Dave Williams reports from Parker's Piece:
Well, this game raised the question often facing the club, namely: is it better to win ugly or lose beautifully? These things are never easy, because some wins (for example against Granta last week) are very beautiful indeed, and this one may well have been a loss that was hideous. Even if it was, there is no answer, because some things (Warning! Platitude alert!) just can't be fixed. We can debate what is beautiful or ugly until the cows on Midsummer Common end up in the butcher's on Victoria Avenue, but in a rather charming Winnie-the-Pooh kind of way I hope and expect we will carry on doing what we always do, and that will probably, said Pooh, be a good thing after all.
Dave Norman's well-earned Cyprus holiday found the Remnants banished to the badlands of Parker's Piece, a place where bits of the grass go brown like a kind of alopecia and a huge plantain grows in the middle of the square. Those of us who usually play on the velvety sward of Fitz have heard of such places, but like a politician visiting Tottenham, it still comes as a shock when we actually see it. Even so, I think we were all glad of the chance for a game this late in the season, particularly because there was heavy rain earlier in the day.
The Remnants, like The A-Team, swung into impressive co-ordinated action - hang on, I'm talking about getting the ground ready, not playing. Like the brave new Big Society, on PP you have to do everything yourself. With everything eventually in place, though, the Piece is still an impressive place to play, and has a sense of theatre about it, with some random tourists taking photographs and a few people watching just for the pleasure of it.
Andy Owen, today's captain, won the toss and chose to field first. The pink ball was again the cherry of choice, after some lobbying by a few of the older players. Paul Jordan's first (eight-ball) over went for 12 - including one just two boundaries of the opposition scored off the bat - against a busy and well-organized opening pair. Ferdi Rex at the other end bowled some good-length balls that were rather wide and thus subject to the rather curious "two runs but no extra ball rule" - which may have had consequences later. Paul's second over got a wicket with a fine catch by Remnants debutant Anil Gupta at deep mid-on (Paul ending with 20/1 off his two overs), but by this time Tektronix were 31 off 24 balls. Naveen Chouksey came on first change and looked brisk and stylish, entertainingly larding some of his follow-throughs with shrieked/grunted/withdrawn LBW appeals. His good direction - two of his deliveries smashed down the stumps - and pace were too much for the batters and eventually got him 2/16 off three. Meanwhile, Ferdi's final over took a wicket that was the mirror image of Paul's: a big drive up in the air to deepish mid-off, caught with a truly impressive Zen-meditation-like sang froid by John Richer. Ferdi's figures: 1/21 off three.
By the 10th over the Tektronix scoricng rate had really started to drop: they were just 68/4. Their batsmen were getting stuck on the PP pudding and were struggling to get the ball away. Their big number six (Chalky White) looked like he might start pulling through midwicket at any time, but Anil's well-disguised changes of pace were disconcerting for the batsmen, giving hime tidy figures of 0/16 off three.
Andy brought himself on, and induced an A Question of Sport "What happened next?" moment. Andy bowled a straight one to Mr White, who swiped and missed. Bails off. Next thing: square leg umpire raises right hand out to the side and shouts "no ball". Sceptical Remnants check for bent arm (no), beamer (no). What we do see is a rather sheepish Daniel Brown on the boundary, padding around to end up forward of square-leg - the no ball was called for having three fielders behind square on the leg. I've never seen one of those actually get a wicket before - bad luck for Andy, who ended up with 1/19 off the three overs of his customarily pressure-inducing and inventive deliveries. Rob Harvey had a cameo penultimate over, 6 runs off it. So far, so good: 103 off 120 balls was as insubstantial as a slimmer's meal deal at Boots. Very good chasing from Ferdi, Daniel, Anil and Naveen on the occasionally alarmingly bumpy outfield, plus Ev's usual sharp 'keeping, had kept them to an eminently gettable score. Or so we thought.
Messrs Richer and Fox, opening the batting, were looking pinned down by accurate medium-fast bowling to start off with - 1 run for John off his first 12 balls, 9 runs in total off the first three overs. John's massive 6 straight down over a big boundary at long on then got things going. The major danger from the second-change bowlers seemed most likely to be the yorker from the second bounce - the sponginess of the PP wicket definitely takes some getting used to.
The "no extra ball for wides" rule may have worked against us as the batsmen, off-balance, failed to get any power on the very wide ones and harmlessly smeared them straight to fielders. (I thought at the time that we were only getting one run for a wide - did anyone else also think that? It was only when I saw the scorebook after that I realized we were getting two.) John was by now scoring freely, though, before missing a short one while attempting a pull to midwicket and departing for 41 (off 35 balls). This was in the eighth over with the score on 63.
At a run a ball, we were well over the asking rate. Keith Turner came in, and like all of our batsmen had trouble adjusting to the pace. Ev departed shortly, for what I think he would admit was not his most fluent 15 (off 34 balls). I was next in and found I was playing shots about two seconds too early. Where was the pace? From needing about 8 an over the required run rate now high enough that we were starting to require boundaries. The wheels were starting to come off by this time, and I was too adrenaline-pumped to play rational shots for the pace of the ball, although I did manage to get the faster bowlers away for a few. Keith was struggling to lay bat on ball - I hope we weren't too comical to onlookers as I attempted to get on strike and move Keith from one end to the other by the sheer kinetic force of my shouts of "Come on!". A close call for a run out not given by square-leg umpire Naveen was followed by the finger for my repeat effort a few balls later. I apologize for bellowing at Keith, which may indeed have fatally used up some of the oxygen I needed to get back into my ground. Mr Williams: 15 off 9 balls.
Ferdi was the next one in, with 19 runs to get off 19 balls In the gathering gloom and with the strangely loopy bounce of the wicket, it was all too much: 4 off the last over (when we'd needed 8) meant we did indeed, in spite of Dylan Thomas's request not to, "go gentle into that last good night". We finished on 100/3, Keith 9* (off 17 balls), Ferdi 2* (off 4 balls). It was no one's fault, it just didn't work out this time.The last stages of the cricket season are like any other kind of loss: there is a period of denial ("Let's have a match in September!"), anger ("Stupid bloody game! I'm going to retire next year anyway."), regret ("I wish I had done such-and-such differently."), before acceptance, going forward and perhaps hope ("I'll do better next season."). Maybe cricket is a game of loss: the loss of a toss, a loss of our wicket, the loss of a match, the end of a season; after even as few as six balls there is an "over". In that sense cricket is the most existential of sports because it prefigures our final loss, given out by an Umpire (with a capital U) and with no Decision Referral System. But as we sat outside with the other pubgoers in the black late-summer night and the endorphins continued to course around and the pints were supped and we chatted about stuff nothing to do with cricket and someone thought he recognized Geoff from some kind of opera-singing group called something weird like 'The Desperadoes' and Geoff completely denied it and Keith particularly enjoyed the red-berry-laden tree opposite and . . . we found that it probably didn't really matter that we lost today . . .