``Cricket was the winner today.'' ``It's a funny game, isn't it?'' ``Every player was both hero and villain.'' ``Sport doesn't make character, it tests character.'' And so on. A great topsy-turvy match was played out against UCLES today; the text below gives some of the highlights, but sadly my memory is such that many are missed.
The two captains agreed that we could bat, as we only had six players present at 6pm, and we got off to a cracking start, Neville Fidler (18) and Andy Owen (13) taking us to 17/0 off the first over and 29/0 off the first three. They eventually put on 37 at a run-a-ball, but the loss of the first wicket precipitated a disastrous collapse in which we lost 5 wickets for 6 runs. Suddenly we were in real trouble at 43/5 and the innings would have been over if the rest of the team hadn't arrived in the meantime. Even so, it looked like 100 was out of reach, and that we'd be going home early.
However Rupert Brown (a very elegant 45*) and John Young (a careful 11) put on 57 invaluable runs for the 6th wicket, and, despite some more wickets falling towards the end, we made it to 125/7, a pretty reasonable target.
Or at least so it seemed. The UCLES batsmen spent the first ten overs scoring at the required rate without seeming to take any undue risks, and losing just the one wicket. But captain Tony Malik, determined not to lose this game, was getting a bit fired up, and came on to bowl just as the match appeared to be slipping away. A wicket and just a few runs in his first two overs gave us some hope, with 60 needed off the last 8 overs. But then some big hitting in the next over yielded 21 runs, and UCLES was again in the box seat, with the required rate less than a run-a-ball and 8 wickets left.
Not daunted in the least Mr Malik grunted and snorted through his last two overs, asking one batsmen if he was wearing a box, asking another if he could handle bouncers, aborting every second delivery because of the ``line across the run-up'' (and not, it is worth emphasising, so as to unsettle the batsman), and generally bowling the best spell of any Remnant this year. His eventual figures of 4/21 reflect this, but there could easily have been more wickets -- one sequence of four balls included two wickets, a dropped catch and an edge that just went wide of the wicket keeper. Despite this great performance, UCLES were still in the game, and came to the last over needing just 6 runs and still having 3 wickets up their sleeve.
Cometh the hour, cometh the bear. Or the man. Whatever his genus, his genius is unquestionable, and it fell to batting hero Rupert Brown to bowl the last over. He came through brilliantly, netting 2/1, but some leg-byes meant that, with one ball to come, UCLES needed 2 to tie, and were in fact down to their last pair (only having ten men). Rupert beat the bat, so it seemed we'd won . . . except the ball pitched in front of 'keeper Geoff Hales and ``turned square'' (allegedly), which meant byes, but how many? John Young dived to stop the ball, but couldn't prevent it rolling out of his reach -- with the batsmen already coming back for the second run, so it seemed that UCLES might win . . . but John got hold of it again and lobbed it to an upright Daniel Mortlock, who then hurled the ball in the direction of the pitch . . . only for it to sail over Geoff's head, and, with the batsmen poised to run an overthrow . . . Tony Malik, appropriately enough, collected the ball to end the game with scores level.
We all needed a stiff drink or two . . . but the bar was closed, so it seemed there'd be no drink . . . but the County Arms was within staggering distance . . .