Report by Daniel Mortlock:
Up until only a few days ago it seemed we were going to have to swallow our pride and play this match on an artificial wicket. But then Andy got a call from Darren Wood, the Trinity College groundsman, and suddenly we'd gone from paupers to kings as we returned to the Old Field site for the second time in a week. It was clearly going to be a good batting track, but we had a slightly bowling-heavy side and so, when Andy won the toss, we chose to field first.
It seemed the right decision as Daniel Mortlock (0/37) and Marcelino Gopal (0/35) got the ball to move about, beating the bat almost as often as not. However Daniel's and Lino's bowling figures contain the hard truth the the Elsworth openers managed to survive the good balls and hit the bad balls to the boundary. Elsworth had made it to 59/0 in the 15th over, but then we pulled out our trump card in the form of Rog Shelley, who's only once taken less than a three-for all season. Sure enough, he delivered, producing probably his best spell of the year to grab 4 deserved wickets for just 26 runs. With Russell Woolf (1/40) also bowling well, we took 6/50 during the middle part of the innings and seemed to be just a few wickets away from another Cambourne-style rout.
We really should have finished the job - and probably would have - but for the fact that our catching was woeful, with half a dozen increasingly easy chances going to ground. In a stark contrast to our efforts a week ago, when we took five catches, we took none today. And even without taking wickets, with Elsworth at 114/6 after 32 overs, we should have been able to keep them to 150 or so. But their seventh wicket pair batted cleverly and ran brilliantly, nurdling and scampering 57 runs from the final 48 balls. About the only thing we got right during this period was our out-fielding, with Rod Dennis, Andy Page and Daniel Mortlock all doing fantastic work on the boundary, running hard to meet the ball and then firing in huge and accurate throws. And we did get a run out, albeit of the "batsmen going for a hopeless run off the final delivery" variety. Otherwise it was all a bit frustrating, and Elsworth were probably the happier of the two sides at tea, even if, objectively, 171 wasn't a huge target on such a decent batting track.
Our chase got off to a very healthy start as Roy Page (53 off 86 balls) and Rod Dennis (35 off 25 balls) compiled another good opening partnership, taking us to 65/0 after 11 overs. With further contributions from Dave Williams (10 off 22 balls) and Andy Owen (23 off 42 balls) we passed the half way mark (i.e., 86) in the 17th over, and a most comfortable win looked to be a formality.
Elsworth could have been forgiven for throwing in the towel at this point, but they kept searching for a way back into the game, and found it in the simple virtues of tight bowling and sharp fielding. The next 16 overs yielded just 51 runs, and suddenly we needed a mildly stressful 35 runs from 42 balls. Even worse, the pressure of so many dot balls told on the batsmen, and most of our middle order self-destructed with a succession of big swipes and wild sorties down the pitch. It was clear that panic had set in. Daniel Mortlock (20* off 22 balls) calmed things down to a certain degree, but had to physically restrain Arnie Garside (4 off 13 balls) from perishing in the same manner as everyone else, Daniel's gentle suggestion that he "just play the ball on its merits" being met with a wild-eyed "I don't know what I'm doing!" and two huge slogs at balls that just missed the stumps.
Still, Daniel and Arnie held in there, and we began the last over needing 7 runs to win. Arnie sacrificed himself for the cause, after which the batsmen followed Elsworth's lead by scampering a couple of ambitious twos to the outfielders. Eventually it all came down to the final ball: we needed one to tie or two to win, but with the extra drama that the batsman now on strike, Russell Woolf, had yet to face a ball. Elsworth's young leggie ran in sent the ball spinning on its way . . . Russ wound up and took a big swing towards the inviting gap at mid-wicket . . . and he connected, the ball flying in the intended direction, but maybe too quickly towards the fielder . . . as Daniel, with the benefit of being able to back up (and possibly greater straight-line acceleration), completed his second run in time to see Russ moving up through the gears for his second, and then looked to his left to see the outfielder's return flying through the air towards Russ's end. The ball began to drop towards the waiting Elsworth 'keeper with Russ still some way short . . . but the 'keeper suddenly started to move off station - the throw was off-line! - and Russ was home, his 2* possibly the most valuable single-ball innings in the club's history.
We were elated to have avoided the horrors of the last ball ties from the Longstowe and Comberton games last year, although credit for the fantastic finish has to go to the entire Elsworth team for twice fighting their way back into the game from seemingly hopeless positions. With everyone still buzzing, it was just as well that there is a bar at the ground, as for once it was probable that a calming beer or two would have made everyone drive more safely.