On another dark, grey, damp mid-summer's day Daniel Mortlock's Captain's X took on the undefeated (for 2007) Russell Woolf and his Vice-Captain's X in the traditional Remnants intra-club match. As in 2005 and 2006 it was decided to extend the match to 24 (six-ball) overs a side, which logically should have been a doddle just a couple of days after the solstice, even if the thick black clouds all had us a bit worried about getting 288 deliveries in between 6pm and whenever it got dark (not necessarily sunset).
The Captain's X took to the field first, the new ball being taken by the superbly named Harry Picton-Turbervill, a sixteen-year-old friend of Rob Harvey's who's on the books for Leicestershire and has been speed-gunned bowling in the mid-seventies (despite being ``mainly a batsman''). Still, John Gull (45) and Olly Harris (25) managed to see off both Harry (0/16) and Rupert Brown (0/28), scoring at more than a run a ball throughout their excellent partnership. Indeed, they were on the verge of batting The Captain's X out of the game until Daniel Mortlock (2/27) and Andy Owen (1/16) made critical breakthroughs, after which successive pairs of batsmen had calling meltdowns that resulted not just in run outs, but with the more dangerous batsmen being dismissed every time. The most unfortunate victim was the even more superbly named Carbon Magnus Therrion, an American friend of John Gull's who was playing his first ever game of cricket -- his education in the game was sufficiently rapid to go from how to hold the bat to ``yes, no, sorry'' in the space of a few minutes. Add in some tight bowling by John Moore (1/14, to go with an excellent catch), a couple of sharp catches by Mike Sneyd, and The Vice-Captain's X's was in real trouble. At least until the vice-captain took matters into his own hands, that is: Russell Woolf came in and biffed 19 (off 23 balls) while at the other end Rob Harvey (23 off 21 balls) and Alex Brown (17* off 16 balls, most of which had been delivered by his dad) did even better. Between them they took The Vice-Captain's X to the sort of total (149/8 from 24 overs) that had seemed beyond their reach ever since the openers had been dismissed.
By this stage of the evening the ground was in almost complete darkness (so much so that we skipped the usual inter-innings team photograph) although the astronomers amongst us were justifiably confident that this wasn't an early sunset, but just some (hopefully temporary) cloud cover.
And it was at precisely this moment, the darkest of the evening as it turned out, that Joe White unleashed his 70 mph missiles at The Captain's X top-order, taking 2/6 as the batsmen tried to evade a small red projectile they could barely even see. And whilst Joe's run-up and delivery was smooth as silk, all around him was mayhem. Mike Sneyd had called for a runner, leading to a loose herd of batsmen wandering about the infield; Anthony Hyde was off running errands but had somehow been replaced by not one but two substitutes (conservation of mass, perhaps?); John Gull was fielding with an open beer bottle which everyone tried to knock over; and several balls were lost into the nearby backyards. The latter were the result of some superb clean-hitting by Martin Law (47 off 38 balls) who, with Mike Francis (26 off 37 balls) and then Harry P-T (25 off 16 balls), found the change bowlers very much to his liking.
The only blip in the free-scoring came when Russell Woolf brought himself on and produced a brilliant spell of flighted deliveries which yielded criminally harsh figures of 2/26. Every second shot seemed to be a mis-hit, and the fact that several catches went down off his bowling meant his match-winning efforts weren't enough to win the match. In the end The Captain's XI crossed the line with time to spare, master-finisher Andy Owen (26* off 16 balls) and Matt Hughes (1* off 6) completing a superbly paced chase with considerable poise.
After that there was time for quick beer before a few stayers made the all-too-predictable frontal assault on The Tandoori Fortress, whose books were once again balanced by our ample wallets and insatiable appetites.
And it was just as well we took our time over the cricket this evening, as Remnants didn't end up playing another game until July 11, more than a fortnight later. Not that anyone should be too surprised: the seven cancellations (in addition to a couple of non-fixtures) we've had in the last two months is about the average for an entire season -- which has been euphemistically termed ``summer'' this year. When we have played, though, we've done rather well, with nine victories and just three losses (and tonight's internal fixture). The main reason for this success seems to have been our ability to constrict opposition batting line-ups no matter which of our varied attacks is in operation. Six bowlers have gone for less than 5 runs an over, and five are averaging less than 16 runs per wicket, although I think it's clear to everyone that Joe White (with figures of 24 overs, 3 maidens, 9/83) has been the absolute star. The batting hasn't been quite as reliable, with two of our losses being attributable to rather lame away efforts, although the presence of Dave Williams in the eleven has all but guaranteed us a monster score: with 320 runs at an average of 80.00 (and recent scores of 43, 41, 75*, 73* and 83) he's been in the form of his life, and even went within a hundred runs of breaking Clarke Brunt's club record of 331 runs between dismissals. So, in short, if you want to do well for Remnants, make sure your last name starts with W -- imagine how a team of both Waterfalls, Phil Watson, Joe White, Dave Williams and Russell Woolf would do in the six-a-side tournament . . .