Report by Daniel Mortlock:
Having so far played all our fixtures this year in the familiar womb-like familiarity of Fitz, the fourth month of the season presented us with the mysterious concept of an away game. Our reaction to the first of these was a straight refusal: we didn't get close to putting a team out for the Sunday afternoon fixture against Fen Ditton. And then the weather almost did for today's game, with rain overnight and a dismal forecast . . . but both the forecast and the actual weather improved to the point that we played much of this evening's game in glorious sunshine - and the only rain break was so brief that some of the players hadn't even made it off the field before being called back on.
Prior to the toss the ARM organiser Tom Cadmore confided that he had a "mixed" team which included both good club cricketers and people who've never played before. Whereas we had a decidedly unmixed team, in so far as the side felt like it consisted entirely of bowlers. Well, maybe it was more accurate to say that just about everyone in the side could bowl - but certainly the batting was thin, so it was hard to imagine making a big total given that the "retire at 25" rule would all but guarantee our long tail getting exposed. Still, that wasn't going to happen for a little while, as ARM won the toss and elected to bat.
That felt like it played to our strengths, and sure enough for the next hour we entered a "can do no wrong" fantasy land where everything just went as hoped. Openers Brajesh Kumar (1/8) and Taz Islam (0/6) were so economical that ARM were just 14/1 one-third of the way through their innings, with Brajesh in particular proving near impossible to hit, let alone score off. His wicket came in the form of a sharp return catch, showing that he's learned well not to trust the Remnants class of '21 to take chances in the outfield . . . but even this "wisdom" proved to be wrong with Saad Shoukat (2), Andy Owen and Andy Bell all holding onto mis-hit drives. The chief beneficiaries of this support were Paul Jordan (3/7, his best figures for Remnants this century) and Catherine Owen (3/18). Faruk Kara (1/25) was also a beneficiary, although of some perhaps dubious umpiring, his wicket being LBW after the batter had come way down the track, only to miss - it might well have been a straight ball (and it would probably have provided Kanwar Singh with his second stumping had it missed), but it was still an, er, unexpected decision. Daniel Mortlock (1/15) also got in on the action, which was significant only because it took his Remnants wicket tally to 367, one more than the record that had been held by Tony Malik since 1992. (Lest you start feeling sorry for Tony, it's worth mentioning that his Remnants run-scoring record, which he's held since, 1998, is in no danger whatsoever, as he's got a 2000+ run buffer to second-placed Dave Williams.) Indeed, the only thing that really went wrong during our time in the field was that we restricted ARM to such a small total (79/9) that even our under-staffed top order probably wouldn't all get a go, even with the low retirement score.
Certainly the early signs were that it would be an easy chase, as Andy Bell clubbed us to 11/0 off the first over, already 14% of the way to our target. Even when he was bowled (for 8 off 7 balls) off the second ball of the second over by a seriously zippy looking bowler it didn't seem too much of a problem: Andy Owen and Ishaan Bole both displayed immaculate defensive technique to deny him any further wickets . . . after which we got to see rather more of their defensive techniques than we would have liked. What at first was clearly sensibly careful play gradually became a little uncomfortable, and then worrying, and eventually baffling, at least to us watching from the pavilion. It was as if each ball was being taken on its merits, but the problem was that, with the pitch included, these were considerable. And with several big-hitters padded up and ready to go we needed to start taking more risks, either with the hitting or running or both. At the exact half-way point we were just 26/1 - although even then the requirement was an eminently doable 54 needed from 60 balls. Subject to increasingly frenzied calls to "hit everything!" and "run hard!" - and competing claims from the ARM fielders that they were doing fine - Ishaan and Andy did start to throw caution to the (now fairly strong) wind, but couldn't get the timing right off the tricky pitch, being restricted almost exclusively to singles (albeit in part because of two short runs). Ishaan was eventually caught off a mis-hit slog (i.e., doing the right thing) for 11 off 40 balls, thus ending a surreal 32-run partnership that occupied 80 deliveries, soon after which Andy was run out backing up for 17 off 41 balls.
This ushered in the frenzied conclusion to what had, up until now, been a decidedly sedate match. The Remnants middle order were now faced with the task of scoring 37 runs from 30 balls - fine with set batsmen on Fitz, but a tough ask at Queens' today in what were now fairly gloomy conditions. Saad Shoukat got the roughest deal, having been denied a bowl with the compensation of a place in the top order, only to be bowled first ball going for a big hit. More successful was Kanwar Singh, who made good use of some welcome width to belt 25* off 14 balls, at which point we reluctantly had to call him in at the retirement score, however tempting it would have been to let him smack a couple more boundaries. Still, Kanwar had gotten us to an almost-winning position, as implicitly acknowledged by ARM's disorganised (and time-consuming) field changes. We now needed 8 off 10 balls - which quickly became 8 off 9 when the swapping of umpires led to a missed delivery - but the quality of the bowling (and the speed, in the murk) was too much for the new batters, as we finished up 4 short of our miniscule target.
Just how miniscule was revealed by a check of the records: the last time a smaller total was defended in one of our games was 1997; and the last time we failed to chase such a smaller target was 1988 - both games from a different cricketing era. Such low-scoring games inevitably come down to tiny things: we let one of ARM's best batters have a runner, who promptly ran six twos; ARM brought back their fastest bowler in conditions that really weren't bright enough; we gave away more than the margin with (admittedly rare) mis-fields and loose balls; and so on. But the bottom line was much simpler: we just screwed up.