For the third time this year the weather forecast was the most vindictive possible: dry (if cloudy) all day . . . but solid rain from precisely 6pm. Yet somehow the fat raindrops on the BBC's weather web-site just didn't seem as if they meant it in quite the same way as they had the other week. And while it was far from the perfect summer evening, the occasional drizzle that did arrive was never enough to halt play.
Remnants batted first, once again opening up with what Dave Williams has taken to calling the legal firm of Serby & Serby. Samuel (9 off 11 balls) was quickest out of the blocks, carressing a TV-worthy leg-glance to the boundary in the first over, but Tom (13 off 21 balls) seemed to rather struggle with the lack of pace and bounce in the pitch. Our middle order then largely did okay, Julius Rix (26 off 21 balls) and Naveen Chouksey (14 off 14 balls) both hitting some nice boundaries, as well as fending off the disturbingly frequent beamers. We could, however, have been scoring a bit more rapidly if the running had been a little more enterprising, with a few basics being neglected, as evidenced by the above photo. We were getting a running commentary on all this from sometime Remnant Michael McCann, who was stationed just in front of the pavilion for most of the innings - he was insisting that there's "always a run if you hit the ball" which, while obviously not absolutely true, is certainly the sort of attitude to take into a twenty-over knock-about.
After 14 (six-ball) overs we were just 83/5 and damnably close to being in real trouble. And given that the incumbent batsmen, Olly Rex and Daniel Mortlock, were just 2* off 7 and 10 balls, respectively, some dot-heavy overs seemed all too plausible. Happily, they both sorted themselves out, as 63 runs were scored from the last 6 overs. Daniel (24 off 24 balls) and Olly (30 off 22 balls) both got bowled in the final push, but Felix Serby (6* off 4 balls) and Faruk Kara (1* off 2 balls) kept up the momentum 'til the end. Our final total of 146/7 was our highest first innings total of the year, and felt likely to be a winning one in the dark and heavy conditions.
And it would easily have been if we could have bowled all our 20 overs from the tennis court end: a strong wind, blowing left-to-right as seen from the pavilion, had arrived between innings, and our main problem seemed to be that nobody wanted to bowl into what was approaching a gale from the other end. The eventual figures back this up: we conceded runs at the rate of 5.00 an over with the wind and 9.60 an over against. Naveen Chouksey (0/12) got first use of the wind and was superb, once again delivering a fast spell of nastily slingy yorkers that kept the Fen Ditton openers in check. From the other end it was a bit "mix and match", although we started sufficiently well that, combined with some superb stops close in by Matt Hughes and good work on the boundary by Felix Serby, we'd restriced Fen Ditton to just 15/1 after 5 overs.
But the tide of the game changed in the next hour or so. Our fielding went from solid to lifeless and unthreatening, and we seemed to have discovered an innovative approach to placement that meant our field was enitrely full of gaps. The bowling wasn't bad, but the batsmen mostly played it with ease, either nurdling a single or going for a boundary off most balls. This (correct) approach had the knock-on effect that when we did get the edge - which happened rather a lot - it flew, either to a fielder (in which case it was dropped) or, more often, into one of these seemingly endless gaps. We did put down a few sitters, as well as some more difficult chances, most notably when Matt reached out to try and catch a hard-hit pull, only to take a blow on the wrist that was sufficient to see him sitting out the rest of the game. Remnants highlights were few and far between - the only wicket we got was when 'keeper Samuel Serby managed a direct-hit run out when the batsmen tried a drop-and-run - although Julius Rix chased tirelessly in the deep (despite at one point being told to "field where that dog is having a shit");
To add insult to injury, most of the damage was being done by Michael McCann, who'd been rewarded for his tireless efforts on the boundary by being given the opening slot. Despite slipping about crazily in his flat-soled trainers, he was running us off our feet (i.e., he was practicing what he'd earlier preached) and by the 15th over was one short of his half-century. Faruk Kara (0/12) successfully cramped him for room and Michael obliged by hitting a chance straight to cover . . . but the ball went to ground and we had our innings summed up in microcosm: we were scrabbling around to get the ball back to the bowler while the batsman was soaking up the enthusiastic applause from his teammates (and the rather more grudgling applause from us).
After scoring 110 runs from the last 11 overs, Fen Ditton had made it to 125/2 after 16 overs, and needed just 22 runs off 24 balls with 8 wickets in hand. It was time to throw the dice and bring back the opening bowlers in the hope of getting a wicket or five . . . which, in short we didn't, although the result was almost as good. Daniel Mortlock (2/14) gave himself use of the wind and conceded just 4 and 2 runs from the 17th and 19th overs, respsectively, while also getting rid of Mr McCann thanks to a solid catch from Faruk. More importantly (and impressively), Naveen came back on into the wind and conceded just 5 runs from his final over. That meant Fen Ditton needed a still decidedly gettable - but no longer trivial - 10 runs off the final 6 balls . . .
. . . and we needed to find someone to labour into the wind one last time. In the end it fell to Olly Rex - perhaps not the obvious choice, given that his first over had gone for 13, but more than half those runs came from outside edges so it seemed reasonable to hope that the batsmen's luck on that score would finally run out. And, after Olly's first four balls yielded just 5 runs, it seemed that poetic justice was to be served: he got the edge once again with his fifth ball, but this time the ball went more vertical than horizontal, and the point fielder was clearly going to be able to get to it. Disregarding the wicked spin on the ball, the fielder ran in a few yards, steadied himself in the right position, prepared to absorb the shock of the impact . . . and dropped the catch. Still, no matter, the batsmen had only run one . . . but suddenly they saw the chance to go for the second, with the fielder still unsure where the ball was. And then, criminally, we all sort of ambled towards the ball and the batsmen started scampering a third which, in the panic of a bad throw and a fumbled take, they managed. So, rather than having a new batsman on strike needing a boundary just to tie, we were faced with the challenge of saving a single if we were to win and preventing a second to avoid losing. The former proved impossible - good as Olly's final ball was, the batsmen were through for the tieing run before Naveen even got his hands on the ball. But that was that - no second run and a tie that 15 minutes earlier we probably would have taken if offered (and, judging from their match report, was good enough for Fen Ditton too).