Having had Fortress Trinity decisively breached by Wilbrahams last week, we really needed to rebuild the ramparts today to prevent Fen Ditton from exploiting our weakened defenses. (Or some such metaphor, not that it really matters how today's events are reported, as writing about them won't make them any better - you can't polish a turd, as they say . . .)
Fen Ditton won the toss and elected to bat first, although they struggled to score initially, being just 12/1 after 7 overs, 38/1 after 14 overs, and 57/1 after 18 overs. We would have liked a few more wickets, especially as ex-Ditton man Nick Clarke had warned us that their left-handed number three, Andy Hayward, was capable of playing a long innings. Not that it would matter if we could get his partners out, which seemed a real possibility after Russell Woolf (1/48) removed the remaining opener and the number four batsman played some unconvincing wafts at balls outside off-stump. Presumably a few more deliveries in that general area would have seen the end of him, but we apparently decided that approach would have been too logical, and instead opted to see if he could deal with leg-side full-tosses anf long-hops. And it turns out he could. Over the next hour Romsey Town deflated like a left-over balloon as we bowled badly and didn't field much better. There were dropped catches, balls kicked over the boundary and fumbled run outs; in short it was a fucking atrocious effort. What was even more frustrating was the sense that we just needed a single wicket to be right back in the game, a feeling that was vindicated when we did finally make a belated breakthrough in the 33rd over. Opening bowlers Daniel Mortlock (3/31) and Any Owen (2/27) came back on and, along with Russ, took 5/33 in 7 overs at the end. Unfortunately, it was all too late - if we'd been able to do that 10 overs earlier we'd have been chasing a highly-gettable sub-200 target; as it was Fen Ditton went to tea with what felt like a winning total.
Still, Denise, Catherine and Michael Owen provided us with a magnificent feast that hopefully fuelled our weary batsmen whilst simultaneously weighing down the Ditton fielders as well. It's not clear whether this plan worked, but it's possible that the young Fen Ditton opening bowler was on a sugar high from the plentiful doughnuts, as he was so ran up with such enthusiasm that he spoilt what would have been an excellent spell with five front-foot no balls, one of which crashed into Rod's stumps. This piece of good fortune excepted, openers Rod Dennis (27 off 58 balls) and Nick Clarke (33 off 47 balls) were otherwise fairly untroubled, taking Romsey to a healthy 66/0 after 15 overs. There was still plenty of work to do, with the required run rate up to 6.20 an over, but scoring 155 off 25 overs with two batsmen well-set and ten wickets in hand didn't seem too daunting a challenge.
Except we then lost 4/4 in the space of 16 balls as Fen Ditton reaped the benefits of bowling (fairly) full and (fairly) straight. Our chances of winning were all but gone, a notion which was cemented over the next dozen overs as neither Arnie Garside (15 off 47 balls) nor Andy Owen (16* off 38 balls at one stage) found a way to score freely. By the time Arnie fell (to a brilliant return catch by the opening bowler), the match was dead: with only 33 balls left we were still 97 runs short of Fen Ditton's total and, indeed, still needed another 37 runs for a fourth batting point. In parallel to our fielding innings, Andy (who finished on 44* off 68 balls) and Daniel Mortlock (11* off 15 balls) made something of a comeback, but it was once again "too little, too late", and in the end Daniel could only manage a mis-hit single off the last ball, rather than the six we'd needed to get to 160.
In last week's loss to the Wilbrahams we at least had the consolation that there wasn't too much we could have done differently, but today we probably would have been able to win if we'd just bowled fewer rank long-hops and taken the catches that came our way. Last week Fortress Trinity was invaded, whereas today it was more like inviting the enemy to drop by for an afternoon's friendly raping and pillaging. About the only thing that had gone right for us today was that both teams had bowled their overs fast enough that there was time for everyone to dash off in time to see England's opening match of the football World Cup. But even that turned sour as the entire nation reacted in horror as England keeper Robert Green fumbled the ball into his own net (a performance which might see him offered a role as specialist fielder for Romsey Town).