Report by Olly Rex:
If you asked anyone who they thought would win a match between a team called "Remnants" and a team called "Sharks" you'd imagine that they would probably opt for the latter. Indeed when you went on to tell them that these so-called Sharks had already beaten the Remnants this season, and in fact everyone else they have played as well, they'd probably feel that their hunch had been vindicated. With the odds against us it was good that Remnants started off with a bit of luck, as not only did the opposition arrive with only ten players, but their captain called incorrectly and Remnants captain Olly Rex opted to bat first under clear blue skies.
Luck is only going to get you so far in cricket, though, and in general you have to play well whether luck is on your side or not. Fortunately, Remnants began by doing just that, with openers Robin Eddington and Tom Serby taking a healthy 14 off the opening 8-ball over. The bowler was suffering from a rare case of giving the new ball a little too much opportunity to swing, as he sent down - or rather up - three or four high full tosses, all of which must have had Geoff Hales's arm twitching at square leg. Both batsmen were already seeing the ball beautifully, possibly because it was often arriving fairly close to their eyes, and after 5 overs we had raced to a very satisfying 51/0, with both Robin and Tom looking well set for big scores. Alas a compulsory retirement rule had been agreed by the captains before the game, meaning that at this point Robin had to walk off for a classy, if unfulfilled, 27* (off 18 balls). Tom, nearing his own retirement, was joined at the crease by his son Felix, and at this point the bowling markedly improved. This had many Remnants on the boundary speculating as to whether some clever tactic was being employed to minimise the contribution of our best batsmen. Quite how or why this would work was unclear; but, whether or not Sharks had any such plan, the scoring did slow down as both Serbies (Serbys?) [Serbii - ed.] did their best to combat some tight bowling. Fortunately there were enough singles that the scoring did not dry up too dramatically, and Tom soon reached his own retirement (27* off 29 balls), bringing Eli Ellwood to the crease.
Eli and Felix continued the good work against some more tight bowling, both running hard between the wickets and thus making sure that we got full value for all of our shots. Equally crucial as the good running was the consistent supply of extras, and with 2 runs on offer for every wide or no-ball the odd lapse in concentration from a bowler was enough to turn an otherwise sub-par over for the batsman into something more respectable. Eli soon fell for 6 (off 12 balls), but Felix had played himself in now, and he started to play more aggressively, coming down the pitch to one delivery and smashing it almost all the way for 6, only for the ball to drop just short of the midwicket boundary. He was particularly strong off the front foot throughout and soon drove his way to a fine 25* (off 33 balls), and the third retirement of our innings. All we needed now was a late surge and we would end up with a strong total.
Unfortunately the only such surge came in the wickets column. Josh Nall (2 off 6 balls) was run out trying to poach another cheeky single, and the next two overs, the 13th and 14th of the innings, contained just one boundary each. Ev Fox was then bowled first ball of the last over by an arm ball from the Sharks' impressive left arm spinner and Henry Rex fell in an identical manner to the very next ball. To make matters worse it was only at this point that Olly, the non-striker, realised that the next two batsmen in the batting order were umpiring and at deep square leg respectively, meaning that Alec Armstrong and Faruk had to race to see who could get padded up first as an innovative new approach was taken to creating a batting order. Alec won the race, and soon found he had to do even more running, as he (2* off 2 balls) and Olly (11* off 9 balls) scampered as many as they could to try to atone for the fact that the ball seemed to be magnetically attracted to the fielder at cow corner (or, at least, that the opposition captain had realised where they were aiming every time). This left Remnants with a distinctly sub-par 125, and the prospect of another defeat to Sharks was on the cards.
The Remnants bowling started off well, though, and we were perhaps unlucky that it took until the third over for the first wicket to fall. The batsmen were swinging to leg every ball, and it was only a matter of time before they missed. Fortunately when one of them finally did Robin Eddington did not, and we were underway. Eli then got a deserved wicket the very next over, with Henry Rex doing a passable impression of his father as he took a solid catch at square leg, and Remnants were back in the game. The batsmen were unperturbed by the wickets, though, and continued to attack, the result being that the next three overs, from Eli and Alec Armstrong, went for 13, 13 and 15 respectively. The Sharks' opener had by now reached 25, although the rules agreed earlier meant that he had until the end of the over to cause maximum havoc before having to walk off. He was unable to capitalise, though, as Alec tempted him down the ground and he was smartly stumped by Ev. Eli (1/19 from 3 very tight overs) was replaced by Chris Martin, but the new batsman was the very same left hander who had taken 3/22 earlier. Sure enough, and unfortunately for Chris, he turned out to be every bit as good a batsman, meaning that the over went for 12. The game had reached a crucial stage now, and it was imperative that Remnants bowled and fielded well for the rest of the game, since at 75/3 off 8 overs Sharks were clearly in control.
Faruk Kara came on next, under instructions to produce some magic. He bowled a good first over but was unlucky to go for 8 runs, and when Olly Rex's first over went for 12, including one shot that nearly took his head off, Sharks found themselves sitting pretty at 95/3 off 10. They needed just 31 runs of 40 balls to win, and the game looked as good as over. Except that is, to Faruk, who proceeded to mount a one-man rescue mission to bring us back into the match. He bowled with an impeccable line and length, beating the outside edge time and time again as all the batsmen, including the left-hander, found him all but unplayable. Off the next 8 balls two clattered into the stumps, and a fantastic over meant that the game was not yet up.
The batsmen clearly frustrated, and as a result in the next over they went for a hugely optimistic run to Robin Eddington at point. Robin did not rush the throw, nor did he go for glory with the direct hit, but instead lobbed the ball calmly to Olly, who was able to break the wickets with the batsman well short of his ground. Thus at the end of the over another wicket had fallen and, to make matters better, the set batsman had to retire having reached his 25*. Faruk was in his zone now and suddenly scoring runs seemed to be all but impossible. The batsmen were generally unable to penetrate the infield and, when they did, they only found Felix Serby, Eli Ellwood and Josh Nall, who had been tasked with patrolling boundaries. Faruk finished his superb spell (2/13 from 3 overs) and Sharks now needed 20 off 16 balls. In other words, Remnants were actually winning.
Olly's next over went for just 7, and when his last ball cannoned off the front pad of the more aggressive batsman and onto his leg stump Sharks were left needing 13 off the last balls. Robin Eddington was summoned to finish his spell, but at first struggled a little for his line. The first four balls went for 8, including the first boundary for almost four overs, and the equation was suddenly looking a whole lot bleaker, at least for us. Robin kept his nerve, though, and went on to deliver four almost perfect deliveries. He beat the bat on three occasions and, to make things even better, kept the line outside off stump. This ensured that the opposition's star player, who was standing padded up in the pavilion eager to come back and continue his knock, got no such opportunity.
With a second win of the week in the bag, and a particularly satisfying one at that, it was great that most of the Remnants hung around for a drink or two afterwards in the bar. Conversation was varied, ranging from Tom Serby's best bowling figures for the club [6/15 - ed.] to Dave Norman's duck at the Oval and even Michael Atherton's alleged lack of coaching skills.