Four losses in a row. At least Remnants is in good company on this score, the Australian cricket team having managed one of the most embarrassing weeks in its long history. They have their chance for redemtion this Thursday when they take on England and, in particular, Kevin Pietersen; ours was two days earlier, when we took on The Computer Laboratory and, in particular, Martyn Livett. He, like The Cavendish's Arindam Ghosh or The Globe's Mick Taylor, seems to score at will off our bowling - his last two innings against us have been awesome centuries - and any total under about 160 is well within his reach.
Thus we knew we had to "piss or get off the pot", as they say, and score runs any way we could. But with our innings one sixth gone we seemed to be headed towards another miserable total, and not because of any outstanding bowling this time, either. The scathing opinion "I can't see why they're not scoring off this guy" was met with resigned nods around the pavilion and, out in the middle, almost as if the words had carried, a sudden explosion of big shots, Nick Clarke (38 off 31 balls) smashing 21 runs off the rest of the over. It seemed we were finally going to play a twenty-over innings the right way, and both Max Shone (30 off 34 balls) and Tony Malik (29 off 26 balls) batted with the sort of aggression that has been lacking of late. The problem today was the lamentable running between wickets -- whereas other teams have repeatedly run twos whenever the ball has made it through the inner ring, we seldom even tried. The result was a total that was at least 20 runs short of what it could have been and maybe 30 or 40 short of what we needed.
And this with a batting-heavy side - if we were going to make a go of this game we'd have to use every trick in the book, and it was here that the presence of Messrs Watson and Malik constituted two aces in the hole. Having captained maybe a thousand games of cricket between them, they assumed de facto leadership roles, making field changes, geeing up the troops, and generally having a good time.
Our first break from convention was to open up with an off-spinner (Faruk Kara, whose 0/11 was implausibly economical) and a part-timer (Rob Harvey who, despite having only bowled four overs all season, immediately got a vital wicket). Vital, that is, for The Computer Lab, as it brought Martyn Livett to the crease. And any remote hope that he might be out of sorts was discarded as he promptly smashed a huge six over long on; all we could do was to swap the bowlers around to prevent him getting into a rhythm.
For a while it was pace (Joe White, beating the bat far more often than his 1/25 would suggest) and "pace" (Daniel Mortlock, also 1/25), which at least prevented a blow-out but, with the score 88/1 after 13 overs, the reality was that The Computer Lab's run chase was going along pretty much to plan.
Next up it was time to use guilt on Tony Malik, needling him about the slack running to the degree that he'd ignore his wrecked shoulder and bowl, and bowl he most certainly did, taking 2/26 and getting us back into the match. His first over induced three edges (all of which landed safely); his second over resulted in just the one, but it was well held by Mike Sneyd at point.
Alas it wasn't Martyn who'd been dismissed; he'd made it to the striker's end with the ball in flight and was in position to smack his requisite boundary for the over. The prospect of losing yet another match to the efforts of a single batsman was too much for captain Daniel Mortlock who, he later confessed, found his inner monologue venturing into unexplored territory, the little voice inside his head suddenly blurting out, "Bloody hell, I'd fellate anyone who can get rid of this guy." But that's not even the scary part; the scary part was that the very next ball saw Martyn given out LBW when he walked across his stumps. Thus Tony got his second wicket, Daniel got the shakes and, most importantly, we got a little sniff of the hint of a possibility of not losing.
That little hope seemed to rest on being able to keep the new batsmen in check; instead they scored at a run a ball, taking the total on to 122/4 towards the end of the 18th over. As Joe ran in for his final delivery the match was as good as over: The Computer Lab still had 6 wickets in hand and 13 more balls to score just 4 runs. For Tony's final over we brought the field in - just for the hell of it, really - but then the batsman, having been beaten by a big leggie first up, curiously decided to block out the rest of the over. This wasn't the smartest cricketing decision ever, although he shouldn't have hurt his team's cause too much, as they still needed just 4 runs off the final over.
Phil Watson (1/10, to go with two catches) stepped up to bowl, with the field again in, at least at first. When it became clear that it was going to be cross-bat slogs, we added a ring around the leg-side boundary in the hope of getting a catch. And then when Phil bowled the hapless programmer with his fourth ball, another re-think was required. One more dot ball (the twelfth in a row!) meant that we were actually winning: The Computer Lab needed a three just to tie.
The only real difficulty was the sudden increase in pressure -- where, two overs previous, we could relax safe in the knowledge that the game was lost and our actions couldn't influence the result, we were now all potential villains if a catch should be dropped or the ball misfielded. And with the transfer of power yet another strategy change was required. As the words "scarper" and "disappear" echoed across the ground we adopted the most defensive formation possible: everyone bar bowler and 'keeper Nick Clarke on the boundary. If the new batsman could smash it through one of the gaps then so be it; anything else and we should be okay.
Phil put in his faster ball, and it seemed to be through . . . but a top edge flew up over Nick's head, landing some fifteen yards behind him. Phew - Nick would be able to retrieve it before the batsmen had even completed their second run. The only problem was that Nick didn't know where the ball had gone and, after briefly seeming to head in the right direction, decided instead to take up position over the stumps. With most of the fielders haring back to the square (for want, one suspects, of anything better to do), Max and Faruk raced each other to the now stationary ball. Fortunately there was no collision and one of them got to the ball first and hurled it in with the striker yet to complete his second run and the non-striker already heading in the same direction for his third. With time to plan the ball could have been transferred to the bowler's end where the most leisurely of run outs could have been effected; the risk at the striker's end was that the wicket might be broken with one of the batsmen still in his ground. The two batsmen crossed about two yards out, and thankfully it was at this critical moment that Nick received the ball hurled it into the stumps from point-blank range.
In scenes reminscent of the first tied Test between Australia and the West Indies we'd won by one run - or, more accurately, about one tenth of one run. It almost made the season's horrible losses worthwhile -- the game was more exciting than the rest put together, and can take its place alongside the '81 Headingly Ashes Test and the '99 World Cup semi-final in the pantheon of impossible cricketing comebacks.