Report by Daniel Mortlock:
When we played The Philanderers earlier in the season we bowled them out for 56, the lowest total in their 33 season history. And so it was no surprise to find that their line-up tonight wasn't quite so friendly, boasting as it did some senior league cricketers (cf. last night) and one former University Blues player, Ed Pearson. With that sort of batting to call on, it felt that our only chance was to get them to show their cards first by making them set a target - maybe they'd underestimate just how many runs are needed to win on Fitz this year?
The early signs were that they were going to make no such mistake, their opener Rob Gill repeatedly smashing - no, not smashing, stroking - the ball to, or over, the boundary from the first over. Anything even remotely full-pitched went back over the bowler's head or was punched through the off-side, and Gill made our opening "attack" of Olly Rex (1/22 off 2 overs) and Daniel Mortlock (0/12 off 1 over at this stage) look rather ineffectual as he raced to 47 off his first 17 balls, 7 of which he hit for four and 4 of which he hit for six. Fortunately, we had bowlers of just about every possible type (except outright fast), and so we next tried Mihir Chandraker's leg spin and Andy Owen's unique but unclassifiable right arm 'round variations (albeit not the now infamous "pirouette ball" from the Remnants vs. Remnants game). Mihir couldn't get his length right in his first over, which was taken for 19 runs; but Andy's first over perhaps represented signs of light at the end of the tunnel, as it included three of the previously mythical dot balls about which we'd all heard so much. More importantly, Mihir persisted searching for the sort of unplayable delivery that only a leg-spinner can really bowl, and in his second over he nailed it, the ball drifting in, spinning past the bat and into the gloves of 'keeper Grant Kennedy, who completed a sharp stumping. Gill hence departed for an awesome, if perhaps unfulfilled, 53 off 24 balls; and, while he'd taken his team to a rather scary 61/2 in the 6th over, the fact that his partners had contributed just 6 runs to this point meant that we were very much back in the game. (A corrollary is that statistics sometimes really are worse than damned lies, as Mihir's apparently unremarkable figures 3 overs, 0 maidens, 1/23 actually included what was by far the most important delivery of the match.)
Any thoughts of a great comeback victory were premature, however, as the new batsmen was the aforementioned Pearson, who Philanderers supremo Phil Harvey assured us was an even better bat than the man he'd replaced. Happily, we didn't get to find out: Andy got a faster ball through Pearson's defenses, an inside edge cannoning onto the stumps. There was some suggestion that this represented good fortune, but Andy did it again an over later and almost managed a third such dismissal (which would, apparently, have been sufficient to convince Grant that he meant it), on his way to deserved figures of 2/20.
After Mihir and Andy turned things around for us, the rest of the bowlers consolidated, both by taking wickets and offering up a fair bit of control. Alec Armstrong was the pick, his 4 overs going for just 20 runs, about half of which were off the outside edge; and Daniel came back well to take 3/8 in his second spell (thanks in part to an hilariously nonchalant low catch by Ferdi Rex on the cover boundary). But the real highlight was when Catherine Owen (1/19) started using more and more flight, the ball reaching an apogee about 12 feet above the ground before dive-bombing down towards the perplexed batsmen. The Philanderers skipper tried to combat this by coming down the pitch, only to find the ball passing him at head height before landing on the crease and bouncing into the stumps; he then tried to self-adjudicate with his own call of no ball for height, which came complete with wild gesticulations that, in isolation, would have made most sense as an attempt to guide a pilot onto the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. The umpires were having none of it, and quite correctly, too, since Law 42 states that "Any delivery [. . .] which [. . . ] would have passed on the full above waist height of the striker standing upright at the popping crease is [. . .] to be called and signal no ball" - the ball would have hit the batsman's pads if he'd stayed where he was. The net result of all this was that, having scored 59 off their first 5 overs, The Philanderers only managed another 87 from their next 15; in other words we'd cut their run rate down from 11.80 to a much more civilised (from our point of view, at least) 5.80, a truly remarkable turn-around that had its roots in the sheer variety of bowling styles that are possible in cricket.
Our eventual target of 147 didn't feel too imposing given the ease with which we chased 152 last night, and the early signs were good again as Julius Rix and Ferdi Rex took us to 37/0 in the 4th over. Unfortunately, they'd both been dismissed by the end of the 5th over, bowled for unfulfilled scores of, respectively, 18 (off 18 balls) and 23 (off 11 balls). Olly Rex (23 off 20 balls) kept up the scoring rate at least, but scoreboard pressure led to a bad call for a second run that was never there, which in turn catalysed a collapse of 3/4 as Olly, John Young (7 off 16 balls) and Grant Kennedy (3 off 6 balls, bringing his season's average back down to double figures) all perished in quick succession.
Andy Owen (22 off 22 balls) and Daniel Mortlock (13 off 16 balls) kept some hope alive, but the required rate was increasing every over, and by the time Daniel called for what would have been an easy single had he not mistaken the opposition point fielder for Geoff (who'd been umpiring in that spot until that ball), we were sunk. Mihir Chandraker (11* off 5 balls) hit out awesomely from ball one but simply didn't have enough time to repeat Kiran Sakhamuri's last over heroics of 2012.
The bottom line was that none of our batsmen went on with the job - three of our number made it past twenty and another three made it into double figures, but the top three scores of the day were all by Philanderers. It was maddening to have lost a game in which we'd come back so well, although one significant difference between chasing last night and attempting a repeat on the same pitch a day later is that the ball was keeping much lower tonight. Still, credit to the Philanderers for keeping their heads and defending what ended up being only a par total, although we can probably claim a points decision for the season on the basis of the "56 all out" from back in May . . .