Last week Romsey lost a tense, low-scoring game, going oh-so-close to defending a very meagre total. Whilst it was a great match, I for one had no particular desire for a repeat performance -- a high scoring Romsey victory over the old enemy, Whittlesford, would be a much more fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Alas, it was not to be: right from the moment we lost the toss and were put into bat today's game evolved with an eerie similarity to last week's. The one real twist was that we had just eight players for most of the day, so we we were effectively 0/3 before a ball was bowled.
After some balls were bowled things only got worse: we slumped to 38/4 in the 16th over, with Tony Desimone (a brutal 27) making the only significant contribution. Andy Owen (44) and Daniel Mortlock (31*) then set about rebuidling the innings: last week they'd come together at 10/3 and put on 34 in 20.3 painful overs; today they hogged even more of the innings (22.3 overs), eventually compiling an 80 run partnership. It was still pretty slow going, though (e.g., one Whittlesford bowler had figures of 5 overs, 4 maidens, 1/4 at one stage), and can't have been much fun to watch, but once again we did at least have some sort of total to defend.
And, given how close we went with just eight or nine fielders (i.e., there were some comings and goings), our 128 might well have been enough if we'd had a full complement in the field. Certainly things started well enough, Daniel Mortlock (1/16) getting a wicket in the first over, but the next Whittlesford pair knuckled down and put on a good 67 run partnership over the next 23 overs. Their batsmen found scoring just as difficult as we had; the difference was that they didn't give their wickets away, instead defending with dogged determination. At least there were no silly drops for once, but we did begin to tire: the combination of attacking field placings and low numbers meant that the few outfielders had to do a lot of chasing, Dave Clark, John Gull and Rog Shelley all doing sterling service in this regard.
Our best chance came just after drinks, with Tony off ``running erands'' and Andy swapping 'keeping duties with Rod (both of whom were excellent in that role). Russell Woolf (2/28) got a couple of quick wickets and Joe White (1/28) produced another memorable spell, beating or nicking the outside edge three or four times an over. But only two of these edges went to hand, one going down and the other smartly caught by Romsey first timer John Gull. With 11 overs to go Whittlesford still needed 48 more runs and we felt just a glimmer of hope . . . but the batsmen took a few risks, and the winning run was scored with 2 overs to spare. But then as we were walking off the scorers decided that one more run was needed, so we reassembled the wickets, got back in position . . . and watched as an easy single was taken off the very next delivery.