Last time we headed out to Cambourne was a year ago (almost) to the day. And it was a day best forgotten as we suffered a 102 run defeat (even if a closer investigation of goings-on revealed that the difference between the two teams really came down to just their top three). Today it would be hopefully be different, not least because we were playing their seconds rather than their firsts . . . at least in theory. It was just our luck that Cambourne's firsts had a match off today, so less than a week after being slaughtered by a sort of combined invitational super-star Burwell team, it seemed we were going to be taking on Cambourne I once again. But a very strange thing happened during the week: Cambourne had the integrity to select only their regular second team players, so we were actually going to be playing Cambourne II rather than some hyped-up hybrid.
Unfortunately, Cambourne II's opening batsmen were every bit as successful as Cambourne I's had been against us last year. Through a combination of agressive stroke-making and somewhat erratic bowling (and, there's no denying it, luck), they clubbed their way to 85/0 after 14 overs. Marcelino Gopal (0/16 from 3 overs) and Daniel Mortlock (0/39 from 7 overs at this stage) had been hit out of the attack, and Rog Shelley (0/33 from 6 overs at this stage) looked like he was heading the same way. We were also in disarray in the field, Paul Jordan's late arrival resulting in Estelle Page (Roy's wife, who'd just come along to watch) being drafted in as a temporary substitute, and lots of confused shouting about who should be fielding where. As we looked over at the high-tech scoreboard (which worked like an LCD calculator, and thus could presumably have been turned upside down to read "BOOBLESS" or "SHELL OIL") and did a bit of extrapolation, it seemed that a total of about 250 was on the cards, at least if things kept going the way they had been.
But of course one of the beauties of cricket is that there are so many subtle ways to change things if need be, and we most certainly needed be. The "fast" bowlers having failed, Andy turned to our slowest bowler, Adrian Mellish, whose only previous chance to bowl for Romsey this year was at the height of of the carnage against Burwell last Sunday. He marked his run up, handed his hat to the umpire, adjusted his headband and got ready to bowl. His first delivery was a little short, but it bounced a bit more than expected, and the surprised Cambourne batsman hit a simple catch straight to Nick Clarke at short-cover. And, when the next batsman played a decent but unremarkable ball as if it was a hand grenade, the game had completely changed direction in the space of about two minutes: the hunters were now very clearly the hunted. Adrian got two more wickets to end his next over (both of which bore further testament to Cambourne's decency, the first being a rare LBW and the second a more common, but still appreciated, example of a batsman walking after getting a fine edge) and then two more when Nick and Daniel held good catches. The end result was a Cambourne innings in tatters and a very happy Adrian, who had his best ever bowling figures: 7 overs, 1 maiden, 5/27. He would also have been in a position to rival the best ever club bowling figures (Ivan Ping's 7/16, back in 1989) but for the fact that Rog (who ended up with 3/44) and Daniel (who mopped up the tail to finish with 2/39) had been taking wickets as well.
A goodly fraction of the credit for Daniel's wickets should go to 'keeper Andy Owen, who held another sharp catch off one batsman and completed a "hands free" stumping off the other. To elaborate, Andy blocked the ball with his pads and it bounced back onto the stumps with the batsman struggling to regain his ground. The umpire initially seemed to be heading towards a "not out" verdict, but was clearly a little unsure, and so retreated to the more certain position of stating that that the batsman's foot was "on the line", to which Andy triumphantly replied, "The line is mine!" (as indeed it is). Thus in the second 14 overs of the match we'd taken 10/51, and had somehow bowled out Cambourne for just 136.
Whilst we were on top of the world after our fielding comeback, a target of 136 was awkward at best, and a couple of early wickets could have spelled real trouble. But the bowling was inconsistent, the extras plentiful, and our batsmen resolute, as they dealt well with both body blows from some good shorter balls and a running commentary from the Cambourne 'keeper. The latter was a bit silly, since he conceded 14 byes (not to mention the dozen more runs off wides which he failed to gather) and, in the end, extras top scored with 44. On the batting front Nick Clarke (41 off 52 balls, with 9 fours) and Roy Page (35* off 59 balls, with 7 fours) compiled a superb 96 run opening stand from 15 rather enjoyable overs. The greatest difficulty seemed to operating the scoreboard, with a succession of waiting batsman having to help out when Adrian was unable to post any total with a 4 in it. And even though Nick was dismissed at almost the same score at which Cambourne had lost their first wicket, we knew we had a much longer batting line-up, and somehow a Romsey collapse never felt likely. Number three Jon Steele (18* off 26 balls, with 2 fours and the game's only six) endured a barrage of increasingly desperate LBW appeals, but was still there when Roy hit the winning runs with some 105 balls to spare.
So that was that: it wasn't even 6pm; the sun had finally broken out from behind the clouds; and the beer at the Monkfield Arms (Cambourne's only pub) was both good and cheap. Unfortunately, Adrian had to head straight home to read about his exploits in Cambourne's match report and to boast about them on facebook (although it has since come to light that he posted his figures on the the way home using his Blackberry).