Report by Daniel Mortlock:
With five of our last six fixtures washed out, it was no surprise to wake up to a text from Dave: "very wet at Fitz [. . .] the ends of the wicket are very wet as is the square [. . .] I will make a call at 3pm". With the BBC forecast showing a high probability of early afternoon rain, it seemed we were going to be six from seven . . . but Andi Thwaites, the Cambridge Assessment organiser offered a dissenting view, noting that "the Met Office forecast (which is invariably more reliable than the BBC) says a 10% chance of rain for the afternoon so I will keep my fingers crossed." Whether Andi actually kept his fingers crossed is unclear - it's certainly hard to see his productivity benefitting from such a policy - but the Met Office was right and the BBC was wrong: there was no more rain during the day and the game went ahead in decent if completely overcast conditions.
With both teams (almost) fully assembled by 6pm we actually had a proper toss - or at least would have if either captain had a coin. There was talk of running back to the pavilion to get one, but instead a debit card was used for the purpose, Andi's call of "front", made while the chosen card was fluttering through the air, turning out to be correct. Andi's decision to bowl was a tad surprising - although it made sense soon enough as it became clear that Cambridge Assessment were blessed with a seemingly inexhausible supply of quality seamers, most of whom were a little bit too quick for most of us.
Indeed, the overall feel was that we were facing a team made up of players who, in Chris Badger's words, "just look like cricketers". They certainly looked the part, in bespoke team kit with University crests below which the words "Cambridge Assessment" were actually sewn in rather than just ironed on. It wasn't always this way, and back when they were called UCLES their teams were much more mixed, which goes some way to explaining why Remnants generally won our encounters.
An easy victory - or indeed any victory at all - seemed most unlikely initially as our top order was either dismissed or restricted by some excellent bowling. After 4 (six-ball) overs, we'd played out 21 dot balls were just 9/1, with Julius Rix (7* off 12 balls) having done all the scoring while at the other end Stephen Bidwell (0 off 6 balls) and Qaiser Ahmed (0* off 6 balls) hadn't made any progress at all. Julius (21 off 30 balls) and Qaiser (16 off 26 balls) of course started to see the ball a bit better, but never broke free, and by the end of the 13th over they'd both been dismissed and we were languishing on 51/4, miles away from setting a competitive total. Astonishingly, it could have been a lot worse, but for the fact that the otherwise excellent Cambridge Assessment fielders dropped four basic catches, despite in all cases looking assured under the ball. (Dave Green, passing by to take photos before going home for his supper, asserted that spinning top edges are impossible to catch, which aside from demonstrably untrue, was quickly revealed to be a not-so-subtle attempt to build his case for dropping a similar chance last month.)
In the last third of our innings we more than doubled our total as Chris Badger (41* off 27 balls) and Will Phelps (38* off 26 balls) showed their class - they both play for St Giles in the senior leagues - as Chris cut the ball with timing and placement and Will hit high and hard into the "V". Our final total of 127/4 was scarcely believable given the way our innings had started - although it also somehow didn't feel enough.
Still, we started our defense brilliantly as Joe White (1/15) and Saad Shoukat (2/11) conceded just 26 runs from their 8 overs from the southern end of the ground. They both bowled with pace and movement, repeatedly beating or taking the outside edge, although when they did the chances went to ground - our attempts at taking catches were no more successful than the opposition's, suggesting it really was a difficult seeing day. Catching aside, we backed up the bowlers brilliantly in the field, Huw Davies making some great stops square of the wicket, Pete Ames chasing tirelessly at mid-off and 'keeper Julius Rix making some great leg-side takes.
Claude Warnick (0/22) and Huw Davies (0/25) both kept the batsmen in check for a little while before being hit in their final overs - a slightly more proactive approach to bowler rotation might, with hindsight, have been needed there. Still, after Saad finished off with a maiden over and then Will Phelps (1/22) bowled a couple of tight overs we might even have been ahead for the first time all day. Will finished the 18th over by having the surviving opener, UCLES veteran Steve Robinson, caught at mid-wicket by Daniel Mortlock (finally breaking the sequence of eight dropped catches that spanned the two innings) and then Daniel (1/29) came on and had the other set batsman, erstwhile Remnant Andrew Lea, plumb LBW with the first ball of the 19th over. Cambridge Assessment now needed 19 off 11 balls, with two completely new batsmen, and when Daniel's next ball nicely snicked the edge of the bat . . .
. . . everything went wrong: the edge was missed and the batsmen ran two; the rest of Daniel's over went for 4 2 2 4; and Will's hopes of applying some pressure with a few dots were clinically wrecked by a single and a four to finish the game. It was clearly all Daniel's fault, not only because he was hit for runs in his last over (not that there anything particularly wrong with the deliveries), but because he went against the natural order of the match, which was for dismissals to come exclusively by bowlers sending a stump cartwheeling out of the ground. This was also questionable tactically, as the two dismissed batsmen, while obviously "in", were struggling to score, with strike rates of just of comfortably below a run a ball, about half of the required rate at that stage.
It was great to get a "proper" cricket match that, with the exception of the catching, was played at a high standard pushing up towards senior league levels. And it was also just great to play after so many wash-outs. All we need to do now is somehow remember how to win.