And so to the final league game of the season. Frustratingly we knew that second place (and hence promotion) was out of reach, but if we could beat Fulbourn today then we'd at least have the consolation of usurping them in third place. It was another baking hot day out at Girton College, and, if our last game there was anything to go by, we'd be fine as long as we batted first . . .
. . . but that would require us winning the toss, and, for the ninth time in nine matches, we lost it and were thus forced to take to the field with just eight men. Two more arrived after about ten overs, but the predicted onslaught of runs never came about. Daniel Mortlock (3/34, with wrist spin on the drying pitch) made the first breakthroughs, all his wickets coming courtesy of excellent catches by Rod Dennis (classic spinning ball at point), Rog Shelley (fast hands at slip) and, most memorably, Arnie Garside (a one-handed backwards-diving lunge). At the other end Neal Baker (1/47) delivered another sharp spell that saw quite a few balls popping up where fielders weren't -- the pitch certainly had some bounce in it which Neal used rather well.
In the second half of the innings things started to fall apart for Fulbourn -- there were two avoidable run outs, although the first of these was due to remarkable fielding by Andy Owen off his own bowling, diving across the non-striker and instantly throwing the striker's stumps down while the hapless batsman was still complementing Andy on his excellent stop. Given the way the ball was turning and bouncing off the pitch we perservered with spin and Rod Dennis (0/32) got some balls up around the batsmen's chests, but was also unlucky in that edges and skied balls fell out of the fielders' reach. Finally, Rog Shelley closed out the innings with the most accurate spell of the day, conceding just 17 runs in his 6 overs and getting the final wicket to boot. The fielding was very good again, although not quite up to the intensity of last week's game. The stars were the keepers, Andy Owen and Ev Fox, Arnie Garside and Paul Henderson, who fields in a different spot each week, but always has the ball seemed to come to him more than anyone else.
Strange things occured with the tea -- we had to provide it ourselves when we booked this ground a few weeks back, but today the groundsman (or, more likely, ``'er indoors'') plied us with huge piles of sandwiches, sausage rolls, scones and crisps: 8/10.
Anyway, it was soon our turn to bat, and the target of 173 suddenly looked a lot less daunting when it became clear that Fulbourn had just nine fielders. And then it looked very daunting indeed when we collapsed to 17/2, and then 49/5, and then 104/7. At least we'd been scoring fast -- thanks to the aggressive cameos of Paul Henderson (13), Rod Dennis (21), Jez Daniel (24) and Rog Shelley (17) the hundred came up in just the 18th over.
At drinks we needed 70-odd runs in 20 overs, a task that would have been trivial but for the fact that we had just two wickets left. For the next hour Andy Owen (40*) and Daniel Mortlock (32*) blocked ball after ball, only daring to play scoring strokes off the sort of loose deliveries that would have been smacked to the boundary under any other circumstances. Fortunately Fulbourn had run out of bowlers, and had to resort to a succession of unthreatening part-time off-spinners. By the start of the third last over just 5 were needed and, a few balls later, a four to mid-off meant that we'd won a very close game.
Despite the nicely poetic touch of the captain and vice-captain playing out the last act of the season successfully, it was a pretty frustrating year. We had six wash-outs (revealingly two more than any other team in our league) and also suffered two close losses to the side just above us on the ladder, but at least won more matches than we lost (5-3). More to the point, we played some good cricket, particularly in the field. Another way to look at things is through an alcoholic haze brought on by a few too many Guinesses at Phil's club, and indeed this is what most of us did. Now, whose round is it?