The second half of our season started with the first away match for a while, this time against Longstowe II. Always something of a grudge match, today kept with this theme, several of Longstowe's first XI being in our opposition's line-up and Rod Dennis again appearing for us against his old team.
As usual we fielded first, and Andy Owen (1/20) and Phil Marshall (1/40) kept Longstowe to just 37/1 in the first ten overs before their middle order got going. The next twenty overs saw almost a hundred runs added for the loss of only two more wickets, and at 132/3 after 30 overs a 200+ total was not out of the question. But we finally got things right in the last quarter of the innings, with Paul Henderson (1/38) and Russell Woolf (0/28) bowling their best overs and Alfie Wilmshurst (4/33) continuing his complete domination of the Longstowe batsmen. Of course none of this would have been any use without an improvement in the fielding, and things tightened up considerably here, highlighted by Ev Fox's two stumpings. The last ten overs yielded just 36 runs whilst we grabbed four more wickets and Longstowe finished on just 166/7.
Not much is known about today's tea, other than the fact that there was no corn within a few hundred yards of the clubhouse and so it must rate 8/10 on that basis alone.
The Romsey run chase started as it has in most matches this season, with Tony Desimone (25) and Rich Savage (24) combining solidity and aggression in an excellent opening stand of 47 runs in 10 overs. But with both openers out in quick succession we faltered. Phil Marshall (19), Rod Dennis (11) and Ev Fox (10) all got starts, but the fact that none of them posted a big fifty meant the match was still in the balance. However worse was to come, with this steady flow of wickets becoming a torrent that didn't stop until Russell Woolf joined Andy Owen at 145/8 at the start of the 38th over. With 22 runs needed off 12 balls things weren't looking good, but a six from Andy meant we started the last over with 10 needed and our hopes of promotion possibly hanging on the six balls to come. Russ got a four off the first ball and then we got three consecutive singles, leaving us needing 3 off two balls. Andy smacked the penultimate ball to the boundary to take him to 48*, with Russ (9*) having provided valuable support and Alfie, due to come in last, having just managed to maintain control of his bowels.
So a pretty stressful way to chase a small target (getting 120/8 off the last 30 overs of the innings is nothing to be proud of), but we -- or really Andy and Russ -- held our nerve in the end and maintained our position of second in the league. Four more wins and we'll have it for posterity . . .