Remnants seems to have suffered from a record number of injuries this year: Rob Harvey, Eli Ellwood, and Joe Harvey would all have played tonight but for cricketing maladies; and both Faruk Kara and Jeff Beaumont took a little coaxing to get onto the ground today. Still, that meant we had the requisite 22 players, leaving only the problem of how to split them into two elevens. The first attempt (based on surnames) led to slightly unbalanced teams, but a second pass (this time based on given names) worked very nicely, the only minor problem being that Johns Moore and Richer straddled the divide. So that meant the Alpha Remnants, led by Daniel Mortlock, taking on the Omega Remnants, led by Paul Jordan. Despite the fact that the Alphas were a bit late in arriving, Paul, who seemed think the teams were stacked in the Alphas' favour, insisted on a proper toss, which he won, choosing to bat first. As a result we didn't even start to get going 'til almost 6:20pm, and even then the Alphas had Mihir Chandraker on as a substitute fielder until the last possible moment, Geoff Hales arriving on the field just in time for the first ball of the match.
Joe White (0/18) and Atta Rehman (2/21) got things going with tidy spells, the cricket being rather attritional early-on, possibly a result of the sapping humidity. And yet somehow pace just didn't seem to be causing the batsmen significant problems, Tom Serby (56 off 53 balls) and John Richer (14 off 16 balls) scoring with relative ease. Things proved much more difficult when the Alphas' slower bowlers were given their chance, Faruk (1/15) making the first breakthrough, after which John Moore (3/27) ran amok with his even floatier style. The clear highlight was the dismissal of a befuddled Phil Watson (10 off 14 balls), whose mis-hit drive lobbed straight into the secure hands of a gleeful Geoff Hales at mid-wicket. That was in the running for the Champagne Moment of the season, and Geoff went within a whisker of an unbackable favourite when he made a spectacular diving effort off a similar shot a few balls later, but the ball bounced out of his hands on impact.
The balance of power shifted from Alpha to Omega at around this point, Tom and new batsman Mihir Chandraker (49* off 31 balls) starting to hit with freedom and run with impunity. 111 runs came from the last 12 overs of the innings, with Mihir the star as he combined cheeky paddle shots and switch-hits with some surprising power, the latter highlighted by a huge six over the long mid-wicket boundary off Joe. There wasn't much joy for the Alphas in the field at this point, although Harvey Hughes stood out for some great stops and tireless running. Atta came back on for a last throw of the dice, and found himself on a hat-trick with one ball left in his spell; his final delivery was a little leg-side, but it could have yielded the desired wicket if only the 'keeper had gone for the catch (off a thin edge) rather than appealing forlornly for LBW.
As all assembled for the mid-match photo it was hard to assess which team was ahead in the game. The Omegas' total of 162/5 (off 22 six-ball overs) certainly looked good, but the fact that they were slightly weaker in bowling and the Alphas in batting meant that there was a certain pleasing unpredictability about what might unfold over the next hour or so.
This sense was rather borne out by the fact that the Alphas' run rate remained good throughout the whole innings, all while they were losing wickets regularly. Andy Bell (15 off 11 balls), Joe White (12 off 17 balls), Jeff Beaumont (an hilarious 10 off 4 balls that included a monster six), Atta Rehman (12 off 11 balls) and Daniel Mortlock (9 off 5 balls) all made useful cameos that kept the momentum up, but it was going to take something more than that to haul down such a big total. And, strange as it might seem, there was a calm centre of all this, Michael McCann, who'd endured a slow start - he was 6* off 14 balls at one point - before exploding into confident action, much as had against us last week. The only question was if he would run out of partners . . .
. . . and the Omega bowlers were doing a pretty good job of ensuring he did. Russell Woolf (2/24 off his new Michael Holding-style long run-up), Mihir Chandraker (2/39), Paul Jordan (1/30) and Phil Watson (1/21) all got amongst the wickets, and while Rob Barone-Nugent (0/9) didn't make a breakthrough with the ball, he did manage a superb run out thanks to an accurate throw from the long boundary. Indeed, the fielding was pretty good - at least while it was still possible to see the ball - even if Phil's attempt to catch one of Michael's bullet drives saw him off the field for an over with a badly bruised hand.
After a sudden flurry of wickets it seemed the Omegas had made the decisive surge, the Alphas having been reduced to 97/7 in the 15th over. Hitting 65 off 45 balls was going to need something beyond even what the Omega's number ten Geoff Hales was capable of . . . so it was hence rather fortunate that their number nine was one Dave Norman. He immediately started hitting the ball cleanly and powerfully and, combined with Michael's ground-speed, it was clear that the runs weren't going to be an issue - the result was going to be decided by whether the Omegas could get a wicket. With three balls remaining in the penultimate over and just 2 runs needed, Dave played a series of theatrical forward defensives, possibly in the hope that Michael might get out in the next over, giving Geoff the chance to hit the winnings runs. It was a risky strategy - Jeff helpfully pointed out that "He'll look like a real knob if we lose from here" - although in the end it wasn't too much of a surprise that the winning runs were ambled by Michael (56* off 49 balls) and Dave (41* off 21 balls) from the first ball of the final over.
That left members of both halves of the Remnants alphabet to congregate with the various walking wounded and other spectators at the bar for (more) beers. Dave Green excelled himself by asking Sarah Pelham (who hasn't played, at least for Remnants, in quite a while) if she'd "hung her bits up", and the Harveys and the Normans put in their entries for silliest dog of the year. Eventually it came time for something more substantial than beer, and so of course the Tandoori Palace once again found themselves taken over by the remnants of the Remnants vs. Remnants.