After torrential rain all yesterday, through the night and into this morning, it seemed that this year's President's XI match was likely to be added to the worryingly long "cancelled" list. A rather pessimistic text to Dave Norman this morning ("Any chance of play this evening?") received the bullishly positive response "the game will be on this evening." And so it turned out. The match started (at, miraculously, 5:48pm) with Remnants going out to bat under threatening grey clouds, but by the time the President's XI got their chance there was glorious, if rather horizontal, sunshine.
The match began with a Rex-athon, Ferdi (1/17) bowling at Richard (16 off 26 balls) and Olly (65 off 53 balls), a battle that was pretty even, although everyone but Ferdi seemed to delight in Richard's enormous lofted on drive that landed only a few feet inside the long boundary. (The fact that the soft ground stopped the ball a few inches inside the line was beside the point.) Remnants progressed steadily as the President's retinue of slow bowlers proved difficult to get away on the soft pitch. Most successful of these was "special guest" (i.e., ringer) Chris Scott, who took a tidy 1/5 with his perfectly-pitched offies. His success was maybe predictable once it was revealed that he was an ex-First Class player; but the gulf between that level and ours is maybe illustrated even more by the fact that he was a 'keeper with a couple of centuries to his name, and had sent down just 26 deliveries in 129 First Class matches.
Things livened up a bit during the second half of the Remnants innings. The bowling got a bit quicker, with the late-arriving Joe White (0/15) coming on first change, which meant the batsmen finally started to time the ball. And then we had umpiring controversy as a head-high full toss from Mike Jones (1/8) was allowed as a legitimate delivery and then a huge wide, off which Ev Fox made a superb stumping, was also not called the very next ball. The crowd, having now found its voice, also found a cause, which was trying to get a seemingly oblivious Dave Williams (25 off 27 balls) to try some adventurous second runs, but he wouldn't be moved, seemingly ambling the first run even more casually as a response. The action only increased in the final over, as Mihir Chandraker (10* off 6 balls) scored off every delivery he faced, Dave was caught and bowled by Ferdi, and John Young (1 off 1 ball) was run out going for, yes, an adventurous second run. This was off the penultimate delivery of the innings, but Paul Jordan, who was next in, was convinced the innings was done and so was putting his pads away, rather than on, when the wicket fell. That left Daniel Mortlock to pick up a bat, walk out to the middle without pads or gloves, stand at the non-striker's end for about 20 seconds, and then walk back to the pavilion after Mihir smashed the last ball of the innings to the boundary.
124 to win off 14 eight-ball overs seemed a pretty big ask in the conditions, and so it turned out. Other than John Richer (16 off 12 balls) and Phil Watson (20 off 15 balls), none of the President's XI top order made it into double figures, and the others also scored fairly slowly as well. With Robin Eddington (1/5, with surprising bounce off the dead pitch), Daniel Mortlock (3/7, having belatedly dusted off the wrist-spin) Mihir Chandraker (1/9, the "1" coming from an LBW that only the bowler thought to appeal for), Paul Jordan (1/16, bowling fellow Remnant stalwart with his first ball) and John Moore (1/22, despite two dropped catches) all economical and penetrating, it's not too surprising that the contest was over by about the half-way point of the innings. And it could have been even worse, as Remnants had two consecutive fielding refusals. The first was when Olly got a hand to an outside edge at gully, resulting in the ball stopping about half-way between him and Richard at point; both assumed the other was going to fetch the ball, but neither did and so the batsmen quickly nabbed a single while all eleven fielders and the ball were stationary. Then, next ball, the batsmen played a solid, if mis-timed, pull that was out of John Young's reach at short mid-wicket; he'd made a valiant attempt to get the ball and so that was that . . . until he was reminded that there was nobody behind him and it was his job to chase it down. Despite such absurdities, the runs if anything dried up further, while the wickets started to flow, and by the end of the 12th over, with the score on a dismal 66/7, a real thrashing was on the cards.
Even the recent arrival of the potentially destructive Ferdi Rex at the crease didn't seem likely to be too significant, given that his first two legitimate deliveries had yielded just a gentle single off Daniel and then a dot from the new bowler, Andy Owen (0/21). At which point the fireworks went off. The next ball was pulled high to the cow corner boundary, where Mihir was waiting under it . . . but he went too far under and ended up spilling what, for someone who'd just gotten a game in Granta's first team, should have been a straightforward catch. Then Ferdi tried essentially the same shot, except this time the ball went higher and bisected Mihir and Daniel on the boundary: Daniel called for the catch, so Mihir slowed down . . . except it was actually Mihir who could have made it, if he'd been given the green light. Three balls later an even bigger leg-side hoik went a few feet above Daniel's outstretched hands - although Andy did get revenge of sorts when he struck Ferdi in the, er, upper thigh region. Daniel was all set to bowl the final over (not that he realised it was the final over) until someone suggested that Richard should do the honours, to book-end the match with a second Rex vs. Rex battle. This time honours were definitely not shared as, once Joe White (2* off 2 balls) had knocked a single to give Ferdi the strike, we got 4 6 2 6 6 . 4, two of the sixes going over the pavilion and the third almost clearing the bar. The dot was at least some sort of victory for Richard, as he beat the advancing Ferdi and presented 'keeper Josh Nall with a tough stumping chance. And the final "4" wasn't a boundary at all, but a 30-second piece of cricketing mayhem: Ferdi hit a late-cut into the vacant off-side; Josh was closest to the ball, but decided not to leave the stumps, leaving Mihir to race around to pick the ball up with the batsmen considering a third run. They went for it and Mihir hurled the ball to the bowler's end, where it beat Ferdi to the stumps by a few yards. The only problem was that it beat the stumps as well, and the bowler, who'd assumed it was going to hit. So that batsmen were able to scramble a fourth run, and were even starting to consider a fifth until Andy, rather disappointingly, threw in a gentle throw that couldn't possibly have gone for another overthrow. Ferdi thus had to be content with 44* off 15 eventful deliveries, while Richard (0/29) was presumably at least pleased that there was no possibility of having to bowl a second over.
With the cricket done it was time for the drinking and the eating. The latter came in two parts: first we had a match-long BBQ as Catherine Owen cooked up the food that had been slated for yesterday's washed out six-a-side tournament. And then the stayers headed off to the Tandoori Palace for dessert (and, possibly, a second dinner).