Given that the annual Remnants vs. Remnants game has twice been rained off and rescheduled, I think the first thing all of us did today was have a quick peek out the bedroom window to see what the weather was like. And at 10am it was glorious: no clouds, quite hot (by this country's standards), no wind, and perfect for cricket. However in the eight hours that followed the sky became more and more overcast, the temperature dropped, and we got some of that nippy sort of wind that just screams ``It's going to rain soon.'' And rain it didn't. That's right, we actually got to play the game -- it got a little dark towards the end, but we all stayed dry (at least until the bar opened).
The real Remnants, captained by Phil Watson, took to the field first and were fast out of the blocks, Daniel Mortlock (2/13) bowling Faruk Kara (0, but don't worry, he more than made up for that when bowling) with the second ball of the game. Dave Rowson's fake Remnants should probably have been two-down due to the ``timed out'' rule, but it was a friendly game and we wanted to get our wickets the more conventional way . . . an endeavour in which, at least for the next ten overs, we were completely unsuccessful.
Phil Marshall (29) and Tony Malik (53, with a surplus of excellent cover drives and pulls) played pretty immaculate innings, not reaching the boundary a great deal, but comfortably scoring at more than a run a ball. That they never managed to score too heavily was down to some canny bowling from Ross Williamson (0/22, with a lot of movement in the air), John Gull (0/10, probably posed the batsmen the most problems), Jack Anderson (0/15) and Paul Henderson (0/27, harsh figures given his nice outswingers).
With our pace attack unable to make a breakthrough we turned to our spinners, with immediate results. Ev Fox (1/15) got his first wicket of the year, bowling Tony (who somehow managed to fling his bat to square leg in the process), and Mr Watson (1/11) drew Mr Marshall out of his ground allowing first-time Remnants 'keeper Nick Clarke to complete a sharp stumping. With two new batsmen we'd hoped to slow the scoring rate, but Dave Williams (14*), Colin Anderson (11) and John Young (2*) took the fake Remnants' total to a respectable 130/4.
By the time the real Remnants went out to bat it was getting dangerously dark, but such difficulties are nothing to such a handsome collection of talented sportsmen (although we were scared stiff at the thought of Dave Norman bowling until we realised that he was going to be the second Remnants debut wicket-keeper of the day).
The run chase started pretty well, with Ev Fox (35, with a number of superb pull shots) and Daniel Mortlock (16) scoring at more than the required rate. Just as in the fake Remnants innings the maximum of two overs per spell made it hard for the bowlers to get into a rhythm but John Young (0/27), Les Collings (0/16) and Colin Anderson (0/13) all had the batsmen in trouble at times.
Then Dave Rowson played one of his trump cards, bringing on Mr Malik who, judging by his batting earlier in the day, was in no mood for messing around. He promptly bowled a double-wicket maiden, bowling Daniel and Ross Williamson on consecutive balls and finishing with the very tidy figures of 2/2. The loss of these quick wickets also led to a middle order collapse, with Phil Marshall (1/30) and Faruk Kara (3/7) routing most of the real Remnants' batsmen in the space of a few overs. Combined with a couple of run outs (due to good fielding in the deep by Phil and Colin, respectively) the forces of darkness came into the last few overs needing only two wickets for what would have been a remarkable (if morally repugnant) victory.
The only problem was that we'd saved our trump card to the end: Nick Clarke came in at number 7 and somehow contrived to hit 54* off about 30 balls. Apart from blocking out Tony's second over he seemed to hit just about every ball as hard as he could and in whatever direction he felt most aesthetically pleasing. So even though we were losing about two wickets per over, the runs were being scored at more than the required rate.
With two overs to go Nick and captain Watson looked in control, but one more run out meant that once again it was down to reluctant hero Geoff Hales to oversee the narrowest of victories. One slip and the team would be all out but, ever the calm man in a crisis, he snatched a cheeky single to tie the scores, thus selflessly giving Nick the glory of hitting the winning runs.
And so another memorable Remnants vs. Remnants game came to an end, operation Narrow Victory having been completed with the forces of freedom prevailing over Axis Of Evil.