In a week in which cricket once again demonstrated its superiority to football it was rather ironic that Remnants had just the one match, it having been assumed that the nation in general (and Cambridge's cricketers in particular) would have been obsessing about the England football team's final group game on Tuesday. Whereas no one really gave a toss about the footy - England were already out after two turgid defeats, and a near-shotless 0-0 draw with Costa Rica summed things up nicely - cricket fans had several hours of uninterupted knife-edge tension as Moeen Ali and James Anderson battled 'til the final over of the day to deny Sri Lanka the one wicket they'd needed for victory.
Still, most of us would much rather be actually playing sport, and that's what some 24 Remnants got to do this evening. Not only that, but we also raised £300 for the Addenbrookes Oncology Department, part of a broader fund-raising campaign to honour the memory of club legend Andy Brown, who had died earlier this year. Andy's wife, Lorna, and son, erstwhile Remnant Daniel, were both in attendance at Fitz, as were a number of other Remnants regulars from the '80s and '90s, such as Colin Anderson, Nigel Atkinson, Les Collings, Richard Fisher, Steve Gull and Phil Watson. The evening began with Geoff Hales saying a few words about Andy, noting in particular his remarkable record of having taken 181 wickets in 187 Remnants games despite never having an ounce of luck. Andy's spirit lived on tonight's teams as well, with The 'Andy Men (led eponymously by Andy Owen) taking on Mrs Brown's Boys (including Mrs Brown's boy, Daniel, playing for the first time since late 2011, and led by his namesake Daniel Mortlock).
The 'Andy Men quickly got the upper hand, their varied attack of Jeff Beaumont (0/4) and Phil Watson (0/8) proving near impossible to get away, as Faruk Kara (7 off 18 balls) and Dave Williams (5* off 16 balls at this stage, before accelerating to 40 off 49 balls) did a fair bit of flailing early on. With the total at a near-fatal 46/2 after 11 (six-ball overs) it was going to take something quite remarkable to post a competitive total; if such inspiration was going to come from anywhere then best bet is that it would be from the bat of Remnants first-timer Johnny Atkinson (son of Nigel, but known around these parts mainly as a destroyer of our hard-earned bowling figures for either Granta or Hart-McLeod). Sure enough, he started hitting the ball far harder than anyone else had been able to, at least until he came up against the one other player on the pitch to have played for Granta I, Dave Norman. It was as even a battle as any of the others in the game, but at a rather different level - think of the two Terminators wrestling at the start of Terminator II: Judgement Day and you'll get the sense of it. Dave (0/14) seemed to have had his man when Johnny's pull shot failed to make it over Julius Rix on the square-leg boundary, and even when the ball poppped out of his hands it didn't seem to have gone far enough to be safe . . . but Julius was briefly disoriented and the ball went to ground.
In the end Andy Owen (1/9) did get Johnny caught (for 25 off 17 balls), Jeff taking a superbly-judged catch, presumably going someway to erasing the memory of his earlier nightmare as a sequence of top-edged pulls landed just out of (or in one case within) his reach. Despite Julius Rix's near-perfect spell of 2/3, Mrs Brown's Boys almost made it to respectibility, as Daniel Brown (14* off 14 balls, including a boundary off the first delivery he'd faced in four years) and Michael McCann (17 off 20 balls) both batted with the energy that had been lacking earlier. The final total of 120/6 might even have convinced the casual spectator that it was an evenly-poised game, were it not for the fact that we were playing a 22-over match (i.e., a semi-Malik).
The 'Andy Men openers looked set to make mincemeat of the target initially, Julius Rix (9 off 11 balls) and Andy Bell (10 off 15 balls) easily matching the required rate, before some hyper-accurate slower bowling brought them - and their team-mates - under control. The stars here were Alec Armstrong (2/13), Johnny Atkinson (0/14 off his first 3 overs) and Faruk Kara (1/9 off his first 2 overs). Indeed, after 11 overs, The 'Andy Men's total of 44/4 was, incredibly, worse than Mrs Brown's Boys' at the same stage, and with 77 needed off 66 balls, it was even tempting to think that the game was perfectly poised for a grandstand finish . . .
. . . were it not for the fact that the fall of the fourth wicket meant Dave Norman was striding to the crease - suddenly the required rate of 7.00 an over suddenly seemed very small. At least it meant we got a Terminator sequel, this time Johnny testing Dave with his off-spinners rather than the other way around. The critical moment came when Dave tried to pull a low full-toss - never the easiest balls to get away - and hit it flat to Olly Rex, standing almost exactly where Julius had been when he'd dropped Dave earlier in the day. The difference this time was that Olly calmly stepped back to brace himself and took the ball superbly . . . except that step back had put his foot right on the boundary line. (There was a suggestion that Dave had marked a little indent just at this point, but no further evidence of this has been forthcoming.)
Mrs Brown's Boys then resorted to the sort of negative tactics that has the cricketing world so excited about Alastair Cook's approach to captaincy: with Dave seeming to be undsimissable and uncontainable, they tried to contain (or even dismiss) his partner, Richard Rex. Every few deliveries would see the field placings expand and contract, like a eleven-man lung, as Daniel Mortlock (0/9) in particular found a way to restrict the batsmen to dots and ones. The justification of this approach was that the game did at least seem set to go into a final over: with 3 needed off 7 balls Paul Jordan (0/30) was bowling to Richard, who, in turn, had failed to score from any of his previous 13 deliveries, and so another dot seemed the best bet. However, the folly - or at least risk - of the whole approach was revealed when Richard's fairly innocuous pull went just over (or was it though?) his son Olly's outstretched hands at square leg and all the way to the boundary. Dave (61* off 32 balls) and Richard (28* off 52 balls) were deservedly clapped from the ground, having put together an 83-run partnership that was the dominant single element in a game during which 22 players either batted or bowled (or both).
After that it was simply a case of: eat, drink and be merry! We polished off all of the Owens' burgers and sausages (which raised fully a third of the night's charity funds), emptied the 36-pint barrel of Pegasus behind the bar and then even tucked into a magnificent surplus chocolate cake for good measure. The sun set, the food vanished (although mass was conserved) and the faithful gradually drifted towards their homes; but one suspects the convivial atmosphere of evenings like this one will live on as long as there are Remnants playing cricket.