Last time Romsey and Elsworth met on the cricket field it was a horrible, grey, wet day and a rather dull match was finished ten overs early by a torrential downpour. So it was, no doubt, a relief to all concerned that today was one of the most glorious of the summer -- perfect for some village cricket, and also for, say, some girls' hockey. And it just so happened The Leys School was hosting an inter-school tournament today, with a very striking navy blue team being pitted against some rather stylish yellows and some poor sods in fluoro orange. Thus when we headed out to field (Andy having lost the toss yet again), most of the team seemed strangely keen on patrolling the long boundary nearest the hockey pitch . . .
Joe White (3/21) quickly had our attention back on the cricket, however: he bowled one of the Elsworth openers with the first ball of the game, and produced a superb opening spell of 7 overs, 3 maidens, 2/8. However nobody managed to support Joe at the other end, the result of which was that these were the only wickets we got until the 34th over. During this middle period of the innings Daniel Mortlock (0/34) and Alfie Wilmshurst (0/39) both kept the scoring to a minimum, although Alfie would have had a few (well deserved) wickets but for yet more inpet Romsey catching. That said, our ground fielding was very good, with Arnie Garside saving bags of runs at a sort of leg gully position, and John Gull, Joe White and Rod Dennis running themselves ragged on the boundaries. We came back well towards the end of the innings, largely thanks to Andy Owen (2/56) leading by example with an excellent second spell. He too would have had more wickets if we'd been able to catch, although one drop provided the comedy moment of the day. The batsman in question, having ambled through for a forlorn single while the ball was in the air, was so excited at the sight of the ball going to ground that he decided to celebrate with an absurd second run . . . and was promptly run out by several metres.
Our superb tea (provided by Shane Minett, Rod's partner, who maintained her high standards) was the perfect distraction from our catching woes and, as we munched on our fruit salads, the truth of the situation -- that we had restricted Elsworth to an eminently chaseable total -- became apparent.
Our pursuit was steady in more ways than one: both runs and wickets came at a fairly constant rate. Most of the former were scored by Alex Cook, who carefully played himself in before cutting loose, hitting a total of eleven boundaries (thus avoiding all that pesky running between wickets) on his way to a fine 62. Given that his other scores this season have been 95, 36 and 25, he's way out ahead in the batting averages, but needs to bat in both our final games to qualify for the batting award -- let's hope rain doesn't rob him of his just reward.
Daniel Mortlock (20) and Alex took the score to 90/3 at the half-way mark, but then we had something of a wobble, with Elsworth taking some fantastic catches (in stark contrast with our efforts). The potential Romsey collapse was halted, however, by John Gull (21) and Andy Owen (27*), who were thus responsible for us reaching the seemingly impregnable position of needing only 35 more runs with 5 wickets in hand. There then followed a very tense period where we lost 2/13 in eight very tight overs -- suddenly we needed more than a run per ball and Elsworth might even have been winning for the first time all day. (It might also have been during this period that the word ``SHIT'' mysteriously appeared at the top of the scorebook.)
Fortunately we were presented with a few juicy long hops and full tosses, which Andy safely angled away to the leg boundary, before Joe White (5*) hit the winning run, nicely bookending the match by finishing what he'd started some six hours earlier.
For the moment, at least, we're out of the relegation zone (although Elsworth are still just ahead of us despite today's result) -- and we should stay up provided only that we don't lose to the current bottom team, Hardwick/Shepreth II, in two weeks' time.