The first half of the Remnants season ended in rather frustrating circumstances when we let Granta get away with a tie; could we get off on the right foot as the calendar ticked over into July? Taking on Hart-McLeod was maybe not the best option for a fresh start -- given their tendancy to field teams containing international players, it was possible that the day's result would be out of ours hands.
The early signs, as so often of late, were not good. The classier of Hart-McLeod's openers hit the first ball of the innings for an easy four through extra-cover and then got an absurd overthrow from the second when a back-up cordon of bowler, short mid-wicket, wicket-keeper and first slip all failed to stop a fairly innocuous return. The bowler, Alex Brown, came back well from this start to post respectable figures of 0/20, and that pretty much summed up our time in the field: decent bowling not being quite enough to overcome quality batting and duff fielding. It's probably true that nothing quite matched the horror of that early backing-up failure, but there was some pretty good competition, with a couple of bottled non-catching attempts and wild throws ably backed up by the more predictable dropped catches and lazy out-fielding. The only real highlights were superb catches by Ben Armitage (a spinning cut shot held at deep point) and Richard Rex (a kind of remix of his previous catches this season, this time combining both diving full-length and fending off another fielder), which was kind of appropriate since, along with Tom Serby, they put in the best efforts in the field. Meanwhile, the bowling was okay at worst and top-notch at best, with Paul Jordan (1/13), Rupert Brown (1/15) and Richard Rex (2/15, once he got his vertical hold sorted out) all bowling their best spells of the season. We have their efforts to thank for the fact that Hart-McLeod were just 81/2 after 14 (six-ball) overs, and even when their middle order accelerated towards the end of the innings, their final total of 134/5 was no more than adequate.
At least until we slumped to 14/3 after 4 overs and our target of 135 suddenly seemed like the Twenty-20 equivalent of 903/7. After the first of these wickets captain Geoff Hales sent out Daniel Mortlock with the encouraging words ``We'll win if you're still in at the end'', showing great confidence in the season's top run scorer . . . although one ball later the only pertinent question was whether the converse was true. Either way, our middle order ignored both Geoff's predictions and our predicament, as they gradually worked us back into the match. Rupert Brown (21 off 18 balls) and then Ben Armitage (18 off 17 balls) combined superbly with Tom Jordan (37 off 39 balls), the former pair smacking some huge boundaries while Tom ran and called brilliantly, his aggressive intentions limited only by some robust ``no'' calls from his more conservative partners. By the time they'd taken us to 88/4 after 14 overs we were actually ahead of Hart-McLeod's total at the same stage -- although maybe that just illustrates why these comparisons are so meaningless, because it was going to take a pretty special effort to score the 47 we needed from the last 36 balls.
And, sure enough, the pressure finally told as we lost a succession of wickets to desperate slogs and risky (if necessary) runs, our innings going so badly wrong that Geoff Hales was faced with the rather dismal task of seeing out the final four balls to prevent us being bowled out. But Geoff wasn't satisfied with mere survival, and he promptly late-cut (or glided, or even ``glud'', depending who you ask) his third ball for four, his first boundary this millenium. Not only that, but he also decided to maintain the high running standards from earlier in the innings, making it half-way to the non-striker's end before he remembered that he had Dave Green running for him, at which point he sheepishly turned around and made a big show of hobbling back to face the final ball.
Needless to say Geoff survived that too, thus preventing us from being bowled out, but such minor victories are really a pretty poor substitute for, well, actually winning a game. Losses to Hart-McLeod are always doubly annoying because of the grin that remains plastered across ex-Remnants captain Graham Hart's face for several hours after the game -- and maybe today's was even more galling than that with the traitor Martin Law also wearing his HM colours on his sleeve. They all trundled off for a curry secure in the knowledge of a job well done, whereas we're just faced with more of the same, with tomorrow's opposition of Fathers And Sons likely to include three or four Remnants in its eleven . . .