Even though it seems likely we'll have one - and maybe two - games next week, tonight's internal match between Remnants proper and Geoff's President's XI had the feel of an end-of-season celebration. And the weather largely came to the party (if you ignore the ten-minute downpour at 5pm, which fortunately we were able to do). Geoff, resplendent in his Remnants blazer and tie, headed out to toss with Paul Jordan, captaining Remnants today, but called incorrectly, giving Paul the chance to give his bowlers first use of the pink ball (although in the end we went with the normal red anyway).
Having been invited to bat first, the President's XI constructed a batting line-up that was based largely on etiquette, with guest players first, followed by those who'd come furthest and then, er, everyone else. Which was very convenient, as it turned out two of the guests, Mike Taylor (32 off 25 balls) and Will Russell (28 off 18 balls), were superb batsmen, the former even being good enough to have played for the University a few years ago. All that meant a pretty healthy scoring rate as 51 runs came from the first 5 (eight-ball) overs - although that was down some way from the briefly infinite run rate after the first delivery of the match, a waist-high no ball, was hit to the boundary.
It wasn't all one-way traffic, though, as Remnants had taken a couple of early wickets, Julius Rix (2/23) benefiting from Matt Hughes's sure hands at square leg and Harvey Hughes (1/18) benefitting even more when his seemingly over-optimistic appeal was met with the umpire's raised finger. And then when Rob Harvey (1/28) and Faruk Kara (2/17) enlisted the catching and stumpings skills of Serbies Tom and Samuel, respectively, the President's XI was on a much less healthy 63/4, and the game was close to even.
The momentum then swung again as Daniel Mortlock (36 off 26 balls), with good support from Mike Sneyd (8 off 11 balls) and Steve Attmore (10* off 15 balls), exploited some rather wide bowling, lifting the President's XI past their pre-innings target of 120. That left a battle of the Rexes as Ferdi (8 off 7 balls) took on Olly (1/7) in the dying stages of the innings. Olly probably should have had Ferdi caught on the boundary, but the fielder mis-timed his run and instead yorked himself, the ball scooting over the line for another four.
Ferdi's days were numbered, though, as he was bowled by Julius off the penultimate ball of the innings, the happy result of which was that President Hales got to face the final ball of his team's innings. The fielders - and intrepid on-field photographer Les Collings - crowded around him but Geoff's cut pierced the ring, and he comfortably made his first run this decade.
With the sun now low in the sky the general sense was that scoring 130 from 112 balls would be very difficult, and while the Remnants top order gave it a shot, the main result was a steady flow of wickets. That only Dave Williams (29 off 36 balls) made it into double figures was primarily due to the steady pressure the President's XI bowlers and fielders were able to apply. Richard Burgess (1/16), Mike Jones (2/15) and Martyn Waterfull (1/7) were all immaculate, and Daniel Mortlock had a good time in the field, taking two catches and then playing middle-man in rather fancy run out. Dave had smacked the ball through the covers and probably deserved a boundary, but the ball pulled up on the dewey ground, and might even have stopped by the time John Russell caught up with it. He thought about just lobbing it back, but then saw that the batsmen were arguing about whether there was a third run, so instead threw the ball flat and hard to Daniel at extra cover. Even though he was facing away from the stumps, he could hear the argument, and both voices seemed to be coming from the bowler's end, meaning a throw to 'keeper Steve Attmore was required - and even though the throw itself wasn't much good, Steve was able to gather it with Faruk, who by definition must have lost the argument, some way short of his ground.
By this stage Remnants was a dismal 31/4 in the sixth over and the contest was pretty clearly over. So the middle order battoned down the hatches as Faruk Kara (4 off 10 balls) and Joshua Blanchard Lewis (7 off 30 balls) were faced with slow-paced bowling on a now very low-bouncing wickets. The fielders clearly sensed what was going on, and started to move in closer and closer, to the point where Mike Taylor was so impressed with Ferdi Rex's first over (a maiden of immaculately flighted and high-bouncing off-spinners) that he moved into a crazily short square-leg position . . . that really did prove to be crazy when the first ball of Ferdi's second over was a rank full toss that was pulled through the region of space which Mike's head had occupied just a millisecond earlier. After another such offering two balls later Mike moved out of harm's way, only to be left in dismay as the following delivery was brilliant, catching a leading edge and popping up exactly where Mike had been standing a ball earlier.
The match then wound down with the President's XI rubbing salt into the Remnants wounds by displaying the full armoury of bowlers they had available, Will Russell (1/4), Mike Taylor (1/4) and John Russell (0/5) all being punished for their tight overs by being swapped off. On the other side, Olly Rex found out just how much luck there is in this game (although he probably knew anyway): the first ball Olly had bowled today was a slow half-tracker outside leg stump which the batsman missed and which somehow deflected off the pads and on to the stumps; the first ball Olly faced was similarly unthreatening, but he missed as well, the ball hitting his pads . . . and then trickling away far enough for the batsmen to run a leg-bye . . . except that the umpire's finger was once again in the air. It would be interesting to know Olly's take on all this. Grumpy being triggered? Chuffed to have gotten a wicket first ball? Or phlegmatic that such swings and round-abouts are all part of the game? All cricketers benefit and suffer from these little dollops of randomness during the season, but it's clear that different players can ascribe quite extreme interpretations to essentially the same data.
There was plenty of time for such analysis over post-match beers: with so many dot balls in the Remnants innings we actually finished very early, at about 8:15pm. Most people stayed for one or two, and plenty managed more than that. And a few brave souls even made it as far as something called the Tivoli . . .