A glorious bank holiday Monday would have been perfect for an all-day or afternoon game between the Remnants and the Woozlers, but it proved to be too difficult to organise an early start, leaving us back at the standard time of 6pm. Unfortunately the sky had clouded over by this stage and the promised rain looked it could arrive at any minute.
It was under these cloudy skies that Andy Owen (33 off 38 balls) and Phil Hastings (38 off 28 balls) headed out and compiled a sleepy 74 run partnership in 11.3 rather dull (six-ball) overs. Clearly Andy and Phil were scoring fast enough, but there seemed to be no real urgency to anything happening on the field: the bowlers were dithering between overs (and balls); the batsmen were ambling between the wickets; and it felt as if we'd struggle to get one innings in before it got dark(er), let alone two.
What was really needed was a moment of high drama, which we got; the only problem was that it came in the form of a Remnants collapse as the Woozlers' first change bowlers took 4 wickets in 10 balls. Suddenly we were 79/4 and the run rate was dropping, leaving Richard Rex (25* off 30 balls) and Daniel Mortlock (12* off 12 balls) with the twin challenges of staying in and getting us to a decent total. They managed the former with some defensive back foot play against some impressively lively short-pitched bowling; and they managed the latter by scampering lots of extras as the Woozlers gave away an absurd number of wides and byes. The result was that we'd made yet another solid total, 141/5, but without any big innings, as Andy, Phil, Richard and extras all made comparable contributions.
Still, it was far from clear whether we'd done enough to win. For one thing, the looming clouds were starting to deliver their long-promised rain; for another, the Woozlers line-up was sporting some worryingly classy batsmen who might have been able to knock of the runs in a trice if allowed to settle. On this score Bryan Lea (1/14 in his first spell) and Kiran Sakhamuri (2/11) did superbly, removing both of the openers whilst keeping the scoring to a minimum. Our ascendancy was best illustrated by the little passage of play when we were faced with the Woozlers' number four, a dominating front foot player who's dined out on Remnants bowling several times in the past. First up he was pegged back by Andy Owen (0/20), with brilliant support from 'keeper Rob Harvey and Bryan and Kiran in the covers. Thus frustrated, he took a swing at his first ball from Kiran and was promptly bowled, a wonderful example of a team wicket in which at least five Remnants had a direct role.
By this stage the Woozlers were languishing at 43/3 after 11 overs and they needed an implausible 99 runs off the remaining 9. That should have been the end of the contest, and the rest of the game should have been merely a case of sharing round the bowling and feeling smug about a job well done. However there was still the problem of the Woozlers' captain, who had been scoring at will while his teammates struggled. He ignored the poor light to keep his team in touch with some clean hitting, superb running and fortunate edges. For our part, Phil Hastings (0/29) picked up where Andy left off, and the likes of Dave Green and the Rexes managed some great sonar-guided stops in the gloom. Still, we just couldn't kill the game off, and the Woozlers somehow began the final over needing 18 to win. This might sound a lot, but was actually one fewer than the same two batsman had scored from an over earlier in the innings. And, even more worryingly, the final over was to be delivered by the same bowler (Daniel Mortlock, well on the way to horrific bowling figures which can't be printed here due to space restrictions). The game's last six balls contained a mix of the good (a maddeningly perfect late cut for four), the bad (a few ungainly misfields in the dark) and the ugly (some unexpected sledging of a fielder by the now rather cocky bastmen). But what it didn't contain was the winning run, the Woozlers finishing 6 short of our total.
Even though we'd won, it was the Woozlers' captain, Sam Grimshaw, who was clapped from the ground, having hit an undefeated 79* . . . or 83* . . . or 87* (depending on which scorebook you looked in). Whatever, it was an awesome effort, although also tragically ironic - looking through the same scorebooks revealed that it was his spate of wides which had donated us those critical extra runs we'd needed to stave off his assault. Lost in the tension of those final overs (not to mention the darkness) was the fact that that this was our fourth win in a row, a sequence which didn't feel too likely a fortnight ago. Tonight also continued an arguably even happier trend, that of not having any wash-outs so far this year . . . although the steady drizzle that set in after the match suggested our luck was going to run out tomorrow.