After a few Saturdays fielding on bumpy village grounds, we finally found ourselves back on the closest thing Romsey has to home turf, Emmanuel College's sports fields on Wilberforce Road in Cambridge. Normally it's a batsman's paradise, but a quick excursion to the square immediately revealed a rather soft pitch ideally suited to the Romsey ``bowl first and chase'' policy.
The only problem was that Haslingfield won the toss and put us into bat, a decision that met with immediate success when we crumbled to be 10/3 after 6 overs. Andy Owen (36) and Daniel Mortlock (10) then set about rebuilding the innings, but some very tight bowling, combined with the pressure of the scoreboard and an endless catalogue of shots straight to fielders, meant that their 34 run partnership consumed 123 deliveries. Our progress totals were scarcely believable -- 14/3 after 10 overs; 32/3 after 20 overs; 54/4 after 30 overs -- but at least we hadn't collapsed completely. And in the final 10 overs we almost doubled our score, Nigel Arnold (11), Arnie Garside (6) and Joe White (5*) all making vital contributions. Our final total of 101/9 (containing a grand total of 2 boundaries) was hardly likely to be terrifying the Haslingfield batsmen as they tucked into their teas, but it at least represented a non-trivial target in the conditions.
And so it turned out, Romsey putting on one of its best ever performances: we bowled well and fielded brilliantly. A few catches did go down (although it's hard to be too critical of whoever gets the muggins job in the slips cordon), but otherwise we excelled, particularly close to the bat. Rod Dennis pounced on countless shots at short mid-wicket, John Young did lots of great sliding and diving at point, Alfie Wilmshurst was brilliantly aggressive (throwing the ball in faster than we thought possible), Malcolm Creek made lots of good saves in the slips, and Arnie Garside repeatedly put his body behind the ball in one of our few run-saving positions. Probably the most critical role was, however, Ev Fox's behind the stumps, taking an excellent catch and completing two sharp stumpings (and going very close to getting several more).
With a proliferation of bowlers in the team today (seven of our eleven had already bowled this season, and two of the remaining four are wicket keepers by trade) we had the chance to tailor the attack to the incumbent batsmen, but the first half of the innings saw ``the old firm'' of Daniel Mortlock (2/22) and Andy Owen (0/24) bowl through. They repeatedly threatened the batsmen whilst keeping the run-scoring to a minimum, and after 23 overs we'd restricted Haslingfield to 55/2. This meant that -- miraculously -- they were behind the required rate, although our only real chance of winning was to get 8 more wickets, and fast. Rog Shelley (1/17) and Alfie Wilmshurst (1/18) both made valuable contributions here, but in the end our best hope was Joe White, who bowled with rare venom in a brilliant spell of 7 overs, 3 maidens, 2/13. Bowling to a field of three slips, a leg slip, two silly mid offs and a silly mid on, he repeatedly beat the bat, induced a number of edges, and even had the Haslingfield captain nodding in resigned appreciation after yet another unplayable ball. During this period Haslingfield collapsed from 84/3 to 87/6, and we seemed to be in with a real chance of pulling off a remarkable victory . . . but the seventh wicket pair kept their heads, nudging singles where they could, and eventually won the match with an all-run four.
In the end it was shades of the Shelford match: two weeks ago we went damn close to chasing an unchaseably large total; today we went damn close to defending an indefensibly small total. So, we can bat and we can bowl . . . the real question for the rest of the season is whether we can manage to do both in the one game.