It's always the way, isn't it? Whereas we didn't even need the likes of Andy Owen and Joe White (350 runs between them last year at an average of 29.59) to bat in last night's thrashing of Fen Ditton, tonight we took to the field with a batting line-up that, if you take out Andrew Lea, Daniel Mortlock and John Young, scored a combined total of just 219 runs at 12.17 in 2006. Now, that might well be because of unimaginative captaincy or a general lack of opportunities (not to mention the fact that one of tonight's team hadn't even played for the club 'til this year), but it didn't auger well for a repeat of last night's simple ``set an absurdly large total and coast from there'' strategy. Tonight it was going to have to be ``restrict the opposition to two figures and then chase carefully'', and so it was very nice of UCLES to choose to bat first upon winning the toss, even though only six Remnants were at the ground at the time.
For our first over we were still one short, and so Nicky Mellish (Adrian's wife and kit-washer), found herself patrolling the third man boundary (rather than watching from beyond it) while Daniel Mortlock reluctantly put on the wicket-keeping gloves. Fortunately Rob Harvey arrived in time to take his rightful position behind the stumps for the second over, allowing Daniel to go from keeping to bowling and, with order restored, the Remnants machine duly slipped into top gear.
Daniel (0/16) and Paul Jordan (1/12) both did okay with the new ball, but it was our slower bowlers who caused the most trouble, and by the time Russell Woolf (2/19) and Tom Jordan (2/15) had finished their superb spells we'd restricted UCLES to just 76/6 from 16 (six-ball) overs. Our ascendancy wasn't just down to our bowling, either, with the likes of Mike Sneyd (cat-like at gully and square-leg despite apologising in advance for any mis-fields on the grounds that he was wearing an old pair of glasses), John Moore (with his brilliantly unconventional hands-only stops), Russell Woolf (with his brilliantly unconventional feet-only stops) and Daniel Mortlock (constantly testing our backing up by trying to run out the non-strikers when they backed up too far) all in top form. And of course any good fielding effort starts and ends with the 'keeper, and Rob was particularly light-footed tonight, being quickly in place a few feet outside leg stump for the numerous deliveries that were directed that way.
Our real troubles, though, were outside off-stump, from where UCLES captain Steve Robinson carved most of his eventual 60 not out. By cleverly manipulating the strike he all but single-handedly scored 44 from the last 4 overs of the innings, eventually taking UCLES from potential embarrassment to the par 20-over score of 120.
That looked to be more than enough when we finished the second over of our innings stumbling at 3/1, but then John Moore (10 off 11 balls, with 1 four) joined Andrew Lea to entertain friend and foe alike with some truly anarchic, indecisive and completely silent running. Fortunately they escaped a few mid-pitch strandings and, far more importantly, played with sufficient aggression to have us back up with the required rate by the time John was dismissed in the 6th over.
That brought Mike Sneyd to the crease, dodgy glasses and all, and for a while the game hung in the balance as Mike and Andrew kept us in touch with nurdled singles and well-run twos. That rhythm was only broken when Mike was struck a painful blow on the, er, ``upper thigh''; but, rather than slowing him down, this fired him up, and suddenly he was smacking huge cuts and pulls, one of which landed just inches inside the longest boundary on the ground. He even caught up with Andrew at one point, despite the latter's six-over head start; but then Andrew, spurred on either by the fear of being overtaken by Mike or of being subjected to more of his captain's dememted screams when he refused an easy bye, took over the dominant role once again. Having appeared in control all innings he stepped up a gear, smacking a number of elegant boundaries, the last of which won the match from the first ball of the final over. Andrew finished up with 58* (off 53 balls, with 6 fours and 1 six), while Mike was cruelly stranded on 42* (off 50 balls, with 3 fours), but they can both be proud of a superb, unbroken, and match-winning partnership of 92 off just 80 balls.
Their timing was perfect as well -- as they were clapped from the ground the first spots of rain arrived and it was only minutes later, that the ground was being drowned by what would have been a match-ending downpour. Fortunately we were ensconsed in the bar by this stage, drinking not only to Mike and Andrew's batting efforts but also the fact that he and John had broken the voodoo curse that had previously condemned both of them to losing sides. And given that neither of them were responsible for our two anomalous losses then, by a process of Holmesean elimination, it must have been Chris McNeill: he's played in both our defeats but none of our wins and has subbed for losing opposition teams three times as well. He is 175 cm tall, has pale skin and strawberry blond hair, is often seen in a yellow cap, and, if you see him in the vicinity of any Remnants cricket match, do not approach him but instead contact the authorities immediately.