Match report by Olly Rex:
It is fair to say that last week's excursion to Langley Upper Green was not an ordinary day of cricket. After frantically examining inadequate maps of rural Essex we had found ourselves at a cricket ground that would not have been out of place in the Tate Modern, and proceeded to take part in a cricket match that was so full of twists, turns, altercations and disruptions that it might have been rejected by the gallery on the grounds that it was just too plain ridiculous. There was something refreshingly mundane about Fulbourn's rec, which, as well as actually being in Cambridgeshire, is pleasantly devoid of roads, telegraph poles and other such unlikely obstacles.
It seemed only appropriate, therefore, that the game got off to a relatively sedate start. Girish Lakhwani (2/46) and Olly Rex (0/27) bowled decently with the swinging ball, but the Fulbourn batsmen were impressively judicious. The caution with which they treated the good balls enticed the bowlers into bowling either that little bit too straight or too wide, and the resultant deliveries were invariably punished. Boundaries were not abundant, but a combination of opportunism, decisive calling and extras took them to a worryingly healthy 74/0 off 12 overs. The timely introduction of Faruk Kara's (1/31) canny off spin brought a much needed wicket first ball, but Fulbourn continued to accumulate runs apace, reaching an imposing 190/1 before 30 overs were up. Catherine Owen at least managed to tempt their number three into spooning the ball to Olly, who held a good catch at deep midwicket, but in truth our situation was still surely terminal.
If last week taught us anything, however, it is that even when you think you've got the measure of cricket match, it has a remarkable propensity to up sticks and saunter off in the complete opposite direction. This was precisely what happened, as within 20 overs Romsey had wrenched themselves back from the depths of oblivion and were sat, albeit precariously, in the driving seat.
Owens Catherine and Andy kicked off this remarkable turnaround by putting the ball consistently on the nightmare length for batsmen, just too short to drive but not quite short enough to rock back and pull. Catherine (a vital and impressive 1/35) was replaced eventually by Girish, who bowled well, and was ably supported by good catches from Rexes Richard and Olly. Andy was at his miserly best, finishing with 1/48, but the real star was the opposition number four, who defied the increasingly desperate and futile shouts from the pavilion on his way to compiling a technically sound but criminally pedestrian 14.
We were still facing the daunting task of chasing 236 to win, but Robin Eddington and Nick Clarke were unfazed, sending the ball to all parts as we reached a fantastic 84/0 off 10 overs. Nick in particular was in scintillating form, and the ease with which he dispatched ball after ball to the boundary was a joy to behold. Robin was the perfect foil to Nick, his batting as elegant and effective as ever, and Fulbourn were becoming more frustrated by the minute (especially a certain Mr Kindred, who, taking a break from his usual 1st XI duties, might have expected a better return than 0/72). The introduction of the change bowlers slowed the scoring somewhat, but there was a sense that if we kept things together until drinks we really would be in charge.
Unfortunately that was not to be. First Nick departed (for a blistering 61 off 41 balls) and then Robin followed (for a well made 32 off 45 balls). Roger Shelley's 18 (off 23 balls) was entertaining, but he fell to the opposition's crafty slow bowler, bringing Olly Rex to the crease. With his father at the other end the Romsey faithful were hopeful of a match-winning Rex partnership for the second week running, but Olly anticlimactically nicked behind off his very first ball. Ev Fox (3 off 7 balls) started brightly but followed soon after LBW, and a demoralising collapse was on the cards.
Richard and Andy had other ideas, and put together a great partnership against some tight bowling. Although the win now looked a step too far, they steered us towards 200, and a potentially vital extra bonus point, with a succession of clever nudges, stylish glances and strong drives. Richard eventually fell for 28 (off 33 balls), but we were already on 187. A mini collapse followed, as Dave Clark and Faruk got good balls early, but Girish (7 off 7 balls) and Andy (40* off 47 balls) combined well to haul us past 200.
Our innings finished 32 runs short, but we secured 7 bonus points and could go home with our heads held high, as everyone had contributed to a brave performance against a strong side. Even though we really wanted a win, the fact that we got 7 bonus points (2 of which came from those late-innings wickets) at least meant we got something from the game - our chief relegation rivals, Milton, got just 3 points against Ashdon, and so our league average of 10.13 is now 1.20 above their 8.93. (Their average would have been 9.29 but they've been docked 5 penalty points for some reason.) That means that we'll avoid relegation if any of the following come to pass: i) we beat Milton in our end-of-season match in a fortnight (irrespective of what happens next week); or ii) we get 3+ points next week and our final game against Milton is washed out; or iii) both ours and Milton's next matches are washed out and we get 3+ points against Milton; or iv) both our final matches are washed out. There are also lots of possible outs involving the other teams in the lower part of the table, but the key thing is that our fate is in our own hands, which it wasn't before today.