The room is dark. The door is locked. Pink Floyd's The Wall is screaming from the stereo at scrotum-bursting volume. The gun in your hand is loaded. The barrel slips between your teeth, cold, inviting. Your finger tightens on the trigger . . .
. . . and everything feels okay. Because you weren't playing for Romsey against Great Shelford on May 24, 2003. Unless, of course, you were, in which case you are most likely beyond help. But feel free to keep reading anyway.
As usual, Andy won the toss and we fielded first. At times we kept the run rate down; at times we served up some dross; but not until the last few overs of the innings did the batsman appear to be in much trouble. Andy Owen (2/30) was certainly the tightest of the bowlers; of the rest of us only Rog Shelley (an unlucky 0/47) went for less than five an over. Meanwhile a few of the batsmen did make mistakes but, just as was the case last week, we endured another century partnership, spending a frustrating hour chasing an increasingly wet ball around an increasingly sodden outfield.
The only real bright spot was our fielding. No simple chances were dropped and we took four good catches: Nigel Arnold held onto one of those horrible spiralling balls at mid-on; Mike Goddard, on debut for Romsey, recovered from losing his footing on the wet grass to take a difficult chance on the point boundary; Rod Dennis bravely remained on the path of a tracer-bullet drive, using his, er, tummy, to bring the ball under control; and Daniel Mortlock got to practice his theatrical diving at slip. Andy Owen, Tony Desimone and Mike Scanlon (also on Romsey debut) all put their bodies on the line fielding close to the bat, and Phil Marshall, Rich Savage and Mike Goddard saved plenty of runs in the deep.
We went to tea in a somewhat subdued mood (although we could easily have been chasing more than 200), a state that was somewhat alleviated by the lashings of sandwiches, pork pies, sausage rolls and cakes provided for afternoon tea -- a stark contrast to last week's World War II style rationing.
As Great Shelford took the field we felt we had a pretty decent chance of maintaining the required run-rate of five an over . . . until we lost two wickets in the first over. Rich Savage (25), who'd watched the horror unfold from the non-striker's end, and Rod Dennis (24) set about rebuilding the innings, putting together a half century partnership and slowly increasing the scoring rate. But then they were both dismissed in the space of a few overs, and we had to resign ourselves to chasing the 150 required for maximum batting points rather than the 201 needed to win the game. Andy Owen (36) played the sheet anchor role as a succession of partners scored more rapidly but riskily, Rog Shelley (14), Nigel Arnold (12) and Malcolm Creek (15) all playing entertaining cameos.
With one over to go we'd made it to 147/8, and we at least seemed guaranteed five batting points to go with our meagre two bowling points. Andy got a single off the first ball; then we lost Mike Scanlon for 4; Mike Goddard opened his account with a cheeky single; and then Andy refused the easy single that would have taken us to 150.
What the fu . . . ?
It turns out that the scoreboard (operated by a Great Shelford minion, I might add) was one run off, and so Andy thought another two runs were needed. Off the second last ball he launched into a big drive, but it went more up than along, and we finished up on 149, frustratingly (and indeed dubiously) short of our mini-target.
So ended a rather rotten day of village cricket although, in a touch of uniquely English irony, the sky was clear and the picturesque Great Shelford recreation ground was bathed in sunlight as we headed off to the local pub.