Upon waking this morning it seemed quite likely that today's game could be ruined by the World Cup tie between England and Denmark. If, heaven forbid, England had lost in a penalty shoot-out, I can't imagine anyone really having their hearts in a Division 3 Cambridgeshire Junior League cricket match (well, with the exception of one or two Australians knocking about). And even if the Three Lions had won a close game, the cricket would have ended up pretty deflated. Fortunately ``we'' were 3-0 up before half-time, and ``our'' place in the quarter finals was assured well before the ninety minutes were up. So even though we delayed the start of play (to see the socc-- er, football out), our minds were actually on the cricket.
The return game against Wilbrahams II saw us bat first this time and, despite the fact we were back on the ``batsman's paradise'' of Emmanuel, it was hard going, with accurate bowling and a strong cross-wind. This resulted in a few edges, the most contentious of which saw Tony Desimone (12) ``caught'' behind off the opposition's captain. At least that's what the wicket keeper and some of the fielders was certain had happened; Tony wasn't sure (and so didn't walk) and the umpire (i.e. me) thought he may have got an edge . . . but application of simple logic then implies that he may not have, so, as every schoolboy knows, the decision has to be ``not out''. The fielders were understandably grumpy, but it didn't end there because the Wilbrahams 'keeper had been involved in a near-identical incident last week, in which we were sure he'd nicked it, but he didn't walk and wasn't given out. That's about all you'd be able to say about it, except for the fact that he then asked Tony if this was ``revenge for last week'', which seemed like a pretty clear admission of guilt on his part. Things then got a bit silly, with offers to ``discuss this off the pitch'' being bandied about, and Alfie offering to ``nut'' anyone who misbehaved. What makes the whole thing even stupider is that Tony had walked off a fine edge (and been about to walk off one other edge that had been dropped) last week against the same opposition. What makes the whole thing just ridiculous, at least with hindsight, is that Tony got an edge and walked about three overs later. The Jerry Springer-style moral to the story (which may or may not apply to any of the above protaganists) would have to be that anyone who contrives to cheat at village cricket is beyond sad.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Wilbrahams continued to keep our scoring rate pretty low -- after reaching 45/1 after 9 overs, we made less than 4 an over for the rest of the innings. Rich Savage (43, his third score above 40 this season) and Ev Fox (38) were the only batsmen to make it past 20, but both had to fight for their runs. Their departure signaled a traditional Romsey collapse, with 4 wickets falling in the space of three overs, leaving us 146/7 with just 5 overs remaining, which was improved to a still unimposing 179/7 by Daniel Mortlock (17*) and Neal Baker (18*). (Neal's score was in stark contrast to his previous innings of 15* and 15*, just as the fact that he got lost on the way to the ground was in stark contrast to last Saturday, when he got lost on the way to the ground. But who cares when you can play cricket as well as he can?)
The tea was the usual Emmanuel faire (6/10) -- perfectly edible, with the obvious exception of the pimple and fish-flesh sarnies, but lagging behind the pork pies, sausage rolls and keeshes that are becoming increasingly common in these days of post-war excess.
Back on the ground we felt we could defend our smallish total if we bowled and fielded as well as we did earlier this month against Cherry Hinton II, and if we could get rid of ``the Old Geezer'', R. Tippen, who smashed 84 against us last week. Things looked ominous when he took 6 off Andy Owen's first over, but Andy had his revenge a few minutes later, bowling him for just 8. Obviously this was the bowler's dismissal, but it was also down to the fact that the batsman had become frustrated with the sharp fielding that had also resulted in the run out of the other opener. After ten overs Wilbrahams were just 19/2, and we felt pretty sure we could win the game from here if we kept up the same standards.
And that we did: Andy Owen (2/27) was as miserly as ever and Daniel Mortlock (1/24) bowled sharply with the wind, not wanting to damage his all-important wrist with his girlfriend out of the country. In the fielding department we continued to prevent quick singles, took a few good catches (notably Andy's at daft mid-off) and, in Ev Fox's case, completed a brilliant stumping off Neal Baker. Neal (3/51) again dismissed most of the opposition's middle order, and was unlucky not to get another five-for, with most the batsmen unable to control his short-pitched balls. At the other end Paul Henderson (1/37) also induced a number of edges of varying thickness, which revealed the one chink in our armour: the lack of a slips fieldsman of the calibre of Mark Waugh or Phil Bradford.
In the last two weeks at least half a dozen edges have gone to ground, which is not really a criticism in so far as fielding in slips is clearly a specialist position that we have to fill as best we can. I, for one, have no idea how one would even practise slips fielding, but it's quite clear that we could be dismissing sides for under 100 if any of us were able to fulfil that role. Then again, no other side seems to possess such a fielder either, so maybe it's simply part of the game that is almost irrelevant at our level.
What is relevant is not letting the batting team get free runs, and on this score we did brilliantly. No one did badly, but some notable performances were Alfie Wilmshurst at gully, Phil Marshall at point, Paul Henderson at short leg, and both Rich Savage and Mark Freeman patrolling various boundaries. All this self-praise notwithstanding, we were defending a small total, and with 8 overs left the incumbent Wilbrahams batsmen looked capable of making a real game of it. In the end they fell 20 short, with Alfie (0/13) and Neal keeping their line and length when the pressure was on.
We all felt pretty chuffed with our third win on the trot, although we may be tested in a different way next week with self-professed ``lucky charm'' Alfie away playing table tennis in Thailand. His specific claim is that Romsey only win with him in the team and always lose when he's not there. However the same holds for Neal, at least so far, so next week's game, for which Neal should be playing, may reveal just which of these two is the strongest link. Goodbye.