Dave Williams has once again gone above and beyond the call of duty as Remnants correspondent de jour, giving not only his take on the evening's game, but also an in-depth personal philosophy:There are many pleasures in the magnificent game of cricket that we play week after week. Cricket, for me at least, has them in spadefuls, more than any other game. One of these - at the risk of starting to sound like a speech by a "school of Blair" politician - is the ever-changing emotional tone of a game that can rapidly change - from despair to fierce hope, from absurdity to glory through bathos, boredom and tragedy and back - in the blink of an eye. Creative artists like Turner and Shakespeare - art being another kind of lie that tells the truth - have reflected back to us our own lives in different but parallel kinds of ways, as does the weather on an English summer's day, or - in another timeframe - the language we speak or the quirkiness of an old oak.
The game tonight was as impressive an example of my wordy prologue as can be imagined. Nick Clarke won the toss and cannily elected to bat under a uniformly grey sky in the expectation of worsening light. Tom Serby (0 off 2 balls) nicked an early one through to the 'keeper, bringing in Andy Owen to face a tight opening Beehive attack bowling to six-three fields. One curious episode was that Nick mis-heaved to midwicket and had walked halfway back to the pavilion before it emerged that John Young had quietly declared an overstepping no-ball; as is the way of things, a few balls later John had given Andy out (for 7 off 6 balls) LBW.
Nick, meanwhile, had characteristically bludgeoned a rapid 28 (off 20 balls). Your correspondent came and went for a cloggy 9 (off 23 balls) against some whippy pace from a youthful Beehiver, not without having first run out Faruk Kara (picture if you will the steam coming out of his ears), thus providing an excellent example of what marriage guidance counsellors describe as "cognitive dissonance". Julius Rix impressively opened his account with a mighty six and four to midwicket off their leggie's opening over, shortly holing out to Mr Whippy for 12 (off ?? balls), as did I, off the splice going for the hook. John Moore's prayers had been answered when he came in number seven, having previously muttered "If I had known we would be batting I wouldn't have turned up 'til seven o'clock!" This was also the hour (when we were 66/6) previously dreaded by Nick as the time "it would all be over".
John showed good watchfulness and movement round the crease to play each ball on its merits for his 12 (off 18 balls). John Young came and went for his 1 (off 8 balls). A so-far lacklustre Remnants had struggled up to 81/7 off 16 (six-ball) overs; Jeff Beaumont was looking pumped, though, and started going for some big drives off the quicks. Jeff rapidly progressed to an impressive 35 (off 22 balls). Jeff's departure with four balls to go brought in Oliver Rex; there was a first-ball swish, but balls four to six went for 4, 6 and 1, giving us a surprisingly satisfactory and counterintuitive 126/8. The Beehive had indeed charitably introduced some of their middle-ranking, but still capable, medium pacers "to make more of a game of it", but 128, with the Beaumont/Rex (O.) sting in the tale, was the kind of score that makes a team feel that we had something to defend. After some despondency halfway through, our mood and body language was now pretty chirpy.
Remnants' general mood was getting even chirpier when the Beehive openers clearly struggled to get bat on ball. Good line and length from Ferdie Rex and surprising pace/variable bounce from Julius Rix (?/??) in the gathering grey started to put us in a position of what seemed like dominance. The Beehive could only manage two fours in the first 8 overs, with only 20/1 on the board. After 12 overs, still only 42. A superb two-over spell from Jeff had brought a maiden and two wickets, including the scalp of the Beehiver who seemed like their most capable batter, off one of Jeff's excellently disguised slower ones. Faruk Kara's two overs went for 13 and a wicket, but the metaphorical hand of the Remnants was clearly on the Beehive's metaphorical throat.
Andy's first two overs were characteristically tight, going for 9, and Olly's first two went for 10. After 16 overs, only 65 runs, for six wickets. Remnants' mood: calm, purposeful, determined. Good spirit, mutual encouragement. Perhaps a sense of vindication, self-congratulation - I was thinking about a story (or match report, or a tale told at the annual dinner or in years to come) where we turned our season around because of our "never say die" approach in this very match.
[What went wrong? Firstly, no "blame" can or should be attributed to anyone - I hate that word and that attitude. Let's take it on the chin and enjoy what we can and learn if we can. We can also praise the quality of the Beehive fightback, particularly their 'keeper Scotter, and his 34 (off ?? balls).]
Back to the record: Andy came back for over 17: 15 off it, including two horrible dropped catches at long off by me, for which I sincerely apologize. Olly, bowling fast in the gathering gloom, over 18: 9 off it, including a wicket. Andy over 19, characteristically phlegmatic in the face of some clean Beehive striking to leg: 20 off it, including a six straight on to the roof of a VW Passat parked near the pavilion.
Last over, Olly bowling, 21 to get. We can do it, can't we? Are we getting into headless chicken mode? We're not, are we? First ball, wide beating Tom Serby behind the stumps, run for one more. (Legal) ball 6: wide. Aaaargh! Still 6 to get to win. Surely they can't do it? Fielders all round the boundary - bollocks to fielding restrictions, we want to win. Tension in muscles. Heart beating twice as fast as normal. Adrenalin shifting our usual frame of muscular reference so we can't repeat movements accurately. Peer pressure to perform . . . Last ball: short and on the leg. Batter wheels round to leg. Ball in air. Is it really going a long way? Is it really hitting the netting of the Eachard Road gardens? Are Beehive really cheering and laughing? If I was seven my face would crumple and I would cry the bitter tears of sheer disappointment. But we put on our grown-up faces and we shake their hands and congratulate them on their performance. Nick was impressively emotionally resilient, as befits a politician who will be no stranger to triumph and disaster. Our commiserations to Olly, who is both a fine young cricketer and a fine young man who looks the world straight in the eye; he just happened to be bowling at the end. Most of us have been there, done that and bought the facetious T-shirt to say so - sure, it's not a pleasure but it makes us stronger.
What can I say? What a match! What a sport!