With fourteen hours of rain on Monday there was clearly no way that we'd be playing the annual internal fixture against Geoff Hales's Travelling Theatre XI tonight. And then a funny thing happened: just when it seemed summer was over we had one of the most glorious days of the year, so much so that we had no trouble getting in a full-length match.
The Travelling Theatre took to the field first and stifled Remnants strong batting line-up with surprising effectiveness. The key battle early on was between Remnants run machine Nick Clarke and the likely winner of the bowling averages, Faruk Kara. Nick smacked Faruk's first two deliveries for boundaries but then Faruk (1/17) lured him down the track and had him well stumped by Andy Owen for 12 (off 8 balls).
This set the pattern for the next hour or so, with the Remnants batsmen getting starts but no more, as Dave Williams (10 off 19 balls), Phil Watson (20 off 24 balls) and Stas Shabala (15 off 19 balls) all made it into double figures before being dismissed by the likes of Mike O'Donohoe (1/20, on secondment from The Computer Lab.), Russell Woolf (1/7), Daniel Mortlock (1/8), Andy Owen (1/23, having taken off the keeper's pads) and Tony Robinson (1/10).
Such was Remnants' plight that the total didn't reach triple figures until Joe White (20* off 27 balls) hit three consecutive boundaries in the final over -- the Theatre really was dominant throughout. Aside from the consistently tight bowling, there were remarkably few misfields (even if the subsequent throwing was a bit anarchic), with Mikes Jones and Sneyd, Daniel Mortlock, Andy Owen and Geoff Hales all making a number of good stops. The latter pair also took sharp close-in catches, Geoff's being particularly noteworthy as he took a hard Dave Williams drive in the chest before completing a diving catch with the ball about an inch above the ground. Given that this was, most likely, Dave's final match as Remnants captain, it was almost as if the ephemeral nature of the captaincy was being set against the seemingly eternal role of secretary. At any rate it seemed likely to be Dave's last significant act as leader -- no matter how well he led his troops in the field, 114/7 was clearly an indefensible total.
Or was it? After absurdly economical spells by Tom Jordan (0/7) and Stas Shabala (0/3) the Travelling Theatre were just 11/0 after 4 overs, and suddenly needed 104 needed off 88 balls. Viranga Kekulawla (0/9) and Phil Watson (1/19) then continued the good work, with neither Mike Sneyd (12 off 30 balls) nor Faruk Kara (15* off 24 balls at this stage) being able to get going. There was some acceleration when Andy Owen (17 off 23 balls) joined Faruk, but this brief charge was ended by, of all people, Nick Clarke.
In previous seasons Nick has played countless match-winning innings, but this year he's been strangely subdued, as was the case today . . . with the bat, that is. With the ball, however, he tore through the Travelling Theatre's nominally threatening middle order, taking 3/12 from his two alloted overs. All the wickets came from good catches, John Gull and Viranga Kekulawla pouching big hits in the out-field and Nick himself contributing with a brilliant one-handed return catch from a solidly hit drive.
After this Mike Jones (6 off 4 balls) and Faruk (accelerating to 43* off 49 balls) hit a few boundaries to see to it that, with 18 needed off the final over, there was still a slim chance that the Travelling Theatre would retain its unbeaten record. Moreover, it soon became apparent that all the regular bowlers had been used: who was captain Williams going to throw the ball to?
No-one, as it turned out: he kept the ball in his hand and set about finishing his tenure as Remnants captain by leading from the front. And so he did, giving away just the one boundary, bowling vice-captain elect Woolf, and seeing his side home by a relatively comfortable 10 runs.
It wasn't, of course, the absolutely final game of the year, but with Geoff away tomorrow and rain all but a certainty next week, it seemed it was now or never for the end-of-season curry. Thus a dozen of the regulars headed off to The Tandoori Palace, although sadly most of the day's guest stars, like Mikes Scanlon and Jones who'd both come to Cambridge for the game, didn't have quite the same staying power as those of us who've honed our magnificent physiques over a dozen or more games for the summer.