Any sort of game was going to be acceptable after two weeks without cricket, and even tonight's rather one-sided affair against a fundamentally stronger FAS side was preferable to getting home in time for Hollyoaks. As usual they had poached plenty of Remnants, and Joe, Rob and Faruk were all sporting FAS colours tonight; and, again as usual, we'd snuck in super-ringer Dave Norman under radar. Unfortunately FAS not only had some strong regulars, but also three ringers of their own, and so the balance of power was very much in the opposition's favour. (It's just a pity we couldn't call on our reserves: with Russ, Andrew and Robin all present and available, we had a kick-arse bench.)
Having chosen to bat first, two of FAS's ringers (one of whom may have played for Leicestershire, whereas the other, either Iain Fletcher or Simon Fletcher, apparently only played for Hertfordshire or Herefordshire) put our bowling to the sword, racing to 34/0 after 4 (six-ball) overs without breaking a sweat. Daniel Mortlock (3/9) and Bryan Lea (1/18, taking 1/1 from his last two overs after a bad start) then got rid of both of them in consecutive balls, although a big wodge of the credit has to go to Martin Law, who caught an absolute bullet at mid-on.
Two of FAS's better batsmen, Jamie Houlder (65*) and Cliff Dare (23), then put together the game's best partnerhip, and started to take the game away from us through a combination of aggressive running and simple big hitting. We did manage a few late wickets, and Dave Williams and Phil Hastings were both fantastic patrolling the square boundaries, but FAS were well and truly ahead on points as they went to the inter-innings break with a total of 139/5 on the board (and an even more impressive 143/5 in the book, a four having been missed from the running total).
Still, what we did have in our favour was a monster batting line-up: Dave Williams, Ollie Harris, John Gull, Phil Hastings, Martin Law, Bryan Lea and Daniel Mortlock had all made 40+ scores this year (in most cases match-winning innings), and the last time Dave Norman batted against FAS he all but single-handedly chased down an even bigger target on the way to an awesome century. And so it was particularly annoying that our top five designated ``match-winners'' made just 26 runs between them, including superhero Dave Williams (14 off 26 balls), who thus revealed himself to be human afterall.
A horrid 14/3 after 7 overs improved somewhat to 46/4 after 12, but scoring 98 off just 48 balls just wasn't going to happen . . . except for the fact that Dave Norman was still in, and looked to be unusually focussed today. After knocking about a few singles and twos he suddenly shifted into top gear, a fact best illustrated by a sequence of 4 4 4 6 1 . 4 . . 1 4 4 4 in which he smacked 36 runs off 13 balls. The win was still highly implausible, with 49 still needed from 21 balls, but Dave was actually scoring at well over the required rate. Unfortunately the above sequence continued with ``W'', and our brief fantasies of an impossible victory dissolved even more quickly than they'd formed. Dave was clapped from the ground having made 64 from 39 balls (with 9 fours and a six) and, even more amazingly, he'd controlled the strike so well that he'd managed to face all but 9 of the balls delivered while he was at the crease.
Next came a poignant little interlude in which Paul and Tom Jordan batted together in the most appropriate partnership of the day -- they were, ironically, the only father and son pair actually playing. It would have been nicer still if they'd been able to see out our overs, but their union was ended in rather bizarre circumstances when Tom was stumped off a near wide that was also a near no-ball, the ball being on the verge of bouncing a third time as it reached the 'keeper. And this precipitated a collapse so extreme that the last-wicket pair of Bryan Lea (4* off 1 ball) and Daniel Mortlock (4* off 3 balls) had to play out the final few deliveries to ensure Remnants avoided the indignity of being bowled out.
The post-match drinks were supplemented with a hearty tea; this was, of course, provided by Dave in addition to his on-field contributions of almost leading us to an implausible win and lending a touch of class to our fielding efforts behind the stumps. The main result of the latter, though, was to end up with a near-record 11 byes next to his name -- needless to say the root cause of these was the usual spray of leg-side deliveries (most of which probably should have been called as wides) -- but, as everyone knows, no good deed goes unpunished . . .