``Today's match: Great Chisill vs Romsey Town 2:00pm'' -- so said the sign at the entrance to Great Chisill's sports ground. It's certainly the first time I've seen Romsey suggested as a headline act, but maybe this could be our first step to becoming a national touring side, appearing on the pre-season program at Fenner's, hitting sixes over that tree inside the boundary at Canterbury, or charging in down the famous slope at Lord's to launch another 70 mph thunderbolt. With this in mind, the 30-foot cross-ground slope (and 40-knot cross-ground wind) seemed to likely to be good training for the unusual conditions we'll be faced with as we ply our trade up and down the land. In reality (yes, sorry to get back to it), Great Chisill must have had a serious home-ground advantage, being used to the rather tricky conditions, although I don't envy them shivering in that wind week after week.
When we were put into bat, most of us were more than happy to cower in the warmth of the clubhouse while Tony Desimone (14 off 39 balls) and Roy Page (26 off 55 balls) weathered some testing bowling (and excellent fielding). They took us to to a reaonsably healthy 27/0 after 9 overs, at which point the ground was hit by a torrential downpour. For a while it looked like the match would end there; but only ten minutes later the ground was bathed in glorious sunshine and the game resumed. Unfortunately Tony had a rare lapse of concentration third ball back, swinging at a straight one, after which Ev Fox (14 off 36 balls) joined Roy and took the score on to 60/1 at drinks.
This should have been the launching point for a steady acceleration, but instead we got the season's second Romsey Collapse (TM). After contriving to lose 5/11 in our mid-week warm-up game, we lost 5/22 today, slumping to 82/6 and the possibility of not even batting out our 40 overs. It fell to Andy Owen (25 off 40 balls) to once again save his team and, with support from Andy Page (16* off 34 balls) and Joe White (7* off 11 balls), we recovered to 126/7. Certainly not a total to be proud of, but it wouldn't be completely trivial to chase -- the long boundaries and long grass saw to it that we managed just half a dozen boundaries in the whole innings.
A victory certainly seemed a possibility as Joe White (beating the outside about twenty times on his way to figures of 7 overs, 4 maidens, 1/7) and Daniel Mortlock (1/24) bowled tight, sharp spells and the whole team fielded brilliantly. One shambolic non-run out aside, there were two people chasing every ball, sharp throws and even -- gasp -- backing up. Rod Dennis took the honours with his direct-hit run out from square leg, but Andy Page, Dave Clark and Romsey first-timer Paul Collings did brilliantly stopping erratically bouncing balls in the deep. After 10 overs ``The Chisill'' were just 18/2, and by drinks they were 57/3; with two new batsmen in the game seemed to be in the balance . . .
. . . but instead the winning runs were hit just 50 balls later. This was mainly down to one Angus Gent, who played a succcession of clean pulls, drives and cuts to smash 66* with twice as many boundaries as our whole team managed. And just in case you're tempted to think this was a flukey slogging, it turns out we got off lightly: in the first round of last season he got 218. (Although the fact that one of his team-mates informed me that ``I think it's the club record'' made me wonder if double centuries were two a penny in these parts.) And a quick look at the scorebook revealed that he was also the chief destroyer with the ball, taking 3/23 in our aforementioned collapse. Little doubt about who was the man of this match.