Our glorious run of sunny Saturdays had to come to an end sometime, and it seemed sometime was today. At the nominal start time of our match against Needingworth, both teams were standing around Fitzwilliam College's new high-tech covers trying to get enthusiastic about fielding drills being undertaken with what seemed to be a half-pound bar of red soap. Andy sought opinions on what we should do if we won the toss and was met with a host of arguments for batting first: fielding was hard when it was wet; our batting line-up had been strengthened by the return of Nick and Jon; seven of the team would be able to remain dry in the pavilion; and so on. And so, when he won the toss, Andy of course chose to bowl. His reasoning was that if weather was going to be a factor our best chance of ensuring a quick result would be to bowl out the opposition cheaply and then knock off the runs in double-time. This was met with raised eyebrows and a lot of "well you're the captain" . . .
. . . and then slack-jawed belief as, within a few overs of the delayed start, the scoreboard read 15/5. Most of the damage had been done by Daniel Mortlock (4/5 at this stage, on his way to 5/34), but our ascendancy wouldn't have been possible without other great efforts from Marcelino Gopal (an eventual 1/13), Rod Dennis (who held a superb nipple-assisted catch off a flyer at gully), Nick Clarke (who grabbed what ended up being a simple catch despite getting The Fear when he realised he had much, much, much more time than expected) and Andy Owen (who completed his usual catch and a stumping). At this stage all sorts of records (lowest opposition total; quickest match; best bowling figures) were on the cards, but the Needingworth captain, with impressive support from a couple of gutsy pre-teens, dug in and took the score to a far more respectable 70/6. The main reason for this recovery was simply good batting, although we also struggled in the field with the slippery ball, several comedy overthrows coming when the ball skidded through most of the team, and some predictable dropped catches (one of which "half broke" Jon Steele's finger). While we were still very much on top, we really needed to kill the innings off . . . and we duly did as Russell Woolf (2/15) and Rog Shelley (2/9) came on and promptly took the last 4 wickets between them for just 2 runs.
Faced with a target of just 72 it was difficult to imagine anything other than the easiest of victories; and, sure enough, we raced to 58/1 in the 11th over. This was primarily due to some superb clean hitting from Jon Steele (37 off 29 balls), even if he followed a four and a pair sixes with a rather vertical slog that was well caught by the bowler. That left opener Rod Dennis (18* off 36 balls) and Andy Owen (11* off 16 balls) to finish the job, which they did without major drama (even if Andy's facial protection induced one Needingworth fielder to request his teammates "put the mask back in the box").
The end result was that the match was over by 5pm (despite the late start), leaving the members of both teams to sit around drinking beer for the remainder of what had become the most glorious of sunny afternoons. Andy and Daniel stayed the longest and, as a result, ended up giving an impromptu cricket lesson to some foreign-born friends who'd stopped by in the hope of witnessing their first ever cricket game. In the end they were treated to a silky smooth demonstration of all the game's major skills, the highlight being when Daniel instructed Andy to deliberately miss a ball in order to illustrate the concept of being "bowled out". But even in this relaxed situation Andy's subconscious wouldn't let him give his wicket away, and whilst he did attempt to leave a straight one, he instead managed to smack the ball into a neighbouring backyard. It might have been the best shot played all day . . .