After two disappointing seasons, being narrowly relegated from Division 2 and then just missing out on promotion, we started the day with the slate wiped clean and another chance to ``perform''. The first ``stage'' of the year was the parish ground in Little Shelford, complete with a big oak tree inside the boundary at square leg. The forecast was for rain, and the air was heavy, but in the end the game finished in glorious sunshine without even a single ball having been lost. Pity really.
After losing the toss we were put into bat, but moved along pretty smoothly (despite Tony Desimone's freak dismissal by a ball that bounced twice) with Rich Savage (47, including a couple of cracking straight drives) and Phil Marshall (26) keeping us going at a run a ball early on. Then, of course, there was the inevitable middle-order collapse, which had turned into a lower order collapse by the time our forty overs were up. Captain Andy Owen saved us from a disaster with a punchy 70*, but the only significant lower order support came from Giovanni Giacobbe (13 in his first ``real'' match for us) and Rog Shelley (9* at the death). We finished up just shy of 200, which felt like enough of a total to defend.
Aside from the presence of the inevitable sweetcorn pustules, the tea was fine, with unusual luxuries like keesh and Kit Kats, so 7.5/10 (would have been 8, but for the aforementioned lumps of gangrenous yellow death). With the possible exception of Andy (who'd brought his own lunch), I don't think we were really very fussed about eating, but just wanted to get out on the field and get some wickets.
Unfortunately this is what the ``strike'' bowlers -- George Speller (0/44, a little wayward, but also fast and unlucky) and Daniel Mortlock (0/39, and just not penetrating) -- failed to do. After 15 overs the Little Shelford openers had zoomed to an unbeaten century partnership, not with extravagent strokes but with good footwork, clever deflections and a large number of outside edges falling out of the fielders' reach. Clearly a change was needed, and after a few unsuccessful moves, Andy relinquished the wicketkeeper's gloves to a reluctant Tony and bowled himself in tandem with Russell Woolf. This had immediate effects, with Russell getting one opener LBW and Andy getting the other to loft a shot to gully where Giovanni Giacobbe took a great diving catch (although there was some debate as to whether the diving actually preceded the catching). In the next ten overs the batsmen were beaten regularly, several more wickets fell and suddenly it seemed we might be able to pull of a remarkable win. But by the time Andy (2/40, completing a fantastic all-round performance) and Russell (3/45, deserved figures given his nagging length) had completed their spells, it was clear that Little Shelford would complete a fairly comfortable victory.
So we trudged (well, drove, actually, but it felt like trudging) back to Cambridge with another first-up loss and plenty of work to do to get back up to Division 2. There were some promising signs, however, most notably what looks like the makings of a good top order and the final twenty overs in the field during which the bowlers got fantastic support and cricket was revealed, once again, to be very much a team game.