It turns out that today's match against Coton was decided several days before the two teams actually met on the pitch. Following a new-fangled on-line appeal for players, George Speller sent in an e-mail stating "i wouldn't mind a run out against these jokers . . . in the playing sense not in the running out sense" (the "jokers" here being his own club of Coton). The primary benefit of this was not so much that he'd be playing for us, but that he wouldn't be playing against us, as he has smashed destructive half-centuries from our bowling in 2006 and 2008. Unfortunately Coton was also actively recruiting players, and so a second e-mail from George followed a few days later: "sorry to muck you about - it seems that the coton jokers are desperate for numbers and need all hands to the village pump". Which is no way to talk about a lady . . . but joking (if not jokers) aside, Coton got their man and, once again, it proved to be a critical acquistion.
Appropriately enough, George started the game with the ball in his hand as he delivered a tight spell of sharp back-of-a-length bowling. Our opening pair of Tom Serby (45 off 47 balls) and John Young (10 off 23 balls) were more than equal to the task, playing themselves in and then accelerating nicely. During this phase they seemed to adopt a curious approach to running between wickets, ambling singles (rather than pushing in the hope of getting a second run from a mis-field), only to then scamper back and forth like crazy when the ball was hit to the boundary. Fortunately, the latter occurence was becoming increasingly common - at least until Coton's 10/2 man, Chris Cooke, came on and ended an excellent 58-run stand. Overall this didn't have any great effect on the scoring, though, as the Remnants middle order of Julius Rix (30 off 14 balls) and Richard Rex (27* off 26 balls) took up where Tom had left off. And whilst Kiran Sakhamuri (8 off 9 balls) didn't have that much influence with the bat, he achieved his stated aim "making the batsmen run" brilliantly: having successfully pushed his partners for sharp singles and cheeky twos, it was almost as if the team suddenly realised what was possible, and Kiran proabably earned another dozen runs even after he was dismissed. The overall result was, pleasingly, that we scored at more than a run a ball for the first time this season and, even more pleasingly, that most of the runs came from players who have generally languished down the order.
The general principle of giving the new guys a go was echoed in the field, as the best bowling spells came from two players in their first game for the club. The first of these was Mick Watson (0/25), who opened the bowling and was dead unlucky to go wicketless as he beat the bat a few times, saw inside edges scoot past the stumps and had a catch go to ground. Needless to say Dr Speller was the reprieved batsman, and he (and his partner) made the most of their opportunities, smacking a worrying number of huge boundaries on their way to a demoralising 108-run opening stand. The breakthrough finally came when 'keeper Rob Harvey completed a sharp stumping off the bowling of our other debutante, Quentin Harmer, who went on to take 3/20 and thus join Martin Parry, Jim Higginson and Anil Waduge in the surprisingly well-populated "three wickets on debut for Remnants" club. The key to Quentin's success was pace - or really the lack of it, as he bowled considerably slower than anyone else today, giving the ball lots of flight and forcing the batsmen slog where otherwise they'd been able to rely more on timing. The other critical ingredient was that we actually held a few catches, the highlight of which was Julius's leaping catch on the pavilion boundary to finally dismis George (for a typically violent 62). This inspirational moment (which induced a passing footballer to admit "I have to applaud that", implying that he really didn't want to be wasting any clapping on cricket) kick-started a definite, if brief, Remnants resurgance. When Coton had reached 117/1 after 11 (eight-ball) overs they needed just 15 runs from 32 balls with 9 wickets in hand. But then Tom Serby (0/9) conceded just a few runs from his next over and Daniel Mortlock (0/24) followed up with a maiden (largely thanks to some stunning stops by the likes of Julius, Quentin, John Young and Deepak Gajjala) to suddenly have Coton thinking for the first time in an hour. Well, maybe a bit: whilst we did well to take the game to the final over, it would have been preferable if we'd presented the opposition with a more challenging task than scoring a single run from it (which they duly did).
Over a post-match beer Geoff's verdict was that "we lost but played well - and the match-winning innings was played by a Remnant." Which seems more like the sort of spin more associated with a modern policitcal party than an old-fashioned cricket club, but maybe Remnants (or RemCric, as it might soon be known) needs to move with the times . . .