Romsey Town's run of home games at Fortr- er, no, just plain Trinity - came to an end today as we headed out to Weston Green to play Weston Colville and, afterwards, to have a drink in West Wratting . . . and maybe to then go home from a well-earned wrest. (Sorry.) In previous years this has all proved a bit too confusing for some of us, with the entire team getting lost in 2007 and some even scarier country lane adventures being survived when we were last here in 2009. But it seems we've learnt from our previous mistakes, and just about everyone knew where to go today, even if the dark black rain clouds had also managed to find their way to the ground.
Romsey batted first and got off to a good, if somewhat scatty, start, in part because of the waves of rain that repeatedly drove the players from the ground, and in part because we had to juggle our order due to would-be opener Rod's late arrival. Still, none of this seemed to have too much effect on Dave Williams (20 off 28 balls) and Sean Dennis (13 runs off 39 balls), who were reasonably untroubled in taking us to 44/0 off 8 overs. The fall of the first wicket brought Rod Dennis (24 off 24 balls) belatedly to the crease; and, through his power-hitting, we consolidated to be 77/2 after 16 overs. And when Rod slammed a beautiful straight drive, four more runs seemed the likely result . . . but the bowler stuck out a hand and grasped onto the ball, ending Rod's promising innings with a moment of individual brilliance.
During the next ten overs Weston Colville got themselves very much back in the game as they all but completely prevented Jon Steele (8 off 20 balls), Arnie Garside (an epic 0 off 24 balls, that is presumably the most protracted duck in club history) and Andy Owen (a scratchy 12* off 21 balls at this stage) from scoring. At the end of the 24th over we were stalled on 91/4, and with the field aggressively placed around the bat in a ring that was (generally successfully) saving one, it was no surprise that a desperate attempt to sneak a run resulted in Arnie being run out.
We then began mounting a comeback, scoring at a run a ball for the next 7 overs as Daniel Mortlock (25* off 25 balls at this stage) played some nice drives while Andy (now 23* off 31 balls) started to get his eye in. But just as it seemed we might be about to accelerate to a decent total, the rain came again, and in the end the resultant break was extended into an early tea (once a few bottles of milk were "found" in a nearby house).
It was all too likely that the long break might have robbed us of our momentum, and sure enough Daniel started swishing at wide balls, playing in a much less convincing fashion than he had previously. But any such loss of form was more than compensated for by the fact that Andy had been replaced by his superhero alter-ego, Romsey-Man. Half an hour earlier he'd been missing balls outside off-stump, mis-timing his pulls, and even turning down easy second runs; but now it all just clicked as he proceeded to smash just about every ball he faced. His full post-tea sequence was a remarkable 4 LB LB 4 1 1 4 4 4 4 . 2 4 2 1 2 1 1 6 . 2 4 2 4 (i.e., 57 off just 27 balls). In the end Andy finished up on 80* (off 59 balls), Daniel ended up with 45* (off 46 balls) and their undefeated partnership of 125 (off 88 balls) had somehow lifted us to the Trinity-like total of 217/5.
Heading out to field in the cool, damp conditions felt much better for being on top of the game, and Daniel Mortlock (1/20), Russell Woolf (1/23) and Marcelino Gopal (1/35) consolidated our domination by keeping the Weston Colville top order to just 40/3 after 17 overs. With the required run rate now up to 7.74 an over, we almost had the game completely won (provided only that the rain continued to stay away).
Unfortunately we produced a few loose overs just at the time that the opposition's most aggressive batsman had come to the crease. Weston Colville smashed 44 off the next 4 overs, and suddenly the horrors of last week's game were upon us once again. However the critical difference this time was that the outfielding held up under the pressure, with both Dennises (i.e., Rod and Sean, no relation), Dave Williams, Adrian Mellish, Arnie Garside and Jon Steele all chasing tirelessly around the boundary and making sure they got something in the road of the fast moving balls that repeatedly came their way. Not that our fielding was perfect, mind - we dropped three fairly simple catches during this period, any of which might have ended Weston Colville's challenge there and then (although at least Andy and Daniel atoned for each dropping two catches last week by both taking two today). As a result, Weston Colville were still in with a fighting chance with just a dozen overs to go: scoring 102 off 72 balls wasn't going to be easy, but they were 11 runs ahead of where we were at the same stage and, like us, had two well-set batsmen at the crease.
By this stage Andy Owen (1/24) had taken off his 'keeping gloves and, along with Adrian Mellish (0/44), was bowling straight and slow to try and minimize the free-scoring on the rather soft pitch. And the pressure told as the batsmen went for an insane single to Paul Jordan at short-mid-wicket; he calmly lobbed the ball to substitute 'keeper Daniel Mortlock, who inelegantly but decisively smashed the wicket apart with the more threatening of the two batsman still yards short of his ground. And that was the beginning of the end for Weston Colville's spirited chase - even though they continued to score at a run a ball, the required rate was increasing to the point where Adrian began the final over of the game with the luxury of 41 runs to defend. And no, there were no crazy "six sixes and seven wides" disasters, as we duly completed a superb team win by 32 runs.
That took our all-time record against Weston Colville II to a satisfying 4 wins, 1 loss and a wash-out. The win also evened our season's ledger at 3 wins and 3 losses (along with a wash-out and an abandonment), to leave us in the middle of the league table. This, unfortunately, seems to be our natural place: our anaomalous first-up loss to NCI apart, we've so far only beaten the teams below us and always lost to the teams above us. At any rate we'll have our chance to buck this trend when we taken on league-leaders Waterbeach at Trinity next Saturday.
By the time the match finished it was 8:30pm, some seven hours after the first ball was bowled. Our innings had taken over 4.5 hours, due a combination of rain breaks and the Weston Colville bowlers' long run-ups, but fortunately the Romsey policy of coming in off four paces allowed us to send down our 40 overs in about half that time. Most of the players scurried off to placate their waiting families, but a few stayers made their way to the "local" pub (in the neighbouring West Wratting) to play pool and watch Denmark deal with Cameroon in the World Cup. Upon finishing - or spilling - the last of our drinks, we took to the road again and were rewarded for our perserverence with a positively transcendant drvie back to Cambridge. With a soundtrack of Tears For Fears and Frankie Goes To Hollywood taking us back to a childhood reverie, we looked out to see the green fields of South Cambridgeshire bathed in a miraculous golden light from the Sun shining through a tiny slit between the horizon and the low deck of thick black clouds. It was almost like god's national flag, a thin sliver of yellow separating the dark green of the fields from the dark grey of the clouds. It would have been tempting to just keep following the hypnotic glow on past Cambridge, and we might well have succumbed to the siren's call if Andy's MP3 player had thrown up The Pet Shop Boys' version of Go West at the right moment . . .