Another week, another new home venue for Romsey. This time it was Trinity College's spacious Old Field site on the corner of Grange and Adams Road in West Cambridge. In one sense it was almost a homecoming, being just a few hundred metres from Emmanuel College's playing fields, where we played 33 games between 1998 and 2004. That was the closest thing we've had to an actual home ground in the last decade, and today's venue shared the combination of wide open spaces, attendant tennis courts and, most importantly, a licensed bar (one of the reasons Emma was such a nice place to play). Our first guests were Cambourne, who we played in our previous match a fortnight ago. In that match we ran out comfortable winners after bowling them out for just 136, so clearly the plan was to bowl first again today. They were presumably equally keen to avoid a repeat of that result, so it was no surprise that, upon winning the toss, they chose to put us in.
Our innings began brilliantly, with Roy Page (48 off 66 balls) and Rod Dennis (58 off 90 balls) putting on 104 runs for the first wicket. After that Jon Steele (31 off 37 balls) continued the good work, he and Rod taking us to the awesome heights of 171/1 in the 32nd over. And as Rod danced down the track to one of Cambourne's spinners it was hard not to imagine him smacking another boundary that would take us that bit closer a total of 240+ . . .
. . . but the bowler had (possibly deliberately) put the ball so wide that Rod couldn't reach it, and the batsman's despair as he and the ball passed each other in opposite directions was followed by scorer Nicky Mellish's as she had to work out how to record that Rod had been stumped off a wide. Unfortunately wides (of which there were an impressive 24) were the only other significant contribution to our total, the middle order making the mistake of slogging in pursuit of quick runs. Other than Marcelino Gopal (11 off 6 balls), nobody made more than 7 as Cambourne got themselves back into the game by taking 8/33 (which included a scarcely believeable run of 6/11). Even though we'd passed 200, the momentum was very much with the opposition at the start of the last over, and they might have gone to tea seriously lifted if they'd managed to bowl us out. It was thus absolutely critical that Arnie Garside (6* off 7 balls) and Rog Shelley (7* off 6 balls) smacked a few boundaries in the final over to make our total feel as big as it actually was.
It felt even bigger a few overs into Cambourne's innings after Daniel Mortlock (3/30) and Marcelino Gopal (1/18) combined to remove both Cambourne's openers. Given the way the same batsmen played against us a fortnight ago, the general sense was that they could have really threatened our total; however, given the way the tail had collapsed in that game, it was hard not to think that the match was already won once they'd departed. But today Cambourne's middle order batted with far more application, taking their total along to a healthy 92/3 after 21 overs. 127 runs needed from 114 balls was still a big ask, but we really needed wickets to be sure of a win.
It was at this point that the game was turned decisively in our favour by two of the club's bowling legends: Rog Shelley (second in the wickets tally with 146 at 19.37); and Andy Ralph (top of the all-time averages with 37 wickets at 15.38), playing his first Romsey game since May 2000. Rog (3/42) mixed unplayable cutters with some uncharacteristic full tosses, one of which was pulled high to square leg, where Andy had been positioned for most of the innings. Up to this stage his main contribution had been to alert the rest of us to the high quality of tennis players on the nearby courts, but now he found himself back-pedaling as the ball seemed destined to go over his head. Fortunately, Andy kept his, and took the ball clean as a whistle to show that he was most definitely back. He then came onto bowl and, once he'd reduced his run up, took 2/13 to decisively end Cambourne's challenge. The second of these wickets was a fairly regulation catch at mid-on by Adrian Mellish . . . except for the fact that the ball travelled slowly enough that Adrian had time to get The Fear, and by the time he'd clutched the ball to his chest his eyes were just about ready to pop out of his head. Adrian (1/30) then repeated Andy's established pattern of following a catch with a wicket of his own, after which it was Romsey all the way (despite the Cambourne number ten coming out and asking his partner, "Should we just go for it now?").
As has been the case this season, much of this domination was down to the fielding, with Richard Rex taking two good catches at point, Jon Steele and Rod Dennis energetic on the square boundaries, 'keeper Andy Owen superb behind the stumps, Arnie Garside tight on the singles behind the wicket, and Roy Page continuing to enjoy his custom spot at short mid-wicket. Despite the general feel that Cambourne had really made a game of it, they ended up scoring only 5 more than they had a fortnight ago, and we ended up winning by the rather large margin of 76 runs.
The result was obviously pleasing, as was the spirit in which the two teams played the game, although perhaps it can never be said too often that the umpire's always right, even if he's wrong. What was definitely right was that there was cold beer (and even cider) on tap, perfect to fuel a debate about exactly how England managed to lose to the Netherlands in the previous night's World Twenty/20 match . . . although the fact that Australia was in the process of being thrashed by the West Indies was thankfully unknown at the time.