Romsey Town begain an seven-week residency at our home ground of Trinity College today - after the absurdity of Elsworth's minefield of a pitch last week, it was time to settle in for some sensible batting and, maybe more to the point, score more than 54. Such lofty aims would have to wait, however, as we elected to bowl upon winning the toss.
Most of Fen Ditton's innings was a hard-fought and fairly even battle between bat and ball: all our bowlers caused the batsmen difficulties; conversely, the runs never completely dried up. The latter was mainly the result of the more obdurate of the opening batsmen - while none of his team-mates made more than 17, he ended up carrying his bat for 89 hard-hit runs. Our bowling was remarkably even: Daniel Mortlock (1/38), Andy Owen (3/37), Rog Shelley (0/28), Marcelino Gopal (2/43) all went for between 3.5 and 5.5 an over, and we bowled enough good balls to ensure a steady fall of wickets. The fielding was top-notch, at least close to the bat, with Andy and Richard Rex holding good catches, and Roy Page, Andy and Rod Dennis making some spectacular stops; the only problem was half a dozen boundaries that went through, rather than around, fielders. (Perhaps those on the south-western boundary were distracted by the fact that the Trinity ladies tennis team were practising on the nearby courts - certainly the combination of short tennis skirts and windy conditions can't have helped matters.) Most of our fielding clangers came in the last few overs, the only time all innings that Fen Ditton got away from us: with the score at 138/7 after 36 overs, a wicket or two might have kept them under 150; but instead they slogged 37 runs from the last 24 balls of the innings and suddenly they had a competitive total of 175 on the board.
Still, there was no need to panic, and it was enough to just bat steadily if we could keep wickets in hand. And that was pretty much the way it went: despite the Ditton fielders continuous claims that "a wicket's coming", they took just two in the first 29 overs as Richard Rex (34 off 88 balls), Jon Steele (12 off 25 balls) and Andy Owen all batted sensibly. An unexpected pitch invasion (from a rather confused pheasant) gave everyone time to take stock, and a quick calculation revealed we needed 72 runs needed from the last 66 deliveries. In other words, we needed to change gear - batting conservatively had kept us in the game, but now we really had to take hold of it by really going for some shots. The middle order did indeed try, but some tight bowling (highlighted by a nervelessly tight spell from the young opening bowler who netted a deserved four-for) saw to it that nobody other than Andy managed to get the ball to the boundary in the last 10 overs. By the time he was out (for 56, off 71 balls) our chase had clearly failed and all that was left was for Roy Page (2* off 9 balls) and Malcolum Creek (1* off 5 balls) to play out the last rites.
The final result - a 30-run loss against a team which might go close to winning the league - wasn't too shameful, and in fact we we gave as good as we got until the last few overs of each innings. It would have been interesting to know whether Fen Ditton felt we'd pushed them at all, but their rather unconventional match report said remarkably little about the actual cricket. Either way, there's no escaping the hypnotic column of "lost"s that extends ominously down our fixture list.