With Channel 4 having spent the last few weeks going on about the ``Indian summer'' (when they weren't embarrassing Jade on Big Brother) it was appropriate that today's game was played in 30 degree heat and blazing sunshine on the hard and yellow Lawn at Whittlesford. Last time we came down here it was for an end-of-season consolation win before our demotion to Division 3. This time it was with the possibility of promotion back up to Division 2 within our sights -- a game clear of the third placed team, we just need to keep winning. And the pitch looked pretty condusive to us dismissing another side, with variable bounce and plenty of grip for the slow bowlers.
We lost the toss, but the Whittlesford captain obliged by electing to bat, a decision that looked quite correct when 8 runs came off the first over and his had made it to 25/0 after 7 overs.
But then all hell broke loose. In the space of three overs we got 5 wickets for 3 runs, but even more remarkable was an eight-ball sequence where first Andy Owen (2/26) and then Daniel Mortlock (3/27) were on hat-tricks. All four wickets were distinct but thin edges taken by Ev Fox behinds the stumps, and Andy even managed to induce an edge off his hat-trick ball, but it was clearly a case of ``jug avoidance'' as he'd ``coincidentally'' placed Alfie at first slip.
After all this excitement things calmed down, with the two Whittlesford batsmen setting about rebuilding their innings and, in the case of the younger one, hitting three fours in four balls at one point. At drinks Whittlesford had got to 60/5, and the elder of the two batsmen was overheard aying ". . . two new bowlers now . . . won't be as good . . ." so they were clearly eyeing a total of around 140 or so.
There were indeed two new bowlers, Neal Baker (4/17) and Alfie (1/9 off 7 very economical overs), but they turned out to be even more effective than the openers, giving away fewer runs and, eventually, getting just as many wickets. With the scoring having dried up, Andy moved the field in, setting a couple of slips, two silly mid-offs, a short leg and a leg slip for much of the time. However the two batsmen remained firm (and a little lucky with a clear stumping being ruled not out), taking the score to 84 without further loss, a 56-run partnership.
Then all hell broke loose again. Neal bowled the senior partner; an over later the new batsmen foolishly tried to hoik Alfie over mid-on but succeeded only in giving Arnie Garside a chance to take an excellent catch; and then Neal finished the innings off with a hat-trick. The first and third wickets were bowled, but the middle dismissal was a dubious LBW -- it was pretty clear to most of the close-in fielders that the batsmen (the young lad who top-scored with an excellent 36) had nicked the ball. However it was also justice of sorts after the stumping he shouldn't have survived a few overs earlier, so we didn't call him back. All this meant that we'd bowled out our opposition -- who'd suffered two separate five-wicket collapses for 3 and 2 runs -- for a mere 86, and so we clapped the bowlers off the field feeling pretty chuffed with ourselves.
Despite a brief delay due to the early finish of the innings, the tea was excellent, with the usual sandwiches and cakes being augmented by such delicacies as carrots, peppers and spring onions to go with a variety of dips. 9/10 and surely the favourite for the best of the season.
Back on the field the run-chase was inevitably a bit of an anti-climax, but did contain its fair share of drama. Phil Marshall (19) came out of the blocks with a fabulous array of back foot drives, one of which canoned into the foot of Whittlesford's young opening bowler, leading to a stream of colourful language and gutteral noises. It turned out that such noises were a central feature of his on-field persona, two ridiculous LBW appeals being communicated in the same flamboyant manner. As one of his own slip fielders said, ``Don't let it show . . .''
At the other end Rod Dennis (20*) and then Ev Fox (28, to go with his four catches) got most of the required runs at double the required rate, and it was only Ev's dismissal with the score on 81 that led to the possibility of drinks being considered. We opted not to bother, and 6 runs off the first three balls of the 21st over (5* to Paul Henderson) gave us victory with just 117 balls to spare.
Our seventh win in eight matches meant continued tenure of second place in the league, and we even had enough time to head over to Foxton to gloat to Phil Bradford (looking pretty happy in his new pub) about our success.