Remnants achieved the double tonight, both arriving on time and winning the game. Even though we out-numbered St Barnabas 11-9 at 6pm, the captains went out for a toss, which they won, of course choosing to bat.
We began brilliantly with the ball, Daniel Mortlock (1/13) and Eli Ellwood (0/22) repeatedly having the batsmen either missing or playing all sorts of uncontrolled aerial shots. What, then, could be the explanation for the lack of wickets taken by the bowlers? No bonus prizes for guessing that it was absolutely woeful fielding, which became something of a theme for the evening. Eli was probably the unluckiest bowler of the lot, with two chances going down in his first over as Andy Bell misjudged the length of a lofted drive that ended up yorking him and then Daniel did an impression of a drunken pole-dancer as he executed a full 360 in his eventually futile attempts to catch a top-edge that landed pretty much where he'd started his "walk in" from. Things got better in Eli's next, in so far as only one chance went begging, and technically it wasn't a drop at all given that the fielder didn't actually get his hands to the ball. This time it was Russell Woolf who, in his newly svelte form, made such good ground back from mid-off that he actually over-ran the ball, which plopped into his newly laid footsteps. From all this two things should have been clear: i) we were going to have to give up on the whole catching thing; and ii) the bowlers were going to have to rely on bowled or LBW to get their wickets . . .
. . . both of which were rapidly proved wrong, the first when Faruk Kara (1/20) induced a bottom edge off his first ball, the chance being superbly held by 'keeper Samuel Serby, and the second when Felix Serby had an LBW appeal turned down on the spurious grounds that "the ball pitched outside off" (an admittedly common mistake, the relevant issue of course being whether the ball hit the shot-playing batsman's pad outside the line of off-stump). To his credit the umpire later had some doubts about this, conferred with a few people and, upon learning of his error, apologised to Felix at the first opportunity. And, maybe more to the point, Felix was doing just fine all by himself: he'd combined well-pitched medium pacers and fast leg-breaks to bamboozle the St Barnabas middle-order to such a degree that his figures were a superb 4/14 after his third over. A first five-for (at least in senior cricket) was on the cards and the family-best figures, Tom's 6/15, were also in danger. Such glories were denied to him, at least for the moment, as his cruel and heartless captain rang another bowling change. With the score now a rather dismal 47/6 (despite our attack of "dropsies") and access to the St Barnabas tail, this could have been viewed either as "child cruelty" or "giving someone else a shot at some cheap wickets" . . .
. . . but once again a more open mind was required, as the St Barnabas seventh wicket pair stuck together 'til the last over, more than doubling their team's score as they combined some aggressive running with the sort of inelegant but effective leg-side hoiks that are the heart and soul of mid-week cricket. Needless to say, more chances went begging, the two literal high-lights being a pair of spiralling top-edges off Russell Woolf that went pretty much straight up, only to somehow be dropped by Russ himself and Samuel, respectively. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but the real story was that the batsmen - one of whom was our very own Quentin Harmer - were taking their chances and making a game of it.
Russ finally broke the partnership off the third-last ball of the innings and then promptly bowled the new batsman next ball, leading to a crowd of fielders around the bat for the hat-trick delivery, the last of the innings. It's quite possible Russ couldn't really enthuse himself without the possibility of getting four wickets in four balls - certainly the batsman seemed untroubled in calmly blocking the ball to Eli at short mid-off . . . only to suddenly go for a crazy single. Eli rolled the ball into the stumps from a range of about three metres . . . only to miss, instead hitting Russ's foot . . . from which the ball ricocheted into the stumps, completing a team hat-trick, even if Russ had to be content with merely decent figures of 2/18. This also meant that there was no doubt about who we were going to be clapping off the ground - Felix Serby, although not (or at least not just) for his figures of 4/26, but also for his superb fielding - he patrolled the long boundary for the whole innings, combining good ground speed with howitzer-like throws that terrified the batsmen and bowlers alike. On these grounds we maybe also should have clapped off Nick Clarke as well, as he was the one other fielder to put in a top performance, making a great many fantastic stops at silly mid-off.
Nick mightn't have gotten his due adulation, but he did get something he likes much more: some juicy short balls at the start of an innings. He duly pulled two of the first three balls of our innings to the boundary, and seemed set to make short work of St Barnabas's unimposing total . . . until he was given out LBW for a brief, if entertaining, 11. John Young (12) and Andy Bell (35) struck some superb blows that would have seen us well ahead of the game if not for the fact that the good hitting was combined with some hilariously indecisive running. The main problem seemed to be that they were both hoping the other would take charge, whereas both coming a few yards up the track and then exchanging meaningful glances is not the best way to grab a quick single. The nadir came when a big drive sped past the bowler and the mid-on fielder, only to pull up on the now damp grass; the problem was that the batsmen had been ball-watching, and in the end they were lucky to get two when three and maybe even four runs were up for grabs.
In the end, as in the field, it fell to the Serbies to sort things out, Tom (19*) and Samuel (10*) who finished off our chase. Not that it was all smooth-sailing, however: at the start of the 18th over we needed just 2 runs to win, but the field had come in, possibly in the mistaken belief that 100 was the target, as opposed to the first innings score. The result was four dot balls and, given our implosion against St Barnabas in a similar position last year, a modicum of tension . . . which was destroyed when Tom pierced the field with an off-drive and the batsmen ambled up the pitch as they watched the ball . . . stop about an inch short of the boundary. There was hence one final Keystone Cops moment as the batsmen realised they needed to scamper a second run just as another sequence of relay throws was bringing the ball back to the square. A comedy run out would have been the most appropriate end, but sadly the second run was completed safely.