The fact that May began on a Sunday this year meant that the CCA league season started as late as it ever does, and Romsey took this scheduling decision to heart as half the team (including the captain) only made it to Elsworth right on the dot of 1:30pm. Some high-speed changing meant that the match could start at 1:32pm (well, that's the time that was entered on the result card, at any rate), although we were forced to wait a few minutes longer while Daniel "dropped the kids off at the pool". But even Daniel's belated (if light-weight) entrance onto the field only took us to ten - a record spate of injuries and holidays meant that Andy had spent the week ringing around everyone he knew, and today's team included Tony Desimone (who hadn't played since July 2006) and a somewhat reluctant Catherine Owen.
Given all the above, our performance in the field was highly creditable, with some good (if generally erratic) bowling, committed fielding and a real sense of fight. This was personified by the efforts of Tony Desimone, who made some fantastic "slide tackle" saves and 'keeper Malcolm Creek, who took a huge number of body-blows (as well as collecting a stumping and a catch). Andy Owen (2/25) and Daniel Mortlock (3/29) got first access to the absurdly lively pitch, but somehow the Elsworth openers survived a combination of cutters, shooters and bouncers - not to mention occasionally prodigious swing - and took their team to 62/0 in the 17th over. We then got a couple of wickets courtesy of a slightly "out of sorts" Rog Shelley (2/48), although how Marcelino Gopal (0/25) went wicketless is a mystery to rank with the conundrum "What do Christians believe about the soul?" posed by Catherine's GCSE revision book. Andy, Daniel and Adrian Mellish (1/16) all opened their season's wicket-taking accounts in the second half of the innings, but we kept giving the Elsworth batsmen enough loose balls to score at around 4 an over. In the end Elsworth got 159/9, which might not sound much, but was in fact only a single run less than the total we easily defended when we last played on this ground, two years ago.
Coming out to bat things initially looked promising when Elsworth elected to open with a highly erratic bowler who delivered several dead balls that only made it half-way up the pitch and offered up a number of other half-trackers. Some of these were duly hit to the boundary, but somehow we managed to hit a couple of others straight to disbelieving fielders, who held onto simple catches. And that was the story of our innings in a nutshell - almost all our line-up were dismissed going for crazy big shots (mainly to catches in front of the wicket), when some old-school Boycottian grafting was needed. Only Tony Desimone (9 off 38 balls) made more than 6; only Tony, Andy Owen (6 off 23 balls), Marcelino Gopal (5 off 21 balls) and Dave Clark (3 off 20 balls) lasted more than 7 (seven!) deliveries. At least Catherine (0* off 0 balls) could hold her head high, being the only one of us not have played a false stroke. In not much more than an hour we were bowled out for 54, the club's lowest league total since we were skittled for 49 by Thurlow back in '93.
The post-match mood was pretty grim, and it wasn't clear that anyone from either team stayed for a drink (perhaps the Elsworth players were too embarrassed on our behalf?). Adie at least found cause for optimism: the lack of run-scoring meant he didn't have to face his nemesis, the Elsworth calculator-style scoreboard. (Who says you can't polish a turd?)