Finally we got to have a match at home, the expansive snooker table that is Emmanuel College's cricket ground. Normally a game at this venue implies high scoring, hard toil for the bowlers and lots of running around in the field trying to find the ball in a hedge. Not so today. What if I told you that the first fifteen wickets to fall (in both innings) came at the cost of just 111 runs? What if I told you that an innings of 27 in about 20 overs was almost certainly the performance of the match? Surely I'd be lying? Not so -- read on.
Longstowe won the toss, surveyed the green wicket, felt the humidity in the air, noted the wind whistling across the pitch . . . and elected to bat.
That was a mistake.
By the end of their first over their classiest batsmen was out caught Fox bowled Owen for a duck. By the end of the second over the other opener had been bowled and suddenly we had three slips, two silly mid offs, a short leg, and were attacking like seldom before. This was the correct approach -- it was all too easy to bowl short-pitched balls that swung into the batsman's neck, only to have the next delivery hold its line as the wind died down.
The four bowlers -- Andy Owen (3/19), Daniel Mortlock (3/24), Neal Baker (2/20) and Rog Shelley (2/15) -- certainly bowled well, but the fact that we dismissed Longstowe for just 84 remains something of a mystery. Not one on which we dwelt overlong, however -- it just felt great to come off the field early with such a small target and no-one could remember the last time we'd kept a team to such a low total.
Unfortunately our success in the field was soured somewhat by the appearance of the dreaded tuna and sweetcorn sandwiches that I, for one, thought were a thing of the past. However even if the food wasn't inspired (6/10), at least the cup of tea hit the spot.
Coming out to bat the feeling was that an aggressive approach was needed -- in particular I still have memories of the Australian Test team failing to chase targets not much higher, in part through trying to bat carefully. Phil Bradford (10 off 4 balls) and Tony Desimone thus set about getting the runs in the first 10 overs, but the end of their opening partnership of 16 (after just 8 balls) began a collapse that saw us slump to 27/5. A victory still seemed likely, but suddenly we were all very nervous about losing.
What we needed was a half century partnership with, say, our 'keeper getting a careful 20-odd and one of the unused bowlers 30 or so. And indeed that's just what we got. Ev Fox (21* after keeping brilliantly to the moving ball) and Nigel Arnold (27, despite being ``clearly out'' by the little-known leg before catch rule) knuckled down and took the game out of Longstowe's hands. By the time they were separated just 8 was needed, which Ev and Paul Henderson scored without much further fuss.
The depth in our batting line-up was certainly crucial to the win, but what was most encouraging was having dismissed a team inside the 40 overs -- the first time we've managed it this season and something we'd achieved only twice in 2000. But in future slightly more confident run chases wouldn't go amiss, although it was all a good excuse for a few cleansing ales (or a few too many in my case -- let's just say that sweet corn was involved and leave it at that).