After Fortress Trinity was destroyed a few weeks ago, Romsey Town was forced to wander the wilds of Cambridge where, last week, they took on and defeated an army from Weston Colville. Today it was time to return to Cambridge to see if we could rebuild Fortress Trinity from the ruins of what once was. But it wasn't going to be easy, as we were up against undefeated league leaders Waterbeach today. When we'd done battle with them earlier in the season we'd had to concede defeat . . . but only to the weather, not to our opposition: we'd been battling our way to a competitive position in difficult conditions when the match was called off. There was no danger of that today, with Trinity baking in the mid-summer heat; and, having won the toss, Andy had no hesitation inviting Waterbeach to hurl projectiles at us (i.e., field) during the hottest part of the day.
Heading out to bat, it rapidly became clear why Waterbeach has successfully restricted their opposition to minimal totals so far this season. A few first over wides notwithstanding, the Waterbeatch opening bowlers were fast and accurate and they were able to set a proper field with slips, an off-side ring and just a fine-leg on the boundary. It looked like the sort of cricket you see on the TV . . . until the illusion was broken when our openers, Rod and Sean Dennis, succumbed to the pressure of so many dot balls and went for some over-ambitious and badly-called singles that repeatedly left both of them stranded mid-pitch. Not that the pressure was confined to the men in the middle, either - when a couple of these Keystone Cops episodes resulted in runs there were genuinely enthusiastic calls of "Well run!" from the pavilion. But, to their immense credit, Rod (12 off 43 balls) and Sean (12 off 46 balls) weathered this early storm with unwavering determination, and the important thing was not the low scoring rate (e.g., 11 off 7 overs) but the fact that we had plenty of wickets in hand to capitalise if the opportunity ever arose.
Having moved along to 34/1 after 15 overs, one of the Waterbeach bowlers was replaced, and suddenly our innings sprang into life as Jon Steele (43 off 45 balls) rediscovered the form that won him the batting award last year. Having had a look for an over, he promptly dismissed a few slightly wayward balls in an effortless sequence of 4 4 4 . . 2 4 that suddenly had the Waterbeach fielders decidedly flustered for the first time all day. And then Roy Page (26 off 27 balls) joined in the fun as we we able to score with riduculous ease: we hit 77 runs from the middle 60 balls of our innings, and were a very healthy 111/2 after 25 overs.
The ball was now very firmly in Waterbeach's court, and they reacted in logical fashion by bringing on their spinner. But he only succeeded in producing an over of rank full-tosses, any - or all - of which should have been deposited over the square-leg boundary. Alas, rather than hitting him out of the attack we could only manage a couple of gentle singles to square-leg and then, in his second over, we decided that such kindness was insufficient and increased the scale of our donations by lobbing yet another full-toss straight into the disbelieving square-leg fielder's hands. Combined with an equally unnecessary run out (in which the batsman was so far short of his ground that an umpire's decision wasn't necessary, even after the throw to the 'keeper was two metres wide), we'd lost both our "in" batsmen and most of our momentum.
This was around about the same time that Rog Shelley (who'd just dropped by to watch, still being out of action due to his knee injury a few weeks ago) was trying to convince Waterbeach's lone supporter to change her alliegances on the grounds that she actually lives in Romsey Town. It's not clear whether he was getting anywhere, but after our sudden on-field impolsion it was hard not to nod in resigned agreement with her decision to remain loyal to the 'Beach.
Still, as bad as the last few overs had been, there was still time to post a good total if we could rebuild our innings . . . but not if we could only produce the meekest of Romsey Collapses (TM). There might be lies, damned lies and statistics, but here the numbers said it all: we lost - or, really, handed over - our last 8 wickets for just 30 runs, and of the last seven batsmen only Andy Owen (10 off 21 balls) made more than 5. Most of us donated our wickets to the aforementioned spinner who, having been given the chance to find his length, was rewarded by batsmen slogging or charging at his well-flighted (but non-turning) straight balls. He finished with fantasy figures of 6/12 and was clapped off the field by members of both teams, but it was hard not to think of the alternative universe in which we'd dispatched his early bad balls to the boundary and hit him out of the attack before he had the chance to take any wickets at all.
Rather ironically, the correct approach to dealing with crap full-tosses was demonstrated very effectively by the Waterbeach number three who, having come in after an early wicket and been beaten several times, repeatedly and safely hit boundaries whenever we over-pitched. This wasn't too often, as Daniel Mortlock (1/37) and Marcelino Gopal (0/34) got their length right most of the time, but they erred enough that we weren't able to build up anything like the same pressure we'd been subjected to earlier in the day. Combined with the fact that we just didn't have a big enough total, we couldn't force the batsmen to to take risks, and they had the freedom of playing classical innings, defending anything they didn't like the look of, but scoring off anything loose.
Still, our change bowlers - Adrian Mellish (0/27), Winker Watson (1/33) and Andy Owen (0/17) - were all pretty tight, and we also fielded well, with Richard Rex, Arnie Garside, Jon Steele, Roy Page all making some great stops early on and then Marcelino and Adie proving to be brilliant in the close positions normally taken by Andy (now bowling) and Roy. Roy, in turn, had also been brilliant at short-cover, but had taken a blow to his hand and had retired to the boundary (where he briefly attempted to field in a white glove in an apparent tribute to Michael Jackson, who died a year ago today).
Unfortunately this game was anything but a thriller. It became increasingly clear that Waterbeach were going to overhaul our total with no fuss and, possibly, for the loss of just one wicket. We did finally secure ourselves a bowling point when Winker got a much-deserved wicket when stand-in 'keeper Daniel Mortlock held onto a fine edge, but the winning runs came a few overs later, with 53 deliveries still in hand.
Fortress Trinity remains in ruins as Romsey Town failed to pass the most exacting test that the CCA Junior 3 South B league currently has to offer. We can only hope that Lino fares better when he takes his 'Life In The UK' test in a few weeks time, being forced to remember how many South Africans of Indian heritage cohabit with Polish women in houses that don't have toilets but do have sufficiently fancy bathrooms for precision beard maintainence . . .