After a Friday of torrential rain and too much vodka, I for one was hoping that The Leys School's pitch would be too soggy for cricket today. Alas the wicket had dried overnight and so we ten convened under grey skies -- our awesome-sounding new Australian recruit called off at the last minute with bronchitis or pnumonia or something like that. Not that we were alone in being under-strength -- Comberton were missing several of their front-line bowlers, although they did at least have a full team.
Having been put into bat we began with the rather unusual opening combination of Alex Cook and Arnie Garside. The former was under captain's instructions to ``bat through the innings'' (which would probably explain the 16 dot balls he blocked out before deciding to score a run), although the latter seemed to be under starter's orders, setting off for a doomed run in the third over. With a somewhat reduced batting line-up I can't have been the only one thinking we could have a disaster on our hands.
What we got instead was an excellent partnership, John Gull (45 off 50 balls, with 8 fours) joining Alex to take the score onto 67 without further loss. Aside from being effective, John's innings was also plenty entertaining, his many aerial strokes being either just out of the fielders' reach or dropped in increasingly comical circumstances. The highlight was when one catch was held long enough for John to exclaim ``shit'' and head off in the direction of the pavilion before the fielder managed a last-second fumble a la Herschelle Gibbs. In that case Steve Waugh told Gibbs that ``you've just dropped the World Cup, mate''; hopefully John had the presence of mind to inform the fielder that he'd ``just dropped the Cambridgeshire Cricket Association Junior 2 South A trophy'' or something along those lines.
At any rate, John was eventually (and, indeed, inevitably) caught, after which Comberton took the upper hand, restricting us to less than 3 an over during the middle part of the innings. When Andy Owen joined Alex (now on 31 off 65 balls) in the 24th over the score was just 94/4 and we were a long way from setting a decent target. Andy, determined not to be out-done, decided to bat even more conservatively than Alex, racing to 1 off 20 balls and then 11 off 40 balls. For a while it seemed he was trying to emulate the Australians and bat out a draw, until something clicked and he moved up not just a gear, but all the way from neutral to fifth, going on a slogging frenzy that lasted until the end of the innings. He managed to hit 41 runs off his last 21 balls and 26 off his last 11, finshing up with 52* (off 61 balls with 4 fours and 2 sixes). Alex had also accelerated, albeit to a lesser degree, remaining undefeated (as instructed) on 63* (off 104 balls with 7 fours). Their unbroken partnership of 92 was one of the best we've had this season, and the final 7 over burst which yielded 66 of those runs saw us to the surprisingly respectable total of 186/4.
Even though we were justifiably proud of our batting efforts, we knew that the Comberton top order would easily pass that mark if allowed to bat through 40 overs, so an upset Romsey victory was only going to be possible if we could take a few early wickets. As it turned out even taking a few late wickets would have been an improvement on what actually happened: we spent some 30 overs fetching the ball from across the boundary and clapping the few ``almost maidens''. It wasn't that we bowled that badly, or that we dropped easy catches; rather, the two Comberton openers just batted very well. One of them, ``Samways'' (according to the somewhat illegible scorebook), played the Alex role, eschewing any risks to end up with 65* (off 93 balls with 7 fours). That, of course, leaves plenty of runs unaccounted for, and his partner, ``Haktwright'' (again as indicated in curious heiroglyphs in the scorebook), had a field day, finishing up on 109* (off 90 balls with 13 fours and 5 towering sixes, a total of 82 runs in boundaries). At one stage he was 32 off 46 balls, at which point he seemed to decide it would be more fun to start smashing sixes, and he scored 77 runs off his last 44 balls. Even more impressively there wasn't a slog to be seen -- it was all proper cricket strokes, right the to the boundary that ended the match.