Our matches against The Computer Laboratory seem to fall into two very distinct categories: those in which we restrict their batsmen to a minimal total and win with ease; and those in which Martyn Livett plays. This year we've had two of the latter (albeit both close Remnants victories); today we had one of the former, Martyn being off injured.
Viewed as a contest, the match was rather dull from the outset. A Remnants win was all but certain once we'd restricted The Computer Lab to 51/3 off the first 10 (eight-ball), although they did well to double their total in the last third of their innings. We then chased down the target with considerable ease, motoring to 70/2 off just 7 overs before hitting the winning runs with 25 deliveries still to come.
So: no drama to be had there; instead the match's joys and woes seemed to be all in-house, and a little investigation reveals some classic story-lines, from the redemtion of a fallen hero, to the Greek tragedy of inappropriate hubris after a moment of good fortune, to the aged warrior rousing himself to fight one last battle. It would be fascinating to have a plot of each player's fortunes as the match unfolded, but perhaps it's as well that such an all-encompassing graphic is not available, instead forcing an investigation of a few representative examples.
If, for instance, I told you that John Gull began the match with a sharp catch and finished it by hitting 54 off 34 balls (including a purple patch of 4 4 4 4 1 . . 4 4 4 4 -- i.e., 33 runs off 11 balls), I imagine you'd assume he'd had a pretty good day. On balance, you'd be right . . . and yet in between the catch and the violent hitting he both ran out partner Dave Green (an act of pure determination, his ``yes'' calls outnumbering Dave's ``no'' protests three to two) and concussed Phil Watson.
When Phil mucked up his ``long barrier'' at mid-on and let the ball through, John raced off to retrieve the errant orb, swooping down to execute an elegant pick-up, before hurling the ball back in the direction of, well, of Phil's head. Hearing the frenzied warnings of his team-mates, Phil turned towards John . . . only to be immediately struck in the jaw by half a pound of red leather. Play stopped for some time as it was gradually established that no bones were broken, but Phil was forced to stay off the field for several overs while he assessed the damage. Whilst John had to endure calls of ``look out'' and ``heads'' any time he made a return, Phil rose phoenix-like from the ashes to take 2/14 in what turned out to be the day's most successful spell -- he was the only multiple wicket-taker in the match, and would have had three-for but for a dropped catch.
That said, our catching was pretty good for most of the innings, John, Paul Jordan, Sam Dolan and Daniel Mortlock all taking chances with the minimum of fuss. So impressed was Paul that he was moved to wheel out the old favourite ``catches win matches'', before segueing neatly into the more personal opinion that ``we've caught really well today -- nothing's gone down.'' True enough, but anyone who studied (or, in Paul's case, taught) the Greek tragedies at school would know that tempting the fates can be a very dangerous game, and wouldn't be the least bit surprised to learn that he spilled two near identical chances off consecutive balls next over.
Not that he was alone there, Stas Shabala also missing an outfield catch . . . but the gods smiled on him, offering him the possibility of instant redemtion which he took, scoring an excellent run out a few balls later. Moreover, his first proper spell for the club was the best of the day: 1/9 off 3 (eight-ball) overs. Not a bad start to one's Remnants career, you might think . . . but he was trumped by Sam Dolan who took a wicket with his first ever ball for the club before combining with captain Dave Williams (15* off 15 balls) to see us home with an elegant cameo of 14* off 18 balls.
At the other end of the experience spectrum was Geoff Hales, coming out of retirement for the third time this year (due to -- yawn -- a last-minute cancellation) to play his 371st Remnants match. The man himself grumbled that all he managed to do was stop a few balls that were hit straight to him, whereas he was, in fact, brilliantly effective at short mid-wicket, making at least one diving save every over. Most interesting was the technique employed -- clearly he wasn't about to start throwing himself around with abandon, and instead there was a sort of theatrical grace to what was almost a controlled collapse, with an uncanny resemblence to the footage one sees of disused chimneys being demolished at the end of the news. There's a surreal moment in most such events in which the bottom half of the structure has ceased to exist, being so much rubble in a billowing cloud of smoke, whilst the top half, now in free-fall, is essentially intact. Now, I'm not suggesting that any part of Geoff was in free-fall, but every time he made one of these stops his upper body remained completely rigid until after he'd dropped to one knee, and only then would the dive be completed. Given that he was fielding on the square there was also a decent cloud of dust in most cases, but there the similarities ended because, unlike the doomed chimneys, Goeff got up again afterwards. And, even more unlike the doomed chimneys, he brushed himself off, muttered a grumpy acknowledgement of the inevitable calls of ``well fielded'', and set himself for the next ball.