Being a new opponent for Remnants, it was hard to know what to expect from the Institute of Public Health; what was not expected, however, was to arrive at the ground to find one of their players smoking. Dave Williams later noted that if nobody was nearby then it presumably wasn't a violation, although maybe this was just to try and draw attention away from the fact that he'd arrived at the ground with not just his cricket gear, but a roll of toilet paper as well.
Things then got a bit more sensible - and a bit more familiar - as we had the usual negotiation about retirements and extra balls: we settled on "normal" rules for tonight's game, with the understanding that we'd do things IPH's way when they host us at Queens' College in August. Our opponents were also accommodating in letting us bat first on the grounds that - yawn! - we only had seven players present at 6pm. It's hard to knock this as a strategy when it's been so successful in giving us a head start, but we really should actually get to the ground on time.
Our low numbers was an excuse to start things off with an all-Serby partnership, dad Tom and son Samuel heading out to get the scoreboard ticking over. Technically they succeeded, but only in the rather unsatisfactory manner of getting a "1" put up in the wickets column: Tom struggled against good bowling from IPH's opening bowler, playing out five dots before cutting the sixth ball to the point fielder. From that rather dismal start we gradually took control of the game, as Samuel Serby (36 off 37 balls) and Dave Williams (62 off 44 balls) put together a superb century partnership. Samuel kept darting down the pitch, apparently looking to drive, only to change to a glance or late-cut at the last minute, and of course he ran with the speed and enthusiasm that one might naturally expect of a 13-year-old. Dave played a rather different game, based primarily on the fact that he had the strength to hit the bad balls to - or over - the boundary. Their two contrasting skill-sets combined beautifully at one point when Dave rocked back to pull a slow ball way over the long square boundary; he held his pose only to find Samuel standing right beside him even before the ball had crashed into the distant fencing.
Dave was eventually dismissed when he went for another big pull, only to top edge the ball straight up in the air; the 'keeper took evasive action and clearly had no idea where the ball was until it slapped into his gloves, the impact causing them to close up and complete the most fortuitous of catches. That left us at a very healthy 100/2 in the 15th over, from which we managed an eventual 139/6 - hardly a bad total, and something of an acceleration, but of the middle order only Andy Bell (10 off 13 balls) made it into double figures and only Joe White (7* off 4 balls) scored at more than a run a ball.
It was tempting to convince ourselves we had IPH out-gunned in the bowling department, and openers Joe White (0/15) and Faruk Kara (0/21) both induced plenty of false shots. Unfortunately, all the chances they generated went to ground, and enough loose balls were offered up that the IPH openers were able to hit a boundary or two from most overs. Andy Owen (2/15) grabbed the only early wicket when Samuel Serby completed a superbly elegant stumping, but the IPH number three picked up where the opener had left off. Despite some superb fielding by the likes of John Young, Rob Harvey and Andy, IPH were a worryingly healthy 91/1 in the 16th over - and it seemed quite plausible (if not quite likely) that the incumbent batsmen could hit 49 runs from the next 27 balls.
What we needed was a wicket; what we got was four of them. The first breakthrough came when Andy induced yet another top edge that at first seemed it might land between the off-side fielders. Daniel Mortlock called for it and, for once, the other nearby fielders instantly held back, allowing Daniel to completely misjudge the flight of the spinning ball, sheer luck alone accounting for the fact he ended up holding the ball between his right little finger and his left wrist. Suitably emboldened, Daniel then brought himself onto bowl at the new batsmen in the now rather gloomy conditions; thanks to a superb diving catch off an inside edge by Samuel and the honest umpire upholding a plumb LBW appeal he suddenly found himself on a hat-trick. The initial idea was try a wrong-un for the third ball, but it would have taken too much time getting the keeper's helmet, and so another straight dart was sent down . . . which the poor batsman tried his best to see, but only heard as it crashed into the stumps. Hat trick duly completed, Daniel then turned to wrist spin, with the result that the batsmen started scoring a lot more freely off him (presumably because these deliveries were slow enough to see in the dark), although his eventual figures of 3/13 were still pretty respectable.
After all those wickets we just needed to finish the job. Dave Williams (1/2) continued his golden run with ball, after which Rob Harvey got to conclude the innings. Worryingly, it seemed Rob was going to go wicketless until Geoff stepped in and called his sixth delivery as a wide (although Geoff's explanation was the rather more prosaic "It was wide."), and so Rob promptly bowled the batsman with the final ball of the innings, to give him figures of 1/7, tail-ending a collapse of 6/18 by IPH.
After what we had an impromptu presentation ceremony outside the bar. Dave and Daniel provided jugs to celebrate their day's achievements and Geoff presented Samuel with the man of the match award (a half-pint of lemonade) for his adventurous batting and superb 'keeping. There was also a retrospective presentation to Tom Serby who, back in 2008, took 6/15 against The Pretty Boys, the fourth best Remnants bowling figures at the time. Daniel had kept the match ball with the intention of awarding it at that year's annual dinner, but ended up forgetting about it; the ball hence rolled around in various junk drawers for the best part of five years, before finally being presented this evening.