Report by Richard Rex:
Or, in the event, not quite all. As assorted past and present Remnants drifted into the Fitzwilliam College Playing Field towards 6.00pm for a 5.45pm start, it slowly became apparent to Presidential captain Richard Rex that he might be one or two players short. It also emerged that, through late closure of the transfer window, star keeper Ev Fox had moved from the President's XI to the Remnants XI for an undisclosed fee and Nick Johnson in part-exchange. Richard's attempt to save some time by negotiating the start with Remnants skipper Andy Owen (Andy, surprisingly, wished to bowl first; while Richard not only preferred but was compelled by numbers to bat first) was frustrated by the demands of ritual observance, so the two skippers went to the middle for the toss, which Richard duly lost.
Matt Samson and Nick Johnson started slowly but assuredly against Long and Ellwood, with Nick playing some particularly fine glances off his legs, but already Richard was beginning to become anxious over the batting line-up. At the end of the second over, the score was 10 without loss, but the team score was 10 Remnants facing 8 Presidentials, with the key Presidential absentee, former first-class keeper Chris Scott, eagerly awaited with a view to filling the number three slot, which recent punditry has decreed should always go to your best bat. Unfortunately, the car which then entered the ground brought not Scott but Joe White, to complete the Remnants XI. At this point Richard entered into fresh negotiations with Andy, this time over a possible redistribution of human resources. However, understandably, Joe was an integral part of Andy's bowling plans for a side whose only other regular bowlers were Alec Armstrong, Robin Eddington, Eli Ellwood, Paul Jordan, Adam Long, Julius Rix, Shoaib (Shahid, to be fair, not Akhtar), and of course Andy himself, a unit that, including Joe, has bowled but some 200 overs and taken barely 70 wickets this season. Even without Faruk Kara (58 overs and 18 wickets), in contrast, the three Presidentials who had actually bowled this year had taken 11 wickets in as few as 25 overs, and were therefore an obviously much more potent strike force.
The unfortunate absence of the Presidential super-ringer was brought to the fore when Matt (4 off 10) missed a straight one. Mike Jones, playing for the first time since last year's President's match, immediately found a good vein of form, and the score was progressing nicely at 30 when Nick was dismissed for a good 15 (off 22), caught by Long in the first over from first-change Armstrong. This brought Remnants average-leader Dave Norman (averaging 237 at that moment) to the crease, and the Presidentials sat back to enjoy the show - except for Richard, who was soon on his way to the middle when Mike (10 off 15) was bowled in Armstrong's second over. At this point, the Presidential batting order was beginning to look short: now despairing of Scott, Faruk and Dave Green were padded up, with Steve Gull last man at no. 8. Richard set his sights on staying in so that Dave Norman could pile on the runs. Richard's innings was a curious blend of ineptitude and aggression, the usual dotfest of hapless prods and wafts bizarrely punctuated by one elegant straight drive all the way along the ground for four and an even more incongruous lofted drive for six, not to cow corner but over long-on. The Presidential batting plan was almost wrecked, though, when Shoaib came on to bowl at the Windsor Road end, and Dave top-edged his second ball to extra cover. All seemed to be lost as it looped its way slowly to Andy Owen at extra cover, only for Andy uncharacteristically to fumble it. Salvation, however, was brief, as fractions of a second later his keeper reflexes had enabled him to catch the dropping ball before it reached the ground.
At this point, in the 9th over, the Presidential prospects were looking so grim that Geoff Hayles was seriously considering throwing off his umpire's coat in order to pad up. Faruk and Richard kept things going for a while, as Andy decided to take his foot off the throat by bringing on Joe White from the Huntingdon Road end now that the light would no longer permit any really pacy options. When Richard was bowled for 12 (off 15) by Andy Owen's first ball, it looked as though the Presidentials might not bat out their overs. But a cameo from Dave Green (9* off 15), which included a punchy pull to the boundary, and a measured 16 from top-scorer Faruk Kara (run out off the final ball) meant that, in the fading light, the Remnants would face a target of 92 - not a serious challenge, obviously, but enough of a chase to enable them perhaps to throw it away.
Gratefully seizing Andy's offer to allow Ev Fox to keep for both teams, the President's VIII, now a IX, went out to defend their score with two fine young substitute fielders, Shoaib and Adam Long. By one (or perhaps two) of those colourful ironies with which fate flecks the matt white walls of life, the first two catches of the innings went respectively from Julius Rix to Shoaib (at deep mid-wicket under the hedge) off Dave Norman, and from Robin Eddington to Adam (at deep mid-wicket in front of the scoreboard) off Nick Johnson. Both were dropped:
Out at deep midwicket
(Tell the tale and groan)
Hands were hard as iron
Balls fell like a stone . . .
Exhilarated by these lucky escapes, the openers put on 51 in four overs. As so often this year, Faruk Kara then took a wicket in his first over - a smart stumping by Ev Fox - to dismiss Rix (33 off 22) and bring Keith Turner to the crease. Richard took the pace off from the other end as well, and removed Eddington (25 off 22) thanks to a good catch by Matt Samson. The haemorrhage (or feast) of runs (it's all perspective) was for a while staunched (or calorie-controlled) as 51 from 4 overs became 66 from 8 and 73 from 10. But hope was in short supply on the outfield, and a compulsory double bowling change, just after Richard had accidentally bowled Keith Turner (whose solid 12 off 22, lit up by the deft sweep which he alternated with his forward defensive, would have amply qualified him for a place in the Presidential batting order) heralded the third movement of the innings. Eli now followed his ten dotballs with 7 off the next 5 before falling to Matt Samson, leaving Shoaib (2* off 8) and Adam (a no-nonsense 13* off 11) to wrap things up.