Once the morning papers were filled with headlines about "heatwaves" and record-breaking maximum temperatures, it was clear that we were going to get an ideal evening for the annual Remnants internal game. It was hot and sunny, if maybe a bit too humid, and, most importantly of all, it stayed light 'til well after 9pm. That meant there was plenty of time for Russell's Wolverines to take on Daniel's Morlocks in an epic 24-over-a-side cricketing battle.
The intensity of the match was revealed within the first few overs, when Nick Clarke, opening for the Wolverines, smacked several "no mercy" boundaries with a single-mindedness that made sure nobody saw this game as just a "run in the park". That the fielding Morlocks were duly geed up was also quickly made clear: when the other Wolverine opener, Faruk Kara (4* off 5 balls), pulled a muscle going for a quick single and was left sprawled mid-pitch, it might have been expected that the fielders would treat the situation as a "dead ball", but they instead attempted what should have been an easy run out. In the end it was only their ineptitude, rather than any sense of chivalry, that allowed Faruk to make his ground (after which Nick eventually allowed him to retire hurt).
The Morlocks spent the next hour chasing leather as Nick got good support from Richard Rex (17 off 19 balls) and John Moore (12 off 20 balls). The Morlocks' fielding during this period left a lot to be desired, although Mike Sneyd and Rexes Olly and Ferdinand all put in noteworthy efforts. It was becoming increasingly clear that the Wolverines were going to post an unassailable target unless the Morlocks could somehow get Nick out. Almost all the bowlers got their chance to try, but it was only Matt Hughes (1/24) who had Nick in any real trouble, as a succession of outside edges fell between - or were dropped by - the fielders. It seemed Matt's fantastic spell was destined to be unrewarded - or even unfairly punished - when Nick sent a beautiful flat pull in the direction of the terrified scorers. However they need not have feared, as Juliux Rix placed himself in harm's way, taking a superb leaping catch to give Matt his first wicket of the season. Nick left the ground exhausted, but understandably chuffed with his dominating innings of 75 (off 55 balls); conversely, the Morlocks now had a chance to get themselves back in the game.
Which they did rather well, as Ferdi Rex (1/19), Adrian Mellish (2/21) and Sarah Pelham (1/12) were both economical and penetrating in restricting the Wolverines to just 32/2 from their last 6 (six-ball) overs. The highlight of this little sequence was the final over battle between Sarah and Russell Woolf (12 off 13 balls). Russ survived a dropped catch and then smacked a couple of boundaries, leaving Sarah with just the last ball of the innings to get restorative justice. Russ wound up for one more big hit, but was left looking at his broken stumps as Sarah ended the innings with her first Remnants wicket in her debut spell for the club.
The end result of all this was a fairly evenly-poised match: 166 sounded like a big total, and would have been out of reach in 20 overs . . . but those extra 24 balls made it only just above par, and the Morlocks had the stronger batting line-up of the two sides. Either way, everyone was so focussed on the excitement of the game that we initially forgot to assemble for our traditional club photograph until Sally herded everyone back to the pavilion to pose in front of her antique disposable camera (which apparently records images using a thin film coated with a light-sensitive emulsion that then has to kept in complete darkness and dipped in a chemical bath, before finally being scanned into digital form).
The Morlocks' chase began superbly as Andrew Lea (19 off 21 balls), Olly Rex (46 off just 31 balls) and Mike Sneyd (13 off 17 balls) took the score along to 82/1 after 10 overs. The Wolverines' only success during this period came when Russell Woolf (1/15) tempted Andrew into a gambling on a big hit which was superbly caught by Richard Rex at long-on. This effort was then topped a few overs later when Nick Clarke held a stunning reaction catch at short mid-wicket off the bowling of Quentin Harmer (2/14). Combined with more brilliant fielding by Jamie Smith, Deepak Gajjala and Paul Jordan, and some tight bowling by Joe Harvey (0/8), it seemed the Wolverines were getting themselves back into the game. The only problem was that the required run rate had now dropped below a run a ball, meaning that they were going to need some bowling magic - or for the batsmen to panic.
Unfortunately for the fielding side, Julius Rix (48* off 25 balls) and Daniel Mortlock (25* off 27 balls) were superbly calm, nurdling singles and punishing bad balls whilst largely avoiding the temptation to slog at straight ones. The scores were tied with 15 balls remaining, and so it seemed that the game's dramas were over: Daniel would knock an easy single or block out the over to give Julius a chance to get a fifty. When the next ball was wide outside off and cut firmly it seemed it was going to be the former . . . except Paul Jordan thrust out his hand and took the ball cleanly with Julius half way up the pitch and Daniel about to set off. Paul's throw was quick, but off-target, and headed towards the vacant mid-wicket position, seemingly allowing the easiest of overthows . . . but Daniel and Julius had been too busy trying to get back to their respective ends and were both looking the wrong way. Richard Rex was racing in from the boundary but still hadn't got to the ball, so there was a call of "yes" . . . and then "no" because both batsmen were too slow turning around. Daniel just regained his ground (for a second time) as Richard's throw sped in to the 'keeper . . . and then past him and back towards Paul at point. Paul (understandably) thought he'd done his work for this delivery and so the ball once again found itself at rest on the turf, and Daniel and Julius once again made confident "yes" calls, this time actually honouring their verbal contract as they completed the most hilarious of winning runs.
Despite the eventually comfortable result (a win by the Morlocks with 14 balls and 7 wickets in hand), it was a superb game of cricket, and every bit as exciting as the much closer (and now legendary) internal games in 2005 and 2006. After a few calming lagers, five stayers headed off to the Palace du Tandoor to analyse the day's play, and the first half of the Remnants season. Which, of course, has now seen us play all 18 of our scheduled fixtures, with 9 wins, 1 tie, 7 losses, tonight's internal game . . . and still no wash-outs. It might be getting boring to keep rabbiting on about the lack of rain, but having lost an average of a dozen games a season in the last few years it seems worth going on about it for just a bit longer - especially when the forecast for tomorrow's game against FAS is, once again, "hot and sunny".