Today we finally had our chance to make amends for the horror loss to Thriplow back in June. Back then things hadn't gone so well when we'd asked Thriplow to bowl first in the baking mid-summer heat, so it seemed only natural to invert the process and volunteer to head out into the blazing sunshine today.
Marcelino Gopal (1/24) and Andy Owen (1/21) got us off to the tidiest of starts, both beginning with 8 dot balls before conceding a run, although we had the more impressive of the Thriplow openers to thank for our first breakthrough, a magnificent straight drive of his being just a bit too straight, the ball flicking Andy's fingers on its way to the non-striker's stumps. There was the potential for some heated debate when the umpire, who was diving to get out of the way of the ball, admitted he hadn't seen whether the non-striker had made his ground, but the potential problem was averted when the unlucky batsman conceded that his bat was still in the air and, most honourably, walked.
We had our chances after that, but most of them went flying through the slips and off to the boundary. Nonetheless, the fielding was pretty impressive, with Rod Dennis and Andy Page superb at point (of which we often had two), Tim Spratt and Jon Steele all but impenetrable at mid-on and mid-off, and Andy Owen making a series of unbelieveable reaction stops at crazy mid-off. The batsmen, meanwhile, had begun feasting on some rather loose bowling, and Thriplow must have been pretty happy at 100/3 in the 22nd over . . .
. . . but then so, presumably, were Weston Colville when they'd reached 106/2 against us last week, and we all know what happened to them. Which, curiously enough, is almost exactly what happened to Thriplow today, Daniel Mortlock (3/26) and Rog Shelley (3/38) inducing a collapse of 7/50 that swung the match decisively in our favour. Never mind that the first of these wickets came from an absolutely rank long-hop, nor that the last was a bonkers run out (when, after Andy Page made a great diving stop, Jon Steele was cleverly in place to get the ball straight back to the bowler with the two batsmen still arguing mid-pitch). The main thing was that we were heading off the field with the sort of target that our long batting line-up should have been able to eat for breakfast.
Before that, though, our long batting line-up had to eat some delicious (and nutririous) food for tea. Today's combination of savouries, desserts and fruits was provided by Catherine Owen (of her own volition, apparently), to whom many thanks. The only injustice is that, whilst she's old enough to cook up a storm, she's still too young to play in the league, so we'll have to wait until next year before another Owen is added to the list of Romsey players.
Fully fuelled, our batting effort began every bit as well as our bowling had, with Roy Page (23 off 27 balls) and Russell Woolf (15 off 32 balls) taking us to Russell's stated target of 50 runs after 10 overs. The one problem was that Russell himself hadn't quite made it that far, being bowled trying to repeat a big boundary he'd hit two balls earlier. And there was the story is our innings: five of our top order got out to soft (or even silly) shots immediately after they'd scored the boundary we needed for the over. Which is ridiculous -- the only way we could be beaten today was by being bowled out, and here we were handing out our wickets at regular intervals. After Russ and Roy were separated we managed a succession of mini-partnerships of 13, 7, 13, 14, 19 and 5 runs, almost as if it was somehow un-Romsey to be in the ascendancy for more than an over at a time. Our middle order of Jon Steele (11 off 13 balls), Andy Page (8 off 28 balls), Tim Spratt (15 off 17 balls), Marcelino Gopal (18 off 16 balls) and Rod Dennis (4 off 18 balls, before being left stranded mid-pitch by some classic ``yes; no; sorry'' calling) all did the hard work of playing themselves in, but didn't make the bowlers work hard enough to get them out.
We'd all but matched Thriplow's collapse with our own of 71/7 and, at 108/7 after 25 overs, they must have thought it was just a case of mopping up the tail. And with most teams in Junior 2 that would have been the case -- sides (be it us or the opposition) that have been seven-down in our games this season have managed to score just 0/0, 14/3, 20/3, 23/3, 32/3, 5/3, 2/0, 9/3, 8/3, 13/3, 7/0, and 14/3 in the rest of their innings -- an average of just 5.54 per wicket. With another 43 needed to win the obvious implication was that we wouldn't even get close and that we'd soon be lamenting a Thriplow disaster for the second time in a year.
Yet there was still a chance. Our batting line-up was strong enough, for instance, that Rog Shelley, with a couple of league half-centuries to his name, was down at eleven. And, possibly even more incongruously, our numbers eight and nine, Andy Owen and Daniel Mortlock, had scored a total of 465 runs at 33.21 last season. Moreover, they had previous form in exactly this sort of situation, having blocked out 26 overs against Thurlow earlier this year and also having nurdled their way to victory in a similar situation back in 2001.
And, as if that set-up wasn't tight enough by itself, there were plenty of on-field arguments with the umpires (and not just from the opposition, either). Aside from batsmen getting annoyed at LBWs and uncalled wides, there were all-in debates about a fielder having his shadow on the pitch (okay provided he doesn't move while the ball's being bowled), a leg-bye being run after a batsmen hadn't played a shot (legitimate because, rather than padding up, he was taking evasive action), and no-balling a slow bowler for an above-waist full toss (which, stupidly, is actually a legal delivery even though it can still be plenty dangerous). Needless to say it all seemed very important at the time.
For the next ten overs the game almost seemed to stop, with tense sequences of dot balls as we eked our way towards our target at about 2 runs an over. At the start of the 37th over we still needed 9 more, but then we finally got the loose balls we'd been waiting for and, after one more debate abow the Laws of the game, the winning runs were struck with surprisingly little fuss. For the second week in a row we'd won by the decidedly stressful margin of 3 wickets, and Andy (13* off 37 balls) and Daniel (31* off 38 balls) had put on 44 runs, the biggest partnership of a match defined by its lack of them.