Two runs. Two fucking runs! Sounds torturously close, doesn't it? Indeed, although Australia really were out-played by England for most of the second Test, and it was only some superb last-hour batting that even made the match close.
I'm typing this in a punch-drunk state, having dragged myself out of bed expecting to see the Australian tail-enders succumb in quick time, but instead witnessing one of the great rear-guard actions of all time as they got within three runs of victory, only for a dodgy caught behind to level The Ashes at one-all after two matches. Andy was kind enough to ring me within a few seconds of the final catch being taken and, after the requisite five minutes' gloating time, we moved onto yesterday's very different Romsey match . . .
Four runs. Four fucking runs! Sounds torturously close, doesn't it? I suppose it was, but really I think we were out-played by NCI II, and it was only some superb last hour batting that even got us close.
Our top and middle order constructed a near textbook one-day innings, and can all be proud of their efforts; during our 40 overs in the field, however, it was an altogether different story.
NCI batted first and scored pretty much at will from the outset. Some measure of our impotence can be gleaned from the fact that the best bowling figures were Andy Owen's 1/45 (although Russell Woolf, running off Joe's bowling mark for some reason, did well to take 1/37 off his final 8 overs after his first two had gone for 18). The bowling was certainly nothing special, but the fielding was even worse. Needless to say that we dropped half a dozen catches; less characteristically we also managed a record numbers of misfields (and just plain misses). We were certainly under lots of pressure, with Arnie Garside, John Gull and, rather bizarrely, regular 'keeper Malcom Creek running and running and running in the outfield, but in the end I suspect everyone would be able to remember at least oh, I don't know, maybe four (fucking) runs they gave away.
We grumbled our way off the field, deserving maybe some mouldy bread and diluted urine for our tea; instead Shane Minett had laid on a banquet the likes of which we simple cricketers have seldom seen. Fluffy Yorkshire puddings nestled up against beef and pepper pockets; huge cakes loomed over plate upon plate of terrified sausage rolls; there were egg-'n'-sausage butties for us late-risers and, as a final coup de gras, bowls of deliciously juicy fruit salad.
Fuelled and cheered by this feast, we set about the challenging task of scoring a run a ball with impressive enthusiasm. Roy Page (24 off 18 balls) and Alex Cook (31 off 40 balls) both looked set to go on 'til they fell to good catches, but we kept scoring well, being 114/3 at drinks with Rod Dennis having made a good 36 (off 43 balls) and Ev Fox reasonably well set on 12* (off 14 balls).
NCI got their noses in front during the next ten overs, dismissing John Gull (11 off 12 balls) and Malcolm Creek (16 off 10 balls) fairly cheaply whilst also reducing the scoring rate. This left us facing the daunting task of scoring 82 off ten overs -- but with Ev Fox (now scoring freely) having been joined by Andy Owen (the Michael Bevan of Junior 2) we were in with a chance, however small. NCI also brought their big guns to bear, bringing back the opening bowlers -- S. Balasuthenthirarajan and the comparatively boringly named C. Rowland -- and so it was very much game on.
Andy was the first to go up a few gears -- when he was 9* off 20 balls I made the public assertion he'd either get out next ball or score a fifty . . . and he almost did both, being dropped off three consecutive deliveries and then scoring 32 off the next 19 balls he faced, taking him to a highly entertaining 41* (off 39 balls). At the other end Ev went up through the gears in a more classical fashion, finishing up with 63* (off 78 balls) but, more relevantly, scoring 32 off his final 27.
With one over left we needed 17 to win, but with the field completely spread boundaries were almost impossible. After 4 twos and a three -- Ev and Andy must have been buggered by this stage, especially with Andy suffering from some sort of hamstring strain -- we found ourselves in the cliched situation of needing a six to win off the final ball. The irony was that the ring of fielders (and, indeed, the non-striker) were now essentially irrelevant, and it would have been a nice comic touch to have just left the bowler and batsman on the ground for the final delivery of the day. As it was Ev played a very nice cover drive but, as it was along the ground, the result was just a forlornly ambled single.
Ev and Andy had put on 82 undefeated runs in 11.3 overs and, to go with the rest of the top order's efforts, it made for the third good batting efforts on the trot. And even the four of us who didn't get to bat at least had the compensation of Megan, NCI's resident statistician and Cambridge University ladies' player, informing us that she's ``never had so much fun scoring with the opposition before''. And I think she also liked doing the book, too. (Oh, come on, it's been a long day . . .)