Report by Daniel Mortlock:
If cricket is a religion, as seems to be the case for many of us, then it must have its gods - be they real or imagined. As individual players, it can certainly feel like these cricketing gods smile on us or desert us on different days - or even on the same day - but the adversarial, zero-sum nature of the game means that the cricketing gods' overall influence on players (and teams) is exactly zero. If the cricketing gods were to look fondly on anyone, it should surely be the equivalent of the local priests, community imams, neighbourhood rabbis, etc., namely the organisers who gather together their eleven-strong congregations throughout the summer. And any such benevolence should surely be greatest at the start of the season, when the faithful must be induced to come out of hibernation . . .
Or not, at least judging by the week leading up to the start of the 2022 Remnants season.
The first sign that the cricketing gods had deserted us was when people tried to give their availabilities via our now standard Doodle poll . . . only to find that the site has been changed to the point of not being fit for (our) purpose. Within hours of the poll going live there were complaints that it was impossible to update availabilities, issues just logging on - and soon multiple copies of various players who hence found themselves in the Schrodinger-like state of being simultaneously available and unavailable.
We were then made aware of an unusual acronym-based screw-up, in which Remnants had convinced itself that it had lined up NCI for Tuesday and ARM on Wednesday. Perfectly reasonable, but members of those two clubs had got talking and quickly established that they both thought they were playing us on Tuesday. Fortunately, NCI was able to use its absurdly large player pool to effortlessly switch to Wednesday on about 30 minutes' notice, leaving ARM free to thrash us last night. Having a pretty good record against NCI of late, there was at least a hope of being able to immediately even our season's ledger - at least until the cricketing gods did their best to prevent this by drenching Cambridge in rain at about 5pm. There was the predictable flurry of messages on the WhatsApp group, although a consensus soon emerged: Fitz was bone dry and drains well, so we'd play as long as it the rain stops by game time.
Game time was, in theory, 5:30pm but it was closer to 6pm by the time Brajesh Kumar called correctly at the toss - the problem being that he was leading NCI against us today. An even bigger problem was that he chose to bat - we only had six players present, with the Cambourne contingent stuck somewhere on the A14, so we couldn't really accept NCI's kind offer to field first. It was thus agreed that we'd bat instead - seldom has a toss been more irrelevant - and that, given the delays, we'd aim to get through 13 8-ball overs before the darkness came again.
Our innings started about as well as could be hoped: NCI gave first use of the (pink) ball to a guy in a black tracksuit and flat-soled trainers, who perhaps unsurprisingly began with a half-tracker that Cam Petrie (29 off 25 balls) dispatched to the square boundary. After that, however, the bowler conceded just one more run off the bat, and somehow got his pace up to the high 70s, sufficient to not only hit John Young (15 off 25 balls) in the chest, but also to inflict the same injury on the wicket-keeper standing 15 yards back. At the other end Ben Stone was certainly aggrieved, and possibly unlucky, to be given LBW to a ball that hit him above the thigh pad - while he had been in a low crouch to a short ball that kept low, umpire Faruk Kara is a bowler . . . and soon after gave a run out despite the bails not having come off. Said batsman was of course recalled, but that that didn't stop a steady fall of wickets, and our innings limped along pretty painfully: we never got anywhere near even a run a ball; and the only other batsmen to get into double figures were Temoor Khan (19 off 12 balls) and Daniel Mortlock (12* off 14 balls).
Defending 88 seemed pretty unlikely, and even though Joe White (2/14), Ben Stone (0/15) and Faruk Kara (2/16) at least kept things repsectable, NCI were never under any serious scoreboard pressure. Their middle order then instigated something of a blow-out, with 13 coming from Faruk's final over (which also included a fine diving catch by John Moore at gully), Prasad Kulkarni (0/16) losing his vertical hold in his first over for the club, and then Naveen Chouksey (0/14) being unfortunate to see several boundaries come from genuine edges that went through the recently vacated slips. NCI thus started their 9th over needing just 6 runs from 40 balls. And while TK's claim that we were "just six good balls away from victory" was technically correct, just one ball might have been enough for our opponents.
What we really needed was a miracle from the aforementioned gods - and we got it in the form of more rain to bookend the match. A light drizzle started towards the end of Naveen's over, prompting several players to teasingly suggest to the umpires that we should go off; and then as we started to set the field for the start of John's spell it began to hammer down - there really was no way we could continue. With the presumptive result so close there was still time to wait things out, but the NCI players, and Brajesh in particular, seemed happy to call it a day. So, a few minutes later when the rain eased, we ended up in the bizarre situation of the players packing up their gear with the match unfinished and conditions perfectly playable.
This final result - and in particular the nature of it - does, however, call into question the earlier assertion that the cricketing gods can give to one only as much they take from another. While their decision to bring out the waterworks clearly robbed NCI of a win, we all knew we didn't remotely deserve to avoid losing - our draw was Pyrrhic at best, and like in a Greek tragedy we knew we were wrong to be pleased about sharing the game, even as we held our arms aloft in mock triumph.