One can only imagine what a stranger would think if they happened on our annual Remnants vs. Remnants cricket match and decided to sit down with a beer and watch for the next few hours. Today, for instance, such an interloper would have seen 23 cricketers assembling at Fitz in a fairly lassez faire manner, milling 'round a scrap of paper that would tell them whether they were in Russell's ``Woolf Pack'' or Joe's ``White Lightning''. After the toss (won by Russ, who elected to bat) this sadly hypothetical spectator would then have witnessed even greater confusion as a batting order was constructed out of what was, to a good approximation, a team of bowlers. Not that White Lightning was much different -- apparently someone had forgotten to invite the batsmen, with only two of the season's six top run scorers (or, if you like, one of the six fifty-makers) present. Where The Woolf Pack did have an advantage was numbers, having an even dozen to The Lightning's more conventional eleven (as Remnants legend Tony Malik, due to make a return to the scene of so many triumphs, sadly couldn't make it).
By 6:15pm our our audience member would have been getting rather toey, but he could presumably have contented himself that the game would proceed at a breakneck pace in order to make up for lost time . . . at least until an orgy of long run-ups, field adjustments and ball searches saw to it that we were taking more than four minutes an over -- to put that in perspective, Test captains get fined if they go that slow.
Fortunately the cricket itself was sufficiently interesting to make up for the sleepy pace of the game. Leading from the front, Joe White (3/24) struck twice in an electric opening spell that was characterised by an inordinate number of outside edges. Most of these seemed to head towards Ben Armitage (regardless of whether he was at first slip, second slip, gully, point or third man) who endured a wretched hour of the ball flicking his fingertips or passing just out of reach. After this a succession of intra-family battles took place, with Tom Jordan (29) surviving a barrage of in-duckers from dad Paul (1/25) and Olly Rex (41) showing plenty of respect to his younger brother Ferdinand (who was unlucky to end up wicketless with 0/21) before being bowled by his father, Richard (a jubilant 1/11).
Aside from Olly and Tom, however, there were precious few runs from The Woolf Pack, and the expected dominance of ball over bat was near complete, with Kiran Sakhamuri (3/19 on Remnants debut) being on a hat-trick during the final over of the innings. However he was well and truly put in his place by Alpha Dog Russell Woolf, who dealt with the hat-trick ball and then ruined Kiran's figures by smashing 8* off the next three balls as the innings came to a close. That took The Woolf Pack to 133/9, which seemed likely to be a winning total if they could prevent a few critical White Lightning danger-men getting in.
Despite the fact that it was now almost 8pm we did pause for the traditional club photograph and, despite the plaintive query of ``How do you wind it on?'' from John Richer's wife when presented with Dave Green's antique digital camera, the moment was successfully captured for posterity.
White Lightining's opening batsmen got off to a cracking sart, as they flashed a succession of early boundaries which only came to an end when Rob Harvey took a stunning one-handed catch to halt Jon Steele's charge on 17. From there The Woolf Pack got things under control as Chris McNeill (1/14), Daniel Mortlock (1/18) and Tom Serby (0/6) were sufficiently economical to see the required rate heading up towards double figures. Richard Rex (15) did most of the scoring during this middle portion of the innings, weathering a series of vicious bouncers from son Olly (who was perhaps trying to emulate history's most famous O. Rex), only to get run out when Deepak Gajjala made a stunning stop and then Rob Harvey, having backed up the initial wild throw to 'keeper Ev Fox, gathered the ball and threw down the stumps at the other end.
This brought Joe White to the crease to join Andy Owen; and, with about 50 needed of 6 overs, the sense was that the outcome of the match would hinge on this partnership. And once again it was fielding that decided the matter, as both batsmen hit catches to Daniel Mortlock (who'd cleverly decided to field next to ball-magnet Ben, now umpiring). Daniel took a casual one-hander to get rid of Joe for 4, but followed this up by dropping an absolute sitter to give Andy a reprieve off the bowling of an apoplectic Russell Woolf (1/24). With conditions now decidedly gloomy it was time for some nice slow leg-spin from Tom Jordan (2/8), who ended the contest by luring Andy (21) far enough down the track for Ev to complete a sharp stumping. After Ferdinand Rex (2*) showed how leg-spin should be played, the game ended in a nicely symmetric way, with Tom bowling to dad Paul (13*), who managed a minor victory by inducing a wide off what should have been the final delivery.
Our putative spectator would, if he'd stayed the distance, have seen 22 players bat and 13 bowl in a match that, whilst not quite reaching the level of the previous Remnants vs. Remnants classics in 2006 and 2005, was a highly enjoyable diversion. Even more importantly, all 23 of us got a drink, after which a determined half dozen washed their beers down with a curry at the long-suffering Tandoori Palace.