Report by Dave Williams:
Faruk was "too lazy to do the match report" (Joe White), so it's me again. Please note that members wishing either to avoid the ignominy of similar public humiliations or, indeed, simply to enhance/burnish the historical record of their achievements are cordially invited to pay substantial sums of money into my Panamanian bank account or, more simply, stuff used £50 notes through my letterbox. I thank you.
The good ship Remnants sailed serenely into the match tonight - unlike yesterday[link to last night's report] - with the firm hand of captain Joe White on the metaphorical tiller from the get-go. The toss was done and decisions made well before 6pm. I don't know what most people think about this, but I strongly prefer batting first on dark evenings against a red (effectively black) ball, so the decision to bat first was a boost (at least to me) when James Crozier and I came to step out on to the square.
Tom Davidson (captain last night) allied himself with the opposition tonight to wang down some rapid in-swingers on a good length: 4 dot balls and a single for James, and then two dots and a late jab down from me, just squeezing past point's fingers for a boundary. As has become the norm, on this summer's arid outfield anything through the inner ring goes - unless there's a fielder beyond, of course - for four.
Tom knocked down James's castle (2 off unknown number of balls, not recorded tonight) in his second over to bring in Pete Ames (opposition captain last night); subsequently we were finding it difficult to score (21 off the first four overs), though I did reach the boundary with my first six scoring strokes, which were variations on pleasingly earth-hugging drives between point and long off. Pete and Deaglan Bartlett came and went for 1 and 0 respectively; Deaglan was unlucky to be the victim of some fine keeping when a legside delivery took a thick inside edge that made the keeper change direction 180 degrees and fling himself to his right to hold on single-handed.
Seth Aycock and I were relatively becalmed against some erratic but effective variations in pace from the Centaurs' first- and second-change bowlers. Scoreboard pressure forces you out of your comfort zone; I thought we needed to accelerate and take chances - slightly over 6 an over just didn't seem enough. So a risky two out to deep midwicket (a short boundary) duly took its toll: I was run out for 42 (out of the team's total of 70 at the end of over 10), which was individually and relatively pleasing if in truth not as much as we needed.
There was some more determined and aggressive Remnants intent from here on to the end: 41 off 4 overs, of which Seth made 19 (stumped), Kaustav Dutta 14*, Tom Bloomfield 19 (bowled) and Joe 5*. 111 looked, though, in the conditions, distinctly below what we might have hoped for.
Joe started well with a wicket first ball (cue Remnants animated body language). Faruk Kara opened at the Windsor Road end with good control of length and subtle variations in flight, inducing plenty of false drives when the ball wasn't where the batsman thought it was. Faruk's three overs, 2 for 22, included a sharp stumping by Deaglan, sportingly given by the Centaurs umpire for what was only a split-second raising of the batsman's foot.
Alec Armstrong took over from Faruk, continuing to build good pressure; two full rotations of Alec's left arm, one of his right, is a bamboozling sight for any batsman, especially when coupled with "the faster one" and his mystery wrong 'un, the increasingly fashionable (viz. Kuldeep Yadav) chinaman. One of his two wickets drew the batsman out of his ground, induced the smear and a miss, leading to a frantic cross-legged attempted twist round/retreat and a ground-shaking collapse of bum on to the floor; meanwhile Deaglan had smashed one of his stumps out of the ground, which cartwheeled through the air with rather more grace and mobility than the unfortunate batsman. Alec's impressive spell (three overs, 2 for [unreadable]) was helping to make a win genuinely believable . . .
Kaustav had chipped in too, with his two overs for a preciously low 10. Huw Davies took over at the Windsor Road end and, third ball, speared a mid-stump-high full toss through the batsman's defence. There was then a comedy run out, when the non-striking Centaur at Alec's end had called for a run (the ball went near James at backward point) and promptly stormed down to the other end - but the striker hadn't moved. So with two of them standing next to each other, James simply had to lob it back to the bowler. Cricket being the game it is, though, the overarm hurl was wayward enough to evade the bowler and backer-up; Seth as second-line of defence had to run round to pick it up. All this time the Centaurs in the pavilion were howling to get one of the players to run back, but rabbit-in-headlights fatalism had clearly set in some 10 seconds previously, so as in Matrix-style cinematography the rest of the game stood bizarrely still while Seth coolly jogged in with the ball to whip off the bails.
By this time Centaurs were 8 wickets down; at the end of over 12 they had 80 runs - we had scored 81. Could we pull off an Italian Job-style heist and steal the game?
At this point the match took an unexpected turn. After Huw's two-over spell Seth was told to limber up. He carefully measured his long run, tested it, moved the marker six inches back, then ran in with his distinctly whippy and athletic action to bowl at new batsman "Kevlar". Kevlar clearly had no idea where the ball was as it whizzed past him in the gloom. Chunterings (justifiable) from assembled Centaurs about visibility. Tom Davidson (after the successful use of the orange ball last night) asks for one. Arrival of orange ball (and jaw-dropping of parsimonious treasurer when it turns out to be a brand new one out of the wrapper). Request by Joe to Seth to come in off shortened run. Seth's second ball is not perceptibly slower, and has the same effect; at least everyone can now see it. Next ball: lovely good length on the money from Seth, and Kevlar turns out to be not so bulletproof after all. Tom now takes it on himself to pound the new ball several times into the pitch - I presume to mimic the condition of the old red ball. The incoming Centaur glances one for four, so by the end of the over Centaurs need 21 off two. Seth's over goes for 11.
Next up is Joe, declaring he is going to be bowling slowly. A tidyish start brings up a lovely straight drive for six over cover, then a four, a two, another four - in fact 19 off the over (cue deflated Remnants body language). Joe three overs, 1 for 30 - and one over went for just 1.
It was not a surprise, though it was a disappointment to me - because it was our best chance for a win - that, for reasons of safety in the dark, Seth was replaced by Huw. Taking two wickets or defending three off the final over is a tough ask; Huw had done his very best (2.2 overs, 1 for 23) but Qaiser, sometime of this parish, duly drilled a nice one through the forlorn one-saving circle to end the match.
Please may we use orange balls more at this stage of the season? If anyone objects, what about a compromise? For the second innings? They make a big difference.