"Age before beauty", as the old saying goes - we certainly had to hope so, as a Remnants eleven with an average age of about 45 took on a team of handsome young supermodels (and one of their fiances). The Pretty Boys captain, Remnant George Speller, seemed keen to try and relax us, claiming that his team were all good cricketers but most of them hadn't played for a while. The logical inference from this was that their bowling would be erratic, with unplayable balls mixed in amongst the inevitable leg-side wides . . .
. . . which proved to be spot on. Openers Richard and Oliver Rex were immediately faced with a bizarre mix of wild wides, head-high full tosses and wicket balls. It was all nicely summed up by the second over to Olly: two balls way outside off-stump that he couldn't reach; another that dribbled down the leg-side, bouncing three or four times on it's way to the 'keeper; and then the perfect McGrath ball, pitching just back of a length on leg-stump and then seaming to clip the top of off. Number three Nick Clarke faced a similarly mixed bag early on, being lucky to survive a beautiful in-swinging yorker that had Nick playing the wrong length and the wrong line, but that somehow just misssed off-stump. Nick got away with an outside edge off the next ball, and was then subjected to a passionate LBW appeal . . . that was turned down on the grounds that the ball had pitched outside leg-stump. Twice.
But really it was Remnants all the way as we motored along at 10 runs an (eight-ball) over. And even when a brief shower threatened to halt our scoring for a few minutes, the rain abated just as we were about to get the covers on, allowing normal service to resume. Nor did Richard's dismissal (brilliantly caught in the outfield for 24 off 31 balls) slow things up, as he was immediately replaced by an in-form Phil Hastings (32* off 24 balls). Phil matched Nick in the big-hitting stakes, while being clearly superior in terms of accuracy. Both of them seemed keen to take pot-shots at the shiny new pavilion clock, but the closest Nick got was to send the ball sailing deep into a neighbouring garden. A few balls later Phil played a similar pull that had the scorers and spectators running for cover as the ball arced down towards its target with the certainty of a smart bomb, eventually slamming into the clock and sending shards of (non-safety) glass showering over a rather impressive blast radius. Phil received a warm round of applause for his absurd achievement . . . which rapidly stopped when someone realised that we'd have to confess to Dave Norman that we'd made a mess of his new purchase.
Even though Nick (57 off 35 balls) was run out (allegedly because his leg injury had prevented him grounding his bat), he was quite chuffed to have scored enough to lift his season's average to 52.00, thus increasing his lead over George Speller (on 47.50) and Dave Williams (on 46.22). Nick helpfully shouted "Don't worry about your average - just go for it!" to Dave as he went in with a few overs to go; and when Dave was bowled for an out-of-sorts 3 (off 8 balls) Nick couldn't - well, didn't really try to - hide his glee. That meant Daniel Mortlock (averaging 63.33, but not yet qualified for the batting non-award) had to go in for a "nothing to gain but everything to lose" final over slog, and Nick's fantasy seemed on the verge of completion when a calling mix-up off his first ball saw Daniel stranded mid-pitch . . . but the fact that Phil was also way out of his ground confused the fielder to the degree that he couldn't work out which end to throw at, and this silliest of quick singles was completed comfortably in the end. That Phil survived to the end of the innings was doubly ironic, as his average thus went up to 46.67, sufficiently high that a (dismissed) innings of 69 would see him vault past Nick and into the lead.
From a more team-oriented perspective, the main thing was that we'd set The Pretty Boys a stiff target of 158 to win. Our only real worry (at least that we knew about) was whether George would destroy our bowling as he'd destroyed other teams' bowling (on our behalf) earlier in the season; in short we needed to get him out cheaply to win the match. Oliver Rex (1/10) was the first to be charged with this task and, having been licensed to bowl flat-out, promptly struck with his first ball . . . which was great, except for the fact that George was the non-striker. After that Daniel Mortlock (2/17) had a go, first trying to run him out when he'd backed up too far (which only resulted in two overthrows as mid-off was asleep) and then sending down a few tidy seamers, one of which snuck between bat and pad, allowing 'keeper Ev Fox to complete the sharpest of stumpings. But once again George was at the other end and, even more worryingly, was starting to get his eye in. A few balls later George swung through the line of a juicy half-volley and lofted the ball back over the bowler's head; Richard Rex was out at long-on, but the ball was clearly going to fall frustratingly short of him . . . except he'd got that "I'm bally well going to catch this bloody ball" look in his eye as he hared in, seemingly oblivious to the impossibility of his task (and the fact his flat-soled trainers had no grip on the wet grass). Somehow he did get to the ball, but even then it was clear that he was too off-balance to keep his grip on it . . . except he'd somehow come to a fairly controlled stop, with his blood-drained fingers crushing the life out of the soggy red sphere that he now held triumphantly aloft for all to see. Richard had thus repeated his effort from the Coton game, both by taking the match-winning catch and by giving Daniel a rather unearned wicket in the process.
Even with George gone, however, it wasn't time to relax, with plenty of more good batting (including Remnant Julius Rix) to come. Matt Hughes (1/32) was unlucky not to have him straight away, when Julius top-edged a perfectly-pitched leggie, only for 'keeper Ev Fox to lose the ball as it looped up over his head. Despite getting another stumping to complete what would seem to have been a good day's work, Ev was subject to serious barrage of sledging from his own teammates when another couple of half-chances went down. Indeed, when Martin Law at long-off held a catch of Matt's bowling (to finally give him a most deserved wicket) the bowler's only comment was "I'm glad it wasn't Ev out there." The nadir here came when a Pretty Boy got a leading edge that hung in the air for an age and eventually came to ground in the fairly small gap between Ev (unsighted again) and Nick Clarke (immobile at short mid-wicket); even more ridiculously the chance was almost taken by Daniel, who'd run all the way across from short-cover, only to finish a few feet short.
Rob Harvey (1/14) and Martin Law (0/6) also bowled well, but their efforts were eclipsed by Dave Williams, in his first spell of the summer. After bowling Julius with his warm-up delivery, he took two more wickets (one thanks to another awesome catch by Richard, this time steadying himself under a huge skier) to end his first over. Despite the fact he was on a hat-trick, he was taken off, and wasn't brought back on until Rob had alerted the previously oblivious captain to this highly relevant point. Dave began his second spell with fielders crowded around the bat, and the ball duly popped up to bat-pad, where Andy Owen . . . would have been fielding if he wasn't on holiday. Still, Dave got another wicket in his next over, and thus had five balls at The Pretty Boys' last ma- er, woman, George's fiance, Marie. It seemed a great opportunity for Dave to get his first Remnants five-for, but she blocked out the straight ones and dismissively ignored the leg-side wides, and seemed all set to complete one of the great rearguards . . . until she was finally bowled by Dave's penultimate delivery.
Remnants thus won by a comfortable 52 runs, and Dave was clapped off the field for his match-winning effort. By this he - and maybe you - probably assumed this was his spell of 2.7 overs, 0 maidens, 5/22; whereas we were, in fact, cheering him for having had the decency to score less than the Williams Number (established to be between 41 and 44 last week). The 9 times he's scored 40 or less this season we've won 7, tied 1 and drawn 1; on the the 4 occasions he's made more than this we've lost every time. The probability of this happeneing by chance if his score had no bearing on our result is just 0.001%, and that's ignoring the fact that one might reasonably expect us to do better when one of our star batsmen makes a score. There can now be no question about whether this phenomenon is taking place; the only mystery is why . . .