Report by Daniel Mortlock:
Last year George Speller led an eponymous eleven against us in what turned out to be a one-sided but highly enjoyable game, after which his team was christened The Pretty Boys and a return fixture organised. It's not clear that they quite lived up to their name, but captain George at least was sporting a natty sailor's cap that nicely complemented the ultra-macho team name. The presence of George and his Coton team-mate Senthil Natesan was a bit worrying, as their destructive batting was the prime reason for Coton's comfortable win against us in May, but most of the rest of the team seemed to have stemmed from the Zoology Department, who we'd thrashed back in 2006, so overall there were solid grounds for confidence.
Batting first, the odds were we'd be faced with some sharp bowling from George and Senthil before being able to score more freely once they'd finished their spells, and that was kind of right as the latter sent a few balls flying past the batsmen's noses. However Senthil was as wayward as he was quick and George, who'd torn his hamstring last week, couldn't bowl at all, and so we began scoring heavily from the start of the innings. Mike Sneyd (8 off 13 balls) did perish to Senthil when an edge was finally held, after which Nick Clarke and Jon Steele smashed a succession of boundaries in what appeared to be a big-hitting competition. We were motoring along at more than 9 runs per (six-ball) over, and captain Russell Woolf's pre-match request of a total of 200+ seemed to be a possibility.
After Jon was bowled (for 34 off 23 balls, with 7 fours) Nick Clarke stepped up a gear, smacking a huge six that landed in the garden of a rather kindly neighbour (who popped round the corner to return the ball, informing us that the only "damage" had been frightening the family cat). With Andrew Lea (13 off 16 balls with 1 four) seemingly content to rotate the strike in a supporting role it suddenly became apparent that Nick might have enough time to go onto a century. He's gone close on plenty of occasions before, most notably when he hit 91* batting second against The Technology Partnership in 2000 only to be stymied because we'd passed their total; but today the combination of the friendly bowling and the fact that he was coming off consecutive ducks gave one the sense that fate was on his side today. With our total now past 150, the main focus in the dressing room was maintaining a ball-by-ball countdown as Nick closed in on triple figures.
A huge cheer went up when Tom Serby (6* off 2 balls) hit a four to ensure Nick, now on 96, would have the strike at the start of the last over - although there was also a moment of panic when he was briefly put at one run less. Nick hit the first ball of the final over straight to cover but hit the second a little straighter. It bisected the two close fielders and then embarked on a two-way race to the boundary with one of The Pretty Boys' speedier fielders. The ball was slowing down (unsurprisingly) but it did have a head-start - the two converged on the white line and the fielder got his foot to the ball . . . but then his body language relaxed and he signalled yet another four. So an exhausted Nick held his bat up to a huge round of applause, shook his partner's hand, and was promptly bowled next ball. This might have been a sly ploy to induce a second round of applause in one minute, but if so it was deserved, and Nick was duly clapped from the ground having hit 100 runs off just 66 deliveries (with 15 fours and 2 sixes; i.e., 72% of his runs in boundaries).
That left Tom and Kiran Sakhamuri (5* off 2 balls) to put the icing on the cake and take us to 188/5 off our 20 overs, easily our highest 20-over total this season, and presumably more than enough to win today's game in a canter.
Or not: any sense of complacency we had was immediately shaken off when George hobbled out to the middle and hit the first three balls of the innings for four and then launched a couple of enormous straight sixes next over. Within five minutes the vibe of casual confidence had been eroded as the field suddenly seemed to be one giant gap patrolled forlornly by a team of invalids - which is not so far from the truth, as only three of our ten out-fielders were fully mobile (and even they were carrying various other injuries). Of course this wild hitting did result in a number of chances of varying degrees of difficulty, but we fluffed them all (and managed a couple of silly overthrows as well). Russell Woolf (1/32) made the first breakthrough when he bowled George's opening partner, but even this had a downside as it brought Senthil to the crease, and suddenly we had two hyper-aggressive batsmen to deal with rather than just one. Adrian Mellish (2/36) at least got rid of Senthil when the umpire acceeded to his primal scream of an LBW appeal, but really The Pretty Boys were sitting pretty at 108/2 after 10 (six-ball) overs, and only needed a further 81 runs in the second half of the innings to complete what looked like being an absurd victory.
Having been hit for the requisite 9 runs off his first over, it seemed Tom Serby was destined for more the same treatment when George was, once again, on strike at the start of the new over. However Tom pitched the ball just short of a length, George stepped back to play a somewhat ill-advised cross-bat shot, the ball kept a bit low . . . and he was bowled (for an awesome 65 off 30-odd deliveries that almost almost topped Nick's efforts earlier in the day). And, just like that, Tom had won us the match with a single delivery - it was quite clear that there was nobody else in The Pretty Boys' line-up who was going to be capable of scoring at 8 an over, a fact which they effectively admitted when they immediately asked permission for their twelfth man to have a bat "when we're all out".
"All out" talk seemed a bit crazy given we'd taken just 3-wickets in 61 balls; but maybe The Pretty Boys knew something that we didn't, because three more wickets had fallen by the time Tom had finished his over. Tom bowled two more batsmen and a third self-destructed when he hit the ball straight to Daniel Mortlock at square-leg who, while the batsman was being sent back by his partner, casually lobbed the ball back to 'keeper Ev Fox, only to score an accidental direct hit with the batsman's bat still in the air.
So 108/2 after 10 overs had become 108/6 after 11, and Tom had his best ever Remnants figures of 2 overs, 1 maiden, 3/9. He seemed to think that would do, and suggested Russ give someone else a bowl, but the captain was having none of it, and Tom was thus made to finish his spell. And of course his figures were duly ruined as Tom followed up his triple-wicket maiden with overs that yielded only one and two more wickets respectively. Yep, that's right, six wickets in all. By the time he'd bowled his allotment Tom had figures of 4 overs, 1 maiden, 6/15, including sub-spells of 4/0 in 10 balls, 5/2 in 14 balls and 6/6 in 17 balls. The full sequence of 2 1 . 1 4 1 | W . W . . W | . . . W 2 . | . W . 4 W . makes for absurd reading, and represent the fourth best bowling Remnants figures ever.
So now 108/2 after 10 overs had become 130/10 after 15, and we'd taken 8/22 - it's hard to imagine any Remnants game has ever turned around so dramatically. Not that it was over yet - The Pretty Boys' twelfth man (our own Ferdinand Rex, fresh from a defiant 2 not out in yesterday's Remnants vs. Remnants game) was in and, having survived the final ball of Tom's spell, was enjoying some batting practice against Andrew Lea (0/4) and Daniel Mortlock (1/37) . . . at least until the latter got some rather empty revenge for being mauled earlier in the day by finishing the game off with the wicket of an understandably disappointed twelve-year-old.
Given that 3 wicket hauls are about as rare as half-centuries in these twenty-over games there's been some suggestion that this should be the jug-buying threshold for bowlers. If so, then we should have been on for a pair of double-jugs tonight (albeit not the sort to delight readers of The Sun), but sadly Dave was away so it was cans and bottles only. Still it was such a remarkable match that there was plenty to relive, including George's great counter-attack and two of most remarkable individual performances in Remnants history. Nick's century was the first by a Remnants regular in an evening game since Andy Reid's demolition jobs on UCLES and Xaar in 2000; and Tom's six-for was our first since 1997.
Tom's performance today has also seen him leap past Les Collings (12 wickets at 7.33) to the top of the season's bowling averages with 9 wickets at 7.11; with only one month left it will, presumably, be one of them who doesn't win that non-award. In the batting the clear stand-out has been John Gull, with 239 runs at an average of, er, 239.00, although he probably won't get out three more times to qualify (at least under the current rules), leaving Andrew Lea (159 runs at 53.00) and Daniel Mortlock (202 runs at 50.50) all but tied atop that table. In terms of the team performance, July has been about as mixed as May and June (albeit with fewer wash-outs), and we start the final month of the year with 9 wins, 10 losses and 1 tie in external games and six chances to get the extra win we need to balance the books.