Report by Daniel Mortlock:
We all know that the weather in the UK can be tough to predict, but the BBC seems to have just given up - all it seems to do lately is provide endless sequences of the "sun and raindrops" icon, with an associated rain probability of around 50%. Today, however, this (non-)prediction was perfectly accurate: each hour would have a flash of sun, followed by a few drops of rain and then maybe some ominous grey clouds. From the cricketing point of view a bit disconcerting, perhaps, but clearly not the stuff of early cancellations.
By 6pm both sides were, remarkably, fully assembled - or, in the case of Remnants, over-assembled, a twleve having inadvertently been selected instead of the more conventional eleven - and so an proper toss could take place . . . albeit with the NCI skipper presented with the unusual choice of "numbers or flowers", a Chinese 5 yuan coin being the rather unusual choice. After some tricksy statistical debate - and an attempt to toss the coin himself on the spurious grounds that this was their home match - it was perhaps inevitable that he would call incorrectly (albeit not by saying "heads" out of habit), and so we had no hesitation in batting first to get the best of what light there was.
Any fantasies of scoring at will from the outset were, sadly, dashed by some decent bowling and rusty batting. After 7 (eight-ball) overs, i.e., half-way through our innings, we were in real trouble at just 36/1. CJ Barrie, batting for the first time since last summer, had made a predictably tentative 6 off 23 balls before being bowled; and Ashwin Venkatesh, possibly chastened by his ugly mow on debut last week, had been pretty conservative on his way to 6* off 16 balls.
Fortunately, rescue was at hand in the serene form of Temoor Khan, who completely changed the game with his elegantly destructive innings of 40* retired off just 20 balls. Kanwar Singh (18 off 17 balls) and Taz Islam (20 off 14 balls, playing against his regular Saturday side tonight) then picked up where TK left off, and Ashwin also accelerated, hitting 31 off his last 19 balls to finish on 37* off 35. Even though we scored 97 runs in the second half of our innings, hence all but tripling our initial scoring rate to 2 runs per ball, it wasn't all plain sailing, the primary problem being (yawn) the running. At best it was indecisive, numerous pretty safe runs declined by the person who should have been running away from the danger end, often only when their partner was already most of the way home. But the absolute highlight was when Taz when for a big swing, failed to connect, tried to call his partner through for a crazy single, slipped over, and had to crawl back to his ground due to fear of slipping over again.
Perhaps with his erstwhile teammates' laughter was ringing in his ears, Taz then took hold of the new ball to start the second innings, greeting the NCI opener with a nasty chest-high full toss that was duly no balled. That ended any hopes of a repeat of his 4/0 performance against us for NCI last year, but Taz's spell of 0/11 was tight enough to get us the start we wanted. At the other end Sushant Achawal was even more economical, although his match-winning spell of 1/8 from 3 overs was simultaneously both rather fortunate and unfulfilled. The key point is that he generated prodigious in-swing to the right-handers, who could barely lay bat on ball, and so on that score he was unlucky to get just the one wicket; but on the other his line, while not too bad, was never quite right, and rather than starting outside off and zeroing in on the stumps, he tended to start on middle and swing down leg. This resulted in lots of plays and misses as the batsmen got inside the line - but fortunately the ball didn't go far enough down leg to be called wide. (The NCI umpires didn't fall for the IPL nonsense of batters "dodging" inside the line of the ball to induce wide calls for deliveries that just about skim the leg stump.) Add in an economical spell by Paul Jordan (1/13), and we'd restricted the NCI top order even more effectively than they'd restricted ours: they were just 35/2 at the half-way point of their chase.
There didn't seem to be much danger that they'd be able to replicate our extreme acceleration, not least because we had so many bowling options. Indeed, the main problem was that most of our attack didn't get much of a go tonight: Faruk Kara (1/13), Andy Owen (0/6) and Quentin Harmer (1/6) all went for comfortably less than a run a ball, but got only 4 overs between them. The only anomaly was Tom Almeroth-Williams (0/18), playing his first Remnants game and bowling for the first time since he was at school - he started with a few long-hops that almost bounced twice, but he recalibrated his radar within a few balls and had gotten the upper hand by the end of his one over. Moreover, Tom was fantastic in the field, mainly patrolling the short square boundary and essaying some stylish slides. This was part of a top team effort, with Kanwar and Paul stopping some hard-hit shots closer to the bat, Andy taking a nice diving catch, and Ashwin completing a sharp stumping off Faruk. It was one of those "can do no wrong" situations, as illustrated nicely when Daniel Mortlock (3/9) brought himself on for the final over and promptly harvested three cheap, if inconsequential, wickets.
Our 45-run margin of victory was rather absurd given where we were a quarter of the way through the match, and 2-3 for the season feels a lot better than 1-4 . . . so hopefully we can make it 3-3 after tomorrow's game.