The season is coming to an end. Having shifted to eight-ball overs in the last few weeks, it's got to the stage where we're struggling even to fit in fifteen of those. August seems to have been full of rain and cloudy skies, and the grass is now becoming slippery with dew well before the Sun's early-evening rendezvous with the horizon. All that means it's time for our traditional run of end-of-season fixtures, starting with this evening's match against Andy Owen's Charities XI. Their line-up included players from various six-a-side tournament sides, a high-quality ringer and, er, Andy's own kids.
Remnants batted first and chugged along steadily, with John Moore (9 off 11 balls before falling victim to a superb catch) playing a hearty cameo before Dave Williams (23 off 33 balls) and Joe White (64 off 52 balls) combined to bat through most of our overs. Most of the runs were scored by controlled hard-hitting, although once again the running was, er, enigmatic -- some refused second runs defied explanation until it was revealed that Joe was sufficiently ill that he suffered dizzy spells every time he turned around. Other than disorientation, our biggest challenge came when nine-year-old Catherine Owen came on to bowl, but Joe and Ev (5* off 9 balls) managed to survive that ordeal, eventually setting the philanthropists a target of exactly a run a ball.
Our time in the field was a study in contrasts. Mostly we clustered around the bat (uncharitably, one might say) in an attempt to keep the opposition's junior players on strike, and in this we were largely successful. These peaceful periods were punctuated with a sequence of massive boundaries by the Charities XI's ringer, a Sydney grade cricketer who'd already taken two excellent catches and essayed some visciously spun chinamen. Having looked comfortable against all our bowling, it fell to Jim Higginson (2/18) to get rid of him with his deceptively slow, big-turning leggies . . . but it turned out they weren't needed: a first-up waist-high full toss, combined with an expertly-positioned Joe White at cow corner, was all that was required. Not that Joe's already massive contribution ended there: he also took a blinder at short cover, did about half of all the ground-fielding, and then took 1/4 with his seldom-seen off-breaks.
Prior to that we'd opened up with Rexes Olly (1/10) and Richard (1/13, the wicket coming with his first ball for the club, an amazingly common occurence) before slowing it down as Alec Armstrong (0/8), John Moore (0/8) and Daniel Mortlock (1/7) proved near impossible to get away. And, despite the dark, slippery conditions, our fielding held up well too, Dave Williams and John Young making lots of good stops on the boundary, Ev Fox completing two of his three stumping chances, and Stas Shabala using his black stealth trousers to sneak in close to the bat under cover of darkness and snaffle a good catch.
With the whole team doing their bit it's no surprise that we had the game all but sewn up after 10 (eight-ball) overs, at which point the score was just 49/4 and the liberal types needed an implausible 71 off 40 balls. Not that we relaxed, keeping the pressure up sufficiently well that we ended up winning by 39 runs -- bar our anomalous 158-run thrashing of the undermanned St Radegund team, it was our biggest runs victory since, curiously, the last time we took on one of Andy's sides (Romsey Town), back in May. It is slightly worrying that a goodly fraction of our wins this season have come in these gently contested ``in-house'' (if not actually internal) fixtures, but, well, a win's still a win, eh? And of course there's the added bonus of the post-match tea, Denise Owen kindly providing us with a supper that was not only generous but healthy -- I bet the last time you saw a plate of orange segments was in some documentary about inter-war football.