Report by Daniel Mortlock:
The sad news in March 2020 that Remnants founder Geoff Hales had died unexpectedly was quickly followed by the effective shutdown of the UK due to the Covid pandemic. Ever since then we've been waiting to have a proper celebration of Geoff's life, and in particular his contributions to Remnants Cricket Club; today we finally got the chance to do that, in the form of an afternoon cricket day at Fenner's, a place where Geoff had so many happy memories. The total attendance was about eighty, including not just present-day Remnants (some of whom never even met Geoff), but lots of veterans from the club's early days: of the 16 people who've played 200+ games for Remnants two are no longer with us (Geoff and Pete Warner); the remaining 14 were all at Fenner's today. While Covid robbed Sally, in particular, of the chance for a proper funeral, the eventual result was that Geoff got to have what was effectively an informal memorial service at hosted by his cricket club at his favourite cricket ground.
The heart of the day was a set of three speeches to the now packed pavilion. Daniel Mortlock led off, noting how central Geoff's remarkable partnership with Sally has been to the Remnants story - how many of us would get a positive response to the suggestion that their partner join them in a relaxing day listening to Test Match Special on the "wireless"? - and then moving onto the ethic of inclusivity that Geoff instilled in Remnants from the outset (e.g., Geoff's often retold story that at one point our regular opening bowling combination was made up of a mathematics professor and a dustman). Then Anthony Hyde gave a picture of how Geoff became an integral part of life at Fenner's, a sort of constant presence keen to either help or to point out annoying little facts at the wrong moment. And finally Sally Hales told us of the outrageous series of coincidences that led to their meeting and then to the formation of Remnants CC back in 1980 (but with the sadly still relevant story of a cricket team short of a player) and of how the club was such a shared love for them, particular for the first three decades when they were at just about every game.
That just left the cricket itself. Initial plans for an afternoon game against an invitation XI were soon shelved when the number of interested Remnants topped thirty, after which it seemed we were going to need two separate games just to accommodate everyone, until it further became clear lots of people weren't going to be able to attend for the full day. We ended up with a "twenty/20 Test" between two mega-squads of 17 or 18 players each: The President's XI and The Travelling Theatre XI, both named for invitational teams Geoff used to lead against Remnants. There was some concern that this might have resulted in people not getting enough cricket, until the forecast for the was for 35-degree temperatures all afternoon, in which case even 20 overs in the field might have been too much for some - and, in the end, we needed a substitute fielder for the last of the four innings.
The President's XI won the toss - presided over by qualified and properly attired umpires Christopher Dean and David Pimblett - and unsurprisingly elected to let The Travelling Theatre XI's fielders wilt during the hottest part of the day. The result was a predictable run-fest: Cam Petrie (44*) and James Robinson (40*) both made it to retirement; and Remnants - well, strictly Richard's - prodigal son Olly Rex smashed his way to 35 before mis-judging a minimally disguised slower ball from his brother Ferdi (1/28). Joe White (1/26, in his first post-injury spell of off-breaks) and FAS guest representative James Wyatt (1/22), although the only bowler to go for less than a run a ball was the Travelling Theatre's defiantly jumper-clad skipper Daniel Mortlock (1/17). The fielders really did wilt - there were lots of unenthusiastic retrieval expeditions into the big open spaces on the wrong side of the boundary rope - even if Ahmed Khwaja (2) and Tony Malik (1) completed some nice catches. One potential highlight of the day turned into a brief scare when the appearance of John Young at the crease induced Daniel to bring his son Lewis (0/22) onto bowl: there were some plays and misses outside off-stump; there were some wild leg-side wides that neither 'keeper nor leg-slip could stop; there was the surely unphysical occurance of the bowler finishing his follow-through between the standing umpire and the non-striker's stumps; and then the fright when some running confusion induced a run out attempt that Lewis ended up stopping with his upper lip. John retired (on 2*) to help Lewis off the ground, and fortunately it was clear even by the end of the President's XI innings that all was okay.
Where the President's XI innings had been explosive, The Travelling Theatre XI's reply was solid - perhaps a preference when it comes to bowel movements, but not in twenty/20 cricket. At the half-way mark the total was 57/1: Marcus Baker's father Baker was well on his way to eventual retirement score of 40* (off 50 balls); Girton representative Tony Thornton (11 off 11 balls) had been well caught by Andrew Lea off the bowling of Max Ayliffe (1/17); and Richard Rex was steady on his way to an eventual 10 (off 16 balls). It was at least a platform that could be built on . . . until Kabir Khwaja (1/23), Phil Hastings (4/18) and Andy Owen (2/26, with the help of a pullover) went on a wicket-taking spree so rapid that the scorers gave up trying to update the electronic scoreboard and were reduced to just jotting down the basics. The key passage of play was when The Travelling Theatre's two biggest hitters came in at 4 and 6: James Wyatt missed a straight one and was bowled for 1 (off 4 balls); and then Ferdi Rex went big too early and was superbly caught, albeit "crocodile style" by John Young on the square boundary. Joe White (38* off 23 balls) at least added some respectability towards the end of the innings, but a 24-run deficit going into the tea break felt pretty decisive.
A general sense of lethargy meant that we didn't even start the second half of the match 'til about 5pm, so both innings were shortened to 16 overs. The President's XI picked up pretty effectively where they'd left off, as Hari Kukreja (33 off 17 balls), Andy Owen (17 off 19 balls) and Max Ayliffe (32* off 19 balls) all made valuable contributions. The Travelling Theatre bowled a bit better in this innings, with Pete Ames (1/21), Huw Davies (1/28), Qaiser Ahmed (1/12) and Ferdi Rex (1/19) all getting wickets, albeit expensively - which could again be traced to the lack of proper cold weather gear, as it was again only Daniel (1/17) in his trusty jumper who went for less than sixes.
The net result was that the Travelling Theatre were presented with a surely implausible target of 145 to win of 16 overs (i.e. 96 balls). And any hope of a miracle vanished in the first over after a disastrous piece of calling/running: facing James Robinson (0/11), Richie Young (18) hit a great on-drive and neither he nor non-striker Qaiser Ahmed moved as they laboured under the shared delusion that the ball would race across the parched Fenner's grass to the boundary . . . until Hari made a great diving stop, at which point they tentatively decided to go for a belated, but still comfortable single. Hari fired a throw at the non-striker's end which would have had Richard out of his ground, but it was off-target; James had been a bit slack getting back to the stumps, so wasn't in position to take the ball; and Qaiser was just ambling towards the distant stumps . . . which were broken by the ball with him still a foot from safety, run out for 0 (off 0 balls). Even a destructive innings of 41* from Dave Norman wasn't enough to frighten the fielding side, whose bowlers just kept chipping away at the other end. There were more wickets for Andy Owen (1/23) and Max Ayliffe (1/10) and some leg-spin success for Hari (2/25), but the clear highlight was a first Remnants wicket this decade for Anton Garrett (1/30), who at one stage was bowling to Dave Green - they played their first Remnants games in 1980 and 1982, respectively. Pete Ames (13) and Huw Davies (21) had some fun as the game wound down, the President's XI eventually winning by a comfortable 27 runs.