It seems that the gods of Cambridgeshire cricket have decided that Romsey Town is too soft to cope with the gritty world of village cricket: after our adventurous away match at Harlton Fenstanton forfeited their home game against us and then Camden III, short of a venue, agreed to play their home match against us at our home ground. Hence we found ourselves back at Trinity once again, although for the first time ever we had to use the "away" changing room. This was all very exciting . . . at least until it turned out it was essentially an exact mirrored copy of the "home" rooms. The only significant difference was that the battery in the electronic lock was flat, so when we shut the door on the way out to field there was an initial fear that we wouldn't be able to open it again.
Once in the field though, our performance was electric (pun unintended, but gratefully received). With an unusually young and fit eleven there were stunning moments almost every over. Oliver Rex went within inches of a direct hit run out in the second over when he fired the ball in from near the boundary that just missed the stumps; Darren Wood went one better a few overs later with a TV quality pick up and throw to run out Camden's most dangerous batsman; Ferdinand Rex kept making fantastic diving stops at mid-off; Himanshu Agrawal covered the ground like lightning on the square boundary to save endless would-be second runs; Rod Dennis used most parts of his body to stop the seemingly endless cut shots that came his way, valiantly sacrificing a fingernail in the process; Andy Owen performed similar duties in close on the off-side; and both Darren and Nick Clarke took fantastic diving catches (even if Nick was immortalised as "Roy Page" on the official PlayCricket match scorecard). Unfortunately, though, these were the only catches we took, and they were both in the final ten overs of Camden's innings. Prior to that we'd just failed to hold onto a succession of difficult, but definitely catchable, hard-hit chances. Combined with the fact that all the batsman's edges all fell into the gaps, we were struggled to make inroads into Camden's batting line-up.
Still, the fact that we took only one wicket in the first 20 overs was just about offset by the fact that Camden had only scored 61 runs - it wasn't clear who was the happier team at drinks. After drinks, however it was clearly Camden: we bowled a few loose overs and suddenly we lost our focus in the field. The only explanation is that Camden spiked our drinks - the residues have been sent off to the Cambridgeshire forensics unit for further investigation.
Fortunately, the effects of the mystery drug didin't last and, after a horrid half hour in which we lost control of the game we started to get back into it towards the end of the innings. Probably the central figure in all this was Marcelino Gopal (1/37), who bowled a fantastic spell that went criminally unrewarded - he got about four genuine edges, but all went to ground. At the other end Darren Wood (1/18) and Ferdi Rex (1/36) caused all sorts of trouble with their changes of pace, after which the old firm of Andy Owen (1/43) and Daniel Mortlock (2/33) closed out the innings.
Or tried to, at any rate: Daniel had started his final over (the 39th) with two dot balls at which point there was suddenly an unholy commotion from the pavilion. Play stopped as we tried to interpret the scorers' wild gesticulations; it eventually became clear that they had this down as Daniel's eleventh over. We - well, Andy and Daniel - were adamant it was only his tenth, and we then got a long-distance debate about the bowling sequence from the southern end. The discrepancy was eventually traced back to the fact that the scoreboard was a few overs behind at around the time Andy and Daniel had finished their first spells, and Daniel had indeed bowled his allocation. The umpires eventually decided that the two delivered balls should stand, although looking back we probably should have rewound the game to the point where things were still above board (although that would have robbed Daniel of his all-time record for the longest CCA junior league spell, of 10.2 overs). At the other end it was just as well that Andy had delayed bringing himself on to give Ferdie another over, as it meant he could finish off the innings as intended.
Not that it made too much difference - the Camden batsman were hitting out successfully by this stage, with the final ball was particularly frustrating. The batsman mistimed his shot, dollying the ball up to Nick Clarke at cover - now Nick doesn't miss these sorts of dollies . . . but suddenly he started waving his hands around in front of his face, and one final chance went to ground. It turned out Nick had lost the ball in the Sun (about the only time it had come out all innings) and, to rub salt in the wounds, the batsmen ran a second as Nick had lost track of where the ball had gone.
Camden's total of 192/6 was maybe a little under par for Trinity, but it was suddenly looking very imposing when they had our top three out in quick time. Where we took ??? balls and ??? runs to get our second wicket, they had 3/35 in ?? overs, all to good catches and all to soft shots off tight, but unthreatening, bowling. Ev Fox (in his first league match since last year) and Andy Owen (21 off 37 balls) then set about mounting a rescue mission, although it felt that we'd be doing well just to bat out our overs at this stage. Still, they gradually started scoring more freely and the match was starting to come alive again. And even two more wickets in quick succession maybe wasn't a bad thing, as it brought Olly Rex to the crease - with the required rate now above 7 an over, our only hope of victory lay in his sort of uninhibited clean-hitting.
After having a look for an over or so he went on the rampage, seeing the ball early and then just smashing it. His second half-century of the season came in the blink of an eye (otherwise known as 32 balls) and suddenly we were in with a real chance. The other key ingredient was the running, as he and Ev (who'd also passed his fifty by this stage) repeatedly ran twos where we have all too often opted for just a single. The critical moment came when Olly took to one of Camden's slow bowlers, hitting 18 off the 37th over to take the target down to 18 needed off 18 balls. In other words, we were actually winning - and from there our momentum - not to mention our delighted whooping and hollering from the boundary line - was just too great. 17 runs came from the next two overs as Olly continued apace, and he found himself facing as the final over began with scores tied. Alas he couldn't change gears and went for another big shot, holing out to mid-off. It didn't change the result - Marcelino Gopal (1* off 1 ball) came in and hit the winning run without any fuss - but it was a pity that Olly didn't get to put the finishing touches to the masterpiece he'd rescued from the dustbin. Ev, who'd scored 64* from 100 balls, had played one of his better Romsey knocks, doing his bit in our 93-run sixth wicket partnership (off just 63 balls) . . . but it really was Olly's moment, as his amazing innings of 70 from 44 balls really had won us the match.
Any win is big news for Romsey this year, but this was even better as it was the first time we'd beaten a side above us on the league table. The natural expectation was that we'd have a put a bit of space between us and the unspeakable horrors of The Relegation Zone. And, indeed, in one sense we have, being fourth last (rather than third last) for this first time all year. Unfortunately, however, we're actually closer to relegation than we were a few weeks ago, as NCI IV managed to beat a higher-ranked opposition (Bassingbourn) for the second week in a row. The net result is that three teams - NCI IV (on 10.67), Bassingbourn (on 10.90) Romsey Town (on 10.92) - are in a three-way battle to stay up and there's a total of just 3 points (i.e., 120 runs or 6 wickets) between us and NCI in eighth place. At least our fate is in our own hand's (or the weather's), as our final four fixtures include matches against both Bassingbourn (next week) and NCI (three weeks from now): beat one or both and we should be okay; lose to both and it would be hard to argue that we deserve to stay up anyway.