After an August of wash-outs and no-results -- we've completed just four of our last ten external games -- it was surely folly to schedule a final, almost post-season, Remnants vs. Remnants fixture for the first week in September. And yet that's just what Geoff (with considerable prodding from Andy) decided to do: it meant an emergency ring-around and Dave Norman delaying the laying of top-soil, but so be it. And sure enough, the ``can do'' optimism was rewarded by a late-summer evening that was far superior to it's crappy predecessors, and so we got to finish the season with a tense, see-sawing and, at times, hilarious game of cricket.
Geoff Hales, leading The Secretary's XI (not ``The Secretaries XI'' -- shame on whoever was scoring), won the toss and sensibly elected to bat while it was still light. That left Daniel Mortlock to lead out The Captain's VI and five substitute secretaries for a rather confusing beginning in which the fielding's side's personnel was in constant flux as the rest of the team arrived in dribs and drabs over the next half hour. Such was the team's disarray that Sophie Norman, Dave's daughter, ended up opening the bowling . . . well, actually it was a pre-planned scheme, with dad umpiring and mum videoing the historic moment for posterity. After that, the secretarial batsmen seemed a bit shell-shocked, and the score at the half-way point of their innings was just 19/4 off 48 balls. Stas Shabala (1/5) and Alex Brown (1/5, the wicket being that of his father, lulled into a false sense of security after two wides) certainly bowled well, but Paul Jordan (1/2) stole the show, repeatedly beating the bat with bounce and movement before finishing with a perfect yorker to complete a rare wicket-maiden.
It was at about this stage that Dave Green, who'd rescued an innings from a similar predicament in the mid-season internal game, came to the crease. Today he was not only faced with this challenging task, but also with the more personal aims of i) scoring more runs than his age for the season and ii) nudging ahead of John Gull in the batting averages. Sadly, it seemed the occasion was too much: a big swipe and miss led to his partner suggesting he stick to what he's good at, to which John suggested ``What, physics?''; and then, a few balls later, Dave was out, cruelly just a single run short of his first target, finishing with 47 runs at 15.66666666666666666 . . .
From there the PAs managed something of a recovery, Andy Owen (31* off 40 balls) keeping one end up while first Colin Anderson (14 off 11 balls) and then Les Collings (17 off 12 balls) went on mini-ramages, getting most of their runs with huge sixes aimed squarely at the pavilion for maximum impact. By this stage The Captain's VI had finally become a XI, albeit with last-to-arrive 'keeper Ev Fox demoted to slip, then cover and then as far down the pecking order as second-change bowler . . . although in this unaccustomed role he managed tidy figures of 1/10, the wicket, ironically, being a nice stumping by his replacement, Rob Harvey. The Captain's XI's superiority continued as Daniel Mortlock (1/15) and Phil Hastings (2/12, to go with two catches) closed out the innings, The Secretary's XI finishing on a rather unimposing 86/8.
The rush of the changeover was halted rather suddenly when Geoff gathered everyone around to pass on the sad news that Martin Parker, a Remnants regular around the late-nineties, had died suddenly a week earlier. Martin's family had asked that, instead of flowers, donations be made to Cancer Research UK, and Geoff anounced that both tonight's match fees (GBP 67.00) would be donated to that worthy cause. We then had a minute's silence, the quiet sounds of the local birdlife suddenly coming to the fore as we contemplated a few fundemantal truths.
This all seemed to have had the greatest effect on John Gull, who came into the match with the stated aims of i) averaging more than Dave Green and ii) scoring 170-odd to top the batting averages overall. The former was already guarateed after Dave's quick dismissal earlier in the day, and the latter, already unlikely at the start of the day, was surely out of reach now that the team target was 87; but even without such explicit goals, who would have expected the club's fastest and most prolific scorer (for the second season running) to finish his year with 3 off 15 balls? Not that he was alone: The Captain's XI top order struggled almost as much as the secretaries had an hour earlier, limping to 32/5 after 7 overs as the first five batsmen managed just 14 runs between them. Joe White (0/12) and Les Collings (1/6) had begun well enough, at which point Geoff was able to turn to the year's two star bowlers, Rupert Brown and Tom Jordan. Tom took 2/21, to marginally improve his season's figures to 15 wickets at 11.13, but Rupert, with 1/11, did enough to snare the bowling averages with 13 wickets at exactly 10.00. (In case you're wondering how close it was, the prize would have been Tom's if Rupert had figures of, say, 0/14, instead.)
The Captain's XI's run chase finally got going when Alex Brown (9* off 13 balls) joined Phil Hastings (23 off 23 balls, and surely the man of the match with his two wickets and two catches as well), as the latter mounted a last minute assault on the batting averages. Indeed he had 229 runs at 38.17 (i.e., just ahead of Andrew Lea, the eventual winner with 293 runs at 36.62) before he was given out LBW off a ball that had already bounced twice before it hit his pad. Before you start getting all sympathetic on his behalf, however, it should be mentioned that his stay at the crease was one of the most charmed in recent memory, getting caught off a front-foot no ball by a leg-spinner, being the subject of a huge appeal for caught behind, and getting dropped off three consecutive deliveries. These ``what if''s notwithstanding, it was Phil's innings which turned the game once again, and this time decisively -- by the time he departed, The Captain's XI needed less than ten runs with three overs left. The only real danger was that the umpires wouldn't be able to see the ball well enough to signal the plentiful wides and no balls (not to mention short runs) that led to extras top-scoring once again, with a handy 27. Martyn Waterfall (2/21) almost managed to pull off a miracle win, but there were just too few runs to play with, Alex Brown duly nurdling the winning run with nine balls and several seconds of twilight to spare.
And with that the season was over -- no cricket for four months until nets start up in Jauary '07.