Our annual matches against Hart-McLeod have increasingly fallen into an all too predictable pattern: the game hangs in the balance until one of Graham Hart's skillfully recruited "associates" (i.e., serious club cricketers, some of whom even claim to have heard of Hart-McLeod) comes in and massacres our bowling, turning a contest into something altogether different. And the sight of huge coffins being dragged into the dressing rooms this evening certainly didn't auger well . . .
. . . but the HM opening batsmen were of an altogether different variety, as the decidedly more, er, mature Martin Law and Richard Burgess (both of whom have played for Remnants) coming out to start the scoring. Initially, at least, they were rather unsuccessful in this endeavour, Atta Rehman (1/13 off 4 overs) and Naveen Chouksey (0/7 in his opening spell of 3 overs) both bowling brilliantly. With a ring of predatory fieldsman around the bat there were just no runs on offer, as evidenced by running totals of 9/1 off 5 overs and 36/3 off 10 overs.
The wickets came thanks to a good catch by Andy Bell (putting aside The Fear after a nightmare bout of the dropsies a few weeks back) and some superb work by Samuel Serby behind the stumps: first there was a diving catch off Naveen's bowling (although there was some suspicion that the dive came after the ball had been pouched); then there was an hilarious stumping that was initially put down as a run out, so far was the batsman out of his ground. And there's only one Remnants bowler who can induce that sort of silliness: Phil Watson (1/33). Visiting Cambridge for the week, he was playing his first Remnants match since 2009. The stumping was his hundredth Remnants wicket, putting him 14th on our most wickets list.
Unfortunately, Phil's wicket also brought a second HM "young gun" to the crease, and the scoring rate increased predictably. Daniel Mortlock (1/21) was proving very easy to hit, so he took himself off and brought Andy Owen (1/34) in his place. Andy protested "They'll find me even easier to hit!", but that couldn't have been further from the truth - after a few mis-hits and edges Andy got his man, providing us with some respite. Still, there was no escaping the fact that we were generally being run ragged, and HM scored 91 runs in the second half of their innings. Our start had been good enough that the eventual total of 127/5 wasn't too scary . . .
. . . especially with the likes of Nick Clarke in our top order. Once he'd cut the second ball of our innings straight into the hands of the delighted gully fielder, however, the general sense was that we were going to struggle, and indeed we did. Our start was every bit as soporific as HM's had been, as Michael McCann (16 off 30 balls), Tom Serby (14 off 20 balls) and Andy Bell (8 off 10 balls) struggled to deal with the slow, low-bouncing deliveries. After 10 overs we were 39/3 - comparable to HM, but without quite the same middle order firepower.
Still, we did at least accelerate towards respectability. Phil Watson (4 off 3 balls) started his innings with a beautiful late-cut but finished it just two balls later; Andy Owen (35 off 27 balls) essayed some dismissive pulls, one of which was the game's only six; and John Young (18* off 25 balls) used his long strides to nab some quick singles and twos. If only we'd been able to play with this sort of adventurousness all innings we might have won (even if there was a sense that HM had held some of their better bowlers in reserve).
Aside from the standard post-match beer, there was the unprecedented innovation of post-match food, Graham Hart having hired a fish'n'chip van to come to the ground to feed the faithful. The general verdict was that the chips were every bit as good as their web-site isn't, and so all our hard work running around the cricket field was undone as we gorged ourselves on some delightfully unhealthy food.