The scene at Fitzwilliam College's playing fields this evening was beyond perfect. It seemed that mid-summer had finally arrived, albeit in late August, as the assembled throng basked in the radiant heat while condensation formed on their pint glasses and a BBQ sizzled in the background. In all there were a total of about fifty Remnants and associates present for at least part of the evening: clearly too many to play even the most crowded of cricket games, but an entirely appropriate number to thank retiring secretary Geoff Hales for all the work he's done for the club - indeed for the existence of the club full stop.
Three decades after he convened a motley band of linguists and astronomers to take on a team from King's College, London, Geoff has nurtured the club to the point where it seems to be a Cambridge institution, with every cricketer in town having played for or against us at one time or another. This might seem like exaggeration, but the numbers do go some way to backing this up: in the 30 seasons since it's formation, Remnants has played an incredible 760 games, implying that Geoff has provided a total of about twenty-five thousand man-hours of pleasure to the town's cricketers (or really fifty thousand if you count the opposition, not that we try to). An incredible total of about three-hundred players have turned out for the club, ranging from the seemingly endless supplies of "somebody's mate who used to play in high school" types who turn up, get out for a duck, and are never heard from again, to the club stalwarts, who've racked up hundreds of mid-week appearances. At the risk of taking a leaf out of some uncultured Australian sporting bodies' books, these are the Remnants legends, and an impressive number of them had been induced to turn out for Geoff Hales's Legends tonight.
Prima inter pares of the Legends side were the two most capped Remnants of all: Geoff himself, playing his 391st game for the club, and Tony Malik, who'd been lured out of semi-retirement to make his 381st Remnants appearance. The Legends also included several nominally ex-Remnants who'd moved to the West Country, but made a special trip back to Cambridge for the day: Phil Watson (playing his 177th Remnants game); Mike Jones (playing his 48th Remnants game); and Paul Henderson (playing his 25th Remnants game). Several other Cambridge-based ex-regulars also made special appearances: Steve Attmore (8 games); Martin Law (66 games); Tony Sim (16 games); and Pete Young (103 games). Rounding out the team were a couple of the most-capped members of the 2009 team: Ev Fox (127 games); Daniel Mortlock (199 games); Les Collings (191 games); and one of the few survivors of that first season, Mike Sneyd (153 games). Add in the fact that the likes of Jim Schwabe (12 games, but many more against Remnants over the years), Andy Brown (109 games), Nev Fidler (31 games), John Young (104 games) and Steve Gull (130 games and on the mend after his boat exploded) were all present and barracking from the sidelines, and it was quite an occasion.
And the roll-call doesn't even stop there, as tonight's Remnants team was almost as glittering, with a total of about a thousand games between them, with Paul Jordan (209 games), Nick Clarke (132 games), Dave Green (248 games), Faruk Kara (135 games) and Andy Owen (160 games) all having done exceptional service for the club over the years.
All of which brings us, in a round-about way, to the actual cricket. The Legends took to the field first, but any fears that their general lack of match practice would tell were quickly put to rest as Daniel Mortlock (1/7) and Mike Jones (1/21) kept Remnants to just 16/2 after 5 (six-ball) overs. This wasn't just due to good bowling but also some top work in the admittedly gap-free 13-man field, Tony Sim and Geoff Hales cutting off the batsmen's preferred off-side shots and 'keeper Steve Attmore making some nice takes when the ball whistled past the outside edge.
From this point, however, Remnants steadily worked themselves back into the game, mainly through an aggressive partnership between John Gull (49* off 43 balls) and Tom Serby (40 off 29 balls). The only hiccup in the Remnants scoring came when Tony Malik was called into the attack and bowled like he'd never been away, nabbing 3/17, including the wicket of the opposition captain, Joe White, brilliantly caught by Phil Watson for 3 (off 4 balls). With a few overs to go the match was pretty evenly poised, only for Andy Owen to put his side in the ascendancy with a vicious 27* (off just 15 balls) that took Remnants to 151/5.
Everybody present was herded together in the mid-innings break for the most ambitious photograph in the club's history, photographer Denise Owen having to back away almost to the pitch in order to get everybody in shot.
After a quick change-around it quickly became clear that the Remnants total was going to take some chasing on the same pitch that had gotten lower and slower as the match wore on yesterday. Sure enough The Legends never really looked like mounting a serious challenge, as Joe White (0/6), Oliver Rex (0/17), Tom Jordan (1/17) and John Moore (0/15) kept them to a hopeless 52/5 after 10 overs. Even when Matt Hughes (0/6) was incapacitated by a wild Tom Jordan throw that slammed into his ankle there seemed little doubt that Remnants would hold sway.
Ev Fox managed to survive the carnage with a defiant innings of 47 (off 52 balls), and he looked all set to make the game's first half-century until Steve Gull barracked that he should "hit out or get out" and Ev for some reason took the second option. Phil Watson (12 off 12 balls) and Tony Malik (8 off 10 balls) played some nice shots but seemed disinclined to the rigours of running, and once they got any hope of a miracle win vanished with them.
That left us to worry about personal achievements, on which new batsman Daniel Mortlock seemed keenest. He was on a hat-trick at one stage when first Martin Law (run out by 'keeper Andy Owen at the non-striker's end for 7 off 6 balls) and then Paul Henderson (run out going for an ambitious third run to Joe's arm without facing a ball) perished after his ambitious calls. Having failed to coax Mike Jones into a suicidal single off the following ball, Daniel's next plan was to get out himself, as Nick's cheap dismissal earlier in the day meant that's all he needed to ascend to the top of the batting averages. Having survived 'til the final over, he certainly went close to getting out as an increasingly frustrated Paul Jordan (1/13) saw the ball twice pass between pad and stumps and then failed to make it to two caught and bowled chances before Daniel's farcical innings of 17 (off 19 balls) finally came to an end.
This did at least give the game a nicely poetic ending, as Geoff was the next batsman in. He duly survived the final four balls without any fuss, and even scampered a quick single after an off-side push, thus remaining "not out since June 2006".
Geoff was, of course, clapped off and then, after everybody had gotten changed, clapped on again for a little post-match ceremony. The main purpose of this was for us to to present Geoff with a few gifts as a token of our appreciation for his incredible efforts for the club. First was one of only 125 original copies of The Invalids by, appropriately enough, John Collings Squire, detailing the travails of a club playing cricket on Cambridge's college grounds in the 1920s. Aside from mentioning "remnants" (if not Remnants) in the introduction, it was dedicated to "my wife, who often keeps the score" and so seemed particularly appropriate. Then there was the presentation of a new blazer, in what will become the club colours . . . or at least there would have been but for the fact that Geoff hadn't yet been to his fitting and neither had he decided on the colours. So we had to make do with a life-sized replica, mocked up with incredible dedication by the (unfortunately absent) Dave Williams. Finally there was a card signed by some fifty Remnants past and present. Geoff then said a few words of his own, taking us through the club's history via the people who'd gathered around today and finishing with a request to us all, which is to see that Remnants Cricket Club continues on as it has for the last thirty years.