Having lost our last five games, Remnants couldn't have asked for a better opportunity to get its first victory since mid-June. First, we had Kiran and Daniel back - both of them had been absent for the entire run of defeats, so it's possible they were lucky charms a la Chris McNeill in early 2007. Second, our opposition was The Beehive: not only did we pummel them back in June, but up until a few day's ago they'd thought this match was scheduled for yesterday, and so we could reasonably expect easy runs and soft wickets from the hopefully weak players they'd drafted in as last-minute substitutes.
It didn't quite work out like that. From the first few overs of our innings it became clear that The Beehive had completed their eleven not with "my mate who used to play in school" types, but with some decidedly proper cricketers from Milton CC's first team (with whom Beehive captain Chris Day plays). While Phil Hastings (23 off 26 balls) was good enough to score fairly freely against them, the rest of the top order struggled, and after Phil unluckily played a widish ball onto his stumps we were just 35/1 after 10 (six-ball) overs. Richard Rex (4* off 24 balls at this stage) and Tom Jordan (2* off 11 balls at the same stage) were reduced to playing a succession of forward defensives which, whilst the technically correct response to such accurate deliveries, eventually become the equivalent of surrender in such a short form of the game. Our score was progressing so slowly that The Beehive captain suggested extending the game to 25 overs a side in the hope that we'd be able to present his team with some sort of target. It was an insulting offer in a sense, but really just reflected the state of the match; and, given our lamentable scoring, we had no choice but swallow what was left of our pride and accept it.
Richard (22 off 38 balls) and Tom (10 off 23 bals) both started hitting a bit more freely, but even then our 20-over total was just 81/3, more than justifying the extension of the game. After that Daniel Mortlock (32* off 33 balls) and Andy Owen (19* off 17 balls) mowed 47 runs from the last 5 overs of the innings by throwing convention out the window and trying to heave everything to leg. Our final total of 128/4 would have been barely respectable in a normal length game, and maybe doesn't look out of place in the scorebook, but there was no way it wasn't going to be overhauled by today's Beehive side.
And even if we could defend our total, any such "victory" would have been in name only, and there was a general sense of inevitability about our time in the field. We started off well enough, with Daniel Mortlock (0/11), Mick Watson (0/24), Russell Woolf (0/12) and Les Collings (0/19) keeping the batsmen in check initially, but a few early drops and misfields meant that The Beehive were soon scooting along at a run a ball.
In the second half of the innings things did pick up, though. Paul Jordan (2/28) started the recovery, getting his wickets with two superb balls, the latter of which was brilliantly caught by 'keeper Rob Harvey bravely standing up the stumps. Paul was then replaced by Andy Owen, who took 3/12 using his unconventional (what else?) "right arm round" strategy. Even more fun, one of his wickets was taken with his patented "sidewinder" (the one where he starts his run up at mid-off, previously known as the "run out of ideas" ball). When the new batsman took umbrage at this approach the two of them engaged in a welcome battle of wills which finally injected a bit of spice into the game. Andy appeared to have won the battle when the batsman top-edged an attempted pull and Mick Watson took a fine running catch . . . but the umpire had (correctly) called the high full-toss a "no ball" and so there followed a few moments of pandemonium with the fielders who'd heard the call screaming for Mick to go for the run out while those with poorer hearing required some convincing that the catch didn't count. Still, it was a great bit of fielding by Mick, and we made some superb stops during this period, with Richard Rex, Phil Hastings, Tom Jordan and Kiran Sakhamuri all indefatigable (if eventually exhausted) in the deep. It also fell to Kiran (0/21) to bowl what was clearly going to be the final over, and the win was completed when one of his Milton teammates came down the pitch and smacked the ball imperiously to the cover boundary.
Thus ended our sixth consecutive defeat, which also means we're in the red for the first time since May, our 10 losses now outnumbering our 9 wins. Whether we can get back to parity is very much an open question: our next match, at Churchill next Tuesday, sees us up against Little Paxton CC, whom we've never played and about whom we know only than that they have a nice web-site.