. Though the fielding was often not great by any means, Serby capitalised on every error with eager and rapid running. Bowlers who largely were relatively economically against others were milked with ease, and often had done relatively little wrong.
It was almost unfair on Young at the other end, whose unfortunate habit of finding singles on the last ball of overs disappointed the watching spectators. They wanted to see Serby bat, and nobody could really blame them.
Young was eventually run out for 26 from 28 balls, though managing multiple threes in the same over provided much mirth for the spectators. Adam Long then made 10 from 8 deliveries alongside Serby before being stumped by Rex charging a flighted delivery during the final over. That left Michael McCann, in an unlikely new role and a suffering from a bad case of "pad rash" that Dave Norman kindly offered ailments for, to score 4* from 2 balls, making him the final accomplice of Serby.
Remnants posted an imposing 173/4 with Serby's innings deserving of a hundred, and rightly applauded by both teams, featuring 9 fours and a six across his 87*. Chasing such a total would probably require an innings to match Serby's, and that seemed unlikely. Academicals started positively in reply, with opener Barsley hitting two sixes off Eli Elwood (0/21), though the Harlton seamer was largely tight otherwise. Felix Serby ensured it was a Serby-cubed effort across the match, by bowling three economical overs for just 17 runs to help the required run-rate grow.
Faruk Kara (1/24) took a wicket with the first ball of his spell, benefiting from the pressure already built by the openers and the mammoth total, bowling the less aggressive of the two opening batters for 8. Barsley then hit a third six by dispatching a full-toss from the spinner, as Academicals reached a promising 63/1 from 9 overs - surely they couldn't, could they?
A new paragraph can only mean one thing. Take a bow Adam Long (2/9) and Alec Amstrong (2/17). 63/1 off 9 became 71/4 from 12 overs, sending the asking rate climbing from 10.22 to 13.00, more than two per ball. That took the game pretty much out of reach, dispensing most of the visitors' firepower to the pavilion.
Having started the season relatively late, Long is improving with every spell currently, and appears to have benefitted from recently re-starting Saturday league cricket with new club Fen Ditton. Every spell for Remnants has been even more impressive than the last and that continued here. Having already bowled two overs for just six runs, including just one from his opening over, Long took wickets in successive overs, initially the important one of the dangerous Cameron Petrie clean bowled for 13, before his spell was completed by a wicket maiden. That involved another batsman beaten; too quick; too straight; too good, as the Yorkshireman finished with 2/9 miserly figures that reflected his heritage. One's inner Yorkie could be heard shouting "OW MUCH", though for once in a positive sense, rather than about pint prices down South (looking at you here, London).
Armstrong followed Kara's lead in starting his stint with a wicket, most importantly bowling the aggressive Barsley, whose brute force innings looked the only innings that could come anywhere near to Serby's earlier on. That started an impressive spell from Armstrong, who took 2/17 across his allocation, featuring a wicket in his final over from a good catch by Ellwood moving in from the mid-on boundary to dismiss Julius Rix. Similarly to a mother dealing with a troublesome troubled teenager, Armstrong was often nagging and asking all the right questions of the batsman, and they were rarely providing sufficient answers.
Meanwhile skipper Andy Owen had begun leading his team on a victory procession by replacing Long and taking a tidy 1/23 from his four overs. This procession featured no red carpets or such royalties. There was:
Academicals ultimately closed on 120/7, handing Remnants a fourth win in five completed games, by 53 runs. However, this game will rightly really only be remembered in longevity as Serby's day. When it is, there is little bowling to him - any watching with cricketing eyes should have left feeling privileged to see a class act at work. What is even more exciting, is that one senses there will be so much more to come from him.
Report by Academicals captain Richard Rex:
This was the most academic Academicals XI ever assembled, with 8 doctorates achieved and the other three well on their way. Sadly, our cricket was not equal to the assembled intellectual power, and after my possibly ill-judged decision to bowl first, we were largely undone by the efforts of one young Sam Serby - still on his way to GCSEs, and plainly a considerable cricketing talent. His undefeated, though not entirely chanceless, 87 was a masterclass in sensible T20 batting. Our bowling was always almost there, but here and there showed tell-tale signs of a lack of regular practice. Mark Retter's spell encapsulated our highs and lows, literally as well as metaphorically, when one remembers the beamer which soared not only over Sam Serby but also over the more substantial figure of Ed Barsley, standing back as keeper. That was certainly the highest low of our bowling, but an over or so later Mark's astonishing dismissal of the Remnants star batsman, Matt Samson (who has played for the Crusaders), for a duck was perhaps the best ball in either innings. Mark Smith's opening spell from the other end mostly stayed where it was meant to, just outside off, but there were enough loose deliveries to permit Remnants to score comfortably throughout their innings. Mark Smith earned the good wicket of Sam's father and opening partner, Tom Serby, who skied one to Richard at mid-off. Tom Cordiner and Tim Cannings put the brakes on to some extent, but after three excellent overs that went for only 14, Tom just lost line a little in the fourth, and some increasingly aggressive Remnants batting managed to get the scoreboard moving very fast towards the end, as Julius Rix and Richard tried to close out the innings. Richard turned one past the outside of a scything bat to have another Remnant smartly stumped by Ed. But 173 was an imposing total, even given the relatively close boundary on the far side of the pitch. Our fielding was keen, but lack of practice accounts for the missing of a couple of very hard half-chances in the air: Dave Green, Mark Smith and James Carleton Paget all came off with some damage to the hands after brave efforts in the field.
Our reply was spirited, to say the least. "Big Ed" Barsley showed intent from the start, and the Remnants soon spread the field as he began to reach and clear the boundary with ease, at one point despatching the ball into a distant garden, from which it was fortunately retrieved. Tim provided able support until their off-spinner's (Faruk Kara) first ball just turned enough to beat the inside edge and still brush the leg stump. Cameron Petrie then joined Ed for a stand which was always going to be decisive one way or another. We were keeping in touch, just about, in the early middle overs, even when Remnants brought on the paciest bowler of the evening, Adam Long. But once Long found his length, the threat mounted. Ed miraculously dug out a vicious yorker, but Cameron was not so lucky a few balls later and just edged one through to the stumps. The very next ball, from the Remnants slow-left-armer (Alec Armstrong) from the Huntingdon Road end, took Ed's bottom edge and then cannoned off both his feet before eventually trickling to the base of the leg stump, where it came to rest, but not without first dislodging the bail. From there we were never going to regain the early initiative of the innings, with technique predominating over brute force through the rest of our batting order. James was soon sent back by another guided missile from Adam Long. Nick White nudged and then also drove with increasing confidence, while first Julius and then Mark Retter swung lustily at the other end, and they took us past three figures. But when Nick holed out at long-on in the final over, there was little that Richard - whose self-inflicted run-out, from which Mark tried to deter him, showed that challenging the arm of another Serby (Felix) at square leg and the hands of keeper Samson was unduly optimistic - or Tom Cordiner could do. But our final total of 120 was fair under the circumstances. If Ed and Cameron had managed to survive the game-changing spell from quickie Adam Long, a closer finish would certainly have been on the cards.