Report by Daniel Mortlock:
Every Remnants season ends with the feeling of not having played enough cricket, but this season with good reason: our match against Sharks on August 26 was just our tenth completed fixture this summer, where we'd been averaging about thirty in recent years (and had never played fewer than the 16 games that we managed back in 1980, the club's first season). So it was with great enthusiasm that we received the news that NCI wanted to organise a Saturday afternoon friendly on Parker's Piece - and great relief that the day dawned warm and sunny.
Indeed, the only problem was that, following a few late drop-outs, we'd ended up with a decidedly unbalanced side, full of bowlers and a bit short on batting (somewhat ironic, since we'd had the opposite problem in our earlier evening games). It was thus perhaps a relieft that, upon winning the toss, the NCI captain elected to bat - our best hope of winning this two-innings twenty/20 test match was to restrict the opposition to small totals and marshall our meagre resources accordingly.
Our early attempts to do this were not very effective: having been given the one new ball we'd be using, Saad Shoukat (1/24) and Sushant Achawal (1/17) were wayward initially, allowing NCI to race to 21/1 off the first two (six-ball overs). But both got things under control thereafter, and NCI's run rate was brought down to about 5 an over. This good work was continued by medium-pacers Naveen Chouksey (1/13), Daniel Mortlock (1/12), but the real fun came when we slowed things down: John Moore (0/18) started off with a maiden, and 11 dots in his first 14 balls, before one of the NCI batsman finally worked out how to connect with his parabolic lobs; and Andy Owen (2/24) started with two wickets in his first over before a blow-out in the 20th took NCI to what, given the unpredictable pitch and slow outfield, was a pretty respectable first innings of 109/7.
Just how respectable soon became clear as our top order was dotted into oblivion. Only Cam Petrie (18 off 20 balls) looked at all comfortable, but followed up a dismissive boundary by slogging at a straight ball, after which our scoring basically stopped. After 12 overs we were just 33/4, and suddenly the follow-on target of 60 (i.e., 40 less than NCI's score) was looking a long-way off. Fortunately, Naveen (14 off 30 balls) hung around long enough to give Saad a chance to get his eye in, after which he brought our innings to life with a boundary-laden innings of 31* off 25 balls. He took us back into the domain of respectability, and within touching distance of being competitive, only to run out of overs: 90/6 meant a troublesome deficit of 19; but all but tripling the score in the last third of our innings meant we did at least have some momentum . . .
. . . althoug the NCI opening pair quickly took that away from us as they put on the best partnership of the day, 64 in 10 overs, before Huw Davies (2/23) made the vital breakthrough - and then another to be on a hat-trick - but it was already probably a little too late. Once again it was the slow bowlers who had the most fun, with Andy (1/19) and John (2/8) picking up where they left off after the first innings, and Neil Grover (0/14) also doing well. They were ably backed up in the field, as Suchant took his second good catch of the day and John managed a one-handed pick-up and direct-hit run out that would have made Ricky Ponting proud (TM). Overall it felt like we'd done better than in the first innings, but the scoreboard said otherwise: NCI's total of 115/7, combined with their 19-run lead, meant we needed an implausible-sounding 135 to win.
The fact that only two of our batsmen made more than 5, and that our second highest score was Huw's 11* (off 22 balls), might suggest that we didn't go close - and, indeed, we eventually went down by 34 runs - but half-way through the innings we were maybe even winning. All this was down to Saad, who'd picked where he left off in the first innings, trusting his eye and Cam's bat (which he eventually split) to smash an incredible 59 off 34 balls (with 8 fours and 2 huge sixes, one of which landed on Park Terrace and one of which almost sconned Denise Owen). At the end of the 12th over Saad had single-handedly taken us to 79/5, meaning we needed 56 off 48 balls - far from easy, but Saad was now scoring at more than 2 a ball, so he just needed stay in . . .
. . . but of course such hitting requires a decent amount of luck, and his finally ran out, and that was us - and our season - done.