Report by Daniel Mortlock:
In a masterpiece of ironic scheduling, a season in which half our home games will be played at Royston began with the news that Royston's home fixture against us was to be played several miles south of Royston in Therfield. Or Kelshall. Or Therfield & Kelshall (one innings in each town, perhaps?). The last instruction heard before setting off was to "follow the signs to Therfield and Kelshall - we're playing in whichever one it is you get to first". Despite the fact that this depends on what direction you're coming from, everyone did eventually end up in the one spot (Therfield, since you asked), even if two of the most reliable and dependable team members delayed their arrival until the third and sixth overs of Royston's innings.
By this time we'd already made a couple of critical breakthroughs and had Royston on the defensive. It started, as so often before, with Andy Owen (with thoroughly deserved figures of 10 overs, 3 maidens, 2/15) bowling one opener; and then, just a few balls later, Arnie Garside pulling off a good save and getting off a quick throw to have the new batsman run out. Soon 11/2 became 30/4 when Andy bowled another batsman and then catalysed a great team-effort run out: after he'd chased the ball all the way to the long boundary and relayed it to Daniel Mortlock at mid-wicket, Daniel heeded the frantic calls and hurled the ball to 'keeper Ev Fox with the confused batsmen still both mid-pitch; the throw was a bit rubbish and Ev broke the stumps trying to gather the ball, but the batsmen were so far from safety that he had time to do the whole "pull the stump out of the ground and hold the ball against it" trick to complete the epic dismissal.
Aside from the obvious benefits that run outs tend to have (i.e. one less batsman to worry about), there was the knock-on effect that the remaining Royston batsmen repeatedly turned down pretty easy runs through fear of another lighting throw sending them back to the pavilion. Conversely, we couldn't have been more confident in the field. John Gull and Romsey first-timer Oliver Harris prowled 'round cover and point, respectively, anticipating most of the shots that came in their direction; Malcolm Creek and Tony Desimone were as solid as (and noticably more manoueverable than) rocks saving one; Arnie Garside and Dave Clark chased the ball tirelessly 'round the enormous outfield; Ev Fox was brilliant all innings standing up to the stumps; and even Rog Shelley got in on the act, making a couple of stunning diving saves at leg-slip (although in one case he was still on the ground from the previous ball when he found himself having to back up a wayward throw whilst still prostrate).
And it was Rog (now vertical) who went closest to matching Andy's superb bowling performance, producing a suffocating spell of 10 overs, 3 maidens, 1/21. At the other end Daniel Mortlock (1/24), Oliver Harris (0/30) and Arnie Garside (0/31) all kept the batsmen in check, even if they were unable to make any breakthroughs until the final over of the innings. Indeed, given Royston's final total was just 128/6, it's amazing that there was a thirty-over period during which we took just the one wicket and they scored over 90 runs. For this full credit must go to the middle-order batsmen, who patiently defended ball after ball and kept their concentration for the best part of two hours.
We went to tea feeling damn happy with our first-up efforts, but as we munched our hearty sandwiches it became apparent that the road to victory was not likely to be as clear as we'd hoped: a steady drizzle had begun to fall on what was already a somewhat damp ground.
It was in these conditions that our innings got underway, and Tony Desimone (somewhat subdued for 1* off 9 balls) and Roy Page (a typically violent 15* off 15 balls) seemed well on the way to getting the runs all by themselves as we raced to 19/0 after 4 overs. But the rain had been getting heavier, making the ground ever more slippery, and it was unanimously agreed to call a halt to proceedings. (Well, almost unanimously - Dave Clark had only minutes earlier been heard to assert that the ground was "bone dry", although this should probably be taken with the same boulders of salt required to digest the follow-up claim that "Ricky Ponting is well on the way to being the greatest batsman the game has ever seen". This was backed up with the unarguable fact that Ponting has, for instance, scored more Test centuries than Bradman; however a quick calculation reveals, also for instance, that even scoring at his current prodigous rate Ponting would have to remain pretty much undismissed until some time in 2010 to bring his average above Bradman's famous 99.94.)
It's tempting to whinge about the weather saving Royston from that rarest of fates - defeat at the hands of Romsey Town - but a far less fatalistic point of view would be that Royston's obdurate middle order saved the game by batting for so long. If they'd just given up and we'd bowled them out in, say, thirty overs, we might well have won a nice little miniature; as it was we just had to content ourselves with the notion that playing well is its own reward.