You've got to feel sorry for Sachin Tendulkar. On any other day of the year he would have had the Cambridge sporting headlines all to himself for has comeback innings of 155 playing for Lashings at Fenners. But as luck would have it he chose the same day as the much anticipated Remnants vs. Remnants match at Fitzwilliam College's playing fields, and was thus relegated to the role of introductory joke. And even though nobody topped Tendulkar's score at Fitz -- indeed, neither team even made it into triple figures -- it was a superbly dramatic match, with big collapses, several tense periods and, best of all, a short list for the non-existent ``man of the match'' award that few would have guessed at when the team sheets were put up just before the start time.
Daniel Mortlock, leading Sally's Scorer's XI, and Phil Watson, replacing Russell Woolf to head up Geoff's Secretary's XI, agreed to follow last year's precedent by playing out a Malik Format match: 24 overs a side and a maximum of three overs per bowler. And, again like last year's internal game, it was to be twelve a side; however it ended up eleven vs. eleven when both Martyn Waterfall and Steve Gull dropped out with niggling injuries, choosing instead to umpire through the full 48 over affair -- a decidedly heroic effort.
Having been put into bat, Phil sent out his big guns, the top order of G. Speller, M. Jones, E. Fox, P. Watson, A. Lea and J. White surely capable of threatening Tendulkar's 155 for the highest score in town, and it seemed more than likely they'd be able to put the game out of reach sooner rather than later. Or, as it turned out, not at all: by the tenth over all of the above were back in the pavilion, sitting with confused expressions below a scoreboard that read 35/7. Faruk Kara (2/5) had started the rot, after which John Young (1/13), Rupert Brown (2/9), John Richer (1/12), Paul Jordan (1/8) and John Gull (0/25) all joined in the fun. (Whilst 0/25 mightn't sound like ``joining in the fun'' from the bowler's point of view, John took a catch and scored a direct hit run out, so presumably had just as much of a good time as the other bowlers.)
There was suddenly the possibility of the whole match being over in about twenty overs -- would we stage a second innings? -- and it was certainly a change to see a ring saving the single rather than scattered 'round the boundary. But The Scorer's XI took only two more wickets as Rob Harvey (10 off 29 balls), Tom Jordan (3 off 21 balls, before being dismissed by his dad) and Les Collings (13* off 10 balls) all filled vital support spots to Dave Green's lead performance. Scoring almost exclusively at four o'clock and eight o'clock (i.e., just behind point and square leg), he made 26 not out off 33 balls and, finally, top scored for real (rather than in his numerically challenged imagination, as was the case in the Churchill game).
It was Les, though, who had the last laugh: having refused any offers of batting up the order for several years now, he went rampant in the last few overs, highlighted by a glorious on-drive off Daniel Mortlock (1/18 and highly miffed) that bounced just inside the boundary. With Dave joining in the fun, their final over onslaught meant that The Secretary's XI had somehow batted through their overs and compiled a game-worthy total of 97/9.
After Dave and Les were clapped from the ground, the usual maelstrom of padding up and, er, padding down was interrupted for the traditional club photograph, with everyone squinting into the sun in the hope that they were gurning slightly less hideously than their immediate neighbours.
After a few more minutes faffing, the Scorer's XI set about completing a surely comprehensive victory with a decidedly Test-like approach: rather than the scampered singles and little deflections that tend to characterise our evening games, it was long sequences of dot balls punctuated by the occasional boundary. Ordinarily that's a disastrously indulgent strategy but, with a required run rate of just 4.08 an over, this was, for once, an affordable luxury. Arnie Garside (29 off 49 balls) led the way and, with Steve Attmore (13 off 25 balls) and Paul Jordan (18 off 32 balls), took the score along to 54/2 after 13 overs. The Secretary's XI bowlers had done well to prevent a blow-out, with Tom Jordan (1/8), Rob Harvey (0/15), George Speller (0/11), Joe White (0/12) and Les Collings (0/10) all suitably economical, but what might have represented match-winning suffocation in the first innings was a slow but fatal air leak in these circumstances.
Wickets were the only way forward for the personal assistants, and four fell in quick succession when Mike Jones (3 overs, 2 maidens 1/2) and Andrew Lea (2/7) took up the attack. However it was the missing fouth dismissal -- one of the daftest run outs in a Remnants history already rich in such absurdities -- that was probably the most important single moment in the whole match.
When Paul had given Les some of his own medicine (i.e., smacking him back over his head for four) he'd also put the Scorer's XI in a seemingly unassailable position: at 89/4 after 22 overs they needed just 9 runs off 12 balls with six wickets in hand. Mike began the penultimate over with a dot ball, and then Paul opened the face and ran the next ball to Les at shortish third man. John Young, running for Geoff Hales, immediately called for the run and made it down to the striker's end before Les had even gathered the ball. Paul, on the other hand, was just ambling, safe in the knowledge that Les wouldn't see that John was safe at the nominal danger end, wouldn't notice that Paul was being lazy, and wouldn't hurl the ball to the bowler in time for him to whip off the bails. At which point Les saw that John was safe at the nominal danger end, noticed that Paul was being lazy, and hurled the ball to the bowler in time for him to whip off the bails. As his teammates in the pavilion saw what was going on they began screaming for Paul to run, but it was too late: not only was he out; the nearly completed run didn't count either.
After Mike managed a few more dot balls and a wicket, The Secretary's XI were winning for the first time all day: at the start of the last over The Scorer's XI needed 8 to win off 6 balls. In Faruk Kara and Rupert Brown they did have two of their best batsmen at the crease, but they'd only faced one ball between them and, possibly more to the point, had the wily Phil Watson to contend with. Rupert swivelled and pulled the second ball to the boundary to make it 4 needed off 4, and then reduced that to 3 off 3 with a single. Phil managed to get the next two balls past Faruk's bat and then spread the field wide as the match had somehow come down to the last of its 288 deliveries.
It was two to tie or a boundary to win as Phil came lumbering past the umpire one last time. Faruk connected and sent the ball skidding past cover as the batsmen headed off for the first run. Mid-off then made a good save as the first run was completed and Rupert seemed to give up on any hope of making it back to the non-striker's end. But Faruk had already turned, calling his partner through, as the ball was thrown back to the bowler. The throw reached Phil with Rupert still six yards out, but there was a bad bounce and the ball hurried on its way, eventually being stopped by somebody -- was it Jones? was it Lea? was it Tendulkar? -- presciently backing up a few feet back. Whoever, they did a quick trajectory calculation and worked out they could beat the batsmen home, and so ran in to flick the bails off just a a fraction of a second before Rupert made his ground.
And somehow The Secretary's XI had gone from being 35/7 to winning by just a few feet. The ending, like that in the corresponding match last year, was superb -- closer than one would have ever dared script, although maybe a tie would have been the truest result. More importantly (and again like last year) everyone was involved: some seventeen players bowled and nineteen batted. That said, most of latter didn't do so well, with ten scores of five or less and only Arnie Garside (29), Dave Green (26*) and Paul Jordan (18) (and, well, wides, 25) making more than 15 in what was very much a bowler's match. Conversely, the three-over maximum meant no single bowler could dominate, but Faruk Kara (2/5), Andrew Lea (2/7), Rupert Brown (2/9), Mike Jones (1/2) and Arnie Garside (0/4) all made superb use of their allotments. There's more to it all than just numbers, though, and the loudest cheer of the day came when Dave Green smacked the final ball of the secretaries' innings for four. At the time it was just an defiant act in a losing cause; in the end it was worth rather more as, without those four runs, this most memorable, farcical, bizarre and enjoyable of matches would, presumably, have been denied its superb conclusion.
Not that the evening was anywhere near over when stumps were drawn: after making Dave Norman late for his darts match and watching Holland and Argentina fight out the dullest of draws in the World Cup, we split up like an SAS unit and mounted a multi-pronged attack on, yes, The Tandoori Palace. John Gull ordered with the freedom of one who knew that his personal porta-bank was sitting withing begging distance, but was effortlessly outdone by Tom Jordan -- not only did he have a full main course, had also managed to devour one of those disturbing looking kebab starters that is served complete with what appears to be a small bowl of sick. Still, a slightly more famous leg-spinner has dominated world cricket on a diet of baked beans, so maybe Tom knows something we don't.