Report by Daniel Mortlock:
Remnants and Coton have been playing each other for more than three decades now, and one constant in all these matches has been the sense of genuine village cricket: competitive but good-spirited, and more canny than cultured, with plenty of dibbly-dobbly bowling and hoiks to leg in evidence. Certainly that's what we were bringing to the table, and it initially seemed that Coton would be doing so as well, with the toss rendered moot by the fact that they had just six players present at the arranged start time. The captains thus agreed that Coton would bat first, although before there'd been time for anyone to pad up they'd assembled their full side - it seemed that a 4WD full of juniors had been waiting around the corner for the call to come in that they'd be batting - and so in the end they conceded the point and agreed to field . . .
. . . at which point we suddenly found ourselves playing a very different game from that we'd been expecting. Coton's decade-long effort to encourage local juniors had suddenly (at least from our point of view) paid dividends, as they were packing a mean bowling attack, with plenty of pace and run-ups every bit as long as those of the University Thirds' bowlers last week. And when the ball wasn't whizzing past the bat, the other youngsters were pouncing on the ball and firing in flat throws, the first two of which were direct hits. The situation was probably summed up best in the moment that Grant Kennedy, returning after one of the best batting seasons in Remnants history (592 runs at 98.67), got beaten a couple of times and was then bowled trying to get off the mark. After 3 (eight-ball) overs we were punch-drunk on 7/2 - and it would have been 3/2 but for some wides and no balls. Chris Badger and Tom Serby then spent the next few overs just keeping out the good balls and being thankful for the continued supply of extras (which, in the end, totalled an incredible 30). We - well, really Chris and Tom - gradually managed to turn things around and with a few overs to go had even got back to a run a ball when Tom was caught off a waist-high full toss (that most of us watching wanted to call a no ball) for a vital 36 off 41 balls. The innings then ended up with some foolish run outs, although at the calm centre of this mayhem was Chris, who finished up on a near-chanceless 52* off 44 balls.
Our total of 125/2 represented a great comeback, but it felt no more than competitive, at least until some tight early bowling by Daniel Mortlock (2/19, including a lead-off maiden), Alec Armstrong (2/36), Faruk Kara (0/10) and Chris Clarkson (0/19) was enough to make the run rate a serious issue. After 7 overs Coton were just 38/1, meaning that they needed 88 off 56 balls, with the visibility now less than optimal. A major reason for our newfound ascendancy was some excellent fielding, and this became even more important when a couple of Coton's youngsters got together and revealed themselves to be just as good with the bat as they had been with the ball - we certainly didn't seem likely to bowl them out. The only problem (at least as far as they were concerned) was that they had to run on everything, and we - well, really Michael McCann with help from Grant Kennedy behind the stumps - effected two vital run outs. Some more tight bowling by John Moore (0/14), along with some more excellent fielding by the likes of Martin Law, Tom Serby and Michael, meant that we began the last over with Coton needing a surely impossible 28 runs to win.
It was obvious that the honour of bringing home the victory should have been given to Faruk, having joined the Remnants 300 games club, but a brain-fade by the captain meant that the ball was thrown to Alec instead. Still, this was a perfectly reasonable decision tactically, and even though the first half of the final over went for 1 2 2 1, that meant Coton were surely done, now needing needing 22 off 4 balls . . .
The match was sufficiently exciting that looking forward to the two teams' next encounter in June evidently wasn't enough, and a "decider" was hastily scheduled for mid-August.