A grim day of scudding clouds and intermittent rain didn't auger well for a game of cricket this evening, and the situation, at least from the Remnantish point of view, only worsened when the first ball of Coton's innings went all the way to the boundary. Add in the fact that Coton's opener, sometime Remnant George Speller, always seems to produce his best against us, and a wash-out suddenly seemed desperately appealing.
The pitch was lively, the ball was hard and shiny, and our spearheads Joe White (3/5) and Daniel Mortlock (2/6) were putting it in exactly the right spot. After four overs Coton was 14/5, their top-order was snuggled up back in the pavilion, and the match was all but over.
For the next hour we had a great time surrounding the batsmen with close-in fielders, taking great catches, piling on the pressure, and living out the fantasy that we're a seriously good cricket team. Last week Nick Clarke responded to the discovery that his dog had urinated on his kit by taking two catches at short mid-wicket; in the time since his dog had upped the ante by taking a monster dump in the same location, but Nick was able to respond in kind, nabbing another two catches today in what his becoming his signature position. Not that he was alone there: Mike Francis started proceedings by catching the aforementioned traitor; Daniel Mortlock took a freak left-handed catch off a hard-hit pull (but had the presence of mind to act like it wasn't just a fluke); Joe White pouched a top-edged drive looking back over his shoulder despite the fact that Jim Higginson was bearing down on him; and John Richer, after effecting the most relaxed of run outs, finished the Coton innings off with a sharp effort at point.
Of course the fact that we had all these chances -- and there could have been many more but for numerous mis-hits falling into gaps -- meant that the bowlers were doing something right as well, and Fahim Mirza (2/11 in his first appearance for Remnants), Andy Owen (1/0) and Jim Higginson (1/34) all caused their fair share of trouble. Jim, whose leggies were a tad erratic today, also managed to cause a fair bit of trouble for the scorers, who had to shoe-horn nine wides into the tiny little boxes on the mini-scoresheets. Not that Jim was the the sole contributor on this front, the rest of us managing another seven wides -- and even then this was just a drop in the ocean of the awesome 32 extras that made up more than a third of Coton's meagre total of 88 all out.
Our chase began slowly, as George started with a maiden, but he was soon removed from the attack to put the gloves on when Coton's first choice 'keeper copped a ball to the chin. Ordinarily this could be put down to bad luck (or the fact that, apparently, he'd never played cricket before); but instead it's clear that this is a central Remnants strategy, as all three opposition wicket-keepers have been injured against us this year, and only our own Andy Owen (when playing for Romsey) was even able to see out the game.
And, with George otherwise occupied, it was one-way traffic, John Richer (9 off 15 balls with 2 fours, despite using one of the club ``bats''), Dave Williams (43 off 44 balls with 5 fours and a six) and Nick Clarke (19 off 18 balls with, uncharacteristically, just 1 four) taking us to the brink of victory.
Indeed, when Dave smacked the first ball of the 10th over into the nearby gardens, we needed just 2 runs with 9 wickets and 39 balls left, and a complete thrashing seemed a formality. But Andy knew better, predicting ``he'll get bowled this ball'', and so it came to pass. What he didn't know, however, was that Dave Green would get bowled two balls later, and that Nick Clarke would get bowled three balls after that. We'd all seen Malinga get four wickets in four balls against South Africa in the World Cup to make a mockery of their simple task of getting 4 runs in 5 overs with 5 wickets left -- could something as freakish be on the cards here? In a word, no: Andy Owen (5* off 3 balls, with a match-winning four) is made of stronger stuff than the silly South Africans, and the match was duly finished, albeit an over later than it should have been.
This did mean marginally less drinking time, but this was more than made up for by the fact that most members of both teams stayed behind to expand their waistlines and make plans for the return match on July 10.