The previous Remnants match - a one-run victory - ensured a positive win/loss ratio for the season; today's game presented us with a chance to establish a similarly positive record against the various teams led by our own Phil Watson (specifically the Philanderers, the Watsonians and Girton).
As the match got underway it had a decidedly half-hearted feel to it, the Philanderers taking to the field with just nine men and only about half the Remnants batting line-up in attendance. We supplied a fielder to help the Philanderers make up the numbers, an act of chivalry that must have left Mike Jones rather displeased when he was caught by said substitute off the second ball of the innings. Things went from bad to worse when Tony Malik (10) was dismissed a few overs later and, whilst John Young (25) and Dave Williams (18) stopped a potential collapse, the run rate appeared to be fatally low. With the score at just 30/2 after 7 eight-ball overs the smart money was on yet another furry victory.
That improved marginally to 78/3 with two overs remaining, but then Faruk Kara (26*) and Daniel Mortlock (9*) decided that enough was enough. They threw the bat with total abandon, the result being a slightly risky 32-run partnership off 15 eventful balls. Phil was left with the ugly figures of 0/15 off his single over and a non-trivial target of 110 for his team to chase.
Remnants took to the field with the sniff of a comeback win, and we bowled and fielded somewhere between well and brilliantly, giving very little away for the whole innings, even when the ball had become all but invisible during the final overs. Paul Jordan (1/14) produced his best spell of the season; Daniel Mortlock (0/12), Mike Jones (0/9) and Dave Williams (0/14) were all economical; and Martin Law (1/15) and Faruk Kara (1/31) got wickets at critical times, Faruk's coming in the tensest of final overs (more of which later). More pleasing, however, was that - in stark contrast to some recent tight finishes - our fielding didn't crumble under pressure. Tony Malik and Mike Jones and then Dave Green and 'keeper Mike Scanlon paired up for good run outs, and Martin Law, Dave Williams and Pete Warner repeatedly prevented the cheeky Philanderers batsmen sneaking extra runs.
And just how important were a few extra runs? Critical, as it turned out. The opposition's innings mirrored our own: a wicket in the first over; then a slow-scoring period (e.g., Philanderers were 49/3 after 9 overs: 62 needed off 48 balls), followed by a recovery that, bizarrely, saw the scores at the 13-over mark exactly matched at 78/3. By this stage we should have been favourites but for two facts: i) we had scored 32 off our last two overs; and ii) Phil had just come to the crease looking like a man on a mission. He repeatedly smashed the ball into the shadows, resulting in a dropped catch, a few misfields and lots of runs. When he finally found himself at the non-striker's end the equation had been reduced to 12 off four balls, but it was here that Faruk kept his head, bowling the young Philanderer who'd caused us so much trouble and finally swinging the match decisively in our favour.
Phew! It would be nice to thrash a team for a change - of our last five victories three have been by less than ten runs - but, then again, these close victories are kinda fun (provided you've bowled your overs and there's no danger of the captain looking in your direction when miracles are required). The only thing that was missing was Geoff - away "rapping" in the south - so he was unable to offer Phil condolensces for his team's 1-3 records against Remnants for 2003.