With Remnants going along nicely at 58/0 after 11 (six-ball) overs in pursuit of his team's modest total of 119/8, Graham Hart was a broken man. The one-time Remnants captain must have known that even the presence of an international-standard ringer in the side wasn't going to be enough to prevent his Hart-McLeod side from suffering a humiliating defeat.
And even though neither Olly Harris (29 off 41 balls) nor Nick Clarke (25 off 32 balls) had quite got their timing sorted out, the first-change bowlers were on and even just one high-scoring over would make the win a formality. Instead what we got was a got was disaster, as Richard Burgess, Hart-McLeod's canny off-break bowler who'd taken 4/19 against us back in 2000, ripped out our top order in a superb spell of 3/8 from his 4 overs.
Between overs 12 and 17 (inclusive) we scored just 20 runs and lost 5 wickets; by the time Faruk Kara (9 off 17 balls), Matt Hughes (1 off 5 balls) and Daniel Mortlock (8* off 10 balls) got in they were faced with the almost impossible task of scoring 45 runs from 4 overs. That they gave it a real go is evidenced by the fact that those 4 overs contained only 5 dot balls; the problem was that none of them could time the ball on the low, slow surface, and where we needed boundaries all we got was singles -- 18 in a row, as it happened. All this unintentional nurdling was put in context, however, when Russell Woolf came in and, without any real fuss, smacked 9* off 5 balls, at least giving us a phyrric victory at the death.
All the Hart-McLeod players and supporters stayed behind to toast their ``stuffing'' and Graham, in particular, was like the cat who'd got the cream. For our part we were left trying to work out where it all went wrong . . .
. . . which certainly wasn't at the start of the game, as both Daniel Mortlock (0/12, despite having hit the stumps with a ball fast enough to race off for four byes but which somehow failed to dislodge a bail) and Paul Jordan (1/13) began with superb maidens, and Stas Shabala (2/16) was bang on target despite being forced to have three separate spells. Hart-McLeod's scoring rate slowly picked up -- no surprise given the classy batting on display -- and both the second wicket pair seemed set for half-centuries . . . until they were summarily retired by their captain. At first this seemed like it might have an act of charity until one of the replacements was revealed to be Piet Rinke who, despite three exquisite (and consecutive) cover drives today, probably still rates his man-of-the-match performance for Zimbabwe against Canada as a greater cricketing achievement. More annoyingly we'd run out of seamers and the slow bowlers were struggling, so Russell Woolf (2/15) must feel particularly chuffed to have lured Piet out of his crease, just as stand-in 'keeper Nick Clarke was most likely similarly pleased at his lightning glove-work which resulted in the ``tell the grandkiddies'' scoreline of ``Piet Rinke, stumped Nick Clarke, bowled Russell Woolf, for 12 (off 4 balls)''.
That we restricted such a strong batting line-up to less a run a ball was a pretty neat effort, and had plenty to do with top fielding efforts to back up the tight bowling. Olly Harris was dynamic at point all day (and kept his head to effect an unfussy run out despite instructions to ``hold it'' from the bowler to whom he calmly threw the ball); Matt Hughes repeatedly put his body on the line to make some superb stops (even whilst catching his breath after being asked to field in just about every position there is); Paul Jordan cut off numerous singles at backward square-leg; and Harry Picton-Turbervill and Tom Jordan scampered 'round the boundaries like energetic teenagers (which, of course, they are).
Sadly it wasn't all good news in the field, with a number of balls going to the boundary having passed under some part of a fielder or having bounced off a tentiatively out-stretched foot (the only reason, incidentally, that our lead-off sequence of dot balls didn't extend past 12). If we'd gotten this part of our game right as well then we might have been looking at a target of not much more than a hundred, and the win we should have had anyway would most likely have come to pass.
Still, a bit of perspective's in order -- we're just talking about the result of a friendly evening cricket game, afterall, whereas the results of one piece of unsuccessful fielding today were much more serious. Way back in the fourth over of the game Paul Jordan tried out his minimally disguised slower ball -- ``Slowest. Delivery. Ever'' is how Comic Store Guy from The Simpsons would have described it as the ball gently arced its way down the pitch. Anyway, despite the seeming eternity he had to play it, the batsman was fooled, getting through his shot too early, a leading edge squirting out towards square-leg. Tom Jordan, fielding by the umpire, dived to his wrong side and half-grasped the ball with his out-stretched left hand as his body was parallel to the ground. For a moment it seemed he was going to be able to hold on, but the ball wouldn't quite stick, eventually coming to rest on the turf a few feet away. ``You've just dropped the Champagne Moment, son'' is how Steve Waugh would have called it; and, given that Tom's mum was watching, it would have been the perfect family moment as well. But, even though it was a great effort, we all know it's results that count in the Jordan family and, once his head clears from the inevitable post-match beating, Tom'll have plenty of time to ponder on why he shouldn't drop catches off his dad as he waits to be fed again.