Report by Daniel Mortlock:
Coming into the week with five losses and just the one win, there'd been a great deal of fretting about whether this was our worst ever start to a season, and the more pessimistic among our ranks had even started to wonder whether our years as a real force in Cambridge mid-week friendly cricket were coming to an end. The only way to counter such rumour-mongering is with data, specifically the fact we'd previously gone "1 and 5" in 2015 and 2006, so this year's admittedly dismal effort is at least not unprecedented. Moreover, in both the above years we won our seventh (completed) match, which ought to have been cause for some optimisim . . . except the real implication was that we had to win tonight: if we didn't then 2019 really would stand alone (and not in a good way, like Gandhi, but in a bad way, like Nigel Farage).
The side we were going to have to beat today was Coton, which is something we once did with regularity: as of 2007 our record against them was 13 wins from 16 (completed) matches. But it was at about this time they began their remarkable junior program, which not only sees hundreds of kids turning up their ground every evening during the summer but, more relevantly for us, means that what was once an archetycal village side now bristles with athletic and well-coached youngsters who can bowl "gas" or smash the ball to all corners. In the last dozen years the ledger has been a rather more sobering 8 wins vs. 9 losses, including two 7-wicket hammerings last year. In short, we had some work to do tonight.
Still, we started off with a minor piece of good fortune, which was that the Coton captain called incorrectly at the toss, allowing us to bowl first on what Dave had said would be a drying wicket, and easier to bat on later on. Joe White made superb use of the lively track and the new ball, his combination of impeccable length and subtle outswing proving too good for the (clearly decent) Coton openers. Unluckily, the ball only ever beat the bat, repeatedly thudding into Julius Rix's gloves, rather than deflecting from the outside edge to one of the three-man cordon standing ready to drop any chances that might come. Joe's eventual figures of 4 overs, 0 maidens, 0/16, don't remotely do justice to how well he bowled. At the other end Daniel Mortlock conceded 12 runs off his 2 overs, which might seem vaguely comparable, although he didn't beat the bat at all, and his only material contribution was to provide the delivery that the the younger of the two Coton openers launched almost vertically, but with such power that also had enough horizontal carry to clear the netting on the far side of the ground, meaning we got precisely nine deliveries from that particular new ball.
With an older ball it was time to take the pace off, which we did to great effect during a dozen-over stretch as Faruk Kara (1/18), Huw Davies (0/36) and Claude Warnick (2/13 from his first 3 overs) all proving difficult for the batsmen to time - although the short square boundary meant that there was always at least one boundary an over. The bowlers were helped by some fabulous ground-fielding close-in, as Huw, Faruk, James and Daniel made some sharp stops - which made it all the more ironic that the boundary fielding and catching were, in large part, abysmal. At least the two catches we did take were worthy of note: Claude held onto a fast-hit drive off his own bowling, moving to catch it with both hands before deciding it would be more fun to just use one; and Huw took a goalie-style catch when the ball was smashed to him at square-leg.
All this meant that with only 2 (six-ball) overs left Coton had just 107 runs on the board. That blew out somewhat to 122 after Claude's final over (which was more expensive than his other three put together), but at the other end Paul Jordan had conceded just 12 runs (and taken a wicket) from his first three overs and was all set to finish things off. But Daniel decided it was time for one final tactical masterstroke, and brought himself back on . . . only for Coton's now rampant number 7, Bradbury, to finish the innings with 4 2 4 2 2 6, taking him to 42* off 17 balls and his team to 142/4.
We weren't nearly as happy as we had been ten minutes earlier, but remained calm as set about a now challenging chase. After an early wicket our top order built a solid base as Chris Badger (17* off 23 balls at this stage), Simon Godsill (14 off 12 balls on Remnants debut) and Julius Rix (17 off 19 balls) took us to a promising 69/2 after 10 overs. Chris then cashed in with a sequence of 4 1 . 4 + O 2 + 4 1 6 2 1 4 that took us to 92/2 just 2 overs later, with the asking rate now down to a run a ball.
But then two things happened in quick succession: Chris was forced to retire (for a superb 53* off 44 balls); and Julius was castled by a superb in-swinging yorker from Declan Fitzhenry, who got his side back in front with a 2-over spell of 1/3 that probably matched Joe's earlier spell for inherent quality but had the added advantage of being delivered in decidedly gloomy conditions. Certainly neither Joe nor Daniel, the new batsmen, could manage much more than survival, their innings starting with the unpromising sequences of . . 1 1 . and . . . . 2 LB . respectively. We were no longer in the ascendancy, and with 38 runs needed from 5 overs the required rate was the highest it had been at any point in the innings.
But then two things happened in quick succession: Fitzhenry was removed from the attack (presumably because his bowling was too fast for the conditions, suggesting it had been a tactical error to have held him back for so long); and Coton's other bowlers started to drop short from the end with the short leg-side boundary. Daniel (26* off 21 balls) and Joe (12* off 17 balls) both capitalised on these welcome, if surprising, opportunities; although we still needed 11 runs from the final 6 balls. It was at this point that the value of good leadership was established: the final delivery of this bowler's previous over was off the cut strip and Daniel could have let it go through for a wide, but instead thought it better to demonstrate to Joe what not to do by stretching out to toe-end the ball harmlessly to point. Thus instructed, Joe diligently left a sequence of wides in the final over, finally releasing the pressure, and the winning run was hit off the penultimate delivery.
Phew! 2-5 somehow seems way better than 1-6 . . .