Not that many cricket clubs make it all the way to a 1000 matches, but it takes something really special to have multiple 1000th matches. Remnants is, perhaps, the only member of this exclusive club, establishing a world record this evening with its second 1000th game, with the promise of one (and maybe two) more 1000th games to come. The root cause of this remarkable achievement was a corrupted data file (in which events such as six-a-side tournaments and training sessions were erroneously counted as full matches), a mistake sufficiently well hidden that everyone in the team that played ARM a few weeks ago believed they'd taken the club into the promised land of four figures from the moment Paul Jordan sent down the first ball of that match. Given that this delivery should have been called as a leg-side wide - and that we then failed to chase a low total - it was probably not such a bad thing to subsequently find out it was only match number 994. Number 1000 would have to wait for another day . . .
. . . which, after a spate of wash-outs in the last month, wasn't going to be today, which was set to be match number 996 . . . although for most of the day it seemed more likely to be entry number 225 in the "cancelled" column, as rain overnight combined with a miserable forecast had everyone waiting for the seemingly inevitable "game off" message. Except the forecast kept improving just enough to have us saying "well, give it another hour, I guess" all the way 'til 5pm, by which time there was no option but to head to Fitz.
We were greeted by a big puddle in front of the pavilion around which was standing four decades of club history, in the form of players from every "era" - Geoff had moved mountains to contact regulars from each of the club's 38 seasons. In the end some forty Remnants of various vintages turned up to play, umpire, score, or just drink beer. (Prima inter pares here was Mike Sneyd, who'd deliberately come by bus to facillitate the last of these activities, only to find out that the bar wasn't open yet; he duly disappeared - there was some talk that he'd gone off in a huff - only to reappear a few minutes later with a four-pack of John Smith's that didn't stand a chance.)
The match itself saw Geoff's President's XI swell to a XV that what wasn't far off an all-time club legends side:
The President's "XI"
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The Remnants side was also a tad engorged, albeit only to 13, combining both experience (e.g., Daniel Mortlock, with 316 games under his belt) and innocence (most obviously Florie Harmer, Quentin's daughter, making her first appearance this evening). Geoff correctly called at the toss, electing to field and then switching to umpiring duties, with Dave Norman skippering from there on.
All XV of the President's XI took to the field, the result of which was the most extraordinarily aggressive field setting for a twenty/20 (well, fifteen/15) game - although this approach was immediately justified when Julius Rix (1/14) had Nick Johnson (3 off 6 balls) nonchalantly caught by Ev Fox at first slip. Things almost got better for the President's Multitude when John Picton got his hand to a well-hit Dave Williams cut shot. Dave (25 off 29 balls) decided his luck was in and so decided to score exclusively in cuts before deviating from this policy with a pull shot off Mike Jones (2/11) that was caught with the greatest of ease by Felix Serby. This superb catching was matched by the ground fielding, as all of the President's Conglomerate showed absolute commitment in the field. The leg speed might in some cases have been lacking, but bodies - sometimes up to a dozen at a time - were always behind the ball and nothing got through. The result was that the Remnants middle order rather struggled, with only Tom Serby (22* off 16 balls) scoring with any real freedom. Meanwhile Tony Malik (1/28) increased his lead on the club's all-time wicket-takers table, Faruk Kara (1/9) continued chipping away at the single-season wicket-taking record with his 28th scalp of the year - and he already has the all-time record for players whose surnames don't begin with "M" and end in "k" - and John Picton (1/15) took his first Remnants wicket since 1997. For a while it looked like Remnants were going to be restricted to a hopeless two-figure total, but a few late extras meant they ended up on a just-about-respectable 127/6.
The President's innings started off with a total blast from the past, Tony Malik (who'd last played in 200?) and Nick Clarked (who'd last played in 200?) opening the batting against Joe White and Daniel Mortlock (both current regulars, but veterans of 14 and 18 seasons, respectively). It might have been tempting to bet on the two bowlers, given that the batsmen were surely rusty at best (and possibly fully oxidized, at least in the case of Tony's hair), but instead it was a big points victory for the veterans, as they took their side to 34/0 after 3 overs, leaving Joe and Daniel with horrific combined figures of 0/54 from their 6 (eight-ball) overs. This battle wasn't actually quite so one-sided, with several outside edges induced but none going to hand, a seemingly innocuous fact that acutally was actually a harbinger of doom. For the Remnants fielding effort was every bit as abysmal as the President's XXXX's was superb, with missed stops, dropped (or completely missed) catches, wild throws, failed long barriers, comedy slipping around (no spikes) and ineffectual backing-up. Even the act of getting the ball back to the bowler seemed beyond us tonight, with mid-on and mid-off repeatedly having to mount rescue missions after the bowler had been nutmegged. Indeed, probably the only fielder who could hold their head high was Florie Harmer, who didn't misfield once and actually ran between positions at the change of overs.
Meanwhile Tony and Nick progressed serenely towards their target, although Nick was eventually out LBW (for 29 off 25 balls) to Quentin Harmer (1/23). Tony's innings also eventually came to an end, but only because he reached the retirement mark of 40, his 41* (off 44 balls) taking his tally of Remnants runs to a seemingly unassailable 8607 (some 2710 more than Dave Williams). The seemingly perfunctory job of finishing off the chase fell to Alan Heavens and Dave Norman, although some tight bowling by Daniel, Samuel Serby (0/14), Nick Johnson (0/11, including a remarkable over in which none of the eight deliveries touched the pitch) and Alec Armstrong (0/20) did at least push the game into a final over. With 8 needed and Dave on strike we seemed destined for a quick finish, but instead he calmly took a single (which took him to 10* off 8 balls), leaving Alan (35* off 32 balls, his highest Remnants innings) to finish things off, which he duly did, bringing the game to an end with a cover drive off the pre-penultimate delivery. [At a workshop in Alan's honour two years later it was pointed out that this should actually have been called the "ante-penultimate delivery" - Ed.]
That was not, of course, the end of the evening, as just about everyone (except Mike, who'd already done his drinking and needed to get the last bus home) staying on for a few cleansing ales. The cold and wet conditions didn't seem to matter - it was a happy celebration of four decades of friendly cricket, and almost had the feel of a family reunion, in particular with prodigal son Tony Malik back at Fitz for the first time this decade. One thing everyone wanted to know was how Inzamam (his son, who we'd last seen as a pre-teen) was doing; the answer was an eye-roll and the news that "he's 22 now, and thinks he's a real player!" Funny how kids pick this stuff up . . .