Remnants vs. The CB XI means drama. Our first match back in 2003 was the best of that season (despite the seemingly comfortable margin of 35 runs); and since then games between the two sides have included an abandoned match, a last-over thriller, a near punch-up, an unbelieveable come-back (by us) and, last year, an even more absurd collapse (also by us).
So you might think today's match couldn't help but pale in comparison to its illustrious (or at least memorable) predecessors, whereas in fact it ended up like one of the episodes of Friends that's a compilation of highlights from previous seasons. Okay, so at no stage did it appear likely the match would be abandoned, but The CB XI did stage a remarkable comeback by inducing an absurd Remnants collapse, all of which led to a last-over thriller. And maybe ``near punch-up'' is exaggerating things a little, but what's the captain supposed to think when his wicket-keeper, not five minutes after having offered ``I'll do anything you want, mate'', makes the ultimatum ``I'll keep standing up or you can find someone else to do it!''?
The main reason for this debate was that Joe White (2/7) was, once again, proving too fast not only for the opposition batsmen, but also for our 'keeper/slip combination. Which is not a criticism -- if any of the edges induced by Joe or Daniel Mortlock (1/10) had been taken they would have been official three-star catches (particularly one which John Gull, at first slip, got his hands to even after it had deflected off the 'keeper's gloves). And besides, all these were all a lot closer to being out than Joe's primal LBW appeal after he'd hit the batsman just below the nipples.
Anyway, the real story of The CB XI's innings wasn't that of our seamers, but that of our slow bowlers, who all took a bit of stick early on as the CB captain, Ed Read, started coming down the track to them and smacking fours seemingly at will. It really looked like it was time for Plan B (whatever that might have been) until Alec Armstrong tried his quasi-doosra, luring Ed miles down the pitch and having him bowled just a fraction of a second before he would have been stumped. And from then on it was Remnants all the way as we routed the rest of The CB XI with our all-spin attack. Faruk Kara (1/15), Julian Chilvers (an unlucky 0/30) and Matt Hughes (1/9 at the death) all did well enough but it was, fittingly, Alec who did the bulk of the damage, taking 5/26, including a sub-spell of 5 wickets in 14 balls at one point. He provided catches for both Mike Sneyd at gully and 'keeper Andy Owen (as well as giving Andy one of his two stumpings for the day), and was actually unfortunate not to get a sixth wicket when a few tentative shots ballooned just short of fielders. Still, Alec had taken only the second Remnants ``Michelle'' this century, and was justifiably clapped from the ground after The CB XI's innings was wrapped up with a few balls to spare.
After a little delay while our opening batsmen primped in front of the mirror, our pursuit of 105 proceeded pretty smoothly, John Gull (31 off 42 balls) and Ollie Harris (a classically elegant 46 off 50 balls) taking us to 91/1 in the 12th (eight-ball) over. With just 15 runs needed from 25 balls (and with 9 quality wickets in hand, including a middle order with some 10,000 Remnants runs between them) it was time to put our feet up and get early access to Alec's jug of bitter.
But anyone who had gone off to the bar would have missed an electrifying passage of play during which tight bowling induced some silly shots (most of which were superbly caught by various out-fielders) as we lost 9/4 and The CB XI stormed back into contention. Whereas ten minutes earlier it had seemed unlikely that there'd even be a final over, we now found ourselves needing a further 6 runs from it. Faruk Kara (6* off 7 balls) and Joe White (0* off 1 ball) at least kept their heads, scampering a leg-bye and then a couple of twos to tie the scores with 3 balls remaining. Obviously even Remnants couldn't lose from that situation, but the general level of screaming (mainly to ``run hard'') from the pavilion indicated we were all rather worried that we'd still somehow fail to win a match we'd dominated throughout. The third last ball once again beat the bat, although this time because it was out of reach, which gave Geoff no choice but to end the match with a call of ``wide'' (which he tried not to sound too pleased about).
After that it was time for Alec to play drinks-waiter as most members of both teams settled in for a serious post-match analysis, much of which centred on the Remnants bowling records and the race to top the bowling averages this year. For most of the summer it has seemed that Joe would win by a mile, but now it's wide-open, with Alec (7 wickets at 9.00), Joe (11 wickets at 9.18), Russell Woolf (10 wickets at 10.70) and Bryan Lea (6 wickets at 11.33) all in with a shout. The ``race'' for the best batting average, on the other hand, didn't rate so much of a mention, as Dave Williams (359 runs at 59.83) is the only qualified batsman to be averaging over 30.00 (although if Joe were to score one more big fifty he could well achieve an unprecedented double-crown).