Dave Williams reports:
Cricket is like sex: thinking about it is all very well, but you can't beat doing it. So it was that for the first time since August, twenty-two consenting adults got together to do that thing they most enjoy. (Yes, some people played last week, but never let the truth get in the way of a good metaphor. [But it was a similie! - Ed.]) After so many months of cricketing celibacy, how would we perform? All will be revealed . . .
New vice-captain Andy Owen, leading the team today, was purposeful and effective all evening, including a lively and useful warm-up fielding practice session. After winning the toss, late oppo arrivals as much as tactics dictated putting them in. Unsurprisingly for the wettest drought on record there was a very damp lush-green outfield and a surprisingly dry square - many thanks to Dave Norman for letting us play when many a game would have been called off.
Naveen Chouksey opened from the Huntingdon Road end, bowling very tidily and at good pace for an eventual 0/13. Julius Rix at the other end was probing on a consistent full length outside off, restricting scoring to off drives, one of which relied on being beautifully placed, slightly behind Julius but closer to him than the mids on and off, so that fear of banging into each other stopped Julius from fully committing to running backwards. A four followed immediately after, but the repeat shot on the last ball of the over brought a neat catch from Matt at mid on. The St Barnabas number three now looked solid and well organized, announcing class and danger by elegantly cutting behind square on the off for four first ball. A running-between-the-wickets disaster despatched the other opener after Joe "Cool Hand" White calmly lobbed to Andy behind the stumps. Matt Hughes himself came on first change after two overs from Julius (1/8 off his first two eight-ball overs, finishing 1/12 off three); his second ball was a Warne-style ripper pitching on a length just outside leg, popping up and smashing down on top of the bails. Matt's excitement may have cost him some control over length, and was then a tad expensive (1/30) as St Barnabas looked to up the so far leisurely rate. A useful rule of evening cricket is that players without proper kit are unorthodox and often ineffective; this was not the case with the St B's number five, who was starting to carve all round the field. After Naveen Chouksey, Joe was impressive as always, literally squelching in his run-ups for an immaculate eventual 1/13. Andy asked me to have a pop at them, which I initially turned down out of surprise and inertia. Relief at landing in the right spot followed by a surprise as my first leggie deceived their number three with its implausible slowness, bounced on to his body and along the ground to the ever-alert Andy, who whipped off the bails. The delicate shoulder anatomy of the elderly (straining for pace!) dictated a break for me at this point after a statistically satisfying over that yielded 1/2. John Moore took over, showing mesmeric and tempting changes of pace to lure their number six out of his ground for Andy's second stumping, followed later the same over by a smart legside catch from our captain. Shouted encouragement the next over to John to "Finish them off!" brought the inevitable result of a longhop pulled full against the scoreboard, rearranging the hairstyle and composure of the rather elegant woman on the seat in front. Mr Moore: 2-0-15-2. Julius, Gabriel Fox (1-0-9-0) and Joe brought the St B's innings to a subdued end, Joe shattering the stumps with a yorker last ball.
100 off 120 balls was looking below par. With a strong batting lineup, would the might of the Remnants shock and awe St B into submission? We know the result now, but quiet complacency was the mood in the Remnants changing room at this point.
Against some resolute and disciplined bowling and determined fielding, Gabriel Fox stayed two balls; Nick Clarke was in uncharacteristically Churchillian mood ("black dog" variety) for a boundary-free 14 (off 28 balls); John Gull went for 2 (off 8 balls); I was stuck in pull mode (not good on low, slow wickets) for my 7 (off 7 balls); John Moore run out for 7 (off 9 balls); Matt gone for 0 (off 3 balls); Dave Green ditto. The result of all this was a scoreline of 39/7, perhaps one of the Remnants' all-time nadirs.
At this point captains outgoing and incumbent (Joe and Andy) were together and showing more cricketing brain than the rest of us combined. Slow accumulation, as is Andy's way - pushes here, a nurdle there - was followed by smooth changes up through the gearbox to the near full throttle of Andy under near full steam (oops, change of transportation metaphor). Joe at the other end was timing well but often straight to fielders in the "V". At this point fading light was starting to make a big difference. Those of us in the pavilion couldn't see the ball, and clearly Andy and Joe were not finding it easy.
Nevertheless they clawed it back to 10 needed off the last over to tie, 11 to win. Four off the first three balls was good, but then two dots changed the balance. The next single was, I think, a hamstring tear for Andy, and the next ball he was run out (31 off 31 balls) that brought Julius in at the bowler's end. 6 needed off the last ball to win, 4 to tie; what we got was a leg bye. A dogged and intelligent performance by Andy and Joe (26* off 27 balls), but just not quite enough in the conditions - not that conditions are any excuse for what went before.
St Barnabas were an unusually gracious and sporting team - zero wides for Remnants must be a record, which we returned in kind (well, almost: 3). An exciting, sporting and enjoyable match: here's looking to some more of these in 2012, hopefully with some wins.