A day that began so well -- sunshine, blue skies, lots of Romsey runs, all that's good in life -- ended in a most depressing fashion, with big black clouds depositing a steady drizzle on us while we forlornly chased a red bar of soap around a sodden outfield. The irony was that this game was our first with sponsorship, Mickey Flynn's American Pool Hall kindly supplying the match ball that was, like us, decidedly worse off by day's end.
The New Romsey regime that defined July stretched into its second month as we won the toss, batted first, and went to drinks at an extremely healthy 102/2. Oliver Harris (31 off 35 balls) and Rod Dennis (28 off 26 balls with a succession of huge pulls) had led the charge, and with the Camden bowlers struggling with their length it seemed another 200+ total was a given. Instead we got some cagey bowling, a couple of soft dismissals -- largely to outfield catches, most impressive in the conditions -- and our first Romsey Collapse (TM) since the dark days of June. Over the next dozen overs we lost 39/7 as Roy Page (31 off 84 balls) managed survival but no more, and no-one else even managed that. The rot finally stopped when the two most capped players in the side came together, Andy Owen (19 off 36 balls) and Rog Shelley (17* off 23 balls) making sure we at least batted out our overs. Even taken in isolation our final total of 163/9 would have been sub-par, but given our great start today it was disastrous.
Still, if everything went right and we got a bit of luck we might have been able to make a game of it; instead just about everything went wrong, and, after an initial whiff of hope when Camden were struggling at 15/1 after 7 overs, we were roundly thrashed with a minimum of fuss. The heavy rain during the tea break left the bowlers worrying as much about standing up as putting the ball in the right spot; the ball itself, which was somehow still hard and shiny after our innings, rapidly became soft and shapeless; the plethora of edges we got early on all went through the gaps in the increasingly populated slips cordon; and when we did get chances they were all of the sharp variety, and none of them stuck. That said, there were some brilliant efforts in the field, Andy Page scaring everyone by throwing the heavy ball from the boundary to the far end of the pitch, and Oliver Harris, Russell Woolf and Rod Dennis all razor sharp in close. (Although the fact that all three made plenty of stops with their feet had its inevitable conclusion when the latter managed to get his shin in the way of a well-hit cut, the result being a huge red and blue lump that matched his tattoos nicely.) On the bowling front it was, predictably, only Andy Owen (1/24) who caused real trouble, although Tom Jordan (1/28) delivered the ball of the day when he bowled one of the openers around his legs. Daniel Mortlock (0/31), Rog Shelley (0/31), Russell Woolf (0/29) and Andy Page (0/19) all came and went -- a stark contrast to the Camden middle order, who just came and then stayed, eventually finishing us off with some fifty balls to spare.
And it wasn't just events at The Leys School which didn't go our way today: with Haslingfield and Hardwick/Shepreth both winning, we're back into a four-way scrap to escape the second relegation spot. We're now behind Haslingfield (with 145 points from 12 games at 12.08), equal with with Bassingbourn (with, like us, 125 points from 11 games at 11.36) and still ahead of Hardwick/Shepreth (with 127 points from 12 games at 10.58). Our final two games are against the first and second in the league, but it turns out Hardwick/Shepreth has got numbers two and three to contend with; assuming they don't win either game then their average can't increase (and, indeed, can only stay at 10.58 if there are two wash-outs), so that leaves our basic target as keeping our average higher than that. If either of our games are washed out then that's all but a given -- we'd have to get just 3 points (i.e., score 90 runs) to stay ahead. And if both games are played then our task would be to get a total of at least 13 points in the two: obviously a win would do it, but otherwise two 150+ innings and a total of seven wickets (not trivial, I know) would suffice. Moreover, if Hardiwck/Shepreth lose either of their games, every bonus point they fail to get is one less we have to get, so our requirements could easily become decidedly minimal. Although, really, we should have saved ourselves this stress today when we missed such a golden opportunity to make it five wins on the trot -- our complete loss of momentum from 102/2 after 20 overs was so at odds with the laws of nature that it was enough to make me think about quitting physics and taking up astrology or relgion or something . . . until I realised that momentum was actually conserved, being neatly transferred from us to Camden during that hour after drinks. So at least it's some small consolation that the universe still makes sense.
The other consolation was a particularly tasty post-match curry. Predictably, the conversation descended to the usual litany of ``if''s and ``but''s that might have seen us winners rather than losers. The rain helped them not us; their batsmen were as lucky ours weren't; and so on. All a vital part of the village cricket tradition, of course, although some idea of the chasm between objectivity and our mood can probably be judged by Russ's complaint that his fish had bones . . .