In hindisght, it was always clear that this evening's match against St Barnabas Church was going to be a tad surreal. The unavailability of Fitz had resulted in a frustrating series of e-mails with the St Barnabas secretary, Gavin Howard, as various attempts to book grounds were met with non-responses or, worse, replies to the effect that an evening's hire would be £120.00. (No prizes for guessing that Trinity Hall's Huntingdon Road ground went unused tonight.) In the end, Gavin solved the problem by thinking outside the box (or outside Cambridge, at any rate), booking the ground at Quy for the evening. Somewhat miraculously, eleven members of both clubs made their way through the early-evening tailbacks to assemble at the correct spot, even if St Barnabas had been forced to draw on several non-regulars who'd "never played cricket before" and the Remnants eleven was only completed when Paul Jordan was conscripted after dropping Tom off.
Formal proceedings got underway with Remnants captain Daniel Mortlock joining Gavin in the middle for the toss. After agreeing on the format (which, being St Barnabas's home game, included retirement at 30), Gavin offered Daniel the honour of tossing the coin, which he duly did . . . to a chorus of deafening silence. It turned out Gavin had been expecting Daniel to call as well; but this was quickly remedied on the second toss when Gavin confidently called "heads" as the coin flew through the air. Both captains bent down to inspect the result, which was indeed a "head" . . . but, rather than Queen Elizabeth II's familiar profile, it was that of Charles Darwin. Further inspection revealed that, even if Darwin was the nominal "tail", both sides of the coin had a head, and so a third toss was required. This time Gavin offered an apparently decisive "Her Maj" and, when Lizzie obligingly gazed skyward, Gavin decided Remnants would bat (which is what Daniel would have chosen to do anyway, thus revealing the whole elaborate coin-tossing operation to have been a waste of time).
St Barnabas produced some spirited bowling, and their fielders repeatedly put in the sorts of selfless dives have resulted in the record numbers of Remnants with scraped elbows this year (or, at least, that would have if we'd ever done the same thing), but it wasn't enough. We were able to score at almost 9 per (six-ball) over all innings without taking undue risks - or second runs, as the short boundaries meant that anything which pierced the inner ring went for four, and our whole innings included just three twos. It might have been one more when an overthrow was run after the return had ricocheted off the bat - that's perfectly legal, but it's not particularly sporting, and the umpire's technically incorrect decision to discount the second run was the best way to handle the situation.
The only batsman to be dismissed was John Gull (10 off 11 balls), who was bowled after (according to the man himself) being afflicted by a muscle spasm in his hand at the moment of delivery. Otherwise, it was "retirement city" as John Richer (35* off 39 balls), Tom Jordan (30* off 17 balls) and Tom Serby (35* off 18 balls) all managed the cricketing equivalent of collecting one's bus pass. John Young (22* off 25 balls) and Andrew Lea (16* off 10 balls, in his first Remnants game since 2009) both seemed headed in the same direction, but ran out of overs as they took us to an impressive 177/1.
Still, as good as our scoring had been, the size of the ground meant that any of the short balls that can be expensive at Fitz would be murdered here, and the match didn't feel at all won . . .
. . . but an over into our defense that was no longer the case: Jeff Beaumont (3/5) had scythed through the St Barnabas top-order with a succession of lifters, one of which bowled the startled batsman off his chest. From there on we could do no wrong as the the game became both sublime (at least from our point of view) and ridiculous. Andy Bell (4/6) was even more successful than Jeff as he saw a thick outside edge superbly held at ankle height by Tom Serby (who didn't even seem to be paying that much attention) and had another miscued pull pouched by a diving - and surprised - Daniel Mortlock at mid-wicket. The piece de resistance, however, was when a slightly wayward out-swinger was well taken by 'keeper Rob Harvey who, while the umpire was (correctly) calling "wide", noticed that the batsman had left his ground and had the bails off in a flash. In short, we were doing the sort of things we don't normally do (and can be all but guaranteed not to do when things get tight).
By the time St Barnabas had slumped to 10/6 it was pretty clear that Remnants was going to win, and the only uncertainty was the margin. If we could have taken the last 4 wickets for fewer than 9 more runs then we'd have completed our greatest ever runs victory, besting the 158-run thrashing we handed out to The St Radegund in 2006. Unfortunately some horribly loose bowling by Paul Jordan (1/5) and Andrew Lea (1/2) let St Barnabas recover to 20/9. But that meant that they were still 5 runs short of the lowest total Remnants has ever dismissed a side for, the 25 all out Unwin's managed against us twenty years ago. With such an important all-time record on the line the pressure was enormous. Daniel realised that, as captain, it would have been unfair to shift this responsibility onto anyone else, and so bravely stepped up to bowl himself. And, as if it wasn't already hard enough coming on to bowl with the opposition coasting at 20/9, he also had to take on the might of St Barnabas's international signing (i.e., Yannick, a very friendly and keen French guy who's only ever played cricket in a couple of previous Remnants vs. St Barnabas games). Sure enough, Daniel's second ball was effortlessly smacked through mid-wicket for four, meaning that even one more run would see St Barnabas at least equal Unwin's unwanted record. A few good fielding efforts kept the record a possibility and then Daniel finally got one to turn past "La Defense", and we had our record.
Even more absurdly, St Barnabas were out-scored not only by our three retired batsmen, but also by the 25 extras they conceded - as one of the opposition noted, "You guys needn't have turned up, 'cos we beat ourselves!"
With the match finishing early, members of both teams took the opportunity to head off to the local, The White Swan, for a few pints, although even this seemingly simple task had a touch of the bizarre about it: the journey involved driving a few hundred feet within the same parking complex and then walking a few hundred feet further to the pub. Once there the drinkers were made to wait only about a minute less for their pints than it took to prepare the meals of those who elected to dine in situ. There was, possibly, a lesson to be had there about Jeff and Andy's bowling success: their combined figures of 7/11 were retroactively fuelled by the dinner of champions: enormous plates of sausages and/or fish and chips (along with a few potentially deadly cucumber slices). It would be tempting to think we'll be able to dine out against St Barnabas when we play them again in August, but given their threatened selection of England Under-19 captain Shiv Thakor, we'd better not take a white-wash for granted just yet . . .