Report by Daniel Mortlock:
Recent President's XI games haven't quite lived up to their promise as an end-of-season celebration of evening cricket, a combination of poor weather and non-appearing players leading to games that haven't exactly gone down in club lore. Tonight, though, felt like it would be different, mainly because it was an absolutely glorious evening, and genuinely hot; this, in turn, seemed to have lured out lots of spectators, with Les Collings, Russell Woolf, Rog Shelley, Bettina Rex, Denise Owen, Helen Norman and Atta Rehman all coming by to soak up the rays and watch the game unfold. Watching rather more closely were two properly attired umpires, President Geoff Hales being joined by his colleague Christopher Dean to adjudicate over the whole match. A knock-on effect was that the rest of us - at least those in whichever team was batting - were freed up to make regular visits to the bar.
And it wasn't just off the field that things were looking good, as we also had two monster batting line-ups were set to lock horns, secure in the knowledge that the pitch was, as it has been all season, full of runs. Largely for this reason we settled on retirements at 40, a policy that was vindicated as the evening went on - all but two players got to bowl, bat or keep - as well as playing a significant role in the result.
Remnants took rather well to being inserted, the opening pair of Mihir Chandraker (40* off 29 balls) and Dave Williams (7 off 10 balls) racing to 33/0 after 3.1 (eight-ball) overs. It was at this very moment that Remnants captain Daniel Mortlock grumbled to Fitz groundsman Dave Norman, fielding near the boundary, that there was just nothing the wicket for bowlers this year . . . at which point Matt Voutt (1/25 on Remnants debut) got the ball to seam the bat and into the stumps. Dave's was all set to enjoy his "told you so" moment but Daniel had mysteriously vanished into the dressing rooms.
Unfortunately for the President's XI, this wicket did nothing to curtail the scoring rate, as Mihir and James Crozier (42* off 24 balls) both raced to retirement and Chris Badger (29 off just 13 balls in his first innings for, rather than against, Remnants) was on pace to outscore both of them before being stumped off (or was it bowled by?) Phil Watson. (1/31). With the total now 134/2 after 12 overs Remnants seemed all set to make it past the target mark of 150, but that was to reckon without the remarkable efforts of Paul Jordan. No, not with the ball, but with the bat - in the midst of all this rampant scoring Paul made the strange decision to have an extended net, blocking his way to 10* off 22 balls, and even offering up an elegant leave off the third last ball of the innings (which was bowled by the President's XI captain Richard Rex, who conceded just 4 runs from his one over).
Given all the big totals that have been chased at Fitz this year - and the presence of both Grant Kennedy and Dave Norman (673 runs at 61.18 between them so far this season) in the Presiden's XI - it was hard to see that a target of 146 to win was going to be enough, even with only 14 overs to be bowled. Not that Grant was able to score at all initially, starting off with 11 consecutive dots against Joe White (0/13, including his 13th eight-ball maiden, extending his own club record).
Of course it couldn't last, as Grant and Julius Rix (25 off 14 balls) were soon racing along as comfortably as the Remnants top order had been an hour earlier. They were aided in their endeavours by some truly atrocious fielding, with at least a dozen runs coming from fairly gentle shots that simply went between the fielders' legs. Add in the fact that it was getting dark - we saw several fielders left standing in the classic "dunno" pose as the ball raced past them - and it was clear that Fitz was going to be the venue for yet another effortless chase. Andy Owen (0/9) was the most effective at curtailing the scoring, being the only bowler other than Richard to go for less than a run a ball all day; Mihir Chandraker (1/24) was unlucky to have Grant dropped in the gloom (only for the runs scored as a result to force Grant's immediate retirement on 41* off 40 balls); and Dave Williams (1/31) did well to get one through Julius's defense . . . but even that might have been a mistake as it brought Dave Norman to the crease. He initially appeared a little scratchy, and John Moore (0/39) almost had him a couple of times, only for Dave to have John rather more decisively in a 26-run over that all but finished off the game.
Or at least it would have, but for the fact that Dave hence had to retire himself, having smashed - and it really was smashed, one ball clearing the high netting by a good ten metres - 43* off just 20 balls. With just 12 needed off the final two overs, the President's XI batsmen just needed to play tip-and-run; but that was easier said than done in the gloom. Mihir's penultimate over was superb - he beat the bat three or four times; and then when he saw that Martin Law (4 off 4 balls) was pre-meditating cross-bat shots he pushed mid-on Paul Jordan wider and deeper, a sensible move that was elevated to cricketing genius when Martin next shot connected, the ball arcing perfectly to the exact spot where Paul had been placed . . . except Paul couldn't see the where the ball was, and so didn't move . . . which, fortunately, he didn't have to - it's doubtful we've ever seen a catch about which a fielder knew less!
Mihir's efforts meant that the game not just made it to the final over, but was still very much alive, with 7 still needed off the final 8 balls of the match. Daniel Mortlock (3/27) decided to bowl himself, and executed his simple strategy - bowl straight and hope the batsmen would miss a few - well enough but, unlike Mihir, couldn't stop the batsmen getting bat on ball, after which there was always a single. With one ball to go the President's XI needed one to tie and two to win, and it was captain vs. captain as Richard Rex (12 off 17 balls) was on strike. Richard rocked back and went to pull the ball over mid-wicket, and seemed to have suceeded - even though Mihir was quick to move back it seemed the tieing run was inevitable . . . except the ball seemed to suddenly disobey the well-established laws of Newtonian mechanics, and it suddenly became clear that Mihir was in a position to attempt the catch, which remarkably he did. Remnants thus won a suprise thriller by one run.
While it was now pitch-black, it was still warm, and most of the players and spectators stayed on for beer, a few even making it as far as The Tandoori Palace.