Today's match between Remnants and Coton began in a most relaxed fashion, both teams assembling themselves somewhat gradually and lounging about the clubhouse until well after the scheduled start time -- it wasn't until about 6:25pm that George Speller (poached by the opposition only yesterday) stifled a yawn, had a bit of a stretch in the glorious sunshine, and ambled in to get the game underway.
And it was with the same lack of urgency that our opening batsmen took to their task, compiling a sleepy 26-run partnership off 43 balls. Something had to change, and indeed it did -- when only one of them heeded the mad screaming to ``push for two'' that was coming from the pavilion there followed the most predictable of run outs. Fortunately, the main result of this seemed to be that John Young suddenly went on the rampage -- having scored just 7* from his first 25 balls, he then smacked 22 from the next 20 as he hit out like seldom before.
John and extras (32, once again top-scoring, lest anyone get any big ideas about this being quality cricket) combined nicely, but it wasn't until Andy Owen (28* off 30 balls) and Joe White (20* off 16 balls) came together that we really started to get back into the game. The key was the aggressive running -- at the risk of becoming repetitive, there's almost always a run if you hit the ball, and there's almost always two to an outfielder. Despite hitting just the one boundary (amazingly, the only time the ball crossed the rope all innings), they put together 47 undefeated runs in less than five overs and took us to within flirting distance of respectibility, our final total being just over a run a ball.
Which brings us nicely back to George, who'd certainly performed well enough for his new masters in the field, taking an excellent boundary-line catch and conceding just 12 runs off his four overs (including the game's only maiden). Now he came in to open the batting and didn't depart until the penultimate over, by which time he'd clobbed (John Gull's word du jour) 71, mainly in fours and sixes through mid-wicket, in what appeared to be a match-winning performance.
It certainly seemed likely to be for most of our time in the field. Paul Jordan (0/18), Joe White (0/22) and Daniel Mortlock (2/27) were all punished for pitching the ball too short (or, in the latter case, not pitching it at all), and each of the first ten overs contained at least one boundary. The fielding was mostly a little sleepy, several people being caught napping, but there were notably good performances from John Young, Dave Green and a casually attired Rob Harvey. He'd just come past the ground to see how we were going and, as we had just ten men, spent the next hour slip-sliding 'round the outfield in his work shoes -- not that this handicap prevented him from taking two superb catches in the process.
At the half-way mark Coton were definitely winning, but we were still in the game, primarily because we'd exposed what seemed to be rather a long tail. Thus we adopted the embarrassingly negative strategy of simply giving George easy singles and then trying to suffocate his partners. And boy was did we do it well, Rupert Brown (1/16) and Mike Jones (2/3) immaculate in line and length from one end while at the other end Tom Jordan was a relevation.
Coming on to bowl leg spin at an aggressive batsman with his eye in is one of the greater challenges cricket has to offer the enthusiastic thirteen year-old, but we were treated to a master-class in composure and skill, with plenty of turn and flight and, most impressive of all, hardly any of the half-trackers of full-bungers that usually characterise wrist spin at our level. Aside from the four wickets Tom actually took, there was also a dropped catch and two damnably close stumpings attempts (the only problem really being that his low pace meant the batsmen had time to make an exploratory sortie down the track, try an unsuccessful swipe, and then scramble back to safety all before the ball had reached the 'keeper).
Even as the required rate increased, Coton were still in the game with George doing his thang, and it was really quite fitting that the final signifcant battle was between him and Tom. Whether it was the previous plays and misses, his morbid fear of ``getting out to kids'' (cf Alex Brown's demolition job in our previous game against Coton), or merely understandable tiredness, we'll never know . . . but for some reason George managed to hit Tom's one loose ball straight to Joe White who, in the words of commentators the world over ``doesn't drop those''. From there on in it was simply a case of not doing anything silly, which we didn't, and just a few minutes later we were soaking up the sweet smell of napalm-- er, victory and clapping Tom off the ground with amazing figures of 4 overs, 0 maidens, 4/10.
With Paul kindly buying a jug (even though Tom was technically one wicket short) to go with George's more compulsory purchase of the same, the drinking went on way past 10pm with, pleasingly, most members of both teams staying on. We could have easily gone on all night and so, in retrospect it was probably for the best that George drove the stragglers home when he begun to describe, in exquisite detail, the appearance of his own genitals.