Every year "Remnants vs. Hart-McLeod" appears in our fixture list - although we're still waiting to find out what their cricket team is like. Yes, that's right, once again we found ourselves up against an eleven that did indeed contain a Hart and a McLeod, but also contained cricketers of the calibre of, say, Rudi Hillerman, who has a couple of first class centuries to his name. H-M supremo Graham Hart might have argued that "we didn't even bat him", but that would be disingenuous given that he'd already bowled a full spell for next to nothing and taken three vital outfield catches (of the sort most Cambridge mid-week cricketers often drop) to help ensure that H-M would be chasing a trivial target.
Although we must also take some blame for that fact, given that our only batsmen to score at more than a run a ball were Dave Williams (26 off 22 balls), George Speller (13 off 9 balls) and Daniel Mortlock (11 off 10 balls, before contriving to get out to a double-bouncer from Remnants traitor Martin Law). As was the case against both Coton and The Beehive, we were all but lost by the time the game was a quarter over, being just 41/2 after 10 (six-ball) overs, as neither Phil Hastings (10 off 16 balls, before being denied an elegant six when Hillerman took an effortless boundary line catch) nor Keith Turner (17 off 37 balls) were able to score freely. By the time the lower order went the tonk it was all pretty desperate, and our innings was nicely summed up by the final ball disaster in which the H-M 'keeper had his choice of which batsman to run out.
He then swapped into full-sized pads to shut us out of the game with an almost completely risk-free half-century as he milked the bowling with a series of calm punches through the off-side. Only two of our bowlers - Andy Owen (0/14) and Daniel Mortlock (0/15) - conceded less than a run a ball, and even they didn't look that much like getting a wicket. Our best early chance came when George Speller (0/15) induced a big top edge and Phil Hastings rushed in from the boundary . . . but where it looked like he was about to execute a calm dive, he instead bailed out, falling to the ground and remaining worryingly still while the ball trickled to the boundary behind him. We thought he might have hit his head in the dive, but the explanation turned out to be much worse: he'd torn his hamstring, repeating his season-ending injury from 2007. Let's hope it's not so serious this time.
The only other real chances we generated came when Dave Williams (2/18) came onto bowl. It seemed we'd hit our nadir after a couple of fielding lapses let through some soft boundaries, but then Dave bowled Martin Law (who'd continued the pattern of Remnants playing well against their own club) and had the next batsmen caught first ball by a diving Andy Owen. It was really the only time we felt on top all day, and suddenly there was a spring in the Remnants step as we crowded 'round the new batsman for the hat-trick ball. But Dave could only send down what Andy called a "money-saving treasurer's ball" that was way down leg-side . . . although the batsman had been lured so far down the track that 'keeper Steve Attmore was almost able to complete what would have been a superb leg-side stumping.
After that, though, it was back to a slow death, as the batsman accrued runs with the minimum of fuss. Maybe the one bright spot was our spirited effort in the field: Tom Jordan made countless great stops and perfectly-aimed rocket throws from the north boundary; John Young showed the importance of backing up when he ran thirty yards to be in a position to prevent what would have been demoralising overthows; Dave Green, substituting for Phil, made some great stops at gully; and Richard Rex seemed to have boundless reserves of speed, energy and anticipation as he repeatedly swooped on the ball like a seagull determined to get to a particularly tasty chip before the nearby pigeons tucked in. However, it was Andys Owen and Bell who stole the show, making some amazing diving stops with various extremities and going within a few inches of one of the all-time great run outs when Andy cut off yet another cut with what can only be described as a sliding tackle, "passing" the ball straight to a waiting Andy Bell, who then hurled the ball at the bowlers' stumps with the batmsan well short of his ground . . . but the throw was a little wide.
It was all to no avail: by match's end the bright sunshine that lit the early part of the game had been replaced by oppressive grey cloud and the gleeful look on Graham's face contrasted with, for example, Richard Rex's lament that he's yet to have been involved in a win this year despite turning out half a dozen times. Unfortunately, that doesn't imply he's remotely cursed: the Remnants 2011 ledger stands at a rather sad 5 wins and 9 losses. It's nowhere near too late to rescue our season, but it will take some rescuing . . .