Douglas Adams once wrote of "a liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea". This evening, at Queen's College playing fields, Remnants and The Technology Partnership spent a few hours playing a game that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike cricket. That's not to say it wasn't fun - just about everyone seemed to finish the game with a smile on their face - but that there wasn't much drawn from the MCC coaching manual. There were also some significant deviations from the the MCC's precious Laws, with the captains agreeing to compulsory retirement at 30 and wides counting for 2 runs but not giving an extra ball. Even though these modifications were made explicit to all the players, umpires and scorers before the match, it was inevitable that confusion would arise sooner or . . .
. . . well about as soon as possible, actually: the first ball of match, delivered by The Technology Partnership's Shoaib Akhtar-inpired tear-away, was a dangerously fast beamer. The appropriate "no ball" call was made immediately, but nobody had bothered to mention that these too were to count double, and so the potentially immaculate scorebooks were consigned to be a palimpsest of corrections right from the start. Back on the field, the potentially deadly missile had been successfully deflected by Remnants opener Dave Williams, albeit using his rapidly swelling left thumb. But neither this injury, nor the fact that his partner, Nick Clarke, hit a straight-drive hard into his mid-rif, could prevent Dave from dominating most of the early scoring, and after a few overs the aforementioned score-keepers were busily trying to work out how close he was to compulsory retirement. The answer was: very. Dave had reached 29 at an inter-over break, and so, through a combination of shouting and Chinese whispers, he was informed of the fact in order that he could go to town next over. Unfortunately Dave thought that he was supposed to retire the moment he made his 30th run, and so he knocked an easy single and started to head off the ground, only to be shooed back to the wicket. Thus reprieved, he decided to make the most of his remaining over, smacking some huge boundaries to take him to 40* (off just 25 balls). Intriguingly, this just happened to be the critical Williams Number introduced after last week's mauling by the Sharks: the theory was that Remnants would win unless Dave made more than 40 and lose otherwise, but it was uncertain what would happen if he finished on this exact total (a tie, perhaps?).
Whatever, Dave's departure didn't stop our total mounting, as Nick hit and hobbled his way to 30* off 23 balls before earning our second retirement of the innings. Richard Rex (8 off 16 balls) got a start, but became our first casualty when he was dismissed by sometime club-mate Julius Rix with the total on 90. Remnants first-timer Robbie McIntyre (9 off 4 balls) then looked set to accelerate the scoring when he smacked consecutive boundaries off Tom Serby (substituting for the under-manned opposition), only for Tom to get his revenge when Robbie made the mistake of playing back and was bowled next ball.
From here it was Remnants all the way as our middle order of Ev Fox (22 off 18 balls), Daniel Mortlock (27* off 17 balls) and Rob Harvey (7* off 4 balls) scored heavily from some increasingly erratic bowling. That some part-time cricketers sent down a few loose balls is maybe not too surprising, and neither is it too newsworthy that there were some misfields . . . however what really did raise an eyebrow was that a couple of the Tech Partnership's fielders were seen roaming around while the bowler was running in, and also making spectacular dives to stop the ball long after it had crossed the boundary. It was all a bit other-worldly, and in a sense that was the entirely rational explanation for these bizarre goings on: they were both Americans who'd come along for their first game of cricket and had been faced with the rather difficult task of inferring the sport's arcane workings in "on the fly". They presumably knew as little about "deep backward squre-leg" and "walking in with the bowler" as the average cricketer knows about "perfect games" and "unassisted triple-plays" (which, sadly, have little to do with extended masturbation sessions). And whilst the two of them had gotten the rhythm of things by the end of the innings and made some great stops, it wasn't enough to prevent us making our highest total ofthe season, 192/4. Or 186/4. Or 187/4. The problem was that all the mayhem with retirements and double-value wides meant that the scorers ended up with different totals depending on which parts of the book (and which book) they added up.
All that could be said with any certainty was that we had a winning total, a notion that was rapidly reinforced when surprise opener Nick Clarke (0/9) began with a succession of dot balls and Tom Jordan (3/16) took a flurry of wickets. Nick would have had a wicket of his own, but he fluffed a regulation return chance off Tom Serby . . . although given that Tom had earlier given Nick a life it might be that there was some sort of "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" style collusion between the two of them. And Tom Jordan actually had a fourth wicket for a few moments when one of the Tech Partnership's batsmen was adjudged LBW; but after some discussion he was recalled on the grounds that not only that the ball had pitched outside leg-stump, but that the batsman had hit it as well. Jordan Jr was understandably disappointed not to be one closer to an elusive five-for, but Jordan Sr (0/8) was even more frustrated to go wicketless when he had the reprieved batsmen stranded outside his crease and comfortably stumped by Ev Fox, only for the umpire (the one who'd just had his LBW over-ruled) to seemingly abdicate his responsibilities, possibly on the grounds that it was maybe better to let the players make such decisions. If so, then there was some sort of cosmic conservation law at work, as when a slightly wayward return made it past Paul's outstretched hand, the other umpire (our own Geoff Hales) went beyond the call to do the backing-up duties superbly, kindly allowing the ball to clunk into his shin.
By this stage the match was out of The Technology Partnership's reach, and so it was a case of both sides giving their players a chance to work on possibly neglected skills. For TTP's part, the two aforementioned Americans got their first chance to bat, and one had considerable success, smacking several balls over mid-wicket before being mercilessly run out after he'd dropped his bat (baseball-style) and then made the mistake of back-tracking to pick it up. For our part, regular 'keeper Rob Harvey (0/14) and middle-order batsman Richard Rex (3/19) both got extended bowling spells, the latter taking a good return catch (after which he reflexively attempted to run out the non-striker, perhaps hoping for an unassisted double-play) as well as delivering a no ball that bounced seven or eight times before eventually reaching the batsman. It was during this phase of the game that Julius Rix came to the wicket - even though the required run rate was about 12 an over, we've all seen how he can hit the ball (and most of us have seen how previously docile Remnants can turn on their own), so it was rather ominous when he smashed his first two balls for 4 and 6. However Richard managed a superb comeback by yorking him next ball, after which Robbie McIntyre (0/16) drew proceedings to a close with a tidy debut spell.
The rather comfortable victory had put Remnants in the black for season 2009 once again. It also implies that it's okay for Dave Williams to score as much as 40, the critical Williams Number now being constrained to be 41, 42, 43 or 44, a proposition that may be tested against St Barnabas tomorrow night.