After last week's default, the presence of a sky-full of rain clouds had some of us thinking that we might go the entire season without actually playing any cricket. Fortunately we got the whole game in, a few spatterings of rain notwithstanding, and what a game it was.
Romsey, fielding first, rapidly got the upper hand, with Andy Owen (2/32 in a couple of spells), Daniel Mortlock (1/23) both getting early wickets and Paul Henderson consolidating with a brilliant spell of out-swingers that netted figures of 2/24. When drinks were taken at the 20-over mark the not-so-catchily-titled Hardwick/Shepreth II had been reduced to 57/5 -- partly a result of our tight bowling, but also due to some gutsy fielding. First, we didn't miss any catches; second, we kept putting our bodies behind the ball, a necessary inelegance on what was a football pitch until a few weeks ago; finally, Rich Savage, in combination with 'keeper Malcolm Creek, pulled off a very sharp run-out.
But cricket, of course, is a humourous -- sorry, funny -- game, and the ``Shepwick'' tail most definitely wagged at the expense of some rusty Romsey bowling arms. The batsmen hit the loose balls and grabbed extra runs off the inevitable fumbles, all while taking few risks. We did have a little bit of a comeback in the last few overs, with Rog Shelley (1/15) and Rod Dennis (2/6 -- how did he go all through last season bowling just a single ball?) grabbing quick wickets, but the opposition's final score of 153/9 was much more respectable than it might have been.
Nonetheless, scoring at less than four runs an over didn't seem too challenging a task, at least in principle. The reality was, of course, somewhat different. ``Hardreth'' seemed to have an endless supply of the sort bowlers who could deliver almost every ball on the stumps, and our aggressive batsmen got bowled or caught off attacking strokes with regularity. Just how regular? Well, there was no partnership over 40, and no-one got more than 31. Conversely, we never scored at much less than the required rate, with with Ev Fox (28) and Rod Dennis (28) taking a fairly studied and sensible approach to the art of batsmanship, and Rog Shelley (14) and Daniel Mortlock (21) swinging at anything they could reach as if they had light sabres, not cricket bats, in their hands.
By the end of this chapter of the game we need only 21 off seven overs, but had just 3 wickets in hand. Suddenly everyone was very edgy -- we greeted every scrambled run with applause, whilst the fielding side sensed that a wicket could come at any time. In the end, the dominant factor was -- predictably -- Andy Owen, who once again kept a cool head in a crisis and finished up with 31 not out. He and Malcolm Creek (3*) both batted far more sensibly than the rest of us, and were clapped from the field having hit the winning runs with more than two overs to spare.
We all felt pretty damn relieved not to have thrown the match, and pretty damn happy too -- this was only the second time in a decade that we'd gained 40 points from our first two league fixtures. And, to finish with a cliche, it was very much a team win -- a few people had good days, a few bad, but the only reason we won was that all eleven of us were pulling together.