God decided to show us who was boss today, soaking Cambridge with an afternoon shower just a few minutes before match time. But, having completed His demonstration, He revealed himself to be merciful, turning off the waterworks and switching on the lights.
And that meant that the final fixture of the season, Sally's birthday game between The Birthday Treats (led by Joe White) and The Happy Returns (led by Daniel Mortlock), would get underway at 5:30pm sharp -- and, implausibly, in glorious sunshine. With Richard Rex deputising for Joe at the toss a very pragmatic approach was taken to the game: we'd go for 14 eight-ball overs, with a lastest change-over time of 6:45pm; we'd have a substitute fielder at all times to supplement the nine players on each side in the field; and we'd play some of the most atrocious cricket of the season.
Okay, so that last point wasn't part of the official plan, but it's what we got. Part of the problem was that about half the people on the field had spikes on, leaving the rest to slip-slide about on the wet grass, but the real disaster was that The Happy Returns were, with the exception of Paul Jordan and 'keeper Daniel, staffed entirely by slow bowlers who were forced to labour into a howling wind with the leg-side boundary only about 30 metres from the bat. Paul (0/27) started well enough, bowling with the wind and sending a brilliant out-swinger past the tentative prod of Mike Sneyd (6 off 9 balls), but that was about as close as the contest got.
Otherwise it was The Treats all the way as Nick Clarke (66 off just 31 balls, the fastest innings of the year), Tom Jordan (13 off 12 balls), Andy Owen (20 off 19 balls) and Richard Rex (21* off 26 balls) went to town. The Happy Returns were put to the sword, but there were at least a few minor personal highlights, with Daniel (1/4) taking off the gloves and getting rid of Nick with his first ball, Rob Harvey (1/21) and Tom Serby (1/12) taking stunning return catches, and Jon Steele (1/25) and Joe Harvey (1/11) getting their first Remnants wickets. Joe's spell contained a lovely little family moment as, with dad Rob now 'keeping, the Harveys took on the Rexes, Ferdi (1 off 6 balls) now having joined Richard in the middle. That little battle was a 1-0 victory to the Harveys, but the war was very definitely won by The Birthday Treats, Joe White (14* off 7 balls) coming in at the end to push his team's total past 150.
There didn't really seem much chance of The Happy Returns making a serious assault on their target, a feeling that was confirmed when Joe White (0/6) and Kiran Sakhamuri (1/14) kept the top order well and truly in check. Jon Steele (11 off 7 balls) and Dave Williams (47 off 46 balls) at least made a bit of a stand, but both were dismissed by a rampant Andy Owen, who took 4/7 before being taken off (presumably to avoid finishing the match too early). Colin Anderson (17) instead had two deal with The Birthday Treats' two youngest bowlers as Ferdi Rex (0/28) and Tom Jordan (0/8) rolled their arms over.
Around this time Pete Young (a Remnants regular in the '90s) popped by and cast his eye over goings on. He agreed with the general sentiment that the batsmen were missing out on a fair few easy singles, but pointed out that things had actually progressed since his day, making the outrageous claim that he once watched himself being bowled from the non-striker's end. This, frankly, sounded like complete rubbish, but Pete was insistent as the screen went wobbly and he told the story of a Remnants-Remnants match many, many years ago . . .
Pete was trying to push the score along, but he couldn't get his partner (a Remnants bowling legend, the colour of whose surname will not be revealed) to back up even a yard. Pete eventually got desperate and went for a big hoik, only to get a huge top edge which went straight up in the air. Still, he went for the run on the off chance that the catch would be dropped, and actually made it to the other end with the ball still coming down. The only problem was that his partner hadn't moved and suddenly the main attraction wasn't whether the catch would be taken but whether 6'7" ex-bouncer Pete could force his diminutive partner up to the other end. Most importantly, 'keeper Phil Watson, who was placed to catch the ball, was now too busy laughing, and didn't even get a hand to it as he took in the comic sight of Pete trying to push And-- er, his partner along the pitch like a recalcitrant donkey that had dug in its heels. Finally the farce was completed when the ball bounced, spun sharply, and smashed into the stumps that Pete had left several seconds earlier. And thus a man truly did witness his own demise.
Back in the present, about the only interest now was whether The Happy Returns would be bowled out, at which point Geoff Hales came to the wicket for only the second time all year. He dealt with Ferdi's last few balls without too much difficulty and so Joe brought Andy back on to get his five-for . . . if he could get past Geoff impenetrable defense, that is. Who would win the season's final battle? Would Geoff's mortal fear (``I'll never hear the end of it if I get out to Andy.'') be realised? Or would Andy get his first ever Remnants five-for? Was the result ever in doubt? Eight balls, eight immaculate forward defenses, and Remnants season 2008 ended with Geoff striding from the ground, undefeated (once again) with 2* from 12 balls.
First stop after that was the bar, where Nick plied everyone with beers not only for today's innings, but belatedly for his century against The Pretty Boys a month ago. These late season runs meant that Nick ended up being the season's highest scorer with 319 runs at 31.90, passing John Gull's 311 runs at 155.50. However the absence of John and Andrew Lea (159 runs at 53.00) today meant that neither could get themselves out to qualify for a full average, and so Daniel Mortlock (233 runs at 46.60) took the title that was morally John's, by default, repeating his similarly empty triumph from 2005, when Andy (369 runs at 123.00 that year) was almost as hard done by as John. Daniel also did pretty well with the ball, being the season's top wicket-taker with 19 wickets at 12.89. But despite his enviable average he was only fourth in the bowling averages, with Andy Owen (8 wickets at 12.75 after his efforts today), Tom Serby (11 wickets at 10.55) and Les Collings (13 wickets at 9.00) all doing even better. Thus Les repeated his bowling success from 2000 when, as it happens Andy and Daniel were second and third. (All of which might lead one to think that, other than the addition of Tom to the bowling ranks, nothing has changed in a decade of Remnants cricket . . .)
Whilst the above ``awards'' were decided by goings on today, there were no actual prizes to be given out -- or so we thought. Sally had decided that, even though it was her birthday, she was going to give out the presents, presenting cricket books to Dave Williams and Daniel Mortlock for their help over the year and giving Geoff two books for what we all know to be his extrordinary efforts running Remnants.
After the beers were drunk all thoughts turned curryward, and once again the faithful stretched the season out for a few more hours at The Palace Of Tandoor. But, try as we might, the bill (along with those scalding towels) eventually came, and we eventually went, safe in the knowledge that none of us would be dropping any more catches for at least another six months.