Report by Daniel Mortlock:
Geoff started the President's XI matches when he ascended to that exhalted office in 2010. Since then it has been an annual celebration of the club, with a particular emphasis on the its history, with Geoff having a knack of luring Remnants legends out of retirement for "one last game". This year, of course, it was Geoff himself that we were celebrating: he died just before the UK went into lockdown, so today was the first chance most of us (and particularly Sally) had to gather together to share our favourite anecdotes and memories.
Despite a glorious run of sunny 30+ days, the forecast for this evening was for thunderstorms and torrential rain - it seemed 2020 had still more cruel jokes up its sleeve - but in the end the forecast kept changing and the storms didn't come at all. That cleared the way for thirty Remnants and supporters (the maximum allowed gathering at present) to congregate at Fitz for a long-awaited catch-up, some beers - and, oh yes, cricket. The two sides - tens in the end, not elevens, after a couple of no-shows - were split roughly along experience lines: Remnants' most-capped player, Paul Jordan, took charge of The President's X, who between them had almost 1,900 games for the club; and Daniel Mortlock led a side more representative of the 2020 cohort, including a number of players (Neil Grover, CJ Barrie) who hadn't played for the club until this season, and one, Sushant Achawal, playing his first Remnants game.
The President's X elected to field first (rumour has it so they could settle in with the beers for the second innings) and the initial battle of youth vs. experience was won decidedly by the former, 17-year-old CJ Barrie smacking five of Joe White's first ten deliveries to the boundary. That said, one of these should have been just a gentle glance for one, but Naveen Chouksey at fine-leg was still walking back to his spot after his first over, "thinking about my bad bowling [...] by the time I heard people shouting, it was too late." This explanation is made even more mysterious by the fact that Naveen (0/16) conceded just a single off his first over - some people evidentally set themselves very high standards. Joe (1/23) did get a wicket in his final over, Neil Grover LBW for 0 off 14 balls, thus equalling the admittedly incomplete club record for the most protacted duck, Mike Sneyd (watching today) having set this mark in an internal game back in 2010.
From there the Remnants top order took charge, with a record(?) four batsmen making it to retirement at 25: CJ (29* off 13 ballls); Olly Rex (27* off 12 balls, having caressed his first ball of the season to the point boundary as if in triple figures); Sam Thomas (26* off 27 balls); and Pete Ames (28* off 17 balls). And given a full 15 overs Cam Petrie (23* off 13 balls) and Sushant (13* off 11 balls) might have done the same. It was no question it was a batsman's game to this point, although it's also arguable that Paul Jordan made a tactical error only bringing himself on in the penultimate over, as he conceded just three singles and repeatedly beat the bat with his deceptive outswing.
The real drama of the innings was, however, in the field: with only ten players and some of those lacking a top gear, the Remnants total was probably inflated by a dozen runs that were rather gifted to the batsman. Aside from Naveen's effort above, there was also a couple of cases in which the ball was pushed into a gap and . . . nothing much happened, all the nearby fielders leaving it for someone else - spare a thought for Phil Watson, in his 69th year, trudging after a ball that by this time had stopped dead, while the young batsmen zoomed back and forth up and down the pitch (well, strictly, up and down the designated running lanes). The real contender for the season's Champagne - or at least Asti Spumanti - moment was provided by Joe, and thankfully right in front of the pavilion so that we could all get a close-up view. He made good ground to intercept a well-hit cut, but got his foot in the way as he reached down to the ball, effectively kicking it out of his own hands; fortunately it bobbled along parallel to the boundary rope, allowing Joe a second chance . . . but he somehow mannaged to kick the ball further out of reach. It was easy to imaginine this becoming a Sisyphean task, with Joe spending the rest of his life circling Fitz in a vain attempt to beat his own feet to the ball, thus allowing the batsmen to break the all-time minor cricket records for highest score, biggest partnership, etc.; but sadly his third attempt was successful, and he returned to his fielding position safe in the knowledge that he'd be teased about this for the rest of the day.
The inter-innings break was the time for the annual club photo, albeit necessarily socially-distanced - compared to previous versions it looked everyone was annoyed at everyone else for dropping a catch off their bowling or a "yes no sorry" run out. We also took the chance to have a mini-celebration of Geoff's contribution to the club, with Sally telling the story of how he first formed Remnants CC and Daniel finishing with a statement of intent to ensure that club flourishes for deacdes to come - the best possible tribute we can make to the generous work of a wonderful man.
The President's X innings picked up pretty much where Remnants left off, with the batsmen scoring freely at around 10 runs per (eight-ball) over. Chris Badger (18 off 13 balls), Julius Rix (26* retired off 23 balls) and Andy Bell (27* retired off 17 balls) took their side to 88/1 in the 9th over, at which point they needed 61 runs from 45 balls: challenging, but a definite chance. The only problem was that the retirements meant that two new batsmen were at the crease, and suddenly the runs dried up and the wickets started to tumble.
Sam Thomas had looked the best bet to make the breakthrough, even though he wasn't bowlinng - he'd made a pair of superb one-handed pick-ups in the covers and fired the ball off in the manner of Roger Federer making a running forehand pass . . . except Federer typically hits the line, where the only material result of Sam's great efforts was an overthrow. Still, that evidently inspired Pete Ames who, having requested he be moved to mid-off as he'd hurt his shoulder, promptly ran out Joe White (1 off 2 balls) with a direct hit. After that the bowlers cashed in, Daniel Mortlock (3/18) and Neil Grover (2/31) both running rampant (although Neil's figures would have been even better had wicket-keeper Cam Petrie's stumping attempt not met with fresh air). Remnants could have claimed even more wickets when there was a five-minute break for a new batsman to get padded up, but Daniel instead used that time to get his wrist-spinners going, so that when Phil Watson (4 off 2 balls) finally made it to the crease he was ready to greet him with a thigh-high leg-side full toss that was dispatched to the boundary. By this stage the chase was done, but that didn't stop Naveen Chouksey landing some telling blows to finish on 25* unretired off 13 balls, having hit the final delivery of the game to the boundary.
Even though it was now basically dark and the bar was out of bounds, it was still warm and so most people chatted and drank cans of BrewDog for a good hour afterwards. Geoff mightn't have approved of the choice of drink, but otherwise one imaagines this was exactly the scene he'd envisioned four decades ago and would have hoped will be repeated for many still to come.