Report by Daniel Mortlock:
With no rain and a full eleven selected several days in advance, there was only one thing to do this evening: win. This is something we've managed only twice this season, and another loss tonight would mean just one win per month - not very pleasing given that we aim to play twice a week.
We lost the toss and were asked to field first, which meant an immediate opportunity to find out if Remnants first-timer Tom Hinch really could, as he stated, bowl "outswing at a decent pace". The answer, very happily for us, was a definite yes: the NCI opener R. Banerjee was beaten by the first few and then decided to leave the rest - which turned out to be pretty sound judgement, since he was able to score much more easily of the later bowling, making it all the way to a half-century and retirement. That, along with the fact that we didn't take a wicket until the 12th (six-ball) over, might make it seem like the batsmen were dominating; but, while it's true that we were struggling to take wickets, NCI's run rate never got above a run a ball, and their second highest score was the other opener's rather slow 17. The floodgates were eventually opened by Daniel Mortlock (3/16), who enjoyed a little purple patch in which he bowled three batsmen in seven balls and then pulled rank to put himself at mid-on just in time to take a fairly straightforward catch off the next delivery. This, in turn, came off the bowling of Naveen "Chapsi" (1/15), whose immaculate spell left the batsmen with only one shot, a little squirt to leg, which we were able to render impotent with an unusual slips-like cordon centred on the square-leg umpire. Tom came back on at the end and finished with a hyper-economical 0/11, but the real surprise packet was Dave Williams (2/13), who hadn't bowled all year who was initially brought on only to fill a one-over gap after John Moore (0/12) hurt his shoulder. But Dave was so good that he prevented Alec Armstrong (0/13) from getting his expected second spell. Other than a few attempted faster balls, which turned into beamers and were rightly called as no balls, Dave completely bamboozled the batsmen with his high-flighted wrist spin, and got his just rewards in the final over of the innings when he had two batsmen neatly stumped by 'keeper Marcus Baker.
Having earned ourselves a target of just 106, it might have semmed that a third win for the season was a foregone conclusion - certainly the NCI players didn't seem to rate their chances. But we knew something they didn't: we had a pretty thin batting line-up. Veterans Dave and Daniel aside, there was nobody in our side tonight who had scored more than 150 Remnants runs at an average of at least 15.00. In some cases that was just due to being new to the club - Tom obviously hadn't ever batted in a Remnants game, and Marcus had only played for us once before - but overall the sense was that we were in for a rather nervous hour. (This was rather like the Pakistan fans at Edgbaston today, who included Qaiser Ahmed, Kaustav Dutta and Saad Shoukat - all were named in today's side at some point, but understandably took the opporunity to see their team play a live World Cup match. Pakistan's gain was very much Remnants' loss, as we really could have done with their batting tonight.)
Sure enough, our openers found scoring just as difficult as NCI's had an hour earlier, and after 4 overs we were just 16/1, and in danger of falling behind the required rate. After Tom Hinch was bowled for 6 (off 13 balls), thus adding himself formally, if hopefully temporarily, to the above "averging less than 15.00" list, we got the "village cricket moment" when John Young (0 off 9 balls) chipped the ball up to short cover and, even while the fielder was parrying the chance back towards the pitch, started setting off for a non-run, allowing said fielder to dive forward, re-gather the ball, and complete a farcical run out, the only material result of which was to deny the presumably displeased bowler a wicket.
We then got our noses in front, entirely due to Marcus Baker, who combined rock-solid defense with decisive attacking strokes to make a mockery of the previously turgid batting by players from both teams. Marcus seemed to have broken the back to the chase when he hit 24 runs (i.e., almost a quarter of what we needed) off a single over, although then there was a bit of a lull as Sam Thomas, batting for the first time in any cricket this season, struggled to get going, largely dead-batting his way to 6* off 16 balls. The NCI fielders were most impressed by his tennis-style bat flip when he came to the crease, but they soon worked out that they should crowd around him to try and stop quick singles, which they managed very effectively. Scorer Dave Green couldn't bear any more of this and hollered his trademark "Tonk it boys!" - and for once it worked, Sam hitting his next two balls to the boundary before being bowled for 14 (off 18 balls). Daniel Mortlock (4* off 6 balls at this stage) then succeeded with the obvious approach of giving Marcus the strike, and he in turn kept scoring freely, taking us to 86/3 after 14 overs. That meant we were in the surely unassailable position of needing just 20 runs from 36 balls, with two set batsmen at the crease . . .
. . . except that Marcus had just gone to his half-century, and so had to retire for an immaculate 50* off 33 balls. This obviously shouldn't have been a fatal problem, as some quick singles and a few bad balls were still all we needed - although one good over (like the 19th in Cambridge Assessment's innings last night) would have been preferable. Instead we got a succession of decidedly ungood overs:
Not only did we get a win, taking us to a significantly less awful 3-8 season's record, but we also got the chance to celebrate it, as Dave was around to open the bar for a post-match drink. Members of both teams hung around - the match was played in a great spirit throughout - and the general sense was of a pretty ideal way to spend an weekday evening.