And so it came to pass that the last match of the season was upon us -- given the way the summer had panned out it was hard not to expect one final wash-out to be getting on with but, lo, it was warm and sunny and just the sort of evening to bring things to a close. It was another internal match today, but not a normal Remnants vs. Remnants game of the sort that has become traditional. Instead it was billed as ``Remnants vs. Geoff Hales's Travelling Theatre XI'', the latter being a team made up of people who've been in (or, in one case, is) Geoff's one-man show. For those philistines amongst you who haven't made it along, it's quite fabulous -- Geoff's evocation of Magwitch (the convict from Dickens's Great Expectations) is guaranteed to haunt your waking and sleeping hours in equal measure.
Remnants batted first and chugged along steadily if unthreateningly for most of their innings -- Phil Marshall (29) and captain Dave Rowson (23) never quite broke the shackles placed on them by Paul Jordan (0/16 and a lot of strange hand gestures to his fielders) and Martyn Waterfall (1/11). Paul Henderson struck a few telling blows to race to 12, but then hit a ball to the panther-like Geoff Hales and foolishly set off for a quick single, only to collide with his batting partner mid-pitch. Rather than scurry for the safety of the crease, however, the two batsmen acted more like long-lost friends who hadn't seen each other since school, and while they appeared to be catching up on old times Geoff combined with Les Collings (a tidy 1/18) to complete a bizarre run out.
It was then suggested that the rest of the Remnants batsmen be contained, rather than dismissed, lest Nick Clarke (due in next) get the chance to wallop a few boundaries. Faruk Kara (0/20) managed this admirably (and fielded brilliantly in the deep), but Daniel Mortlock (1/17) made what looked like being a fatal error by giving Nick four overs to wreak havoc. And this he did, getting 43 not out off about 20 balls, cruelly hitting 27 off young Tom Jordan's debut over in the process. Phil Watson (1/10) nabbed another wicket in the last over (the batsmen having made it half-way down the pitch before being stumped off a ``hand grenade''), but it looked like Nick had once again gotten his team into a winning position, Remnants finishing with 128/5 off their 12 eight-ball overs.
The Travelling Theatre XI's innings started in much the same vein as Remnants' -- Phil Watson (14), Faruk Kara (19), Daniel Mortlock (14) and Mike Sneyd (15) all got starts but no-one hung around long enough to score at the required rate. In part this was due to the fairly pedestrian attack all finding a nasty length and serving up very few loose balls: Robin Woolley (0/10), Dave Williams (1/20), Russell Woolf (2/15) and Phil Marshall (0/22) frustrated the batsmen to the point where they were tempted into trying to slog boundaries, and this of course meant a few chances being offered up. The truly remarkable thing about the innings, given our year's sorry efforts in the field, was that most of the chances were held. Phil, Paul, Nick (twice) and Mike Scanlon (yet another debut behind the stumps, and almost taking a truly spectcular catch first ball) all completed tidy catches, although the day's most spectacular piece of fielding was left to Dave Green. Disobeying his captain's instructions of ``easy, easy'' when he'd made a nice stop at square leg, Dave hurled the ball at the bowler's stumps and, it turned out, the batsman, Mike Sneyd. Mike successfully dodged the ball, but only by stopping a good foot short of his ground; by the time he continued his journey to safety the ball had hit its target and we had a second daft run out for the day.
All this meant the thespians had been reduced to 60-odd/4, leaving just 40 balls to score 70-odd runs. But Andy Owen was at the crease and seemed to be particularly determined to make up for a mixed day behind the stumps by winning the game off his own bat. Paul Henderson (0/21) bowled the fastest spell of the day but Andy just responded by coming down the track, a tactic which was largely successful (although Paul had a close appeal for caught behind turned down partly 'cos it missed the outside edge but partly 'cos he couldn't keep a straight face whilst earnestly pleading with the umpire). Then Dave Green, bouyed by his fielding effort, came on and produced a most eventful over: 2 wickets, 2 wides and a total of 14 runs, after which the Travelling Theatre needed 32 runs off sixteen balls. Some more good hitting by Andy and aggressive running by the new batsmen (Martyn Waterfall) meant the last over began with 20 runs needed and Andy pitted against the unfortunate John Gull in what was essentially a battle of wills. Some missed run outs and overthrows combined with more manic running meant that Andy needed a four off the last ball of the season to both win the game and get his half century. He came down the track one last time, heaved the ball to leg, and let out a primeval yawp of triumph as he took his own score to 52* and the Travelling Theatre XI to the narrowest of victories.
Certainly a great climax to a season that has seen us lose far too many games (mainly to rain, but also to other teams), and the perfect appetiser for an energy-rich meal of curry and lager. Twelve of us extended the season for a few hours more at the Tandoori Palace, with tales of Ross's financial techniques combining with wicked impressions of each others' on-field foibles. And Mike Sneyd even took his first step into the wider culinary world of Asian food, and seemed to enjoy it too (except for the horrid lime pickle). But all good things must pass (although I'm not sure why, I have been assured that this is the case) and so we waddled home, entertaining ridiculous fantasies of bowling fewer loose balls and not getting out to silly shots next year.