Report by Daniel Mortlock:
Geoff, as Remnants founder/secretary and subsequently life president, kept a careful eye on all things club-related for four decades, during which time we were remarkably successful on-field: up to the end of the 2019 season we'd won 60% (582 of 963) of our decisively completed external matches. But we since seem to have gone into a perhaps understandable post-Geoff slump, having won just 2 of 13 matches over the last two seasons, a worse run than we'd ever previously "achieved". So, for all our - and Geoff's - principled concern for playing friendly cricket in the right spirit, etc., the aim tonight was quite simple: win.
On that score we could at least draw some confidence from the fact that we have an excellent record against our opponents for the evening, St Barnabas Church, having won 13, tied 1 and lost just 3 of our (completed) fixtures against them. Although, if their own website is to be believed, that puts us amongst their least successful opposition, as their win ratio from 2011-2018 is listed as just 0.41%.
Still, both teams would be starting on 0/0 this evening and, given that it's proved difficult to chase so far this season - a combination of no nets and poor light, perhaps - our plan was to bat first and set an imposing total. But that, of course, requires winning the toss . . . which, in turn, requires having a toss. For once we were the more punctual side, leading 11 to 6 on the headcount as 6pm loomed, the planned start time of 5:45pm having come and gone without note. We hence agreed to field first . . . at which point the rest of the St Barnies congregation appeared en masse (or should that be on mass?), as if to taunt our generosity. There was brief talk of demanding an actual toss, but that was quickly rejected on the grounds of just getting the game in - the skies were gloriously clear, but a change was forecast.
Given all that preamble, it was a bit galling when one of the St Barnabas opening batsmen objected to the 14x8s format - "Surely we can have a 120-ball game?" - and so it was quite pleasing when he was bowled off the inside edge in the 4th over. This was very much with the run of play, as our seam attack(?) of Joe White (0/13), Daniel Mortlock (1/12) and Paul Jordan (0/13) gave the batsmen no width and proved almost impossible to score off, conceding just a single boundary from their 9 (eight-ball) overs.
That said, probably the critical moment of the innings was nothing to do with the bowlers: the St Barnies number three, one K. Blake, came in and started scoring much more freely than his teammates, looking every inch the "proper" batsman - hard to see him simply missing a straight one. Instead, he opted to go for an ambitious second run on the arm of Huw Davies, who fired in a perfect throw to 'keeper Ashwin Venkatesh (on Remnants debut), who completed a sharp run out. This was the cause of considerable debate which lasted until after the match. First, not all of us were sure whether the Blake was actually short of his ground - those who did appeal seemed to do so a bit speculatively. Second, there was a full range of opinions on whether the second run was a) "always worth going for" or b) "suicidal". This was mostly just speculation, but one piece of evidence was forthcoming: Huw's next return flew ten feet over Ashwin's head, suggesting it really was unlucky to have been done in by a rare perfect return when it mattered.
Faruk Kara (2/9) then rammed home our advantage, with the help of a sharp stumping by Ashwin, and with one over to go St Barnabas had just 74 runs on the board. Given the lead-up to this game it was hard to be unhappy about this, although it was perhaps not such a bad thing that their number six took a liking to Kanwar Singh's slightly rusty offerings, taking his side to a slightly more imposing total of 92/5.
Indeed, St Barnabas supremo Gavin Howard made sure that we were all aware of the 2012 debacle when Remnants failed to chase comparably low Barnies totals not once but twice during that season. And at the half-way point of our innings it seemed we were on for a threepeat, having struggled to a dismal 52/5, thanks mainly to the efforts of the aforementioned K. Blake, who took 3/10 with his nippy out-swingers and then followed up with a fine running catch that one suspects none of the other St Barnabas players would have held. By the end of Blake's spell it was clear that we should just see him off, and so Ashwin was sent out with instructions do just that, safe in the knowledge that the other bowlers would be significantly easier to score off. Ashwin duly essayed some textbook forward defensives, and Andy Owen (who, along with a pleasing number of supporters, had dropped by to watch), sagely noted that "Ash looks pretty well organised" . . . at which point he suddenly played the ugliest of cross-batted heaves and was bowled.
Watching all this from the other end was opener Tom Serby, who'd been quietly knocking the ball around for 1's and 2's, and he was now joined by Joe White, who initially wasn't even able to do that, scoring from just one of his first dozen balls. After 10 overs we were 62/5 and, absurdly, now needed 31 runs from 28 balls - a pretty tricky ask now that a giant cloud front had swept across the ground to submerge it in a batting-unfriendly gloom. Still, Tom and Joe kept their heads and, combined with a couple of kindly-donated wides, we begain the final over needing just 4 to win. That surely would have been a doddle but for the fact that Tom was now 2 runs from enforced retirement, so there was the possibility of a new batsman having to finish the job with no sighters. Fortunately we got a couple leg-byes - the baying from the pavilion to go for the second run was something to behold - and in the end Joe hit the winning run with two balls to spare. Tom (39* off 36 balls) and Joe (20* off 26 balls) were thus clapped off the ground by their grateful teammates (and captain in particular, as he was next in), although if there was a player of the match award it would surely have gone to Blake for briefly making a surely impossible defense decidedly possible.
Having opened our account for 2021, it might have been tempting to trace this back to the crop of new young players we've acquired this this season. But nothing could be further from the truth, as it was absolutely the vets' show. Tonight's side was split pretty clearly in terms of both player age and Remnants experience. The six "younglings" in our eleven had just 70-odd Remnants games between them; their total contribution this evening 3 wicketless overs for 42 runs, 1 stumping, 1 run out, and with the bat just 18 runs from 35 balls at an average of 3.60. Whereas the five oldies, with almost 1500 Remnants games under their admittedly increasingly tight belts, took 3/47 from their 11 overs, matched the youngsters' run out, and hit 59 undefeated runs from 72 balls. One imagines that Geoff nodding in approval.
St Barnabas Church's report by Gavin Howard:
In the long lost days when intercontinental travel was allowed by the diktats of our supreme leader, young men would travel to the Americas to pursue their trade and hope to fulfill the dream of making it Stateside. Over recent years we have seen two such examples play out when these posh public school types, tired of the shackles of their privilege, sought for recognition on a stage greater than this sceptred isle. In doing so, they have inevitably settled down with Hollywood actresses and gradually we have seen them lose any sense of reality, but more importantly the irony of their existence is lost to them as they spend more time in the land of the free (of self-awareness).
In recent days, Mr Spig Tovey of the band Wet Blanket, former husband of Gladys and father of Banana and Mango, has been heard to decry the fact that the latest lockdown has forced him to confront his own ego, while at the same time the news reaches us that his latest single is to be beamed back to earth to an adoring and grateful public from the International Space Station.
Such a breathtaking lack of self awareness is a clear result of a poor lockdown. While it has been a period of introspection, many have grown at the same time. Post-Covid, the world must surely be a different place? Many of the activities we pursued previously must be seen through a Corona lens and exposed for the pointless, trivial charades that they truly are. Surely grown men in 2021 wouldn't allow themselves to return to any activity which, by its very nature, should be termed a total waste of time.
For some reason, these thoughts went through my head as I ventured forth on Tuesday evening to the ever so familiar setting of the Fitzwilliam ground on Oxford Road.
Death, taxes and St Barnabas turning up late for matches (have covered that particular ground before but a relief to know that we can pick up where we left off). At least it means we always bat first (but note to self, don't put your hand up to umpire as the skipper will forget about you in the batting order). By the way, in the scorebook under "toss won by" it reads "agreement".
So our bewildered openers shuffled onto the suburban, yet luscious Fitz ground. Clarky, now that he is a firm fixture in our line up, did his bit, as did Revd Dr, yet Remnants' fielding etc was solid and effective. Young Kane, a raw recruit, came in at 3 and showed great promise, only to be narrowly run out, bringing in Joe. Now Joe used to run between the wickets like a maiden aunt picking up her skirts, but he's obviously had a good lockdown which involved some actual exercise (imagine that, some of you). Footwork there was, cover drives there were and nifty runs were gathered. Our scoring wasn't everything it could have been, but then we only ever take a more cautious approach in this area of the game. Morrises both senior and junior scored fairly well and Jeswin showed something of his abilities. However, as we were playing against the Remnants, we resolved to keep the score neatly in two figures, resting on a lowly 92.
Their reply was not as punishing as we would have feared. Thanks to Kane and Morris Minor we had something which resembled a bowling attack, rather than our usual 'bowling wipe with a damp flannel'. Their opener, Tom, carried his bat through the innings. I had assumed that we were retiring on the regulation 25 or 30 but found out afterwards that 40 had been agreed as The Remnants always like to have a bat. Nevertheless, this tells you that their scoring was not high either. Kane, again, showed his class and bowled beautifully finishing with figures of 3 for 10, William did well of course, Jes was economical and I like the bowling of new recruit Karthik. Every ball was an effort ball, as he emitted a right grunt every time. As did Jazzer, but that's more down to constant back pain.
It came down to the last two 8-ball overs. 15 were needed. Were we to see yet another 'Miracle on Oxford Road'?* The very short answer is no but it came down to the 5th ball of the last over. I thought Ledzy bowled with great consistency and overall our oppos were never on top of the bowling.
We came, we saw, we reminded The Remnants of what lovely chaps we are, yet again winning them over with our bonhomie and promptly delivered pizzas (Michael again getting this spot on). Chatting to groundsman Dave while the sun sets over the trees on the far side is a feature of Cambridge life which Covid had obscured from view, yet is now back in full focus.
Highlight of the match? It has to be a glorious moment achieved between two of our senior players. Jeremy, who fielded brilliantly all evening, and Joe were both hurtling towards the ball as it threatened the boundary. Mr Hill, the nicest man in friendly mid-week cricket, had obviously watched some cricket in lockdown and decided to attempt the thing they do of passing the ball to each other in the field. Unfortunately they don't normally hurl it at the other player's face, so this particular manoeuvre was less Sky Sports but more Chuckle Vision. Worth turning up for that alone.
As Daniel, the opposition captain commented to me in an email this morning: "somehow 90-odd plays 90-odd feels more like dramatic cricket than the IPL-inspired batters’ games where the bowlers are all just fodder". Here, here brother. If ever one can be a purest about 20/20 (we'll be yearning for it once the dreadful Hundred starts), this is far more preferable than a practice match on a plastic pitch with free hits (heck, no one can prove it happened anyway).
So we're back on, fairly baseless now that St Cats isn't an option, picking up pitches where we can. Next week, we are playing against Kane and the Christ Church brethren (at least we know what to expect, yikes).
Until then, brothers.....
*We had defended low totals twice on this ground in previous years, a fact which we reminded their captain Daniel about, prompting him to reply "I know, you remind us every time".... We are nothing if not boringly repetitive.