There's always something a little bit depresing about the first August game of a season, as it means we're really on the home straight and it's only a few months 'til those god-awful 2pm sunsets that make one wonder why Britain was constructed at such a high latitude. This sense of impending gloom was even greater than usual last year when we began Ceasar's month by being restricted to just 80/7 by The Philanderers at their The Perse School home ground. And once last night's fixture against The Globe was washed out it meant we'd be starting the final month of this season in the same way.
At least in terms of venue and opposition, that is -- hopefully we'd be able to reverse the result, and captain Ev Fox (in his final game before returning to Doha for another year) started the right way by winning the toss, which meant we'd be making first use of the puddingy pitch this time around. Not that we used the pitch at all initially, Kiran Sakhamuri starting the game with a waist-high full toss that was well caught by Chris McNeill, giving us our first wicket without the ball even having touched the ground . . . except that the umpire had (correctly) called ``no ball''. After that, however, Kiran got his length sorted out and proved near impossible to hit as he took 1/10 from his four overs. At the other end Daniel Mortlock (1/13) was only marginally more expensive, and so by the time our opening bowlers had finished their spells The Philanderers were just 30/2 at the half-way point of their innings.
Half-way? Huh? Surely Kiran and Daniel had only bowled four overs each?
Well yes, that's right. But the opposition had suggested a shortened game of 16 six-ball overs a side, which had seemed like undue pessimism initially, but turned out to be inspired prescience in the end, the game being played in such a lacadaisical fashion that we only just managed to fit in a measly 32 overs before sunset.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves, and Remnants still had another eight overs of Philanderers strangulation ahead of us. Although eight more overs of any sort seemed pretty unlikely when Chris McNeill came on first-change and promptly began his spell with a triple-wicket maiden. What it lacked in originality (being a clear derivative of Tom Serby's effort last week) it more than made up for in spectacle as it included a top one-handed catch by Richard Rex at point and a great running take by John Moore at mid-off. Suddenly we found ourselves dominating a game like seldom before, and when Tom Serby (1/15) took a wicket in his first over and Chris grabbed one more in his next (taking his figures to a deserved 4/20), The Philanderers were out for the count at 40/7. They'd endured a collapse of 7/20 runs -- and, amazingly, it could have been even worse, with a succession of uncontrolled aerial shots falling just out of a fielder's reach. Still, a few more overs like this and we'd have ourselves a superb revenge for last year's thrashing, and maybe even a sub-50 target.
Unfortunately we were a bowler short and The Philanderers had a couple of quality batsmen (one of whom apparently plays for the Cambridge University second eleven) lurking in their lower order. They started coming down the track (thus taking the troublesome pitch out of the equation) and hit 56 runs from the last 29 balls of the innings as our fielding wilted under the unexpected pressure. Somehow they took their side all the way to 96/7 off their 16 overs, exactly a run a ball, and very obviously a non-trivial target in the conditions.
Still, in numerical terms all it needed was one of our top order to smack a quick 30-odd to kill of the game; and, when Nick Clarke (25 off 17 balls) led us to 30/1 after 5 overs, it seemed he was delivering just what the doctor ordered. However when he got a thin edge to a nice out-swinger everything changed: suddenly we were struggling even to nick quick singles, and within a few minutes the required rate was almost nine an over.
One casualty of this was the running between wickets, and a succession of duff calls saw us gift the opposition a total of three silly run outs. In the most absurd case Kiran Sakhamuri and Daniel Mortlock entered into a pained series of negotiations that saw them racing to the same end, both making their ground at about the same time as the bails were whipped off by The Philanderers' 'keeper. Neither they nor the fielders was sure which one had been dismissed, so all eyes turned to umpire Mike Sneyd for clarification, but he just remained strangely impassive, leaving everyone just standing around in confusion . . . until the realisation gradually dawned that Mike hadn't given anyone out, and there was suddenly a race to the other end which, inevitably, was won by the ball. Such farce was illustrative of our plight, but maybe even more revealing was the grim fact that Kiran (10 off 7 balls) and Daniel (7 off 10 balls) were, after Nick, our second and third highest scorers.
As the darkness closed in around our innings (both literally and metaphorically) Chris McNeill (6* off 6 balls) and Colin Anderson (6* off 10 balls) did at least get us within a dozen runs of our target, but in the end it was a case of too little too late. One couldn't help feeling that young Ferdinand Rex, who may or may not have been watching Star Wars recently, had it right with his repeated intonation of C-3PO's ``We're doomed'' mantra. He'd also provided the commentary highlight of last year's Philanderers game with his incredulous observation that ``They all have grey hair!''; this was no longer true this year, with a couple of students bolstering The Philanderers' ranks, but young and old alike they were presumably rather chuffed to have comfortably defended a double-figure total and won a game from the depths of 40/7.