Tonight Remnants had its final external fixture of the season, heading off to Churchill College for a return match against The Cavendish Lab. They thrashed us back in May, and seemed to have enjoyed the victory so much that they went out of their way to organise this late-season fixture -- although, given that they didn't ask for any pitch fee from us, it also seemed to be a nice way of apologising for the stuff-ups that robbed us of not one, but two games last year. If so then much appreciated, especially given they were happy to let us bat first today when only four Remnants were present at the designated start time of 5:30pm.
They mightn't have been feeling so generous a few overs later when George Speller had raced out of the blocks, hitting a quick-fire 50 (off just 25 balls, with 7 fours and 1 six) before we'd reached the half-way mark of the innings. It seemed he was good for a century, but unfortunately he was bowled next ball, which precipitated a collapse of 4/10 as The Cavendish got themselves back in the match. Fortunately for us Bryan Lea (25* off 26 balls, with 1 four) and Daniel Mortlock (24* off 16 balls, with 3 fours) were able to regroup, and in the end took us to a decidedly healthy 126/5 off 16 (six-ball) overs.
So far so good, with a decent total to defend, although the last time we had a decent total to defend against The Cavendish it was very quickly rendered moot as the first five balls of the chase were smashed for four and the winning runs were hit with several trillion balls to spare, so we weren't home yet.
Sure enough, one of The Cavendish's openers, Sohail, played an innings every bit as destructive as George's earlier in the day, emulating George's feat of getting to his half century before his team had made it to 70. However we'd managed to contain his partners pretty effectively, with Paul Jodan (0/21, and unlucky to go wicketless with a series of in-swinging yorkers) and Les Collings (1/29, with some more flighted yorkers of his own) both bowling well and the whole team fielding brilliantly. Probably the happiest fielder was Olly Rex, who dismissed the memory of a few horror drops earlier in the year to take a well-judged catch at square-leg, although Tom Jordan managed an even better take when he leapt backwards to pull down a ball that looked to be going over his head. Kiran Sakhamuri and Dave Williams made a number of good stops close-in and Les and Rexes Max and Richard were great in the out-field . . . but all this back-patting shouldn't distract from the fact that The Cavendish were scoring at close to the required rate, and we really needed a wicket more than anything.
To that end we called upon the services of Kiran Sakhamuri, although when he began with a chest-high full toss that was pulled for six it seemed that this wasn't the most inspired bowling change in history. Fortunately his over was a six step self-improvement programme in miniature, each ball being better than the last -- and when he shaved Sohail's leg-stump with a fantastic in-swinger it seemed inevitable that he'd bowl him next ball, which he duly did.
After this vital breakthrough the scoring dried up as Tom Jordan (1/27, getting great turn, if minimal support from the wicket-keeper) and Bryan Lea (1/26, with accurate in-duckers) tied up the new batsmen -- but spare a thought for Kiran who, having made the vital breakthrough, was taken off with eminently respectable figures of 1/11. By restricting the batsmen to no more than four or five an over the required rate spiralled out of control, and with two overs to go The Cavendish needed 40 more runs for a surely impossible victory.
The only problem was that we'd taken a few wickets, and suddenly their best batsmen (i.e., those who'd smashed our bowling last time round) were in with nothing to lose and immortality to gain. Fourteen runs came from the penultimate over, leaving a just about plausible 26 further needed from the last six balls, to be bowled by Bryan. Some tight bowling and good fielding (a level-headed double-act by Les and Bryan to effect a run out) meant it had come down to three sixes needed. Sure enough, the next ball was promptly launched over long-on to have all of us a bit on edge. The next delivery was pulled with great force towards cow corner where George and Tom were posted on the boundary. They both made it round to the line of the ball with ease, only to enter into a battle of politeness ("After you!" "No, after you!"), with the result that our most successful batsmen and bowler rounded off their good days by ushering the ball across the boundary. Still, at least it wasn't a six, and when Bryan avoided the nightmare of a wide or no ball from the final delivery we had our deserved, if narrow, win.
It was a welcome change, being our first victory since July, although our final ledger of 9 wins, 1 tie and 13 losses in external games meant we'd failed to get more wins than losses for only the third season in the club's history. All of this (and a surprising appearance by Sal with a wooden marital aid) was the subject of much debate, not at Churchill's bar, but in the slightly more rarified atmosphere of their MCR. The faithful drank the fancy ales 'til almost 10pm, which is pretty good going in itself, as well as being excellent training for our end-of-season extravaganza next week, when we'll be following a final Remnants vs. Remnants game with a curry at The Tandoori Palace.
Aside from it being one final chance to actually play some cricket in this cancellation-ridden season, there'll also be some (very) minor drama in the races to top the averages. If John Gull (311 runs at 155.50) could contrive to get himself dismissed twice then he'd win the batting by a mile, but at the moment Daniel Mortlock (233 runs at 46.60) is averaging the most out of those who've qualified (by being out four times), with Andrew Lea (159 runs at 53.00) set to overtake him if he gets about 30 runs and is dismissed in the final match. Les Collings (13 wickets at 9.00) is odds-on to repeat his bowling triumph of 2000 although Tom Serby (10 wickets at 10.40) could overtake him if he gets a couple of cheap wickets and Les gets a bit of stick. Maybe the best way to organise things is that the two top bowlers should lock horns with the above-mentioned batsmen, complete with ball-by-ball updates on their figures. Or maybe that's just taking things too far, and we should be hoping for some more creative match-ups. The season's first Remnants vs. Remnants game saw the Jordans and the Rexes bring their dinner table arguments out onto the cricket pitch, so maybe it should be "family fued" this time 'round, with Tom bowling at Richard or Paul at Olly. We might even get to see Tom bowling at Nick Clarke -- in the Travelling Theatre game in 2002 Nick mercilessly hit a very young Tom for 27 off an over, whereas it might be a slightly different story this time around. Whatever, the possibilities are plenty, so let's just cross our fingers that it doesn't rain next Wednesday night.