Arriving at Trinity College's playing fields today we were greeted by a rock hard out-field baking in the early summer heat. We lost the toss and so we were going to have to field in the hottest part of the day - although, as always, it's quite possible Andy might have chosen to bowl first anyway.
What was less clear was what sort of bowling would work best. With a decent breeze blowing in from the Adams Road end of the ground, it seemed speed - or at least what passes for it at our level - might be the way forward. Daniel Mortlock (0/36), Himanshu Agrawal (0/34) and Marcelino (1/37) all got lots of bounce with the new ball, and beat the bat often enough; but an absurd number of edges (and a few ill-advised short balls) meant all three proved expensive. One of the edges did result in a wicket, at least, when Rog Shelley held onto a great catch at first slip - the ball flew off the bat and reached Rog at head-height even though he was a 25 feet back; but Rog caught the ball calmly in two hands . . . before falling backwards for no apparent reason.
With Harlton having reached 199/3 in the 33rd over it was clear that things weren't working for us, and so we turned - possibly too late - to our slower bowlers. Rog Shelley (0/38) and Adrian Mellish (0/30) both did okay, and then we finally found the solution to our problems when Andy Owen (4/35) and Russell Woolf (3/25) scythed through the Harlton tail. With good support from Malcolm Creek (who completed a sharp stumping) and Himanshu, Daniel, Andy and Jon Steele (who all took neat catches from miscued slogs), Andy and Russ led a great Romsey comeback in the last few overs of the innings.
Even though Harlton's final total of 243/9 was more than a run a ball, there was a real feeling it was chaseable in the conditions. As we munched on Catherine Owen's delicious and generous tea we made our plans for what, if successful, would be Romsey's biggest ever chase . . .
. . . which started rather disastrously when both our openers were dismissed cheaply (one, rather gallingly, to one of the outside edges from which Harlton's openers had made so many runs a few hours earlier). It was easy to imagine another abject collapse like the Elsworth game, but instead Jon Steele and Andy Owen started to get us back into the game, putting together easily our best partnership of the season so far. Jon, in particular, seemed to be scoring at will before being dismissed for 44 (off 40 balls). After that Andy went on the rampage, combining his favourite pulls with some big drives and even some "proper" cut shots. With good support from Marcelino Gopal (26 off 40 balls), Andy took us to 173/3 in the 30th over; it's maybe too much to claim that we were winning, but with two set batsmen at the crease and 71 needed from 60 balls we were a real chance.
But then Andy was bowled (for a fantastic 82 off 83 balls) and after that we didn't even go close. The boundaries dried up, and even the singles were a struggle: none of the last six batsmen score more than 8, and none had strike-rate of more than 70.00. In the end we were bowled out off the last ball of the match, having lost 7/37 in the last ten overs.
It was a decent batting effort but, a little like last week, too much of a one-man show, although it was quite some show: Andy's 4 wickets, 1 catch and 82 runs is the best ever all-round performance for Romsey, at least by one way of calculating such things. But if you're not Andy then the averages make pretty painful reading: he's got more than twice as many runs as any other batsman and more than twice as many wickets as any other bowler. But maybe there's a positive spin on this: if the other ten of us can come to the party then we should easily be able to cobble together the extra 30-odd runs that would have been enough to win either of our last two games.