Our first attempt at an internal match this year saw rain win the day, and this morning it seemed that our second might see the weather on an undeserved hat-trick. As the day went on the sky cleared, the temperature rose and, by 6pm, conditions were perfect for a spot of Twenty/20. Or so we thought -- it was at about this point that Tony Malik (captaining Sal's Scorer's Choice against Geoff's Secretary's Selection, being led by Daniel Mortlock) suggested we break from convention to play a 24-over game, the point being to ensure all twelve Remnants on each side were actively involved from the start. One option would have been to play out a fairly relaxed match; instead Tony was adamant that there would be no quarter given, so there was an imposed maximum of three overs per bowler. The result of all this was that eighteen players got a bowl, nineteen got a bat, and everyone played an important role in what turned out to be a remarkably intense game of cricket.
The Selection fielded first and were immediately faced with the unusual problem of where to put everyone -- it's all too common to have to cover the gaps with nine or ten players; instead it was a case of trying to find space for twelve men. Having jokingly suggested the construction of a slips cordon to unsettle The Choice's openers, Les Collings was inserted at second slip and promptly took a superb diving catch off the second delivery to give Paul Dawson (1/15) a wicket on his Remnants debut.
Phil Watson (23) and Tony Malik (16) then played themselves in before starting to accelerate threateningly, until Faruk Kara (2/10) then got an offie to turn and bounce, clipping the top of Tony's middle stump. This precipitated a ten-over period in which The Selection's tight bowling and aggressive fielding completely closed down The Choice's middle order. Anton Garrett (1/22), Robin Woolley (0/8), Julius Rix (0/11) and Les Collings (1/17) gave the batsmen nothing to hit; and the field, initially spread out, moved in closer and closer with each over. It was all about pressure, and The Choice's batsmen started missing easy singles as the likes of Nick Clarke, Paul Dawson, Robin Woolley and John Richer pounced on anything within their reach. The predictable result of all this was some over-ambitious running and a soft run out; the less predictable result was Dave Green whacking a few boundaries in a memorable cameo of 13. Ev Fox also stuck around for 27, but it was slow going and, with the score only 80-odd after 17 overs, it seemed that yet another Remnants match would be rendered a non-contest due to our inability to set a decent target.
It was at about this point that John Gull came in and played a remarkable innings of 37 (off about 20 deliveries) in which he set about smashing every single ball he faced as hard as he could. For the most part he was successful, Daniel Mortlock (1/13) and Joe White (2/16) having their ``fast'' stuff dealt with before resorting to wrist spin to see to it that The Choice's innings finished with wickets coming faster than runs.
After the traditional mid-match photograph there was a quick changeover and then The Selection set about the nominally simple task of knocking off 133 runs off the generous allowance of 144 deliveries. John Richer (12) and Andrew Lea (17), like their Choice counterparts, both got starts, but became a bit bogged down as John Young(er) (0/15), Bryan Lea (0/2 off 3 absurdly economical overs), Andy Owen (1/10) and Phil Watson (0/8) were even tighter than The Selection's bowlers had been earlier in the day. The fielders also backed them up brilliantly, Sam Dolan and Ollie Clarke tireless on the boundary, and Andy Owen and John Gull fabulously energetic a bit closer in. The result of all this was that the game was back in the balance -- with The Selection 42/2 after 11 overs they needed 91 off 78 balls, albeit with plenty of batting still to come.
Prime amongst these was Nick Clarke, destroyer of many an attack, who was motoring along with 14 runs to his name when Anton Garrett decisively ran him out with several yards to spare. The only problem was that Anton was batting, not fielding, at the time. I don't think anyone could believe the assurity with which he took a step down the track, hit the ball solidly to Tony at short mid-wicket, announced ``yes!'', put his head down (thus avoiding any chance of eye contact with Nick) and set off towards the non-striker's end as if he was convinced there might be half a doughnut in the region of mid-on. Nick Clarke made a good fist of making the converse journey, but it was a forlorn task, and seldom can there have been a wryer smile on a batsman's face as he made that horrible walk back to a pavilion full of polite applause and that specific sort of back-patting that combines sympathy with the desire to reach ``minimum safe distance'' before the dismissed one has time to express himself physically in the dressing room.
Thus it seemed that we had witnessed the moment at which the match was won and, more pertinently, lost, and Tony Malik (1/17) brought himself on in attempt to hammer the final nails into The Selection's coffin. He did get a wicket, but it was Pete ``Shane'' Warner (2/22) who did more damage, causing trouble with his flight and (lack of) pace. Several hapless batsmen found themselves lured down the pitch as if following the sirens' call and then found their journey continuing all the way to the pavilion, Ev Fox finishing up with four stumpings to his name. I presume this is a Remnants record, and certainly the man himself was sufficiently pleased with his efforts to inform the BBC Radio 4 audience of this fact a week or so later (a broadcasting milestone which has been recorded for posterity in this 50 second MPEG audio file).
As the Sun (accompanied by a couple of ``sun dog'' mirror images) flirted with the treeline, Joe White and Julius Rix came together with The Selection just hanging on, and performed brilliantly, Joe playing cleverly for 22 and Julius clubbing a fantastic 34, shaded only by John Gull's 37 as the innings of the day. By the time these two were out they'd both smashed a handful of boundaries, seen off the best of The Choice's bowlers, and gotten their team back on top.
With one over to go The Selection were favourites, needing an even six to win, but with the packed field it wasn't at all obvious where they were going to come from. John Young (2/19) had the unenviable task of trying to perform a miracle, and when the scores were tied with three balls still remaining it seemed that the drama was over. The fourth delivery was smacked to sqaure leg . . . and well caught by (the other) John Young, no doubt very, very relieved to have held onto what, even in ordinary circumstances, would have been a sharp chance. This led to a wonderfully symmetric touch where, for the final two balls of the match, Paul Dawson came out to face the man he'd bowled at for the first two balls, all those hours ago. Paul nurdled his first ball to point and set off for an ambitious single, Robin Woolley (5*) looking likely to be a few yards short of his ground . . . but the throw was high and he made it home to complete a memorable victory for Geoff's Secretary's Selection, although the honours really were shared amongst everyone on the field.
They day ended with a solid hour's drinking and face-stuffing in the pavilion, the topic of conversation rarely straying from the dramas of one of the best -- and certainly the most fiercely contested -- Remnants vs. Remnants games in the club's history.