So we think we're legitimate inhabitants of Division 2, do we? Thumping Cambridge/Godmanchester IV is one thing; giving Babraham's undefeated first team a run for their money is altogether another.
But when Andy Owen (1/47) got a few edges in the first few overs it seemed we might be able to make some inroads into the league's best batting line-up . . . except the edges went to ground and Babraham's openers revealed themselves to be seriously classy batsmen who were more than capable of smashing our vanilla medium pacers to the boundary with ease. Once again we endured a century opening stand, and the score stood at 116 for no wicket at the 20-over mark: Babraham's previous total against us -- 338/3 -- didn't seem totally out of reach.
After our four ``main'' bowlers had failed to make a breakthrough, Rog Shelley (2/41) reluctantly joined the attack, and immediately caused the batsmen more trouble than anyone else with lateral movement and variations in pace. Rog quickly induced a leading edge -- well caught one-handed by George Speller -- from the better of the two Babraham openers, and was unlucky to get only one more wicket in his ten overs, a few edges going begging and the stumps being shaved on more than one occasion.
Babraham's ``other'' opener was on 90 as Rog started his eleventh over, and immediately moved to 94 with a flick over midwicket . . . until it was realised that having an eleventh over was naughty at best, and so the delivery was anulled. Neal Baker-Davis (2/40) came back on to bowl in Rog's place and -- no doubt partly due to the confusion -- dismissed said opener first ball (and then followed it up with another wicket a few balls later).
The rest of us bowled reasonably well, but that wasn't enough against such quality batting; we also fielded pretty well, but our ground skills only came into play on the rare occasions that the batsmen failed to place the ball. Needless to say there was plenty of chasing required, and Rod Dennis, Arnie Garside, Vince Higgs and Neal all had their work cut out on the boundary, Neal also taking a great catch running backwards at point. The real star, however, was Phil Marshall, who fielded about twice as many balls as anyone else, getting his body behind countless hard-hit drives at mid-on without making a single error (thus going a long way to making up for arriving eight overs late, having mounted a one-man assault on Babraham's home ground by mistake).
At tea we should have been happy to have kept the league's best batting line-up to a manageable total on an easy pitch, but instead we were distracted by the sensual pleasures of Shane Dennis's superb spread. Sure there were sarnies, but instead of ham and tomato being the highlights, today it was just a starting point. Things moved onto salmon sandwiches, egg and bacon butties, Yorkshire pies filled with roast beef, and then the piece de resistence, fruit salad.
Going out to bat just forty good overs from pulling off the upset of the season, we started brilliantly, with Neal Baker-Davis (a scintillating 45 off just 37 balls) combining with Ev Fox (14) and Andy Owen (25) to take us to 75/2 in the 17th over. Scoring 152 off about 140 balls wasn't going to be easy, but it was no more than we achieved a week ago and, in marked contrast to their batsmen, Babraham's bowlers were merely good.
Those of you who've been watching Romsey's fortunes over the years will, no doubt, have been able to guess the way in which the game concluded. A succession of wickets -- mainly self-induced -- saw us collapse to 111/8, by which stage 226 had been reduced to a far-off fantasy and and even our dreams of maximum batting points seemed a bit far-fetched.
To cut a long story short, no, we didn't beat the league leaders, but Malcolm Creek (who smashed 43* off 46 balls with 8 boundaries) and Arnie Garside (a solid 5*) put on a further 46 runs without loss, taking us to 157/8 after our 40 overs.
In the simplest terms we'd been thumped in much the same way that Babraham had thumped so many other sides this year. Looking a little deeper, however, we'd kept them down to a manageable total on such an easy pitch and, for at least a third of our innings, made a good go at chasing the target. Sadly the league table isn't based on ``putting up a good show'', and all we had to show for our day's efforts was another consolation prize of 7 points rather than the 20 we really needed. Let's just hope -- in a spirit of Scrooge-like negativity -- that Harlton and Cambridge/Godmanchester IV were similarly unsuccessful in their Saturday afternoon endeavours.