Cambourne is a strange place, having the feel of an Ikea flat-pack town that's been designed in Sweden and assembled out of the box. And yet somehow this philosophy didn't extend to the cricket ground, which was somehow separated from its attendant pavilion by a good hundred metres, not to mention a reasonably busy road. So going out to bat was going to be a perilous experience even before it was revealed that the pitch was decidedly lively; although it should surprise nobody that we were going to have a bowl on it first before giving batting a go.
A few early deliveries did lift and zip past the bat, but really the Cambourne top order were equal to the task and, despite trying most of our numerous bowlers, only Marcelino Gopal (1/15) had any early success. By the time the score had reached 122/1 in the 23rd over we were trying to gee each other up with fanciful talk of ``keeping 'em under 200'', whereas really 250+ was on the cards. When the remaining opener played yet another calm sweep and called for a single it was just more of the same; and when the ball bobbled off the rough outfield, causing Rod Dennis to fumble the pick-up, it was surely inevitable that the batsmen were going to get a bonus run. But Rod saw what was going on, got pissed off, and hurled the ball to 'keeper Andy Owen, who gathered on the bounce and had the batsman run out by a yard. Given the match situation (i.e., it wasn't like they were struggling for runs) it was an absurdly soft dismissal -- and, even more absurdly, it was matched two balls later when the new batsman half-heartedly swatted a full toss from Tom Jordan (2/58) straight into the hands of his dad, Paul, at square leg. This kind of summed up Tom's day: while his two wickets came from good catches (Rod taking the other) off average balls, he also had four catches of varying difficulty dropped off better balls (not to mention a few others that went perilously close to bowling batsmen 'round their legs). Either way, it was clear that slow bowling was the way forward for us, and after Tom, Rod and Paul had unlocked the door, Russell Woolf (3/30) kicked it down with a fiery performance, having worked himself into a rage when the umpire refused (quite legitimately) to stand where Russell wanted him to. In the end we took the last 9 Cambourne wickets for just 55 runs, Daniel Mortlock (2/36) finishing it off with a mixture of wrong-uns, atrocious wides and, finally, a half-tracker which kept low and cannoned into the stumps at shin height.
And, unfortunately, this turned out to be the critical point of the match. Whereas we'd essentially pitched every ball in the batsman's third of the pitch (well, excluding the ones that didn't pitch at all), the Cambourne openers bowled just that bit faster and shorter than we had, getting seemingly identical deliveries to either rear up at head height or shoot through below the knees. That they were a bit inconsistent in line didn't matter, as most of us eventually found ourselves playing back to a straight one that kept low. The only serious resistence was mounted by Tom Jordan (12), Andy Owen (6) and Dave Clark (14), the real measure of their efforts not being their unremarkable scores but the forty-odd balls they each survived. There was the brief possibility of salvaging a draw when a local kid (with an uncanny resemblence to Bobby from King Of The Hill) refused to leave the pitch, leading the opposition captain on a merry chase for a good five minutes, but sadly play eventually resumed, and with it the procession of wickets. After the openers had bowled out their ten overs we at least had hopes of picking up the scoring a bit, but we instead lost our last 5 wickets for just 10 runs. As a result we didn't even pick up a second batting point -- although we would barely have had a first if it wasn't for some 32 extras.
Obviously a 102-run loss is a thrashing, and yet that doesn't tell the full story. Cambourne's last 9 wickets fell for fewer runs than ours had, and the real difference came down to the batting of their top three who, between them, scored more runs than the rest of both teams combined. If only we'd held just one of those early half-chances, or tried a few shorter balls . . . Oh well, never mind.