Today's game against UCLES was the decider: we'd thrashed them by 36 runs in mid-June, only for them to romp home by six wickets a month later, so whoever won today was going to have the honours for 2003. We were missing some of our strongest players, but the most important thing was that we won the toss and so got to bat while it was still light enough to see the ball.
Remnants sprang out of the blocks, George Speller (18) immediately smashing a few huge boundaries and Mike Sneyd (35) letting the bowlers do the work by repeatedly angling the ball backward of point. Dave Williams (16) continued in much the same vein, and with the score at 72/2 after 10 eight-ball overs the scene was set for some serious slogging. Daniel Mortlock (41*) and Martin Law (9) obliged, and we scored 60 runs off the last five overs. (Although it should have been 61, but yours truly was too busy worrying about the final ball LBW appeal to heed Les Collings's ``yes'' call, thus enuring that Les was run out without having faced a ball.)
That said, one run didn't seem likely to be critical as we bowled and fielded brilliantly to have UCLES struggling at 44/6 in the eighth over. George Speller (0/14) was unluckly to go wicketless, but had the last laugh with a spectacular direct hit run out when he hurled the ball all the way from backward square leg to the non-striker's end. At the other end Les Collings (3/15) had a field day, bowling three UCLES batsmen in the space of six balls, and being on a hat trick yet again.
It was at about this point that things got a little more interesting, UCLES's seventh wicket pair combining absolute aggression and sensible shot selection to plunder 71 runs off the next 48 balls. Our fielding once again wilted under the pressure, with plenty of fumbles, mid-fields and just plain misses; but, for the most part, the bowlers didn't let all this free hitting get to them. Russell Woolf (1/27) looked most likely to get the vital wicket, beating the bat several times, but it was Daniel Mortlock (2/24) who eventually made the breakthrough, by employing the surefire tactic of bowling as fast as he could in what was left of the late-evening light. Alas it was the less dangerous of the two batsmen feeling his way back to the pavilion, and his replacement scored just as easily, so UCLES were probably marginal favourites to get the 19 they needed off the last two (eight-ball) overs.
With two balls remaining UCLES needed just three to win (or two to tie) and we seemed to have blown the game. After a cheeky bye was scampered off the penultimate delivery, Dave Williams called his fielders up in what seemed like a forlorn attempt to ensure a final dot ball. Martin Law took a deep breath, pitched the ball up and watched as the batsman swung . . . and missed. The possible wide call was not forthcoming, but the non-striker was already most of the way down the pitch by the time the ball had lodged in wicketkeeper Dave Green's gloves. For a moment it seemed as if Dave was going to throw the ball back to Martin, but he kept his head and broke the striker's wicket with the batsman a few feet short of his ground.
We let out a collective sigh of relief -- everyone could think of several runs they'd let slip at some stage -- and clapped the valiant UCLES batsman (cruelly stranded on 48) from the ground.
This was not only a fantastic way to conclude a great game, but the result ensured that Remnants would have more wins than losses for the season. And, as if that wasn't enough, it was the club's 350th win in its 586th match. (To put this in perspective, England has won just 273 of their 808 Tests and 188 of their 381 one-dayers.)
And as if all of that wasn't enough, it was also the captain's birthday. Once we'd sung Happy Birthday to Dave (Les leading what was euphemistically referred to as ``close three-part harmony'') it was time to sink a few pints and wheel out the tried and trusted stories that have kept the populace amused through two and a half decades of Remnants trials and tribulations.