Romsey Town hasn't been performing too well so far this year - our batting has been pretty lame and, on the rare occasions we've posted a decent total, we've bowled or fielded poorly. It was tempting to put this down to the fact that, well, we're a team of part-timers . . . but when news came in that today's game was scheduled for Fenner's (i.e., Cambridge University's first class ground) it suddenly became clear that the real problem might be that we'd been lacking a great stadium in which to perform our heroic deeds.
Thus there was an unusual air of excitement as we walked out onto the ground in the footsteps of most of the great cricketers of the last century. After immortalising the moment with a team photo we took up our fielding positions to see what we could do.
The first over was certainly eventful: a wide was followed by a classy boundary off a good ball, and then an even better ball which took the edge and went straight to second slip . . . who almost caught it first time and then again on the rebound. The wide was an aberration - it was the only one we bowled - but the other two balls were the innings in miniature: we let about eight edges go through the slips area, while the repreived St Giles batsmen repeatedly punished our bad balls. The innings didn't really vary much from start to finish - whilst there was a small, gradual acceleration, there was no big partnership: none of the batsmen scored less than 12; none scored more than 36.
This homogeneity was also reflected in our bowling figures: Joe White (2/48, but unlucky not to have gotten more wickets) and Daniel Mortlock (2/44, bowling injury-enforced "dibbly-dobblies") were probably the best of the attack, but Andy Owen (1/53) and Paul Jordan (1/46) were only marginally more expensive.
Another constant of the innings was the hard work Malcolm Creek, Arnie Garside and Rod Dennis did on the boundary, the latter in particular spending forty overs patrolling the wide open spaces in front of the scoreboard. Roy Page and Alex Cook made a number of excellent saves in the gully/point area, and Tony Desimone once again got to show off his socc- er, football skills at mid-wicket, but the clear fielding highlight came in the final over when Arnie Garside completed a superb diving outfield catch, right in front of our band of appreciative supporters. (Indeed, there were many more spectators than at most Junior 2 league games, and for the third time this season we had a proper umpire. Today it was Geoff Hales, familar to many of us as Remnants supremo . . . although apparently not so familiar to the opposition, who spent the day cheerfully calling him Rog for reasons that are still unclear as we go to press.)
Now, while the whole "tea-rating" business was dropped from the match reports on the grounds that it was, er, a bit dull, occasional exceptions must be made, and today was one. Coming off the field we were greeted with the sight of sausages, sausage rolls, pork pies, proper baguettes, pizza slices, scones with jam and cream, and, no doubt as a palate-cleanser, melon slices. If our inter-innings refreshments were still being rated it would have to be an unprecedented 10/10 . . . but then again anything less wouldn't have done justice to the fact that, well, Romsey was playing at Fenner's!
The first delivery of our innings was a head-high no ball and for a brief moment it seemed we might be provided with sufficiently many loose balls to have a real crack at the imposing target. But then the St Giles bowlers sent down 29 consecutive dot balls: after five overs we were just 2/1; after ten we'd made it no further than 17/1. Alex Cook (36, despite putting a crack the size of the San Adreas Fault in his bat) and Ev Fox (42) then mounted a rescue operation, putting on a hard-fought 76-run partnership to go with their 74-run partnership last week.
The only problem was that, by the time Alex and Ev were separated, we were in the hopeless situation of needing 130 runs off 15 overs - St Giles had bowled and fielded tightly enough to have won the game even without taking wickets. Not that they had to wait too long for those: from 77/1 we collapsed to 84/5, and suddenly even maximum batting points seemed a long way away. Daniel Mortlock (23), Rod Dennis (8) and Joe White (5*) at least got us a fourth point, but a late flurry of wickets left us walking off the field with the rather sorry total of 124/8.
St Giles had exacted an almost perfect revenge: after we'd beaten them by 84 runs at Harlton a few weeks back, they'd run out winners by 86 runs today. In theory we were going to head out and celebrate our grand day out at Fenner's, but by day's end there was nothing so grand about it, and everyone went their separate ways.