The Remnants season has begun with the BBC making outrageous predictions about a "hot and dry" summer, surely too good to be true . . . and yet today was both of those things as twenty-odd Remnants descended on Fitz for the first time since August. Not that it was an internal game; rather that our opponents, traditional early-season rivals Romsey Town, were sporting nine sometime Remnants in their line-up. The scene was all so idyllic that Dave Williams, in penning today's match report, was moved to poetry:
"Earth hath not anything to show more fair": an outfield like an expensive carpet; a crisply mown square; the sky cerulean; lithesome white-clad athletes limbering up (can you spot the one that isn't quite right?). And all this before the end of April. "Et in Arcadia ego": amidst all the abundance of life force, the sad news that John Hill, President of the club and Groundsman for many years preceding Dave Norman, had died last week. All the longer-standing members will remember not just his pride in every inch of his ground, square and pavilion, but also just how helpful, decent and nice a bloke he was - and with an impish sense of mischief to boot. John's son had honoured our club with a special journey to be at Fitz today, where we held a minute's silence in John's memory . . . although I thought I heard a voice with a broad west-Country accent saying, "I don't know what all you daft buggers are doin' standin' round when you could be getting on with the game." Here's to you, John, and may a Mackeson always be yours in whatever place we keep our memories of you.
In the lesser game prefiguring mortality, Rob Harvey (standing in for Joe pro tem) had won the toss and decided that Remnants would bat. Mike Sneyd (11) and John Young (13) were pinned down by some early tight bowling from two of the only Romsey players who weren't also Remnants, and, sure enough, Romsey took first blood when Tom Jordan (now taller than his dad) span one past Mike's straight bat on to the stumps. The incoming Dave Williams smote his second ball past Tom and mid-off to the boundary, and followed this with some powerful and effective late cuts. For his part, John continued his aggressive running to his doom: pushing straight to John Moore at mid on, he called for an ambitious single only to be sent back by Dave; trying to find reverse gear he only succeeded in falling over on the hard surface, leading to the first of what one suspects will be many Remnants run outs for the season. George Speller was next up: who survived his first ball from Tom just fine, but the second was slow and deceptively full, induced a swish which was quickly followed by the mezzo piano doink-click of ball hitting the stumps. Tom Serby essayed some nice shots and good style for 3, but became Dave's second run out victim after an over-ambitious attempted quick single. Kiran Sakhamuri made an instant impact with some clean straight hitting to gaps in the field, but would have been the third run out victim, but for a farcical singularity only possible in cricket: Dave's call for a quick single and gallop down the pitch found Kiran stock still at the bowler's end; a smart throw knocked down the stumps with Dave inches short, but the umpire called "not out", for the simple reason that Kiran had had never left his crease. And because the ball had deflected into space, Kiran had plenty of time to get down the other end to complete the most tortured of singles. Not that the mayhem was over: the next two balls were sitter catches, both of which were dropped. After this episode of the Keystone Cops, Remnants pressed on to a reasonable 113, Kiran and Dave both finishing on 34, though Dave was out last ball, bowled swishing across a shortish Andy Owen delivery.
A formidable Remnants pace attack opened: Joe White (1/10 and tight as ever) and George Speller (0/14), the latter unlucky to find the edge of Romsey neophyte Nick Clarke's bat with a ball that deflected past the ever-tidy Rob Harvey behind the stumps and all the way to the boundary. (Still, even if George had bad luck whilst bowling, he had his fair share of good luck in the field, at least if a juggling catch which he completed whilst lying on his back is anything to go by.) First change in the fifth over was Tom Serby (1/31), though after beating the bat and mesmerising the batsmen with his changes of pace, Mr Clarke began to find his bowling nutritious. Sweeping on the midwicket boundary, John Young showed his keenness and agility in covering more ground and throwing more yards than anyone else in an effort to keep the runs down. Ben Armitage (1/12) began with a high legside full toss that was hit for four but then brought on the demise, two balls later, of Jon Steele for 24, bowled by a straight one. The strategic arrival of Sarah Pelham to bolster the fielding and a lively and accurate spell from Julius Rix (1/21) pegged Romsey back, leaving them needing six runs to get off the last over.
"Cometh the hour, cometh the man": up to the oche steps Joe, now bowling fuller-pitched off breaks (following the howls of protest after he finished last year's Romsey game at full pace in the gloom) to the straight-playing Tom Jordan. The result: textbook defensive strokes straight back to the bowler from the first four balls. Tom then scored a four only to be caught off the penultimate delivery. This meant Romsey needed two to win off the final ball; a smear to midwicket brought one of the required runs, but not the other, and so the match was tied (even in not quite as exciting a fashion as in 2005). A most enjoyable end to a beautiful day, played with spirit and friendship, and with memories of John ringing round the bar. May the summer never end.