Normally our Saturday cricket games are very serious affairs -- smiling is all but forbidden during play, there is a strict embargo on talking with the opposition (except to question their parentage), and dropped catches are punished with amputations (which might explain why we seem to miss more and more chances as the season progresses). Today, however, would be different: with our place in Division 2 safe after last week's victory we could afford to relax a little, with the chance to share the bowling and batting around, and maybe even meet one or two of the opposition's players. At least that's how it would have worked out if the Emmanuel groundsman hadn't called up Andy to inform him that the pitch was ``under water'' and hence unplayable. This seemed somewhat at odds with the actual weather and, sure enough, after a few more phonecalls Andy had procured the use of The Leys School's ground on Latham Road, our fourth home venue for the year.
Not that a change of venue signalled a change in our luck with the toss: another dud call and the Hardwick/Shepreth captain predictably invited us to field first as usual. After a few quiet overs Andy Owen (1/12) made the initial breakthrough, which then opened the way for Joe White (4/15) to cut a swathe through the Wickreth top order. After 11 overs the score was a ridiculous 19/5, but even more amazingly we'd taken three catches, the best being Roy Page's fast-reaction effort in the slips.
At this stage it seemed Shardwick was heading for yet another sub-hundred score, but two of their batsmen stuck around as they faced a few overs from just about the entire Romsey line-up, Andy deciding to adopt a ``Noah's Ark'' policy as the bowlers came and went in pairs. First up were the Jordans, Tom (0/10, despite some rather harsh wide calls from ``Roger'') being more economical than his father, Paul (0/15). Next came the left-armers, Roy Page (1/14 having a catch dropped off his first ball for the club) and Dave Clark (0/6), who both caused the batsmen plenty of difficulties with their leg stump lines. Finally it was time for Aussies to have their time in the sun (well, time under heavy cloud cover), Daniel Mortlock (1/15) and Alex Cook (1/10) both getting cheap tail-end wickets before Andy bowled our final fielding over of the season.
We approached the batting in much the same way as the bowling: a conventional start, followed by a more mixed approach. Alex Cook (7 off 12 balls, proving he's human after all), Ev Fox (17 off 24 balls) and Rod Dennis (26 off 56 balls) took us to 70/3 at the half-way point without too much drama . . . which was promptly provided when Dave Clark (5 off 22 balls) engineered the most spectacularly suicidal run out in a Romsey history littered with spectacularly suicidal run outs. It then fell to Roy Page (24* off 28 balls) and Russell Woolf (19* off 31 balls) to finish things off, which they did in some style, putting on an unbroken 46 run partnership in 10 overs. It was a pity they couldn't keep going but, having scored the winning run more than 50 balls still to be bowled, we clapped them from the ground and set about distributing the last of the beers that had been used to keep the scorers from wandering off early.
Thus ended the Romsey season, with three excellent team victories. Today also saw decisive victories in the batting and bowling: Alex Cook (289 runs at 48.17) averaged more than twenty more than anyone else (although he'd needed to to bat today to qualify); and Joe White (17 wickets at 13.88) streaked away from last year's winner, Russell Woolf (11 wickets at 18.09), with his superb spell today. Oh, and whilst we don't have any fielding awards, special mention must be made of Ev Fox's wicket-keeping: his sharp work standing up yielded 5 stumpings (to go with 7 catches), and a quick look back through the records reveals that it's been over a decade since anyone has completed more dismissals in a season.
Anyway, enough back-patting -- the fact remains we still finished in the bottom half of the league -- and, more to the point, we had an evening of male-bonding ahead of us. First stop was Mickey Flynn's for some nine-ball and weak lager, after which -- does it even need to be said?