Finally a home game . . . of sorts. Even though technically we were being hosted by NCI today, Parker's Piece is as close as we'll ever get to actually playing in Romsey Town. Andy used the location as a chance to demonstrate his dedication to match-day preparation, gathering the team together for a pre-game pint at The Regal, not that such hedonistic irresponsibility seemed likely to be relevant with cold rain whipping across the ground as the clock ticked over to 2pm. In the end we did somehow manage to play an almost interruption-free game . . . which, given the result, was a great pity.
Fielding first, we found ourselves in a pretty even three-way battle with the rain and the NCI batsmen (one of whom observed that, aside from being miserable conditions for cricket, it meant that the usual summer population of bikini-clad exchange students had, sensibly, stayed away). Despite the fact that scoring was clearly pretty tricky on the drying pitch -- just about every batsmen got their share of leading edges and bruises -- NCI had made it to a reasonably healthy 111/4 after 30 overs. Oliver Harris (2/39, to go with his two catches) and Paul Jordan (1/24) both caused their fair share of trouble, and Tony Desimone, John Gull, Dave Clarke and Arnie Garside all cut off lots of singles diving and sliding about on the slippery ground, but there was a danger it was all going to be in vain if the remaining batsmen could succeed in hitting out.
They certainly tried but, fortunately for us, it was largely through some dodgy cross-batted slogs at straight balls and, rather than accelerating, NCI lost 30/6 as their innings imploded. Daniel Mortlock (3/20) and Andy Owen (4/32) were the chief beneficiaries, although special mention should be made of Ev Fox, with some brilliant stumping attempts, one of which was so successful that the batsmen never even bothered trying to make his ground and just kept going back to the pavilion.
So, to the surprise of everyone, we headed off to a slightly early (not to mention hearty and superb) tea with, weather permitting, a first victory surely just a few hours away.
And then, just as suddenly, victory seemed to be at least a week away. Rather than quickly putting the result beyond doubt, we collapsed in a truly remarkable fashion, limping to 33/5 in the 19th over. NCI (complete with the first team in support) were having a whale of a time with lots of close-in fielders, and their bowling certainly was tight . . . but the horrific scoreline was primarily our own doing. Despite a long, strong batting line-up, numbers two through six spent 61 soporific balls collating a mere 12 runs between them. Three different bowlers managed a dozen consecutive dot balls; one of them conceded fewer runs than he has letters in his name. From the boundary it was like watching a car crash that had been filmed with one of those super slo-mo cameras and then put on repeat; maybe the one compensation was the absence, for once, of any silly run-outs.
No prizes for guessing the main -- indeed the only -- two contributors: Tony Desimone (38 off 55 balls, despite being almost immobile with a wricked knee) and Andy Owen (39 off 62 balls, completing a great all-round performance). Nobody else got more than 5. They put together the only significant partnership, but even then it was sufficiently slow-going (35 runs off 65 balls) that we never even had a launching pad for a final push. We eventually finished 38 runs adrift, but at least had the small compensation that we'd managed to bat for one more ball than our opponents.
Yay for us.