It was all about revenge today. When we played Cambourne earlier in the year they thrashed us, making a respectable score before bouncing us into submission on their rather lively home track. However today had the promise of being different: we were on a more sensible college wicket on a boiling hot day, and we had a monster batting line-up (league fifties down to number ten) with which to set a total that even the clear league leaders might find challenging. Of course that would mean batting first, which would almost certainly require winning the toss . . .
. . . which Andy duly did, giving us a chance to set a target for only the third time this season. And yet even though the Cambourne opening bowlers weren't quite the handful they were on their own track, they dominated the game initially, reducing us to 16/2 before they started to tire in the sapping heat. Our recovery was sparked by Roy Page (52 off 62 balls and, embarrassingly, our first half-century all year), who completely dominated the early scoring by repeatedly threading the needle between the slips and an ever-increasing number of gullies, points and third men. At the other end Andy Owen (24 from 82 deliveries) was struggling to play freely, having sustained a nasty blow to the arm, but put as high a price on his as he ever has. After 24 overs we were 96/3 and, not for the first time this year, found ourselves applying the ``double what you have at 25'' rule to come up with a hypothetical total of around 200.
But maybe we should throw out that particular algorithm in favour of something more realistic, and the regular loss of wickets in the next few overs saw us slump to 130/7. In the middle of all this was a demonstration of the ``swings and roundabouts'' nature of the game: Cambourne had seethed for the best part of an hour after the umpire gave the batsman the benefit of the doubt after a nick-like sound, only for Jon Steele, who'd been looking very comfortable for 12 off 20 balls, to be given out LBW after inside-edging the ball onto his pads, the fact that the umpire didn't hear this nick favouring the bowling side this time. To add to the irony, Cambourne's 'keeper waited until after Jon had departed to announce that ``Yeah, I thought I'd heard two noises'', which leads to the obvious question: why did he appeal in the first place? Actually, the big appeal wasn't too surprising, as Cambourne's approach seemed to be inspired by the international practice of going up for anything that hits the pads. They were also rather loquacious between deliveries, which is perfectly legitimate, if tiresome, except when the chat continues after the bowler's started his run up (i.e., when the ball is live). Andy adopted the sensible policy of walking away from the crease every time this happened; and, since this resulted in the bowlers wasting their energy on aborted run ups, it proved to be a pretty effective way of getting the message across in the end.
Sadly, the end was what was nigh for us, and it became increasingly clear we weren't going to bat through our 40 overs. Our last wicket pair of Daniel Mortlock (21 off 20 balls) and Russell Woolf (an epic undefeated 0 off 0 balls) came together in circumstances eerily similar to last week, needing just a few more runs to at least get us to 160. This time they did manage it (thanks to a wide and subsequent bye) but Daniel then got bowled to leave 8 deliveries wasted. Scoring essentially the same total two games in a row would at least seem to indicate some level of consistency, although really they were very different performances -- whereas last week most batsmen got in and we sqaundered a number of opportunities for a big total, this time 'round we'd had to fight for every run, and it actually represented a pretty decent batting effort against a very good attack who, in turn, were made to earn their wickets. Half of them were taken by Md. Anwar Shahadat (aka ``Russell'' for some reason), Cambourne's first change bowler, who got a deserved five-for thanks to a series of full, fast and straight deliveries (although he also bowled a number of over-waist-high full tosses that maybe should have resulted in his being taken off, and we certainly should have called him for more wides than we did).
Anwar continued to dominate proceedings after the tea break, when he came back out to try his luck with the bat -- and he and his partner promptly got more slices of luck than most of us get in a season. Both of them played and missed about dozen times; both were dropped on more than one occasion; both survived being stranded out of their crease; and both also got away with a number of aerial attacking shots that landed just out of a fielder's reach. It was maddening stuff, especially since Marcelino Gopal (1/26), Daniel Mortlock (0/36), Russell Woolf (0/40), Tom Jordan (0/31), Rog Shelley (1/19) and Andy Owen (0/7) all created plenty of chances, and Jon Steele, Rod Dennis, Oliver Rex and Marcelino (using his ankle and back, as well as hands) all made plenty of great stops. These two hours in the field were probably the most frustrating of our season, and there was a sort of grim inevitability to the fact that, once the scores were tied, the winning runs would be hit with a dismissive six over long-on.
Still, despite giving Cambourne a good run for their money in the first half of our innings and then having been desperately unlucky at the start of theirs, there's no escaping the fact that, as also detailed in Cambourne's match report, we'd been thrashed by the top team in the league. For them this victory makes their ascension to Junior 2 that little bit more certain (if it's still in any doubt at all); for us the loss means that we're only 0.67 league points out of the relegation zone, our average of 11.00 being only marginally greater than eighth-placed Comberton's 10.33. From here the run home includes our first games against fellow mid-table sides Waterbeach and Longstowe, as well as return games against Cottenham, who scraped home against us back in June and, more worryingly, Comberton, who thrashed us later that month despite being below us on the ladder now. But if we bat like we did today and bowl like we have most of the season, we should be okay.