The Remnants early-season mini-tour of Cambridgeshire that begun with triumph in Quy last week, and then continued with disaster in Coton, was set to come to an end today with our annual away match against Churchill College. We had kit transport organised, a wealth of available players to select from, and the prospect of a decent on-site bar. The only thing we didn't have, it turned out, was an opposition: an e-mail from our Churchill contact a few days ago announced that "an oversight when we organised it was the fact its slap bang in our exam term so getting a team out will be next to impossible." Not the finest moment of the nation's finest young minds (not least because of the lack of punctuation) but, to their credit, they did offer us the use of their ground if we could conjure up alterantive opposition.
There followed something akin to the biological act of creation as a flurry of e-mails saw the Remnants nucleus swell way beyond a fiducial eleven, eventually splitting into two ten-celled entities: Daniel's Diatoms and George's Organisms. The two seemed evenly matched, each possessing a nice mix of fast and slow bowlers and, similarly, explosive hitters mixed with more consistent grafters. The only slight imperfection in this plan was that the Diatoms' strike bowler, Jeff Beaumont, was only going to be around for the second half of the game and, as they were the marginally more punctual team otherwise and had chosen to field, Jeff was hastily swapped to the Organisms to ensure both sides had ten men on the pitch. Further organisational glitches then began to make themselves felt as, for instance, George and Daniel confidently agreed to play 20 six-ball overs . . . only to look at the clock (now showing 6:20pm) and immediately retreated to the early-season fall-back position of 15 eights. And any thought that this inelegance might be just a one-off were decisively rejected when Daniel, while he was putting the finishing touches to his inspired field-setting, was asked, "Who's keeping wicket?"
But the only way from there was up . . . at least for George's Organisms, as openers Andy Owen (40 off 29 balls) and John Young (36 off 55 balls) scored with almost contemptuous ease from the Diatoms' largely single-paced attack. Relief for the Diatoms came in the most unexpected form of Nick Johnson, a one-time Remnants regular who was playing his first game for the club since a season-ending internal game way back in August 1998. Nick offered up some beautifully flighted offies to take 2/35 and rebalance the match somewhat. We then had a battle of the academics as Dave Green (senior lecturer in astrophysics and 5 off 8 balls) found himself facing Richard Rex (reader in reformation history and 1/10), who was backed up by a ring of close-in fielders that included one Geoff Hales, unretired for the evening. Dave essayed some of his favourite hyper-pulls before getting a leading edge that was well caught by a diving Daniel Mortlock at short mid-wicket. Daniel had a bit of a purple patch, completing another catch, running out Julius Rix (12 off 5 balls) with a direct hit from long-on, and at one stage having conceded just 3 runs from 20 deliveries . . . at which point the purple patch became a bruise when George Speller (25* off 11 balls) came in and began his innings . 4 2 4 3, leaving Daniel with decidedly more mundane figures of 1/16 and, more importantly, taking his Organisms to an imposing total of 157/5.
Despite losing Roy Page (6 off 10 balls on Remnants debut) early, the Diatoms made a real go of the chase, John Gull (72 off 48 balls) and Richard Rex (36 off 36 balls) combining for a brilliant partnership that was in the most stark contrast to their rather more subdued effort against Coton last week. They consistently scored at 10 per (eight-ball) over with John dealing mainly in big cover drives while Richard essayed a series of ever-finer leg-glances. By the time the Diatoms had reached 105/1 after 10 overs it was close to an even money bet . . . but George had kept some cards up his sleeve. The first of these was, er, his own bowling, which was good enough to bowl both John and Richard and eventually netted handy figures of 3/25. The second, dealt to him way back at the start of the game, was Jeff Beaumont, who came back on to bowl the final over in the gloom over with the Diatoms needing a challenging 20 runs from the final 8 balls. In the end Jeff got almost as many wickets (3) as the Diatoms got runs (6), and his spell of pace and accuracy was probably decisive in the end (to say nothing of the fact that his figures of 4/14 tonight mean his Remnants career bowling record is currently 8 wickets at 3.50).
As the Sun sank and the temperature dropped there was a mad scamble for the warmth of the Churchill bar which, to Sally's delight, also serves nice hot cups of tea. There was no pub quiz, but if she'd been in charge the first question would have been: Which of George's Organisms caught Roy? The prize for the first correct answer is Sal's eternal gratitude as neither she nor the other scorer could make out who it was in the gloom . . .
. . . and we have a winner, Julius Rix e-mailing within 12 hours to say that he'd taken the mystery catch.