Remnants vs. A Charities XI

18:00, Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Fitzwilliam College

Remnants (158/2 in 20 6-ball overs)
A Charities XI (157/5 in 20 6-ball overs)
by 1 run.

Nick Clarke having the ball bowled to him.

Now that Remnants is organised using a combination of e-mails and on-line availability tables, with all significant events recorded on this web-site (the "VirtualGeoff project", as John Richer calls it), the club obviously runs far more smoothly than it ever did in the primitive days of letters, phonecalls and little black books. There are no last-minute drop-outs, no double-booked grounds, no sheepish phonecalls from the opposition admitting they can't get a team, no more late changes to the fixture list. Hence our away match against Churchill a month ago didn't turn into an impromptu Remnants vs. Remnants match, and the plan of having an internal game tonight wasn't abandoned due to lack of players.

Okay, okay, so almost every statement in the above paragraph is total nonsense - fundamentally Remnants operates in the same way that most cricket teams below First Class standard seem to run: a hand-to-mouth existince of just getting elevens and finding grounds with two or three hours to spare before match time. Today, at least, we converted to an external game sufficiently far in advance for Andy Owen to gather together fully twelve players into his Charities XI; and, more importantly in the broader scheme of things, he was also able to provide a tea and a football pool, which meant that, by evening's end, about GBP 65.00 had been raised for the Fen Edge Assocication For Learning Disabled (see letter below). We also managed a fairly memorable game of cricket, albeit primarily due to feel of insane anarchy that permeated just about everything that happened on the field.

Richard Rex ducks under a short ball.

Remnants, by arrangement, batted first and Richard Rex (34* off 43 balls) and Nick Clarke (58 off 40 balls) ensured we shot out of the blocks. They repeatedly pierced the ten-, eleven- or twelve-man field with some big pulls and back-foot drives; combined with a spate of wides and no balls it meant we were cruising at 92/0 after 10 (six-ball) overs. There was a bit of a lull towards the end of the innings as the calling and running fell apart, although even this resulted in a few "induced" overthrows as the fielders hurled the ball at the stumps, only to see it skid past and into open space. Some lusty blows by Andy Bell (36 off 29 balls) ensured that we ended up scoring at 7.90 an over, although the general feel of the play was illustrated better by Gerge Speller's truncated final Remnants innings: he got credited with a run from his only ball faced when the umpire omitted to signal that it had hit his pad, and he then would have been run out by miles except Andy decided not to take the bails off, with the result that George's final act as a Remnants batsman wasn't a signature pull over mid-wicket but the scampering of a couple more extras.

Matt Hughes, Tom Jordan, Andy Bell and George Speller await their chance to bat.

Our time in the field continued the pattern of following no pattern, and it was very hard to tell who was winning at any stage. There always seemed to be one batsman struggling while the other was scoring freely; similarly we always seemed to have one bowler doing well while runs were leaking from the other end. Our star early-on was Tom Jordan (2/10), who sent down some really fizzing leg-spin and went within a few feet of a hat-trick when his potential third victim fended the ball to just out of the reach of the diving John Moore at point. Matt Hughes (1/16) also did well with his leggies, keeping two good batsmen in check and ensuring that the Charities XI's required rate was pushing up towards double figures. That should have been that, but for the fact that everyone was struggling bowling into the wind, and some elongated overs of beamers and grubbers gave the opposition a glimmer of hope (while also giving the scorers nightmares, one call for "Score, please!" being met with a dismayed "We don't know!").

By this point the stage was set for George Speller to end his Remnants career by killing the match off with another 6/0 spell, but it didn't work out that way as a succession of nice cuts and lucky edges left him with the much less satisfying figures of 1/24. Even worse, one of the edges was foolishly (if skillfully) caught by 'keeper Rob Harvey, thus bringing Dave Norman to the crease. He seems to specialise in these "30 needed off 15 balls"-type situations (although, as ever, primarily when playing against Remnants), and so the look of horror that crossed Nick Clarke's face when told he was going to bowl the 18th over to Dave was maybe understandable. However Nick faces greater challenges on a daily basis (both while doing his job as leader of the County Council and playing cricket with people who immediately take the piss about his TV appearances whenever he arrives at the ground), and he bowled a pretty immaculate over of slow lobs that yielded just 8 runs and had Dave mistiming the ball repeatedly. After George finished with one more tidy over of his own (including one last slower ball, that was duly missed), the equation was 20 needed off 6 balls.

Straightforward enough, although less clear was who to bowl. Should we go down the adventurous route and give Nick a second over for the season, with Dave hopefully skying the ball in desperation? Or the conservative option of an "official" bowler, Daniel Mortlock, who'd so far conceded "just" 20 runs from 3 overs, and so could presumably avoid that many being scored off one? In the end conservatism (and the fact that Daniel was captain) won out; and it seemed to have worked, with Dave being restricted to a 2 and a 1, after which the other batsman (our own Eli Ellwood) came down the track and missed. That meant a surely impossible 17 needed from 3 bal- except Rob had decided to have a go at stumping Eli, only for the ball to catch in his glove and go straight up, letting the batsmen run a bye and, critically, getting Dave back on strike. Still, with two sixes and a four needed the Charities XI's late charge had surely ended when the next shot headed straight for the long-on fielder, meaning two runs at mos- but this time the ball took a vicious bounce (possibly off an outfield lump that Dave had placed there for this express purpose) and leapt past the horrified fielder and over the boundary. So the game was still alive - although it would now take two sixes to win, and when the next ball merely bounced over the boundary that, finally, was tha- unless you've got a bowler who's being carted everywhere and has already bowled four wides in a game full of wides and no balls . . . no, even Remnants couldn't fail to win a game in which the opposition needed seven runs from the last ball just to tie - although we needed every bit of that buffer as Dave finished the match with the shot of the day - an imprerious lofted drive that sailed over the longest boundary on the ground.

Russell Woolf with the documentary evidence of our narrow victory.

So: Remnants won by just one run. We probably should have scored more while batting, and the bowling was mixed at best . . . but just about everyone on the team can justifiably claim to have saved that vital run several times over in the field. Dave Green and Tom Jordan provided immaculate "good cop, bad cop" cover at point and gully; Keith Turner and John Moore kept running tirelessly to cut off the big drives that became more common towards the end of the match; Richard Rex patrolled both square boundaries with tireless legs and single-minded determination; and Rob Harvey tied the whole fielding performance together behind the stumps. Given that we would have lost if any of these contributions had been subtracted from the Remnants effort, the only logical conclusion is that the entire team was man of the match . . .