Finally a Saturday without rain: just like last year, Romsey's league season got off to a belated start on Hardwick's rather bumpy football pitch and, just like in that fixture, a tense, low-scoring match played itself out over the course of the afternoon.
Naturally we took to the field first, but despite Andy Owen (1/11) and Daniel Mortlock (3/36) getting a few early wickets, Hardwick/Shepreth II (who still haven't sought marketing advice to fix their name) were scoring pretty freely. We turned to one of our new boys and fastest bowler, Joe White (0/31), but Hardreth opener Andy Purse decided to chance his arm and it came off pretty spectacularly: he made 63 out of 88/3 in about 17 overs and looked capable of joining the worrying large People Who've Made A Century Against Romsey club.
But instead he was heading back to the pavilion courtesy of a shooter which hit the stumps about three inches from the ground. And from then on it was one-way traffic: Shepwick's long and youthful tail had no answer to our slow bowlers, with Russell Woolf (3/14) and Alfie Wilmshurst (2/8) having a field day, the latter in particular getting sweet revenge for being immortalised in the scorebook as ``new bowler 2: no hair''. During the collapse -- which saw Shwick lose 6 wickets for 19 runs -- we had a great time crowding 'round the bat, although the fielding highlight came courtesy of John Young, in his Romsey debut, executing a one-handed pick-up and direct hit from deep point. (Just why this was immediately followed by the captain's announcement that ``we're falling asleep in the field'' is, however, anyone's guess.)
Anyway, a target of 108 suggested a pretty relaxed afternoon's batting . . . at least until Tony Desimone suffered a bizarre diamond duck when he managed to squeeze a ball from outside off stump in the direction of the wicket and then either the ball or bat broke the stumps. The lucky bowler was none other than Andy Purse, and he complemented his batting efforts with an immaculate ten-over spell of 4/18 to get his team right back in the match. Fortunately Rod Dennis (28) was fresh from a day's coaching from Mike Gatting and set about getting our run chase back on track, ably supported by extras (24) and Dave Clark's Minder-inspired calling (``come back for one more, my son''). Andy Owen (29) and Malcolm Creek (11) also batted pretty sensibly to take us to the seemingly impregnable position of needing just six more runs with five wickets and some 15 overs in hand.
But whilst completing a comfortable victory might suffice for some clubs, it is not the Romsey way, and we really had no option but to lose 4 wickets in the next 13 balls (whilst accidentally scoring 2 more runs). Thus the year's first Romsey Collapse left Russell and a very tense Alfie with no second chances: one good shot would win the game; one mistake would see our day's work undone. After a few flamboyant leaves Russell played a glorious cut shot which looked like it might go to the boundary . . . but there was a diving save, and suddenly a run-out chance: Russell had stayed put whilst Alfie had gone for the run . . . but the throw was wide; we were still alive. Next ball Russell took a big swing . . . the ball sped off through mid-off with three fielders in hot pursuit . . . but the ball won and, consequently, so did Romsey Town.
What an ending to an insanely fun -- and at times hilarious -- match. Moreover, the whole game was played in a great spirit, the most extreme demonstration of which was when one of the opposition's better batsmen walked on an LBW appeal. One can only hope today's game is a template for the rest of the season.