Report by Dave Williams:
Madingley playing at Caldecote? What happened to the place where, according to legend, Les Collings said (nudge, nudge) he had "the most satisfying of his experiences on a cricket ground"? After driving through all the mini-roundabouts and '90s new-builds, the shuttered pavilion had the melancholy of an English seaside town in winter. A chill to the wind and high but heavy cloud presaged autumn, yet this was in some sense an early-season match . . .
Slightly nervous excitable banter among the doughty Remnants early - but law-abidingly not too early - arrivals . . . Strange days indeed. I had found a fat wallet in a hire car and was trying in vain to get the police to contact the owner - they don’t do lost property any more. It seemed like the cricket was going to be a side show. We seemed reluctant (surprise? disbelief?) to join the Madingley openers out in the middle but we eventually got going at ten past the hour. Naveen Chouksey whistled some through but it was mostly the virus etiquette that caught the eye.
Attempts to get the ball back to the bowler via the field brought some feeble chuntering. What about the ugly 'roll the ball back and shout to the bowler "it's coming"' technique? Frowned on in anything but school cricket, it doesn’t seem right. I didn’t know what to do when a defensive push came in my direction, so I sloppily booted it in the direction of the bowler. It felt and looked bad.
The Madingley opening pair seemed subdued as Naveen and captain Joe White went about their work. Naveen flicked the stumps for an early breakthrough (eventually 1/21 from his 3 overs), and Joe at mid-off suavely threw down the timbers at Naveen's end after sustained bowling pressure led to a badly judged single. Maha Ramanathan's leggies worked well the first over, but erratic lines and lengths meant he got carted for the rest of his spell (0/26 from his 3 overs). Marcus Baker was mopping up to good effect behind the stumps, with the help of the holiest of inners known to humankind - more hole than glove. Saad Shoukat rocked up off his distinctive quick-quick-slow-quick run up for three a tad wayward overs (for 26), without noticeably troubling the initially diffident Madingley 4 and 5, who both slipped into top gear before their enforced retirements at 30. CJ Barrie bore the brunt of their what seemed unlikely onslaught, his three overs going for 52.
Joe’s second spell was the highlight of the match, and even a strong early (late?) contender for the season's champagne moment. The dangerous Qaiser Ahmed, often of this parish, was on strike, already calmly smacking to furthest parts. Qaiser executed a fashionable "smash a straight one back past the fast bowler" only to find that Joe had plucked it out of the air like a ripe plum. The incomer only lasted a couple before chipping, more slowly this time, back to Joe again. The third one caught the get-out-quick virus by trying a quick single and getting his partner run out by Joe (final figures 3 overs, 3/17, plus two run-outs). A gradual escalation in the run rate had eventually brought up a healthy 139 for the home team, which might have been more but for some outstandingly fast chasing and dynamic throwing from Cameron McIsaac on debut.
Cam also looked a fine prospect as opening bat, playing some powerful shots with good style round the wicket before missing a straight one for his 20. By this time the clouds had parted like the skin on a rice pudding, and the creamy late-summer evening light was strong and sharp. As number 2 I could at least manage some sharp singles and get Cam back on strike; I launched a crunchy straight drive through extra cover for four and a straight-bat front-foot flick that landed just inside the big midwicket boundary, before being out LBW for 21. Tom Serby took a while to find his mojo, by which time the Madingley first change bowler was coming in off a run-up as twisty as a ride at Alton Towers and with a startling karate-style "hai!" on delivery. Deceptive speed and the noise might have been challenging, but Tom calmly glanced and pulled four boundaries off an over to get us back to the asking rate. Tom also impressively induced three dropped chances - one merely easy, the other two dollies - before his retirement on 32*. By this time the sun had gone down behind the dense woodland on the west boundary edge, and Qaiser was bowling at cruel pace to smash down the stumps of Neil Grover (3), Chris Badger (0) and Marcus (2). CJ (13*) and Saad (9*) struck some meaty blows, but by now it was too little too late.