For the second time this year (and it would have been the third, but for rain) Remnants had itself some new opposition. This time 'round it was The St Radegund pub team - after their involvement in the six-a-side tournament, it was agreed that two such similarly-spirited sides should play a proper fixture, thus the arrival at Fitz this evening of nine of their finest (well, eight of their finest and one of ours, Matt Hughes having been conscripted by the opposition). Unfortunately their two finest (according to their teammates) had been called away to an emergency holiday somewhere in Europe, all of which pointed to a comfortable Remnants victory, or even the "stuffing" fantasised about at the end of last night's game.
The plan was to bat first and post 150-odd, but that seemed a far-off dream after tight bowling by the opposition captain (the mysteriously-named Beard) and sometime Remnant Jack Anderson. With the score just 33/0 after eight (six-ball) overs, it was all too reminiscent of last year's go-slows, when we'd manfully attempt to defend totals of a hundred-odd; like Han Solo approaching the Death Star, it was hard not to "have a bad feeling about this".
Fortunately for us, it turned out that the rest of the bowling attack was a little more, er, docile; and, the moment the openers finished their spells, runs flowed like seldom before. Andrew Lea was first out of the blocks, racing to 53 (off just 41 balls, with 5 fours and 2 sixes) before retiring with the score on 102. Then John Gull (11 off 7 balls, with 1 four and 1 six) looked set to increase the tempo before being superbly caught by Beard at mid-on.
With the removal of our most explosive batsman one might have thought things would calm down, but we entered Afridi territory as John Richer came in and scored more rapidly than any Remnant ever has before (well, as far as we know, recording the batsmen's dot balls being a recent innovation). His full innings was 4 . 4 4 . 6 . 4 4 2 3 6 1 4 2 2 4 4; for those who can't be bothered to - or just can't - do simple integer arithmetic, that's 54* off 18 balls, with 8 fours and 2 sixes. Or, in even more unbelieveable terms, three runs per ball, most of which were delivered by a wretched soul - immortalised in the scorebook only as "Sex Pest" - who, having been rested after being hit for 33 off his first two overs, was eventually made to complete his spell, finishing with 0/65.
At the centre of this storm of boundaries and lost balls was a calm centre in the serene form of John Young. Having first seen off the openers (at which stage he'd scored just 3 off his first 16 balls) he then, with a bit prodding from the pavilion, essayed a complete range of attacking strokes as he joined in the fun. In the end he got the biggest applause of the day when he nicked the strike at the start of the final over and completed his first ever half-century, finishing up exhausted with 50* off 49 balls (with 6 fours). And yes, that was the third fifty of our innings - combined with the plentiful supply of wides it meant that we ended up with the mammoth total of 192/2, the last 159 of which came off 72 balls.
With that many runs on the board and the opposition two men short, it was nice heading out into the field in a relaxed frame of mind . . . although that didn't last long when the first ball of the innings was smacked straight back over the bowler's head for four. After a few more boundaries, the combination of a left/right opening pair and the presence of four Johns in our side - instructions to "move ten yards squarer, John" seemed to result in the entire team fielding at point - meant that our field placings were a mess, and suddenly a nightmare loss was starting to assemble itself. With the score at 24/0 as Chris McNeill sent down the final ball of the fourth over it was very much game on; and when it was a dodgy half-tracker, there was only one place that ball was going to end up . . .
. . . which was, of course, snuggled up next to the broken wicket after it had kept low and yorked the batsman on the second bounce. And, just as our innings had completely transformed itself after the first-change bowlers arrived, so did the opposition's after that first breakthrough. In the space of 24 balls we took 8/10, with Chris McNeill (2/9), Bryan Lea (2/17), John Moore (1/6) and Rupert Brown (2/0) all getting amongst the wickets. The fielders also did their part, John Gull making some superb leg-side saves despite the fact he was fielding at first slip, Russell Woolf protecting his injured hand by taking a catch with his nipple, and John Moore, Rob Harvey and Chris McNeill combining to effect an unnecessarily complicated run out. Rob Harvey was again superb behind the stumps, and his decision to stand up helped to induce Chris's first-up dismissal . . . although Chris might have expected one of Rob's three failed stumping attempts to have connected with with wicket, especially considering they were all off the one delivery. Then again, maybe that was appropriate for a game that had developed a slightly absurd feel, The St Radegund running out of batsmen before the end of the eighth over, thus handing us the biggest runs victory in club history.
After that it was time to, in the words of Beard, "do something we're good at: drinking". And so we did: with three jugs on offer and some twenty of us staying behind, the day ended in the right spirit, a fact which will hopefully see the two teams come together on a regular basis. And it's worth rememebering that it's not always like that - a "friendly" at the ground a few days back apparently contained a lot of swearing, a little spitting, some smacking with the bat and, eventually, the stumps being ripped out of the ground by one of the captains when he didn't want to continue. Our games are so dull . . .