Today Remnants got a taste of things to come, with Daniel, Russ, Dave and various others taking up the thankless administrative tasks that Geoff normally does with such aplomb, but which he'll be handing over at the end of the season. There were people dropping out with food-poisoning or forgotten wedding anniversaries; there were players who "might be a bit late"; there were somewhat arcane arrangements for getting access to Churchill College's ground and pavilion; there was kit-wrangling and money-collecting to be done; there was even the unforseen problem that nobody had a pencil with which to fill in Geoff's little blue book. (Although the above comings and goings make it quite clear why indellible ink is inappropriate.) All of which distracted from the evening's main mission: to win our first game since mid-June. Which, equivalently, meant our aim was to inflict a loss on Little Paxton CC, a recently-formed club from the west Cambridgeshire village of the same name. This might have seemed a bit harsh, since clearly any new cricket teams should be ecouraged in this age of "watching The Ashes only on Sky" (or some dodgy Pakistani web-site that has streamed the Sky coverage but inserted its own annoying ads in Urdu). But, when push comes to shove, the Remnants win/loss ledger is what matters.
Having chosen to bat first, our mission began well enough, Tom Serby (31 off 21 balls) and Nick Clarke (23 off 21 balls) compiling a 53-run opening stand in just 7 (six-ball) overs (although it would have been a dozen more if we'd taken up more of the easy singles that the in-fielders made available by fielding too far from the bat). After Tom was dismissed, umpire Andy Owen overheard one of Paxton players comment that they'd "gotten rid of the danger-man", to which Andy replied, "Not trying to be funny, mate, but it's the other one who could have really mullered the ball . . . and the new guy who's coming in will smash the ball even harder still!" The "new guy" in question was George Speller, who is indeed rivalling Nick as the club's most brutal batsman, as evidenced by, for example, the 53-ball 94 he hit when we played at this very ground two months ago. George began sedately enough today, with a couple of gentle singles, but then he decided he liked the look of a few loose balls that came his way . . . only to soon decide that he liked the look of every ball. With good support from Martin Law (15 off 15 balls) and recently-returned 'kepper Ev Fox (27 off 21 balls) we were rocketing along at about 12 an over, and Nick Clarke's seemingly absurd prediction that "someone could get a century here" didn't seem quite as crazy as it had at the 8-over mark.
It would have been understandable if the Paxton fielders' heads dropped under the assault, but they chased to the last, and took a number of superb catches. The fourth of those brought Daniel Mortlock (2* off 2 balls) to the crease with two overs remaining and a sweat-bathed George on 60-odd. As Daniel took guard he informed George of his innovative tactical plan: "I'll knock a single and let you keep doing what you're doing." This is worth remarking on only because of the implausible success with which the plan was carried out: each of the final two overs began with Daniel playing "tip and run", after which George hit a succession of twos and fours to retain the strike. Indeed the only time things even looked like going wrong was when George clubbed one drive straight at his partner, who began to take evasive action at about the same time the ball skidded across the boundary. George finished up on an incredible 85* off just 37 balls, having led Remnants to 186/4, our highest 20-over total since, ironically, Nick hit a century against George's Pretty Boys last July. The only pity of it was that George probably needed just one more over to score a century of his own.
Heading out into the field it was hard not to feel secure that our long-awaited win was just 20 overs away, the pregnant ceiling of low, grey clouds notwithstanding. And even the news that one of the Paxton batsmen had already scored two centuries in the club's short history didn't feel too worrying, especially when he was promptly given out LBW to a ball that only the umpire and bowler thought was going anywhere near the stumps. The beneficiary was Chris McNeill (1/15), who'd certainly bowled well enough to deserve a wicket, just not off that delivery. At the other end captain Russell Woolf produced some of the ranker long hops in the club's history, but mixed them with some perfectly-flighted balls, the end result being the bizarre bowling figures of 4/34 from his 4 overs. (This was the second most expensive four-for in club history, "beaten" only by Martyn Waterfall's 4/46 against The Old Spring back in August 1993.) After Chris and Russ's opening spells it was already clear that our total was safe, which thus gave the bowlers a chance to experiment a bit, Andy Owen (0/13) fine-tuning his cutters, John Moore (2/19) unvieling his new leg-spinners (two of which took wickets), and Les Collings (0/29) wheeling out his seldom-seen wrist-spin, if only for one delivery. Les also tried some experimental fielding techniques, using a karate-style block to stop one ball which he'd lost in the gloom, and then hilariously misreading the spin off a top-edged pull, which he'd made good ground to, only to find himself back-tracking to the exact place he'd started, where he eventually prevented the ball from crossing the boundary by stomping it into the turf. Still, most of Les's fielding efforts (of which there were a great many, every second ball seeming to go in his direction) were considerably more successful. Indeed, there was precious little for anyone else to do, at least until Martin Law (two) and Daniel Mortlock (one) were presented with a succession of fairly straightfoward outfield catches in the closing overs.
Remnants thus ended its losing streak in some style, running out winners by 71 runs. But even though they were out-gunned today, the comment was made that Little Paxton are light years ahead of where Remnants was in its first season, both in cricketing terms (e.g., it took us 4 years to register our first century) and, more importantly, in dress sense. Whereas our founding fathers were wearing flares and loafers during our first year, Litle Paxton were all in matching shirts with their name and crest proudly displayed for all to see.