Fitz was a lonely place at 6pm evening. In part this was due to the westerly gale that tore across the ground all evening and had everyone cowering in the pavilion whenever possible. But the main reason was that there was no opposition: the only ARM player present was our own Grant Kennedy, a last-minute emergency we'd provided when they let us know they only had nine players. The rest of his new team-mates did arrive soon afterwards in a three-car convoy, but we the match didn't begin until half an hour after the scheduled start, a potentially critical loss of time - and light - this early in the season.
Having finally made it out onto the field, we started disastrously, Naveen Chouksey (0/20) sending down three leg-side wides before finally making the batsman play (and giving the umpire's arms a rest). After that, though, we - and Naveen, in particular - got into something of a groove. Faruk Kara (2/19) flighted the ball brilliantly into the wind and Josh Nall took two superbly judged catches off the sorts of lofted shots that we were all practicing while waiting for the opposition to arrive. We hence restricted a pretty sharp-looking top order - that included Grant - to 44/2 off 7 (eight-ball) overs. A repeat performance in the second half of the innings would do very nicely.
But we weren't able to do that, as the ARM middle order took a liking to our bowling - particularly the poor sods who were made to toil into the wind - and they scored at roughly double the rate they had in the first half of their innings. Shoahib Shahid (1/31) did well when he flighted the ball, but was too often tempted into sending down quicker, flatter deliveries - the curse of the IPL strikes again? Daniel Mortlock (3/27) got smacked around, one huge six clearing the long straight boundary by a good 20 metres, but also induced one of several candidates for strangest wicket of the evening: the ARM captain came down the track and either hit the ground with his bat or got a thin edge; whatever, the ball ended up nestled in 'keeper Cam Petrie's gloves. Cam appealed with complete conviction; the umpire remained unmoved. But the batsman was so far down the track he just kind of gave up, and was already heading towards the pavilion by the time Cam completed the most incongruous of stumpings. Despite Paul Jordan's economical spell of 0/13, ARM, with a total of 135, were clearly the happier team at the change of innings; probably our biggest achievement was getting through our overs in an hour flat.
Our chase never really got going. Of the top five batsmen only Cam Petrie (13 off 10 balls) got into double figures. Our biggest partnership was the 24 that Josh Nall (13 off 23 balls) and Naveen Chouksey (10 off 24 balls) put on for the 6th wicket. They were brought together as the result of a horrific "yes, no, yes, no, sorry" run out that saw Shoaib Shahid's promising innings cut short, and it was assumed that the running couldn't get any worse . . . but that was to reckon without Naveen going out to bat in a pair of wrap-around ear-warmers that kept him insulated not only from the cold but also his partner's calls. This wasn't the only form of self-hampering on offer, either: John Moore (2 off 8 balls), fresh from being triggered last week, was the subject of a huge LBW appeal which the umpire declined; but then John made the mistake of going for a sharp leg bye, meaning he got close enough for said umpire to ask him whether he'd got an inside edge. John said he had not . . . and so the umpire raised his finger. (Most people's instinct seemed to be that this was perhaps an overly generous gesture by the batsman, although it's not so different from walking after getting a thin edge to the 'keeper.)
By the 10-over mark we'd given up on our pursuit of ARM's total, so the only option was to ensure that we didn't get bowled out. To this end missing quick singles was no longer an issue, which made it all the more strange when we instead went for ultra-slow-motion singles in which the batsmen ambled to the other end with the languid feel of Kubrick's astronauts in 2001: A Space Odyssey, several times turning easy singles into heart-in-mouth moments. Still, we had the ultra-experienced trio of Kara, Jordan and Mortlock (878 Remnants games between them) at 9, 10 and jack, and surely they'd be able to ensure that dignity was preserved, especially when Faruk and Paul had survived 'til the half-way point of the last over. Nope: two wickets in three balls meant that we'd been bowled out for the first time since June 2013.
Our eight-match winning streak to finish 2014 has well and truly been relegated to the distant past. The averages make for rather grim reading, with Joe White the only bowler with more than 1 wicket to be going for less than 6 an over and no batsman with even 50 runs to their name (Shoaib Shahid being closest, with 48 - but even that has taken three innings). So we must hope for a deluge of runs and wickets tomorrow evening . . . although the best bet is that the match will be decided by a deluge of a more meteorological nature.