The Remnants matches during the week after the Fathers And Sons tour can go one of two ways: sometimes the Remnants FAS players come back invigorated by playing some high-standard cricket in lovely surroundings and lift their level and by extension the team's; more common these days, however, is that the FAS players come back physical wrecks after bowling too many overs or downing too many local ales. Whatever their condition, though, they do usually come back, and certainly Rob Harvey managed to appear on time this evening without any fuss (and, given his energy and high standard in the field, seemed to be happily in the "invigorated" category). Daniel Mortlock, however, was decidedly absent at 6pm - despite being down to captain Remnants today, there was no "I'm going to be late" message and certainly no Daniel . . . although, rather enigmatically, Richard Rex had appeared at the ground with a pair of shoes for him to wear. It turns out all these curious events had an explanation: Daniel was absent because he'd been imprisoned by First Crapital Connect, who'd managed to rob several hundred people of 30 minutes because they're seemingly incapable of purchasing trains with working doors. The lack of a message was simply 'cos Daniel's phone's batteries had run out; the lack of shoes was because Daniel's brain had run out and he'd left them in a changing room several hundred miles to the west of Oxford Road.
All this meant a Remnants power vacuum, which was quickly and very ably filled by Paul Jordan, who thus got to captain the club for the first time since his tenure as vice-captain back in 1989 and 1990. His impromptu second term began well, despite losing the toss, as both Olly Rex (0/30 and immortalised as "O. Recks" in the scorebook) and Eli Ellwood (0/34) started the match economically, and Little Paxton were seemingly under control at 6/0 after 2 (six-ball) overs. At which point Daniel sheepishly appeared and everything went to pot. The opening batsmen suddenly started clubbing the ball to or over the boundary, almost irrespective of where it was bowled. In the blink of an eye - well, really, the flash of a blade - the run-rate had quadrupled and conceding 200+ for the third time this season seemed all too possible. There was a brief moment of hope when one particularly enormous six was smashed through a neighbouring greenhouse, but the owners, who'd been sitting in the backyard, were remarkably nice about it all and threw the ball back, meaning, unfortunately, that the game could continue.
At this point Paul decided to slow things down, replacing the seamers with spinners. Tom Jordan (0/23) quickly caused trouble, inducing some false strokes and having several good LBW shouts, but Matt Hughes (1/13) had even more immediate impact when the more destructive of the two batsman was through his drive too early and sent the ball arcing towards long-on . . . where a petrified Andy Bell, who was in his own "have just mucked up an easy stop and conceded a boundary" hell, ran in to meet the ball. By his own admission his heart had gone into overdrive, and it's tempting to guess that he'd have given himself long odds on taking the catch . . . but as the ball slammed into his hands they closed around it safely and his his heart started beating at a more sedate 150 bpm.
With the danger-man gone it was a chance to try and exert a little pressure . . . which is exactly what Little Paxton did, continuing the boundary-hitting (even if the sixes dried up in place of more sedate fours) to the point that they were 99/1 after 11 depressing overs. It was hard to imagine even competing at this point, but our two captains then had a little purple patch that, along with superb support in the field, got us back into the game. Paul (1/13) bowled a brilliant spell of seriously nippy quick balls, tempting floaters and hilariously successful ssllllloooowww balls that the batsmen just couldn't hit. His wicket came when Daniel (2/25) took a spectacular diving catch at square-leg, helped by the little adrenaline hit of having himself just dismissed the two set batsmen with a pair of leg-stump yorkers. The rest of the team also lifted as Olly Rex, Ferdi Rex and Tom Jordan all made direct hits going for run outs (although the one run out we got was a more sedate affair when Olly calmly lobbed the ball to the bowler), John Richer, Eli Ellwood, Matt Hughes and Andy Bell all made some great diving saves and, most revealing of all, we always had people backing up the throws. Frankly it was like we'd subbed in a diferent team from the one that had been on the field an hour earlier, and Little Paxton were restricted to just 49/4 from their last 54 balls.
Our ascendancy continued into the second innings as John Richer (38 off 35 balls) and Martin Law (25 off 21 balls) went to town on the Little Paxton opening bowlers. By the time we'd reached 76/1 off 10 overs we were seemingly more than half-way to one of the greatest come-back wins in Remnants history, even though Martin had done his calf muscle and had a runner and John had been dismissed by one of the change bowlers. Unfortunately that was the most salient point: by this stage it was dark enough - and the pitch was low enough - that the new batsmen found it very hard to get going; also, Little Paxton had played their trump card, a tall and decidedly sharp bowler who delivered a match-winning spell of 3/9 from his 4 overs. Other than our two openers only Tom Jordan (27) even made it into double figures, the others scratching around in an increasingly brief succession of hopeless forays to the middle. We were maybe still a small chance with 41 needed from the last 4 overs, but instead we lost 13/5 from those last 24 balls.
Depressing as the final result was for us, it was a fantastically dramatic match, with both bat and ball dominating for extended periods, and it's no surprise that the Little Paxton players formed a happy and beer-fuelled huddle after the game. It's also no surprise that said huddle was in the bar, as the cold wind that had blighted the game was now even more intense. The irony of a steady drizzle starting the moment the match finished wasn't lost, either.