Report by Daniel Mortlock:
It was like Groundhog Day all over again: steady rain in Cambridge during the day meant the Remnants WhatsApp group was once again alive with breathless weather reports: "still very wet and gray here"; "it isn't really raining [...] just that misty drizzle crap that makes us sit around waiting for the pitch to dry"; "occasional spots and pretty, but clouds moving briskly"; "just started very heavily in Northstowe"; and then the ominous "It is here". But this was all an irrelevant distraction to Dave, who stuck to the (or at least his) party line: you'll be fine to play provided it stops raining by 5pm as forecast. As indeed it did, and hence indeed it was. In fact, we played most of the match in glorious sunshine, sufficient to have fielders on the pavilion side of the wicket shielding their eyes from the thermonuclear fireball in the western sky. (No, no, don't worry, nothing to do with Putin.)
At the time of the toss there was some concern to see that water had gotten through the covers, leaving a wet patch on the pitch. But it was wide and short, and Daniel confidently reassured the Sharks' skipper that any ball that landed on it would be a dismal half-tracker and no threat to anyone. We settled on a 14x8s game - once again an unrealistically optimistic visiting captain had to be talked down from the fantasy world of 20x6s - and were asked to field first, which we at least could tonight, our eleventh player driving into the ground just as the captains were walking back to the pavilion miming batting and bowling actions to their teams.
The game was pretty evenly balanced initially: Ben Stone (0/22) and Mike Foulkes (0/14) both got enough lateral movement to repeatedly beat the bat; but one Sharks opener in particular connected with his cross-bat shots to good effect, and Sharks can't have been unhappy on 31/0 after 4 (8-ball) overs. Veterans Andy Owen (3/18) and Daniel Mortlock (1/11) then simultaneously put the breaks on and made breakthroughs, albeit largely thanks to some good fielding. The two catches taken off Andy's bowling were as low and high as it gets: Daniel held onto a flick at mid-wicket that never got more than a foot off the ground; and then Cam Petrie back-peddled to take one of those horrible skiers that swirls around and induces The Fear. Daniel's wicket was a combination of luck and brilliance: the luck was that an awful half-tracker landed in the aforementioned wet patch, and what should have been an innocuous long hop that the batsman would have cut to the boundary instead spat up to head height; the brilliance was that 'keeper Marcus Baker somehow completed a clean take and whipped the bails off before the unfortunate batsman knew what had happened. Given the sharp bounce it's a stumping that even a pro would be proud of, and was definitely the stand-out moment of class in the game.
Unfortunately, the rest of our fielding efforts were not quite up to this standard, with a combination of mis-fields, off-line throws and dropped chances (admittedly none sitters) allowing Sharks to keep the scoreboard ticking over. The prime victim here was Naveen Chouksey (0/16), who repatedly beat the bat and induced false strokes, only to somehow once again end up wicketless. The irony was that Naveen had probably been our best fielder - the ball just kept going to him, but he kept getting something in the way.
The Sharks' final total of 90/4 did not feel enough to be winning - the second innings in our three matches so far this season were all comfortably higher (or were about to be until the intervention of rain). Still, there was no danger of getting complacent, especially when the first over of our innings yielded as many wickets as runs - TK was unlucky to glove a lifter (from the wet patch?) through to their 'keeper. Cam Petrie (22 off 21 balls) and Tom Serby (21 off 34 balls) then established an ascendancy - we were 40/1 after 5 overs - only for our middle order to get rather bogged down in a miasma of wickets and - worse! - dot balls. The next 5 overs saw 5 wickets fall for just 29 runs, the former largely due to bad shot selection and the latter at least partly because of dismally tentative calling. 42 needed off 32 balls mightn't sound too daunting in the age of 200+ T20 totals, but the international superstars aren't playing a drying Fitz pitch in the setting sun - to say nothing of our non-existent momentum . . .
. . . at which point Ben Stone arrived at the crease and seemed to be playing a different game - specifically one conjured up by EA Sports and running in "cheat mode". His full innings of 33* off 11 balls was 1 4 . 4 4 2 4 4 6 . 4, although he claimed he only middled two shots, one of which was a towering six that missed his own car by just a few inches. Ben's last boundary came with scores tied, and we somehow won with 20 balls to spare. It was one of the great "victory from the jaws of defeat" heists in Remnants history, up there with the Hart-McLeod millennium miracle and the Computer Laboratory's binary meltdown.
There was also the broader context: without Ben's heroics we'd have had just a draw from our first four matches, with a repeat of 2020 in sight; instead we're 1.5/4 and just one good match away from being back in black.