Today Remnants faced the old enemy, The Computer Laboratory being the only opposition from our first season (1980) to still appear regularly on our fixture lists. Back then we thumped them by 46 runs, but in the time since they've beaten us plenty of times as well, most often through the efforts of Martyn Livett, who seems to find our bowling very much to his liking.
And so it was not entirely unexpected that, when we took to the field, we chased leather for half an hour while a destructive Computer Lab batsman went on the rampage. He smashed the first ball of the match for four, hit two enormous sixes off our best bowler, and went close to taking the match out of our hands. The only surprise was that it wasn't the aforementioned Mr Livett, but rather newcomer Stuart Cronin (previously known as ``Stuart ???''), about whom little is known apart from the fact he likes to commentate while he bats and, with the help of the 49 (off 30-odd balls) he hit today, he's already passed 700 runs for the season. Largely through his efforts The Computer Lab raced to 43/0 off the first four (six-ball) overs, although once he was dismissed we made a big-time comeback.
Our first success came when Mike Jones took a good catch off the bowling of Rupert Brown (1/19), and then Daniel Mortlock (1/14) upped the ante with two consecutive maidens before getting the prize wicket with a fortunate inside-edge. Captain Joe White (0/28) wasn't quite so lucky, losing his footing as he bowled his first delivery, finishing his follow-through as a tangle of arms and legs on the pitch, and then being unlucky to go wicketless as he sped balls past the outside edge again and again. Les Collings also began his spell in a decidedly sub-optimal fashion, as his first two balls were leg-side half-trackers which were both unceremoniously hit to the boundary. However Les's comeback was even more decisive than the team's: he bowled three batsmen (including danger-man Martyn Livett); had one well-stumped by Rob Harvey; had one caught by Julian Chilvers at mid-off; and went within a few inches of having another caught at short mid-wicket. Les thus finished up with figures of 5/27 and, after a quarter of a century, finally had his first ever Remnants five-for.
With Alex Brown (0/25) keeping things tight from the other end and the fielding being of the highest standard (highlighted by the tireless efforts of Rupert, Chris McNeill and Dave Williams), we had very much the better of things for the second half of the innings, keeping The Computer Lab to not much more than a run a ball after that initial blow-out. Unfortunately their start was so good that we still had a target of 143 ahead of us, and the smart money remained on the programmers at the mid-innings break.
And, after their opening bowlers had reduced us to 47/4 with the innings half-gone, even the epsilon-minus semi-morons were starting to consider investing. Ben Armitage (14 off 17 balls) dominated what little early scoring there was until he was run out for the third time this year, although both Dave Williams (4 off 5 balls) and Joe White (5 off 10 balls) were unluckier still, falling to a pair of implausible one-handed catches. In Dave's case he dealt with a short ball outside off-stump superbly, timing his cut to perfection as he sent the ball speeeding towards the point boundary . . . except a freeze-frame at the moment of contact would have revealed the point fielder's hands already raised to intercept the ball. Remkarkable as the fielder's initial reactions were, however, it seemed a one-bet gamble, as once he'd got both hands into place they stayed where they were, almost as if he was hoping to maximize the area he was covering. The fact that one hand remained two feet away from the trajectory made it seem rather fortunate that the other happened to be in the right place to close around the ball, but either way it was a fabulous catch.
With 97 runs needed from 60 balls and two new batsmen at the crease, our one hope was the that gap between The Computer Lab's opening bowlers and the rest of the attack would be comparable to that between their opening batsmen and the rest of their line-up.
And so it turned out, as Julian Chilvers (23 off 26 balls) and Daniel Mortlock (46* off 37 balls) managed to score at pretty close to the required rate for the next few overs. By the time Mike Jones came in at the start of the 15th over we needed an implausible 2 runs a ball, but at least that meant there was no need to think about strategy -- we simply had to try some big hits and hope we got lucky. Despite his unimposing record (previous highest score in 20 Remnants innings: 12), Mike took control, starting with some intelligent deflections, then grabbing some bonus runs when he spotted fielders with weak arms, and then finally getting sick of running altogether, instead smacking enormous boundaries with absurd ease. Having reduced the target to 26 from 2 overs, and with The Computer Lab bravely persisting with their off-spinner from the end with the short leg-side boundary, there was suddenly a very real sense we could pull it off. And, even when we scored just 4 from the (very tight) penultimate over, there was still an outside chance of a miracle. Mike was certainly up for it and stepped up a gear, smacking 16 runs from the final 6 balls to take him to a superb 26 not out (off 17 balls) and, as the mathematicians amongst you will have just noticed, Remnants to a glorious 5 run defeat.
No, seriously, it was really quite awesome that we ended a game we were out of twice-over just one big hit away from victory. And, beyond that, it was simply a top game of cricket, played in the right spirit, with lots of runs, lots of wickets, an exciting finish, and, best of all, two jugs of beer from Les.