Four months ago the first match report of the year started with the words: "The Remnants season has begun with the BBC making outrageous predictions about a 'hot and dry' summer, surely too good to be true". But the BBC were right and, incredibly, just a single match was completely lost to rain and only one other was abandoned. And even though it was cold, windy, rainy and generally miserable tonight, we managed to play out our 33rd match of the season, comfortably an all-time Remnants record. This wasn't all good news, though, as it meant that Sally had filled her scorebook for the first time ever, and had to resort to a stand-alone sheet as she and Nicky Mellish recorded tonight's match between The Personal Assistants (i.e., the secretary's eleven) and The Accountants (i.e., the scorer's eleven).
The PAs won the toss and chose to bat, which was fine in principle, but making The Accountants field turned out to be rather silly in practice, as only seven of them were present when the game began. The next half hour saw the Accountants gradually "balance their books" as the number of substitutes dropped steadily from four to zero, although the completion of a full eleven was only possible when Maximus Rex was drafted in at the last moment. These constant personnel changes didn't seem to affect The Accountants' on-field performances however, as Julius Rix (1/17) proved hard to get away and Tom Jordan (1/11) was unplayable to the degree that form batsman Dave Williams struggled to 7 off 22 balls. The Accountants' fielding was also superb, with Adrian Mellish unpassable at fine-leg, Andy Owen sharp behind the stumps and Tom Jordan unusually energetic in the deep. There were also two candidates for catch of the season: Joe White's nonchalant reach down at gully to grab the ball inches off the ground; and Julius Rix's fantastic slips catch that looked like something off the telly. The only problem with all this was that the game was rapidly being ruined - with The PAs on just 49/3 after 9 (eight-ball) overs there was a real danger they'd fail to set an even vaguely challenging target. Fortunately there was a gradual acceleration in the scoring, with Oliver Rex (10 off 10 balls), Mike Sneyd (12 off 16 balls) and Tom Serby (23 off 27 balls) at least making it to double-figures.
It wasn't just the match that was gradually coming alive either, but also the battle for the averages. Coming into today's game George Speller was leading the batting (with 303 runs at 43.29) by the merest fraction from Nick Clarke (??? runs at 43.00) and Daniel Mortlock (??? runs at 42.80), meaning either of the latter pair could slide past the absent George with a big innings (or a tiny not out) today. George was also second in the bowling (with 11 wickts at 7.18), just 0.01 behind Adrian (12 wickets at 7.17). That meant that even if Adrian took 0/1 the order would be reversed, so when he found himself with 0/21 in his third over it seemed that George was set to do a rare double. But then Adrian dismissed two batsmen in consecutive balls and was suddenly just one wicket away from ascending to the top of the table (and getting a hat-trick). Given that the new batsmen, Les Collings, hadn't even taken strike all year, it seemed the fairytale was about to be played out, especially when Les came charging down the pitch to his first ball. He swatted across the line and made a reasonable connection but the ball was looping towards mid-wicket . . . which was now empty, all the fielders having come in for the hat-trick delivery, and the ball eventually dribbled across the boundary. So in the end Adrian had to be content with a mixed spell of 2/27, but his final season's figures of 14 wickets at 8.07 were nothing short of brilliant. This meant that George was top of both tables, at least for a few minutes, until Daniel, having been brought to the crease due to the flurry of wickets, made his third run (the first of many that came from a bizarre succession of straight drives that ricocheted off the bowler). Daniel finished up with 21* (off 20 balls), which was enough to leave him atop the batting averages, but not enough to lift The PAs' to a competitive total, as Ben Armitage's superb spell of 2/10 kept them to just 105/8.
The Accountants raced out of blocks, possibly in fear that the encroaching darkness might rob them of their victory. Julius Rix (23 off 21 balls) and Tom Jordan (28 off 42 balls) threw caution to the wind and rode their luck to lead The Accountants to 82/2 after 10 overs, while The PAs completely fell apart in the field. There were fine edges that slid past the 'keeper for four; they conceded insane overthrows when the ball was thrown into vacant areas of the field or the bowler was caught napping; simple run outs were missed when the return was fumbled within reaching distance of the stumps; and even simpler catches bounced out of the fielders' hands (including one sequence where Julius played consecutive pulls straight to the boundary fielder, only for the ball to slip through his fingers and over the boundary both times). The Accountants were having a great time barracking and jeering as the mishaps piled up, although at least a contributing factor to this was that it was incredibly dark, so much so that we'd taken to using a bizarre two-coloured ball to aid visibility. However this was something of a double-edged swords, as the replacement ball seemed to be seaming and swinging about all over the place, and Paul Jordan (1/18), Ferdinand Rex (1/23) and Oliver Rex (1/17) all caused the batsmen plenty of trouble. Included in this was Nick Clarke, who moved up to second in the batting averages when he passed four, but he needed to both score ?? more and remain not out to pass Daniel. In the end he was dismissed by an undertsandably ecstatic Ferdi (who'd already had him dropped the over before) to finally give Daniel the non-existant batting award. In terms of the game it made little difference, though, and in the end The PAs did well just to take the game to the final over. Tom Serby (0/9) was thus faced with the impossible task of preventing Andy Owen (14* off 11 ballls) hitting the winning runs in the final match of the year, and, sure enough, our season finished as it did in 2002 and 2003, with Andy Owen pulling the ball to the leg-side boundary and walking from the field was a sense of "job done". Of course it really was "job done" for Geoff, who quietly ambled from the ground as secretary for the last time (possibly thinking "thank goodness for that").
We fumbled our way through the darkness to the bar and soaked in the melancholy at the end of another season, although soon the beer started talking and suddenly a post-season birthday game for Sal began taking shape. By the time the few stayers headed off for a curry our season was still alive, with the best part of two teams selected for next Tuesday night . . .