Report by Richard Rex:
As connoisseurs of our match reports will be well aware, Remnants Cricket Club maintains "a proud tradition of never conceding more than 234 runs in an evening friendly match". For only the second time in nearly forty years of club history, that proud record was in danger this evening. But the remnants of the Remnants, slightly outnumbered and heavily outgunned by the Philanderers, clutched desperately to their figleaf of pride as they subsided to what was only the heaviest defeat we have ever suffered. A difficult evening seemed likely when only nine Remnants took the field, two of them selected for the side that morning. The arrival of Naveen Chouksey after a few overs took us to ten, with a full complement of bowlers, but with only Julius Rix (captain) and Qaiser Ahmed figuring among the dozen or more best batsmen of this season, a substantial chase was always going to be a serious challenge. Given that Matt Samson was among those present, readers might be forgiven for thinking this analysis unduly pessimistic. But, as traitre du jour, Matt was opening the batting for the Philanderers, with the result that despite having two of this season's strongest bowlers (Qaiser and Alec Armstrong) opening our attack, we were almost immediately being plundered for ten an over. Qaiser dismissed one opener with clinical precision and a ball that kept a little low, but that brought their even more destructive number 3 to the wicket. The pitch was flat, the ball hard, and the outfield fast. Unless the ball was hit straight at you, there was barely any point in moving, let alone chasing. If the ball was hit straight at you - as Dave Green and John Moore can bear witness - there might have been some point in moving, as stopping it could be an intensely painful experience. Dave made a brave attempt to hold onto a flat lofted off-drive from Samson, and the Philanderers kindly loaned us a fielder while he (Dave) then left the field for running repairs. John Moore managed to run off the effect of his impact, making a mental note to buy some shinpads.
Matt's reprieve was uncharacteristically shortlived, as Naveen bowled him not long afterwards. But 81/2 off 9 overs was far from healthy. Naveen was bowling well enough, but the runs kept coming. At the other end, the classic Remnants tactic of taking even more pace off backfired badly. Richard Rex's ultra-slow leg-spin was cruelly dispatched by the number 3, whose resolute refusal to allow his head to go up before the bat had struck the ball earned him 25 off the first over. The random 1 at the end of the sequence of 4s represented the only ball to bite and turn on the glass-hard surface. But our now dismal prospects were perfectly summed up by the fact that Richard, one of our more dependable catchers, spilled the spiralling top-edge that ensued. This half-chance earned him another over, but the third over turned out to be one too many. [Richard thus ended up in what is presumably an unwanted third place on the tables of both most expensive and least economical spells. -ed.] Captain Julius took our only actual catch of the evening to dismiss their number 3, but 144/3 was nothing to write home about, and the Philanderers' number 5 showed what he thought by reverse-sweeping Richard for 4 off the fourth ball he faced. Another of his reverse sweeps achieved such extraordinary rotation that it went between the keeper (Ev Fox, sharp as ever) and the stumps to fine leg for another boundary. John Moore bowled a decent over, and Amit finished off from the Huntingdon Road end while Julius closed out from the Windsor Road end. The flow of runs was never seriously stemmed, and even with a full eleven, there was not much we could have done about it. The most exercise the fielders actually got was retrieving an increasingly sorry-looking ball from beyond the boundary: in one case, from the white wall beyond the soccer pitch. At the change of innings we knew we faced an impossible task.
John Young (12 off 33 balls) essayed a spirited start, but conditions were now less favourable than earlier, the light playable but hardly brilliant under the complete cloud cover. He was hitting the ball well, but it was now so soft that it was difficult to get it off the square. Thus the second opening bowler greeted him with a quick chest-high beamer that glanced off his arm to fine-leg for only one bye (besides the no-ball). The next ball, in contrast, was an unplayable fast yorker that squeezed under Amit Kumar's bat. He was replaced by the hard-hitting Qaiser Ahmed, but even he had to give it everything if the ball was to reach the boundary, and the need to overhit made timing all the more difficult. The first innings had seen the occasional low bounce at the Huntingdon Road end: that was now pretty consistently low, making scoring from there next to impossible. When John was bowled there (32/2 off 9 overs), Richard calculated that we would be lucky to reach 80. (We were not lucky, and reached 79.) Soon afterwards Qaiser (20 off 21 balls), seeking the legside boundary, toe-ended another low one to midwicket. Richard's brief innings (6 off 13 balls) terminated in much the same way, off a slower bowler. Naveen (7 off 10 balls) and Ev (10 off 18 balls) tried to get things moving, but both were dismissed as they strove for the big hits that were already too late to make any difference to the outcome. Captain Julius (3 off 6 balls) went down with the ship, run out after calling for the sort of sharp single that gets you home 9 times out of 10, with Matt Samson adding insult to injury by throwing down the stumps from point with a running pick up and throw. With John Moore (1 off 7 balls) dismissed in his turn, it was left to our final pair of Alec Armstrong (1* off 7 balls) and Dave Green (0* off 6 balls) to represent the Remnants at the funereal close of proceedings.