Our recent matches at Great Shelford seem to fit the same pattern: a glorious summer's day with kids and families everywhere; a good batsman's wicket positioned worryingly close to the pavilion boundary; and two Shelford batsmen putting together an enormous partnership that puts the game out of our reach.
Today was no different, with our two hours in the field a pretty demoralising affair. When Paul Jordan (1/36) bowled the better of the two openers with a perfect off-cutter, we had Shelford 56/2 off 13 overs, and we seemed to be doing okay. Unfortunately we had to wait some 20 overs for our next wicket, with S. Smith (59) and the gallingly-named P. Mortlock (137*) compiling an essentially chanceless 139 run partnership off just 123 deliveries. Certainly none of us bowled brilliantly but, a few poor overs excepted, neither did we bowl that badly; rather the problem was that the batsmen were just too good. And the torture didn't end when the partnership was broken: with Mortlock taking a liking to his namesake's long hops and the fielders starting to flag, Shelford scored a further 70 runs off the last 7 overs, finishing with the massive total of 264/3.
Over lunch there was a lot of talk about not just going for the traditional ``Romsey target'' of maximum batting points, but really trying to win, and Tony Desimone (39, with 8 fours) and Rod Dennis (41, with 3 fours and 2 sixes) set about doing just that. Both of them hit the ball very hard -- as evidenced by the fact that several of the boundaries went through, rather than between, the fieldsmen -- and gave us a great springboard for the chase.
The preponderence of boundaries also caused problems for the scorers, with the scoreboard moving from 20 to 23 after an over which definitely included a boundary. Rog, with his umpire's hat on, queried this and was met with a torrent of abuse from the ``character'' doing the scoreboard -- this would have been pretty unacceptable behaviour even if he'd got things right, but don't think it wasn't noticed when, a few minutes later, the total was incremented by 2 after an over from which just a single was scored. It was also about this time that Seamus, the ``town custodian'' (his words) appeared, sporting a bizarre combination hat and wig, and ready with an endless supply of surreal, nominally cricket-related, comments to shout from the boundary. As the sun sank lower in the sky he assumed a starring role in the unfolding drama.
Meanwhile, back on the field, Andy Owen (17) had joined Rod and they seemed to have started some personal competition to see who could hit the most sixes over the short boundary. Unfortunately we lost both of them in quick succession, and went to the drinks break in big trouble, needing 153 more off the 20 remaining overs with two new batsmen at the crease. A few uncertain aerial shots seemed to auger a meek collapse, but Rog Shelley (43, with 5 fours) and Daniel Mortlock (65 off 44 balls, with 8 fours and 2 sixes, all hit with Rod's old bat, given to him with the words ``it's yours for free if you get a fifty today'') then mounted a remarkable comeback, combining some big hoiks to leg with some nicer cuts when the short boundary was on the off-side. When they came together the fielders were pretty chirpy and relaxed but, as it gradually became apparent that we might actually win, the mood became much quieter. (Not that it was quiet off the field -- Seamus, bouyed by Man U's FA Cup victory, had started providing a ball-by-ball commentary, as well as offering helpful second opinions about LBW appeals and the like.) We were motoring along at about 8 an over, and with 6 overs left needed ``just'' 43 runs to complete what would have been a most memorable victory.
Alas, there came a bowling change, a bit of movement in the air, a flash outside off stump, a thin edge, a good catch . . . and the end of an excellent partnership which netted 110 runs off 88 balls. The problem now was that the new batsman (and soon two new batsmen) had to score at more than a run per ball straight away. Malcolm Creek (17*, with 3 huge fours) made a valiant effort, but we were always about ten runs behind where we needed to be, and rather than getting the 20 runs we needed off the final over we lost two wickets, eventually falling 17 runs short.
Such is the cruel nature of the game (or at least the CCA scoring system) that we got just 6 points for our day's work, although the split between bowling and batting (1 and 5, respectively) feels about right. Heading home it felt as if we'd had the match in our hands and let it slip, but it all seems more positive with a day's perspective -- if we can bat like that for the rest of the season we'll win more often than we lose.