With the England World Cup tragedy complete for another year we were free to concentrate on cricket today -- no bad thing, but Friday morning's quarter final loss to Brazil was pretty deflating for everyone, even the foreign nationals.
Anyway, with memories of dismissing Cherry Hinton for under a hundred last time 'round fresh in our minds and a vicious wind blowing, we decided to bowl first, which was pretty clearly the correct decision. We would have drawn first blood on the first ball, but some Australian idiot dropped a pretty simple chance at silly mid-on. This was pretty representative of the next hour: the batsmen struggled to get bat on ball (let alone score) but the few chances they gave went to ground. After 14 overs the Cherry Hinton openers had made a half-century partnership but then, in the words of one of their number, "it all went pear-shaped".
In no time at all they'd slumped to 7/67. Daniel Mortlock (2/18) made the first breakthrough; George Speller got 1/23; and Nigel Arnold (back in the team after having been ``dropped'' for the last match) dismissed most of the other Cherry Hinton batsmen in a career-best spell of 6/37.
After this collapse, however, Cherry Hinton put on a another 50-run partnership, this time for the eighth wicket, before another mini-collapse occured. Their scorecard certainly made for strange reading: the better of the two openers carried his bat for 85*; his two partners in the above-mentioned unions made 18 and 14, respectively . . . but the next highest score was 1 and the next best score was shared by the seven batsmen who were out for ducks. This made a striking contrast to our efforts in the field, which were more of a team effort: Pete Cornwell took two diving catches; Ev Fox completed two stumpings (one in which the ball bounced off his pads, the other one being more conventional in execution); Tony Desimone, inspired by the dead worm he'd found, took a great slips catch off Nigel; and Arnie Garside and Rod Dennis seemed to do just about all the out-fielding for the entire 40 overs.
We had yet another tea (6/10) feeling confident of chasing a small target, but the reality proved a bit different. Cherry Hinton's opening bowlers weren't threatening, but were incredibly tight, and returned figures of 1/16 and 2/28, respectively. In the meantime both Tony Desimone (21) and Rich Savage (17) had made starts and Ev Fox (a careful 21) had played himself in, but it clearly wasn't easy going and at drinks the match was pretty even.
What happened, of course, was that i) our middle order collapsed and ii) Andy Owen (41) played yet another ``backs to the wall'' innings that, by the time he was dismissed with two overs to go, had virtually ensured a Romsey victory. But even with just 2 runs needed off the last two overs a win felt far from certain -- the opposition bowler was moving the ball about a lot, and the next run came off a dropped catch. This left us eight balls to win, but thankfully (from the point of view of the batsman who, having started the match with a dropped catch, ended it by being unable to hit the ball) the bowler's next delivery was about four feet outside off stump, and the umpire reluctantly had to call it a wide.
A real anticlimax to a great game, but I guess these imperfections are a lot easier to sweep under the carpet if you've just won your fourth game in a row (the last time we produced such a run being the promotion year of 1999). Hence we go into next week's rematch with league leaders Hardwick-Shepreth with some confidence, although it's also clear that we need to take more catches and make more runs if we're to trouble them at all. May the worm be with us -- maybe he/she/it (hermaphrodites, aren't they?) is our lucky talisman. Given that today's victory was achieved without Alfie or Neal, their claims to that role seem to have been without basis . . .