Every season comes to this, the last scheduled Remnants match: a final chance to hit a perfect off-stump line; a final chance to eschew cross-bat slogs; a final chance to get one's body behind the ball. Provided, at least, that the game isn't washed out. After last night we were all a bit edgy, but as the afternoon progressed the weather held, and in the end some 25 of us convened at Fitz for the now traditional internal match between the Remnants proper and Geoff Hales's Travelling Theatre XI. For the first time all year we even had Sal scoring from ball one, so the scene was well set as Baz Dare led his band of thespians onto the field.
Things got off to an appropriately dramatic start, with Daniel Mortlock (1/19) and Andy Owen (2/26) bowling fantastic spells on a helpful pitch, only to be matched and eventually overcome by Chris Martin (55, with 6 fours and 1 six) and Nick Clarke (17). Having put on 49 runs off 45 deliveries they looked set to go on the rampage when they made the mistake of taking on the Travelling Theatre's Australian contingent -- Tony Robinson fielded the ball on the square boundary and relayed the ball to Daniel at mid-wicket who, having heard the batsmen's frantic negotiations for a second run, turned and hurled the ball at the stumps (using The Force rather than his targeting computer), which were duly hit with Nick a few yards short of safety.
Chris, though, kept scoring well, making a late charge towards the top of the batting averages as wickets fell with regularity at the other end. Martyn Waterfall (2/14) and Anton Garrett (2/15) dismissed most of the middle order, and it was only some big hitting by captain Dave Williams (23) and Martin Law (14) which took Remnants to the respectable total of 134/8 off their 15 eight-ball overs.
After a very quick change-over the Remnants bowlers closed down the Travelling Theatre's top order, with Mike Jones (1/11) and Tom Jordan (1/12) both economical, and a rather crowded 13-man fielding arrangement proving predictably difficult to pierce. Mike Sneyd's 20 was particularly valuable taken in this context, and also spectacular: several quick singles required dramatic dives that led to his kit being more brown than white by the time he was clapped from the ground. Geoff Hales (2) also received a warm hand as he walked back to the pavilion having played what may have been his final Remnants innings, although the man himself was merely annoyed at being dismissed for the first time this millenium.
It was also around this stage that Ollie Clark bowled his first over for Remnants; but where his first fielding effort for the club was a triumph (a superb outfield catch), his one over was an unusual mix of five dot balls, three singles and eight wides. At first it seemed very generous to be giving the batting side so many free runs, but then it was pointed out that it might have been a delaying tactic designed to ensure the run chase be completed in total (rather than just partial) darkness.
By the time Ollie ``Blossom'' Waterfall had been run out for 3 in his debut mid-week innings the Travelling Theatre had limped to 43/6 off 9.4 eight-ball overs and the contest seemed to be fading out even more rapidly than the light -- indeed, when Baz was asked his opinion on his team's chase his succint reply was ``crap''. Hard to argue with, but anyone who knows their Remnants history would have noted Andy Owen's presence at the crease and might have thought back to the equivalent fixture two years ago -- in that match Andy had steered the thespians to a last-ball victory after they'd needed 70-ish from 40 balls at one stage. Impressive stuff, to be sure, but today Andy and Daniel Mortlock came together facing the even more extreme task of scoring 92 runs off 44 balls.
After continued tight bowling by Colin Anderson (1/29) and Paul Jordan (1/20) the target had blown out to 84 off 34 balls (i.e., two-and-a-half runs needed from every ball), at which point all hell broke loose (at least in cricketing terms). A lot of leg-side balls were smashed to the unprotected square boundary; most of the good balls were scored off; and some very cheeky leg byes and byes were run (one after a failed stumping attempt!). The penltimate four overs went for 14, 17, 29 and 11, respectively, leaving 19 more to get off the final eight balls, with Andy on strike and John Gull with the ball in his hand (which is where things got really weird, as the match two years ago saw the same batsmen pitted against the same bowler, differing only in that 20, rather than 19, was needed). A few more leg-side boundaries meant that just one run was needed off the the last two deliveries, although Andy was deprived of his chance to repeat history as Daniel was on strike. The most poetic of finishes could have been engineered by hitting a catch high enough for the batsmen to cross, but sense prevailed and the season finished with one last scampered single.
Andy (43* off 30 balls, with 5 fours and 1 six) and Daniel (44* off 23 balls, also with 5 fours and 1 six) were justifiably proud of their efforts, although the irony was that, by remaining not out, Andy (369 runs at 123.00) failed to qualify for a full batting average, leaving Daniel top of the pile with 344 runs at 57.33, just ahead of Chris Martin (196 runs at 47.50). Andy was also dead unlucky to just miss out in the bowling averages -- Guy Wiedermann (8 wickets at 11.38) was a deserved winner, to be sure, but if a certain web-page maintainer had held a fairly simple catch off Andy's bowling at the end of the previous match he would have had 10 wickets at 11.50.
Another fabulous end to a season, and another perfect excuse to down a few beers and before storming the Tandoori Palace. Some fifteen of us stretched the season (and our waistlines) a bit further, and Tom Jordan even found room for dessert, but even he had to concede defeat -- or at least being sated -- eventually. And besides, it was way past his bed time by the time the last of us limped home through streets glistening with the rain that had been falling steadily since the close of play.