It's a common misconception that Romsey Town, given that it is entered in the Cambridgeshire Cricket Association's Saturday league, plays cricket in Cambridgeshire. This is presumption is as understandable as it is wrong. Having played our first match of the season (against Elmdon) in Essex, today we found ourselves passing signs saying "Welcome to Hertfordshire" (a polite version of "here be dragons") as we headed towards the slightly rude-sounding Cokenach. Too far to go in one step, we set up base-camp at the Fox'n'Horses in Barley where Phil Marshall gave Romsey debutantes Paul Henderson and Ross Williamson a pool lesson, Jez Daniel caught up with the team from last season, and the rest of us did some mildly successful talent-spotting (a wedding party was in attendance). The Cokenach ground was in the middle of a rather nice country estate (owned by Lord Sainsbury, if the signage is to be believed), but the openness of the surroundings merely served to let a cold wind blow the length of the ground today. As a result it was fucking freezing out in the middle, and muggins here didn't bring a jumper . . .
Anyway, onto the game. Cokenach, having won the grade below last season, had continued their good form this year, and came with a reputation for consistent batting and fearsome bowling. When a the first ball of the match was dispatched effortlessly to the point bounary the signs were ominous, but they were really struggling at 65/4 by the time drinks came on after 25 overs. There was some luck involved (a silly run out; their top batsman, previously undismissed this season, hitting a catch off a waist-high full-toss), but it was mainly down to the bowlers consistently pitching just short of a length on off-stump and forcing the Cokenach batsmen to play risky shots. Daniel Mortlock (0/38) and Andy Owen (1/30) started things well, and then Rog Shelley starred with 2/17 off ten overs, and 2/10 off his last nine. It could have easily been five-for.
We all felt that were were a good chance to restrict Cokenach to something under 150, but two of their middle order stuck together for a big partnership. Their aggressive running induced some fielding errors; there was some risky slogging involved; and and they took to some of our part-time bowlers. The last laugh, however, went to the irrepressible Alfie Wilmshurst, who, in his first spell for nine months, had Cokenach's top-scorer stumped for 81. Meanwhile his junior partner remained in 'til the end, getting a hard-fought 39* and taking Cokenach to improbably close to 200. (The exact score, 198, was immediately displayed on the spiffy automatic scoreboard, believed to have been based on technology developed for NASA's space program.)
Thus, lunch saw us all a bit grumpy, although much warmer for being inside. The highlight of the standard fare was the sugary orange (?) cake, and I suppose a 7/10 is warranted. Not that anyone seemed too interested in tea - a rumour had gone round that Cokenach had an opening bowler capable of hospitalising people, so it was just as likely to be a lump in the batsman's throats as anything else. throat.
The fact of the matter was that he'd broken his finger and so wasn't playing; the actual attack was very consistent in line and length - thus scoring was difficult but there was not the threat we'd feared. Instead, Romsey Syndrome struck again. Most of the top order (which really went a fair way into the tail) got in, but only Tony Desimone (an aggressive but rock-solid 21) and Andy Owen (56) passed 20. By mid-way through the innings the required run-rate was in double figures, and Andy shut up shop, preferring to go for batting points instead of outright victory. We did managed a late surge - 62 runs in the last five overs - but that was really no more than entertainment in the end. Oh, and Pete Cornwell wanted me to mention that it took a fantastic catch to dismiss him (which is true - it was a last-second dive to take the ball which was spinning and spiralling in the wind).
The end was a little anti-climactic, and we were all glad to get indoors. All that was left to do was sink a few pints in the Chequers where Tony assured us there was some top tottie . . . and I'm sure they were before they collected their bus passes.