Geoff's decision to organise a sacrificial practice match (which was cancelled, thus appeasing the weather gods) paid off tonight as we were presented with the most implausibly perfect conditions for the first match of the season. As has become traditional, we were taking on the might of Romsey Town, with whom we share about half our players. Sadly, the less desireable tradition of disorganisation and tardiness was also carried over from last year, the selected eleven assembling at the ground with about the same urgency as builders coming back from a pub lunch.
In a nice touch Russell Woolf, having finally ascended to the Remnants throne after two years as captain in waiting, was pitted against the man he'd usurped, Daniel Mortlock. He, in turn, was captaining Romsey Town for only the second time after about a hundred matches as Andy Owen's faithful 2IC, so the scene was set for some potentially wild leadership decisions. Daniel began the evening with a pyrrhic victory by calling correctly at the toss, but his decision to insert Remnants probably didn't amount to much given that Russ would have chosen to bat first anyway.
The 2008 Remnants season thus got underway with the old firm of Nick Clarke (36) and Dave Williams (43) striding to the crease, but they both struggled early on before finding their form against Romsey's first-change bowlers and smacking some huge boundaries. The most dramatic of these was an effortless pull by Nick which, thanks to his perfect timing, sailed into the nearby gardens and, thanks to his perfect placement, smashed straight through the glass roof of a conservatory therein. The owners weren't home (or, worse, tending to their plants), but their neighbours came out in force, offering wild exclamations like ``I can't believe this has happened to them -- they're such nice people'' that betray a certain lack of imagination given that the steady rain of half-pound leather missiles during the summer months is probably sufficient for them to make a respectable living selling reconditioned Remnants cricket balls. Fortunately the delay had no effect on Nick and Dave, and by the half-way mark of the innings the scoring rate was up above 10 per (eight-ball) over. The year's first monster total was beckoning until Dave Norman, subbing for Romsey once again, got a couple of wickets with his seldom-seen offies. After this Stas Shabala (12*), Tom Serby (15 on Remnants debut) and Joe White (11*) all struggled to score at more than a run a ball, and our final total of 133/3 was a little disappointing given the great start.
Our time in the field was a study in contrasts as the quickies caused all sorts of trouble (with combined figures of 4/25 from 6 overs) while the spinners got hit all around the park (with combined figures of 2/96 from the other 9 overs). Of the latter only Rupert Brown (2/27) came away with any success, and even that was largely due to a stunning return catch he held when the ball was smashed straight back at him. And of the former Joe White's 1/16 just represented a predictable (if welcome) continuation of his stellar form from last year. The source of the remaining wickets was more of a suprise, however, with Remnants first-timer Anil Waduge coming into the match as a largely unknown quantity but coming out of it with deserved figures of 3/9 from his superb spell of fast, accurate bowling.
All this meant that the game was balanced on a knife-edge for most of Romsey's chase, and when the final eight-ball over began with 12 needed it was anybody's game. Or at least it would have been if Russ hadn't decided to keep Joe back until it was nice and dark so his screaming yorkers could have maximum effect in the gloom. After a few singles and twos Joe got a wicket with the third last ball of the match; but, rather than sealing the victory, it might have been the fatal mistake, as it brought Dave Norman to the crease -- if anyone could smack 6 off two deliveries it was him. A comfortable two from the first of these meant that the season had its first thriller ending: a boundary needed off the final ball. Joe came thundering in; Dave came down the track; there were near simultaneous grunts of effort from both; there was a swing . . . and a miss! Nick Clarke gloved the ball cleanly in the gloom and, as Dave half-heartedly went for a bye, Nick completed a simple run out to end the game. But was that the end? The Romsey players were hollering that it was a no ball . . . but the stumps had already been drawn and Remnants had won by 3 runs.
The scene post-match was every bit as disorganised as the scene pre-match, with people mobbing Dave Williams to pay their subs (to avoid the extra match fee) and everyone else trying to find out if Cambridge United had done enough to earn a play-off to get back up into the leagues (which they did, defeating Burton 2-1).