Fresh from a pair of fabulous victories, we found ourselves back at the scene of the first of these two triumphs: the exchange student-rich environment of The Leys School. Our opposition today were Wilbrahams II, the only team we'd yet to play, and also in direct competition with us to avoid relegation.
As usual we bowled first and, as usual, we struggled to get wickets. Joe White (1/34) and Daniel Mortlock (2/39) both caused the Wilbrahams top order plenty of difficulties, but the resultant edges always seemed to land safely, and the more senior opener, apparently fresh from a hernia operation, cut and pul-- er, no just cut his way to 81 not out. We ended up with a slip, a gully, a point and a third man, and yet he still managed to place the ball between or over -- or through -- the fielders. Rod Dennis and Arnie Garside ensured that most of these shots were just singles, and Tony Desimone prevented plenty of those at point; between them they probably robbed the batsman of what ordinarily would have been a century.
It seemed that we were at least keeping the batsmen contained, and with the score at 70/3 at drinks we were doing okay. But then we were all but batted out of the game by one N. Frost, who clubbed his way to 68 with 5 fours and 6 sixes, some of which were simply enormous, especially given that there was no footwork at all -- it was just a good eye and strong arms. One six was almost caught by John Gull, falling back over the boundary line, but rather than being congratulated for a gutsy effort he found himself being berated by the bowler for not pushing the ball back into play. Certainly Andy Owen (0/52) and Rog Shelley (2/44) had a hard time of it, both having perfectly good balls on middle stump premeditatedly smashed back over their heads, and Andy Page (1/38) seemed destined for the same treatment until he was induced to try his leg spin and was rewarded with Frost's wicket, courtesy of Andy Owen's good pressure catch on the boundary. The innings ended with the day's comedy note as The Wilbrahams number 7 set about dancing back and forth and up and down the pitch in an effort to pull every ball to square leg, a tactic that was bizarrely effective, and he probably added 10 runs to his team's already healthy total.
Fuelled by Denise Owen's delightfully doughnut-rich tea, we realised that, despite our somewhat ineffectual time in the field, we had the sort of long and varied batting line-up that was more than capable of scoring at 5.5 runs an over for a few hours. All the top order got starts, with Tony Desimone (15 off 15 balls) quickly spreading the field before Roy Page (49 off 66 balls) and Ev Fox (32 off 66 balls) stayed together 'til the score was 99 in the 23rd over. It was certainly an excellent foundation, although the early free scoring rate had been closed down by Wilbrahams' first-change bowlers; the net result of this was a great set-up for the second half of the innings -- 120 runs needed off 102 balls but with 9 wickets in hand.
With the match up for grabs Rod Dennis (a bullish 17 off 14 balls) and John Gull (an even more bullish 39 off 24 balls, with 6 fours) put Romsey into a position of strength, providing something of an answer to Mr Frost's hitting earlier in the day. Alas we pressed -- or at least carressed -- the self-destruct button in the form of a couple of crazy run outs (one of which was clearly jug avoidance by Roy as he found himself comfortably short going for what should have been his second consecutive half-century), after which the lower order were faced with the always difficult task of scoring at a run a ball from the outset. And they gave it a pretty good shot, Joe White (7 off 11 balls), Andy Page (17 off 16 balls) and Daniel Mortlock (10 off 7 balls) all keeping up with the pace but all, as you've no doubt noticed, getting out in the process. Even with the last pair together it felt like we could still do it; instead there was one more lofted shot, one more good catch, and we'd lost by 14 tantalising runs.