``They think it's all over . . . it is now.'' We're used to the season having a few false starts, with the early fixtures regularly washed out, but this season has, by contrast, been defined by its false endings, like one of those horror films where the homicidal maniac repeatedly survives drownings, shootings and the like. The first post-season curry was followed by, erm, another post-season curry, although that one really did seem to be ``it'' . . . until calls went 'round to organise an afternoon game against The Woozlers. The result of all this was a most enjoyable game on a busy Parker's Piece, as Dave Williams reports . . .
Following the long-established tradition of cricketing daftness merely confirmed by Messrs Bowden and Koertzen in the final Test, the two captains decided that Remnants would bat first, then tossed to decide who would say so. The theory, also linked to the choice of a ``declaration'' game, was that the stronger side would bat first and declare at teatime, after which the weaker side could bat their socks off to hold out for an honourable draw. The Woozlers' captain had previously said they were drafting in four or five ``occasional'' players. In fact, according to secret Woozlers documents disclosed by ``a source'' to your correspondent (actually they were typed on the back of a bit of paper that the Woozlers used -- all score books having curiously evaporated -- to keep their scores on), a late Woozlers conscript with a Middle-European name had ``just been lent a book on how to play cricket''.
Thus it was that John Gull and Nick Clarke strode out to gorge themselves on the run-feast surely to come. In fact John was back in the pavilion before the end of the first over, defeated by the slowness of the bounce off the pudding wicket, shortly followed by Nick (8). Dave Williams then let one go from their opening left-armer that bowled him round his pads, at which point Remnants were 11 for 3 and looking very uncomfortable.
Before too long, though, Ev Fox was starting to stroke the ball around, and Jack Anderson looked confident as they took the score up to the 90s. Then, just after Ev completed a very focused half-century, Jack casually went for a second run . . . and was run out for 20 when the fielder's throw hit the stumps (although it is unknown whether it was a substitute). Joe White missed a full toss for a duck, but Colin Anderson (25) helped Ev nudge the score towards respectability, if not security. The final wickets fell quickly (although Ollie Clarke chipped in for an invaluable 8) and we were all out for 140 in the 29th over. Ev, whose 67 was the season's second highest score, wasn't the only Remnants star, however: Robin Woolley, playing for The Woozlers, made the most of the sticky conditions to take 5/25 from 8 very good overs, one of which was a triple-wicket maiden.
Felicitously, we lost our last wicket just as tea was due, and happily spent the next twenty minutes trying to make our way through enough sandwiches and cakes to sink a battleship. There was more than enough for the various family and friends to eat their fill as well -- everyone was suitably appreciative, although two Woozlers supporters went beyond the call by doing all the washing up.
Back on the field Joe White began our defense with an aggressive spell which combined fierce speed, impressive control and Warney-style grunts. He consistently beating the bat for pace in a 6-over spell costing only 12 runs on a pitch that offered him no help at all. At the other end, John Young (0/16) found an excellent line just outside off stump, drawing the batsmen into a succession of false strokes. For all Joe and John's control and attack, however, we were still wicketless after 11 overs (although The Woozlers had just 28 runs on the board).
As the pavilion clock ticked round to 5:00pm, the umpires conferred and signalled to the scorers that the 20-over countdown would begin: could we take wickets at the rate of one every twelve balls for the rest of the afternoon? Ollie Clarke, replete with orange stripey trainers, marked his run up and set about this near-impossible task. As his first ball arced slowly down the wicket the dangerous Woozler opener come dancing down the pitch, took a huge swing at the ball, missed completely, and was comprehensively stumped. Much hilarity ensued, and then Ollie went back to his mark and promptly took the next three wickets as well, ending up with match-winning figures of 4/30.
After Stas Shebala followed up with a tight 6-over spell of 0/19 spell at the other end, The Woozlers had no hope of overhauling our total, but could we get 6 more wickets in the final 10 overs?
Jack Anderson took over from Ollie and, bowling off his majestic long run, got two wickets in his first over, the second a McGrath-style ball cutting in to clip the off bail from the perfect length. By the end of his remarkable spell of 4/6 he'd gone a long way to finishing the job that Ollie had started. His dad also did too, Colin Anderson taking 2/6 and, in the process, qualifying for a full bowling average and pipping Faruk at the top of the pile. He can't take full credit for his wickets, however, as one came courtesy of a rather dramatic diving catch by Bryan Lea at square leg (even if it could be argued that some of the flinging and rolling was strictly unnecessary). Bryan also took another catch in what was one of the best Remnants fielding performances in recent memory, with a total of six catches and two stumpings being successfully taken.
As the shadow of the University Arms Hotel lengthened over the pitch, the Remnants gathered closer and closer to get rid of The Woozlers' last-wicket pair, one of whom was the aforementioned middle-European gentleman. He was in fact holding the bat as if he had been reading a book about the cultivation of rhubarb; after swatting a couple through slips, with less than 3 overs remaining, Jack bowled one that the batsman missed: when he moved slightly out of his ground to recover his balance Ev continued his single-handed efforts to break up the European Union (cf his stumping of the French bloke from the Cavendish a month back) by whipping the bails off, and that was that: Remnants won by 51 runs -- or, more importantly, by 16 balls.
Was it my imagination, or was everyone particularly delighted to be playing just one more match before the end of summer? Were Woozlers were exceptionally sporting and generous-spirited opposition? Were at least a couple of fathers enormously proud of their sons? I think so.
And were the Parker's Piece passers-by stopping to look more than usual, and did they somehow see a reflection of the memorable events of the wonderful cricketing summer of 2005? I like to think they did.
On a personal note I would like to thank everyone who has helped to make the Remnants cricket club such a great club to be part of, for agreeing to bat, bowl and field pretty much where -- and indeed, better than -- I had hoped, as captain, you might, and for giving your time to this amazing game that has given us all (and me in particular this year) so much.