For the first time in living memory, the Remnants season began not with a wash-out, not with a bunch of rusty cricketers sheltering from icy winds in the clubhouse, but with a bunch of rusty cricketers running around in glorious sunshine. Sharing these ideal conditions with us were our traditional early-season opponents Romsey Town -- or really Romsey Town+, an enhanced hybrid with Remnants regulars Faruk Kara and Jim Higginson filling in, not to mention our super-sub, Dave Norman.
Remnants batted first and immediately starting scoring at Gilchrist-speed (albeit without any squash balls), a surprise every bit as welcome as the pleasant conditions. Nick Clarke (29 off 17 balls, with 4 fours and a six) and John Richer (26 off 33 balls, with 4 fours but sadly no six) found the Romsey bowling very much to their liking and, at 60/1 after 5 (eight-ball) overs, we were cruising.
Sadly, the rest of the innings wasn't quite so much fun. We didn't score more than a run a ball off any over, and the closest anyone got to double-figures was George Speller (who made it to 9 off 8 balls, only to be caught off a pull-shot that would have gone for six if it hadn't broken the lame-arse club bat he was using). Our final total of 108/8 from 13 overs was no more than competitive, although we had at least scored at over a run a ball, something which we repeatedly struggled to do in last year's sequence of narrow losses.
Our time in the field was also story of two halves. We started brilliantly, with Joe White (1/9), George Speller (3/20) and Julian Chilvers (2/20 on debut) causing all the batsmen plenty of problems, and Joe, in particular, simply being too fast. The fielding was also top-notch early-on, with Nick Clarke predatory close-in, Daniel Mortlock catching a full-blooded cut at short cover, and wicket-keeper Mike Francis taking a spectacular juggled catch in his first Remnants game. After 7 overs we'd restricted Romsey to 31/4 (most of which seemed to have come from outside edges), and we were all set up for a monster win to start the season.
At which point Romsey mega-ringer Dave Norman came to the crease, played himself in, and then smacked an awesome 63 (off about 40 balls, with 7 fours and 2 sixes). His efforts unravelled our last hour's good work, not to mention our fielding -- five of Dave's boundaries went through, rather than between, the fielders. Aside from a few half-chances, our most likely way of getting Dave was, naturally, a run out. And we had the perfect opportunity to do so when there was a mix-up so disastrous that Dave had already started to head back to the pavilion as the ball was being lobbed to the distant wicket . . . but, as you've no doubt guessed, we responded with a comparable mix-up of our own and, in the end, there was such a comedy of errors that Dave not only made his ground but eventually managed to get an overthrow as well.
The last over began with Romsey needing 21 to win; after 2 2 . 2 6 that had become 9 needed off 3 balls and we had our first thriller of the year. And then a slice of luck finally went our way: Dave got bowled by a rank full-toss, leaving Remnants winners by 6 precious runs -- unlike in the corresponding fixture two years back there was no Paul Jordan miracle last-ball six to tie this game.
It probably had to end like that -- as Dave himself said, Geoff would never have spoken to him again if he'd single-handedly beaten Remnants, and mutual silent treatment would have made organising next year's fixtures difficult, to say the least. And, even more importantly, it would have given Geoff a moral excuse for not buying rounds at the bar post-match -- whereas today he had a medical one, being away on doctor's orders whilst recovering (very well) from his hip-polishificaterization. That left the rest of us to watch the Champions' League semi-final between Liverpool and Chelski, which went all the way through extra-time to penalties, and it wasn't much before midnight that the last Remnants headed home (possibly to find the locks changed).