In a week that, so far, has been defined by endless line-up changes, it was a minor miracle that there were eleven Remnants present and raring to go at 6pm tonight. The Philanderers won the toss and inserted us, however, which meant that we were going to have to wait to express our enthusiasms en masse, instead tackling our opposition two at a time to begin with.
The Philanderers' first few overs were a strange combination of excellent bowling and constant personnel changes, as they gradually went up from nine to a full eleven, albeit using a curious stealth technique which meant there seemed to be an extra unannounced boundary fielder every few balls. Julius Rix (12 off 14 balls), Nick Clarke (10 off 6 balls) and George Speller (6 off 5 balls) all perished during this early period, as they paid the price for playing back-foot nurdles to straight balls that a forward movement and a straight bat would have dealt with comfortably. (Such nondescript shot-making in evening knock-abouts wouldn't ordinarily warrant a mention; however today it was notable that such shots accounted for all 5 Remnants wickets to fall, as well as most of The Philanderers' top order, too.)
Still, we'd been scoring fast enough early on, after which Daniel Mortlock (42 off 28 balls) and Joe White (52* off 40 balls) went to town against the slower bowlers, taking us to a highly promising 88/3 after 10 (six-ball) overs. There was a brief lull following Daniel's departure (during which we scored less than a run a ball for 5 overs), after which Richard Rex (8 off 18 balls) and Faruk Kara (an injury-free 2* from 2 balls), helped Joe take us to a potentially match-winning total of 157/5.
Half an hour later there was no "potentially" about it. Joe White (4 overs, 1 maiden 2/7, 6 of which came from outside edges) and George Speller (3 overs, 1 maiden, 2/2) had proved simply too fast for The Philanderers' top order, and after 7 overs they were 10/4 and the match was as good as won. With the exception of a mis-cued pull off Joe (which was, eventually, well caught by an unsighted Les Collings, who'd lost the ball in the sun), our bowlers got our wickets in much the same way as our batsmen had lost them an hour earlier, with the batsmen uncertainly playing back when they should have been getting forward.
We then turned to our slower bowlers, who had just as much success as the fast men, albeit at slightly greater cost. Faruk Kara (2/13), Les Collings (1/12) and John Moore (2/10) all benefited from several batsmen either playing absurd slogs or coming wildly down the track (or both), and Rob Harvey would have had more than one stumping if the ball hadn't kept clattering into the stumps before reaching his gloves. By this stage the game had definitely gone from the sublime to the ridiculous, as The Philanderers score was a rather humiliating 27/9 after 12 overs. We'd only ever once dismissed an opposition team for less than this (when Paul Jordan single-handedly destroyed Unwin's in 1990), but second on that list would still be some achievement.
Conversely, if unsurprisingly, The Philanderers in the clubhouse weren't well pleased by developments, and there were overheard mutterings about Remnants "putting the boot in", as well as the claim that our ascendancy was largely down to the fact that "We haven't played for eight months and don't know what we're doing!" That might sound like a strange non-excuse, but there is some evidence to back it up as, ever since the very first Remnants vs. Philanderers game back in 2004, there's been a definite pattern to the two clubs' encounters: we win the early-season game fairly comfortably; but come July or August they invariably exact a humiliating revenge. With a few of the May games having been cancelled, The Philanderers were 5-2 up in the head-to-head tally coming into today's match, so there was a definite attraction to handing out a 100+ run thrashing this evening . . .
. . . except that's not quite what happened. Their last-wicket pair showed a great deal of resolve - and plenty of skill - to bat through the final 8 overs of the innings and score 64 undefeated runs to boot. They passed their team's lowest score (70-odd) and ended up more than tripling their total today. By the end it was us who was glad to get off off the field - they were scoring at more than a run a ball and, hard as batting in the dark was, fielding had become nearly impossible, as evidenced by a series of farcical out-field catching attempts as the match wound down.
The Philanderers' rear-guard notwithstanding, it was a very comfortable Remnants victory that sits comfortably next to our very similar 76-run win in early 2007 and our comfortable 7-wicket victory at the start of last season. The challenge now is to back it up in a month's time and actually finish a season in the black against The Philanderers for the first time ever.