Remnants vs. Grantchester

13:30, Sunday, September 2, 2018

Remnants (208/5 in 35 6-ball overs)
Grantchester (196/9 in 35 6-ball overs)
by 12 runs.

Report by Dave Williams:

At those moments at parties when someone has just asked me the "And what do you do?" question, I sometimes get the feeling (this is about the same time I start to look round for other people to talk to) they're telling me that book publishing (my job) is somehow elitist, ephemeral or simply out of date. Yes, you can't eat a book, they don't keep you warm or dry - they don't actually do anything. Yet unlike San Francisco - a city Jefferson Starship said they built on rock 'n' roll (topped off with liberal helpings of schlock and cheese) - Cambridge, with few natural resources, has bootstrapped itself from nothing to something by means of collective understanding embedded in a rich motherlode of books. And Grantchester - Cambridge's very own Reno or Las Vegas, where Cantabrigians go for wild punting and Bacchanalian tea drinking - lives in a state of exalted added value (the highest real estate prices of any East Anglian village, I'll wager) generated largely by a single poem. Rupert Brooke's The Old Vicarage, Grantchester still speaks (or echoes - you don't even need to have read it to know something about it) of some things that are and will probably continue to be important (Englishness; sadness for times past; acceptance, playfulness and hope in times present). In a match, or a season, or indeed a lifetime of cricket I think we can also find some different but related things that are expressive and meaningful too. So the last match of the season, in a beautiful and literary English village, is in itself a wondrous conjunction of opportunities for which I am profoundly grateful to my teammates, team organizers (of both sides) and, of course, the opposition. Wouldn't it be amazing if life could always be like this?

The Remnants team was a heroic coming together of stalwarts, occasionals and one-offs, of whom special mention (a "shout-out", even) goes to Sanchit Mehta, passing through a Cambridge physics(?) summer school for a week, and so keen to play that he asked his friend Kanwar Singh for an introduction to our team. There are also those whose nameless existence in this journal of record will be noted solely for their capacity to waste the club secretary's time. Their deficit in the "generosity and empathy" page of the karmic account book thereby shows as a credit for all those who helped get a full XI together, including three Grantchester CC members who were to play starring roles - thank you.

Captain Paul Jordan surveyed the pitch, the conditions and his team. Like a cricketing Clint Eastwood, Paul's eyes narrowed and peered into the distance. He paused for an instant. The circle of onlookers fell silent to hear his gravelly-voiced verdict: "We'll bat." As if Paul was kickstarting a powerful motorbike, the mighty twin-cylinder opening partnership of Matt Sansom and James Crozier throbbed into life. Matt's prodigious run-ammassing this season creates its own pressures, though; I wonder if a calmer mental state might have helped today. He seemed skittish, a little too keen to put away the surprisingly slow opening bowler from the bramble hedge end. Compared to the billiard table Fitz square, today's wicket was noticeably low and slow; whatever the reason, Matt toe-edged a dolly to extra cover for 1. I was in number three, minded to play straight - no cross-bat shots because short-pitchers could easily drop down to shin height. I thought the 35 overs format needed some steadiness. James and I put on a decent 50-run partnership, James in more expansive mode surviving several lofted slices backward of point before holing out there (35). I lost concentration and missed a gentle away-swinger that started on leg and, but for my pad, would have hit off (26). Robin Eddington looked stylish for his 13 (caught), and Huw Davies was hitting hard for his 12 (another LBW).

At five wickets down for 100 or so after 20 overs I thought we were scoring at an OK rate, but would we have enough batting to see us through our 35 over allocation? Sanchit and Sam Thomas were now at the crease. "Only superficial people do not judge by appearances", says Oscar Wilde; non-white clothing on the cricket field usually denotes something, but what? Both Sam and Sanchit's batting styles seem unorthodox, Sam's possibly related to having barely played cricket before this season, and to the oblique angle of the racket in his favoured tennis; I can't speculate on the origins of Sanchit's, but both were effective. To start off with, Sam seemed minded to glance, with minimal backlift, through third man; the fast outfield gave good value. Sanchit was confident and fluent before playing across one for his 15. Stand-in Tony Kennedy stepped up and was stony in defence, determined to keep out his teammates. At the other end the increase in Sam's confidence was palpable. Over the season, Sam's rapid uptake of insight into and reaction to the tactical position of the game has been impressive; today we could see a kind of cricketing germination, fruition and harvest all in one match; some of us will have been blessed to know what that feels like and will smile to remember it. It was an honour and a privilege to be there to see one man's batting explore, expand, assert and dominate. Sam's torrent of mighty drives (including a massive six) was both beautiful and moving - my champagne moment of this and many seasons. Those who advocate the sappy "retire at xx" policy might like to remember that, every so often, it is given to a player to play beyond his expectations and then some. This player at this time will have experienced a moment of unequivocal glory - of how many moments in our lives can we say that? Sam perished when he was caught for 67 (his previous highest score, at least for Remnants, was 14) but he has given us all something we - and he - will remember for years to come.

Back in normality - which is exalted by these moments, not diminished - Tony now fired off some lusty thumps of his own for 13*; at the end Nick Brealey (another GCC stand-in) was 1*. Aided by 23 wides, our 208 off the 35 overs was just short of a run a ball. This was an E performance, as it sometimes says in my children's school reports: it exceeded expectations. This was surely a more-than-competitive total.

A classic English sandwich and cake tea is not recommended by sports dieticians but was all the more enjoyable for that. Team Remnants took the field refreshed and fortified, strengthened by Camice Revier (of GCC) subbing for the writer of this report, who was whimpering pathetically in the corner with an injured shoulder (skiing last week LOL) and heavily bruised toe (when batting today). Sanchit coming in from the trees at the Old Vicarage end repaid the confidence of his skipper with accuracy and good length - only 14 off his first five overs, including an early breakthrough. Huw was a little less tidy, but by the end of over 10, with only 34 on the board, the asking rate was up to 7 an over. Robin at first change suffered from the home side's need for an increase in scoring rate, hence 0/32 from 5 overs. Sam was a perhaps unusual choice for second change - I don't remember many overs from him this season - but Paul has never lacked boldness in his captaincy. Sam's stock ball is well adapted to the longer form of the game by being less prone to tonking, and sets up nicely his surprise faster one. He got some long handle but one of his faster deliveries (1/46 from 7 overs) took a valuable wicket. Behind the stumps Tony was doing a impressively conscientious job for us, with GCC's Camice unfailingly stopping the wider ones that got past.

By over 20 her usual teammates had got 97, but with only two wickets down. Nick then gamely took up the bowling baton (or whatever the correct metaphor is) against his chums; a gentle opening over smeared for a couple of boundaries was followed by two wickets, the second a first-baller. Scoreboard pressure does strange things to the batting mind; a little later GCC's remaining opener had got his 50 and was looking good, but the need for attacking shots induced a pull to one that wasn't quite short enough and was smartly pouched by Sam at square leg. Nick's 6-over spell of 4/35 was a game-changer.

Paul Jordan (1/34 from 4 overs) taxed the scorers and the Health & Safety Inspectorate with an over that had 9 deliveries (two wides and a 5 no-ball beamer); canny old dog that he is, he also nailed GCC's no. 7 with one of his slow ones. The run rate was getting up to 10 an over . . .

As Paul writes, "We closed with Sanchit and Huw so we finished strongly. Sanchit (1/24 from 7 overs) was just too full and quick at the end." Huw struck down a couple, including another catch by man-of-the-match Sam, in his final over (2/22 from 6 overs), leaving Grantchester 12 short of our total.

Cricket seems to lend itself to poetry (you'll be relieved, though, that I am not going to burst into rhyming couplets), perhaps because both explore the fullness and intensity of what we feel; I enjoy football and other sports but they don't move me the way cricket does - I don't know why. I always feel a sense of loss - grief, even - at the end of the season. How can anything take the place of something quite so beautiful and perfect as today?