Report by Daniel Mortlock:
The Woozlers have provided some of Remnants classiest opposition over the last decade, repeatedly fielding elevens that bristle with "proper" cricketers while also including a healthy number of people who might have been selected more on the basis of their love of the game. This evening, however, while they had the icing of star batsmen Ryan Bridger and Sam Grimshaw (who between them had made short work of 150+ chases in 2010 and 2011), it rapidly became clear there wasn't much cake underneath. Their eleven wasn't an eleven, for a start: to make a full complement in the field they had to call on the services of Remnants Matt Hughes and Rakesh Chandraker, Mihir's father, as well as a dutifully enthusiastic WAG. And their eight actual players also included a few mates of the "top-level sportsman who's never played cricket" variety, along with Ryan's young son playing his first game of senior cricket. In any normal team sport this would have meant a hopeless mis-match and a guaranteed thrashing, but such is the curious structure of cricket that a Remnants victory was far from guaranteed. Given that we'd agreed to bat first (in order that the younger Woozlers could make it home before bed-time), even scoring 200-odd would have left open the possibility of Ryan and Sam putting together another monster partnership. In short we were in a no-win situation: a comfortable victory would be nothing more than meeting expectations; a loss would be the horror of eleven men losing to two.
The Remnants innings began very slowly, as openers Richard Rex and John Richer struggled to score off the succession of slow and low-bouncing (and sometimes multiply-bouncing) deliveries offered up by the Woozlers' bowlers. After 10 (six-ball) overs we were 60-odd for no loss: hardly in trouble, but also not in the position of dominance that might have been expected against such an under-manned team. Fortunately both Richard and John found ways to score: Richard by stealing quick singles with the sort of opportunism that was so lacking yesterday; and John by simply smashing the ball to - or over - the boundary. Having completed a century opening partnership with ease, it soon became clear that John had ample time for a century of his own, and scorer Dave Green had him needing just 4 more runs as the penultimate over began . . . but sadly he came down the track once too often and was easily stumped - for a fantastic 96 off just 59 balls. Richard succumbed almost immediately afterwards (for 30 off 49 balls), leaving Martin Law and Tom Collett, both of whom had spent almost the entire innings padded up, with the muggins job of coming in with an over to go. They at least made the most of their limited opportunities, Martin timing a few of his trademake leg-side flicks to make a brisk 16* off just 7 balls and Tom (2* off 3 balls) opening his Remnants account with a cheeky reverse sweep.
Our total of 176/2 was by far the biggeset of the year, and surely defendable in such conditions - provided we could prevent a massive Bridger-Grimshaw partnership developing. Such considerations weren't immediately relevant, however, as those two were somewhere down the order and the Woozlers' opening pair included Chandraker Sr., which virtually forced us to confont him with his son's leggies as soon as possible. After a couple of looseners, Mihir (1/10) comprehensively bowled his dad, thus inducing potential dinner table tension - although one suspects Rakesh would actually be proud of his son's skills. Naveen Chouksey (also 1/10) was superb from the other end as we all but stopped the opposition scoring, Naveen's wicket even coming through a rare LBW.
Unfortunately, that wicket brought Sam to the crease to join Ryan and the game had reached its watershed moment: it was the only time in that match that we were faced with full-strength opposition. If we could separate these two then the win would become a formality; but if they stayed together to the end then it was hard not to imagine them scoring the 10 an over they needed. A few ominously hard-hit shots followed, one of which went to Mihir on the pavilion boundary; he completed an excellent stop and fired in a return that made a satisfying slap is slammed into 'keeper Tom Collett's gloves. The next delivery was also pulled to Mihir and so it was something of a surprise to hear one of the batsman call for a second run, especially as Mihir already had the ball in his hands. He assessed the situation with prenatural calm and then sent the ball low and fast in the direction of bowler Matt Hughes. Denying any primal instincts that would have had him ducking for cover, Matt got in harm's way, taking the ball cleanly and whipping off the bails with the two batsmen stranded mid-pitch. Grimshaw, closer to the broken stumps by a couple of yards, optimistically announced "I'll stay!", but this was met with a chorus of "You don't get a choice"s from both the players and umpire Hales.
With the contest now effectively over, the game kind of wound down, although once Matt Hughes (2/10) had finished his spell there was a chance for him to change sides, with the possibility of getting to face his son, Harvey (1/17). Unluckily, Matt only got to the crease when Harvey took a wicket with the last ball of his spell, so in the end Matt instead got to enjoy swatting effortless boundaries off the #2 and #3 bowlers on the Remnants all time wicket-takers' list, as both Paul Jordan (1/19) and Daniel Mortlock (1/16) found out that their slower balls need a bit of work.
So, while beating the Woozlers by 92 runs (and winning three matches in a row) is certainly not something we'd have turned down coming into today's game, it's also hard to imagine it being talked about in hushed tones for years to come.