Despite a horrid night's rain, the day dawned sunny, and it turned out to be yet another magnificent afternoon for playing cricket in a pretty south Cambridgeshire village. Certainly Haslingfield has its share of thatched cottages and flower boxes, although the architecture around the rec varies from a snazzy new club house to a very out-of-place shipping container nestled in amongst the thorny undergrowth. As for the ground itself, a quick pitch inspection revealed a soft surface that would undoubtedly dry as the afternoon progressed -- thus we had no hesitation in fielding first after winning the toss.
Initially this decision was vindicated: scoring was near impossible and after ten overs we'd restricted Haslingfield to 16/0. We weren't, however, taking any wickets, and the batsmen were gradually playing themselves in: after twenty overs they'd progressed to 53/0, and then they gained the upper hand for a little while, taking their opening partnership to 112 off 29 overs.
Joe White (1/24, probably doing enough to snare the bowling award for the year), Andy Owen (1/39) and Daniel Mortlock (1/34) had all bowled tight if unpenetrative spells, and Alex Cook, Rod Dennis and Joe (whose arms were good enough that the batsmen stopped even looking for second runs) along with Ev Fox behind the stumps (despite the unnecessarily theatrical dive for what was really a straightforward catch) had all helped keep the batsmen in check, but what we really needed were some wickets.
And it was at about this point that Phil Bradford, one-time Romsey stalwart, appeard on the boundary line in shorts and sandals. The opposition captain kindly allowed him to come on as an unconventionally-attired substitute -- we'd spent the first half of the innings with just ten men -- and within a few overs we had both the opposition openers back in the pavilion, one of them well caught by Phil himself. (And to think they call David Beckham ``golden balls''.)
Having made these vital breakthroughs, the last part of Haslingfield's innings had a very different feel to it. We got four wickets in the last twenty balls, with Dave Clark putting in a star turn as he nabbed 3/8 in two very eventful and passionate overs. Taking wickets is obviously fun, but the real point was that, for the third week in a row, we'd restricted the opposition to just four runs an over and had ourselves a very chaseable target.
One option for this chase would have been ``slow and steady'', carefully picking off the singles, dispatching the bad balls, and not taking any risks. But you know that's not the Romsey way: instead we exploded out of the blocks, John Gull (10 off 11 balls) helping us take 12 off the second over before he got a bit too excited and got himself out.
The more astute amongst you will have noticed the two unaccounted for runs in the over -- these came from front foot no balls, announced with great vigour (and Hitleresque salutes) by Andy. However he decided the crease wasn't marked with sufficient clarity for his high-precision calling; there followed a Dr Strangelove-esque farce in which various Romsey players attempted to gain entry to the aforementioned shipping container, within which the line paint was conveniently stored. John was defeated by the Green Container Of Death, but it did reveal its secrets to Joe, who emerged triumphant with some white paint, which was duly splattered all over the pitch under the careful direction of Mr Owen.
Thankfully things calmed down a bit after this, Alex Cook (64 off 70 balls) and Ev Fox (35 off 49 balls) resorting to the more careful strategy advocated previously, Alex in particular showing excellent judgement about which balls to attack and which balls to defend. When Ev was dismissed we were 84/2 in the 15th over and so far ahead of the required rate that all we needed to do was keep wickets in hand; but if, say, we were to lose a few quick wickets . . .
No, don't worry -- no Romsey Collapse (TM) today. Alex continued to play sensibly while his new partner, Rod Dennis, raced to 10* off just 50 deliveries. Seriously, though, without Rod's careful innings we might well have suffered the fatal collapse that always seems just around the corner when we're pursuing small targets. In the end it fell to Daniel Mortlock (22* off 23 balls) to finish things off, hitting the winning runs with some 8 overs to spare.
A very satisfying win indeed: with the exception of the brief period after the first drinks break we dominated all day. And we held our catches. With the results from the weekend's other games having gone our way we've saved ourselves from relegation with a match to spare. But if we can play like we did today with any regularity next year we might even be able to think about promotion, joining this year's likely league winners, Cambridge/St Giles II, in Junior 1 (unless, of course, they're slumming it back down in Junior 2 once again).