Sure Remnants has a positive win/loss record for 2003, but we haven't really got any claim to greatness without beating our own Geoff Hales's Travelling Theatre XI. This formidable outfit has never been defeated in its one-match history -- last year's final game -- and could conceiveably cancel future fixtures against Remnants on the grounds of lack of competition. (To come clean, the Travelling Theatre XI is essentially a Remnants team, qualification coming as a fringe benefit of having seen -- or supported -- Geoff doing his one-man show.)
Phil Watson led Geoff and the other eight TT XI players onto the field, and we began the year's final match as we had so many others: with Paul Jordan (1/27) taking a wicket in the first over. Andy Owen (2/10) then continued his late season challenge for the bowling averages before Nick Clarke (37), Mike Scanlon (15 in his final Remnants game before going to work in the City) and Phil Marshall (35) steadied Remnants' leaky ship.
The mid-innings period had more than a touch of farce about it, and was even a little boring unless you were a Jordan: both Paul and his young son, Tom, did superb work at the two mid-ons, and seemed to have almost every ball come in their direction. This trend was only halted when Tom (1/14) came on to bowl, claiming the prize scalp of Nick Clarke, well caught at cover by Mike Sneyd. Dismissing a man who'd just passed 600 runs for the season would be cool enough in and of itself, but last time these two locked horns Nick hit 26 off five of Tom's deliveries, so this was also an act of revenge.
The innings ended with Phil Watson (2/9) bowling one of the year's most eventful overs, a thrice-bouncing no ball being followed by a somewhat lucky stumping (courtesy of a rejuvinated Geoff Hales) and, finally, Rob Harvey decapitating his own wicket in an overenthusiastic attempt to play across the line one last time.
The Travelling Theatre XI was faced with the task of scoring at an even ten runs per (eight-ball) over, a target which soon ballooned as Mike Jones (0/14, in possibly his final Remnants game before buying a house in Stoke) proved economical and Graham Stafford (1/22) showed up Phil's earlier profligacy by bowling Mike Sneyd with a ball that bounced just the twice.
The TT XI then took the ascendancy, Rich Savage and Faruk Kara accelerating the scoring nicely, although the former (14, in his final Remnants game before moving to Brighton) was no doubt most annoyed to bowled by Phil Marshall (1/23 in his final Remnants game before moving to California).
If enthusiasm was all it took to win cricket matches then Remnants would have prevailed, their fielding spirit being epitomised by John Gull's work on the boundary: when his sliding stop knocked the ball in the direction of the line he scrambled to his feet, dived a second time . . . and deflected the ball towards a different part of the line, a third lunge failing to prevent the year's most bizarre boundary.
And if skill was enough to prevail at this stupid sport, George Speller (0/8) would have been better rewarded for his perfect leg cutter (which turned Andy inside-out) and lightning fast chest-high bouncer (which left Faruk convinced the ball had gone over his head).
In the end, of course, enthusiasm and skill come a poor second to having a good day, and both Faruk and Andy Owen had very good days indeed: Faruk scored 52*, highlighted by classical back-foot play; and Andy scored 40*, highlighted by hitting the ball very hard. In the end the match -- and season -- was completed just as our last year's final game finished, with Andy Owen smashing yet another four. The only difference was that, this time, there were ten balls to spare.
The decision to play a twelve-over game meant that there was still plenty of light left as we finished, and given that this was to be our last chance for eight months, we staged an impromptu six-player single-wicket competition with the Jordans, but it eventually got too dark even for this gentle form of the game. The cricket season really was over.
Tradition -- has anyone else noticed that almost every Remnants event has some element of tradiation -- then demanded that we mount a fifteen-man raid on the Tandoori Palace. Thus Mike Sneyd had his second ever curry; Dave Norman waited fifteen minutes for a beer to be moved from a nearby fridge to the table; and Sally did her best to convince the waiter to make her a cup of tea. There were well-deserved thank yous to leaders and organisers; there was the usual horror at the amount we'd eaten; and there was even almost enough money to pay the bill. But you can't delay the inevitable, and eventually there was nothing for it but to head home to a strange mixture of a season's cricketing memories and a bizarrely appropriate Channel 4 show about aging hippies keen to retain a grip on their youth.