Report by Daniel Mortlock:
Last week's results - and in particular our loss against Helions Bumpstead - mean that our season is effectively over. Promotion is now beyond our reach and, coming into today's game, we needed just 3 bonus points (or a win or tie) to be mathematically safe from relegation. So that meant there was nothing for it but to play cricket for its own sake, with maybe a more relaxed approach than usual to be taken in today's game. Certainly the game itself seemed suitably relaxed: it was pushing 2pm by the time the first ball was bowled; and, even more annoyingly, there didn't seem any obvious reason why it hadn't started on time.
Recent rain had left the uncovered pitch rather soft, which meant it wasn't much fun to bowl on (as there was no pace) but difficult to bat on (as the ball held up). The general sense was that it should have favoured the bowlers, which made it a little worrying that Little Shelford's openers had taken them to 27/0 after 9 overs. We did drop both of them at least once, although these chances had more to do with poor shot selection than any demons in he pitch. But then Olly Rex (2/24), Jeff Beaumont (3/29) and Catherine Owen (1/23, the wicket coming from a sharp overhead return catch) induced a collapse of 6/47 that left Little Shelford a rather dismal 77/6 at drinks.
Relegation avoided, we set about trying to finish the job we'd started, but once again we got held up by a good rear-guard partnership after slicing through the top order. Little Shelford's seventh wicket pair ended up putting on an invaluable 44 before the opposition captain rather injudiciously told his men to "get on with it" with ten overs still remaining. The result was a crazy dance down the wicket to Andy Owen (2/11, having taken off the gloves) that didn't result in a stumping only because the ball hit the wicket before it got to stand-in 'keeper Dave Clark. This triggered the second collapse of the day, as we got the last four wickets for just 18 runs, leaving (criminally from the opposition's point of view) almost 6 overs unbowled. It all started to finally click properly for us when Nick Clarke, who'd narrowly missed a couple of tough chances earlier in the day, held on to a "banana" at short-cover and Daniel Mortlock (1/21) finally got a wicket at his third time of trying when Jeff called off half of the team to take a ballooning top edge at first slip. The highlight, though, was when one of their batsmen came in and requested not one, not two, but three (count them!) guards and so we waited patiently while he carved very neat lines in front of "middle and leg", "middle" and, rather unusually, "off". He punched his first ball for a single and then, after Himanshu Agrawal had made a great diving stop on the bumpy ground, called for an, er, ambitious second run that was duly punished when Himanshu got to his feet and hurled a fast and accurate throw to Andy.
It felt great to have bowled out the opposition so cheaply, although the more we thought about it the more we began to realise that they might have posted a competitive total. Not that we were able to find out for a while - once again there was a huge delay getting back onto the field, although this time the reason was at least clear: there was a queue for the single available toilet which, to add to the fun, had a very slow-filling cistern. In the end it was decided to adopt a policy of "if it's brown, flush it down; if it's yellow, let it mellow", which gave a nice sense of maturity to proceedings.
When we finally got our chance to bat it did indeed turn out to be hard going, timing the ball proving near impossible. Of the top order only Daniel Mortlock (17 off 42 balls) and Olly Rex (16 off 18 balls) made more than 4 as wickets fell with alarming - and increasing - regularity. The fielders were predictably cocky and chirpy, although it was perhaps going a bit too far when one of their opening bowlers complained when Rod Dennis was taking too long to compose himself between deliveries - the irony was that this was the same player who'd insisted on meticulously adjusting his gloves, inspecting the field, and going through a 37-step Zen ritual before facing up when he'd been batting. Even more annoyingly (at least from our point of view), he was in the middle of a spell of superb in-duckers that netted him deserved figures of 2/22 and, through frustration, had probably contributed to some of the other wickets as well. With the score at a miserable 59/6 in the 18th over it would have been "game over" but for a couple of pertinent facts: first, for various "real world" reasons our batting order was rather bottom heavy; and, second, the Little Shelford opening bowlers had been on unchanged since the start of the innings, so only had 16 balls left between them. And once our seventh wicket pair of Andy Owen and Jeff Beaumont had successfully seen them off, it seemed the match was going to be decided by what other bowling resources were available.
"Not much" seemed to be the short answer: whereas the first 20 overs had been delivered by just two people, the next dozen took five, none getting more than a three-over spell before being taken off. Andy and Jeff blocked out the good balls and punished the bad ones - they scored a dozen boundaries betweent them - and looked all set to finish the match by themselves when another Beaumont Boundary (TM) took us to within 3 runs of victory. Sadly, Jeff was caught for an invaluable 35 (off 37 balls), leaving Andy (30* off 42 balls) to hit the winning runs with Himanshu Agrawal (an average-neutral 0* off 0 balls) looking on from the non-striker's end. No question about Jeff being the man of the match, though, with his 105-point haul of 35 runs, 3 wickets and a catch.
Our league average of 14.33 puts is in almost-equal-fourth position, just 0.03 points behind Milton . . . but with a huge gap up to Burrough Green (on 16.75) and Helions Green (on 16.90 and now topping the table for the first time all season). Even if we were to win our last two games, bringing our average up to 15.14, this would only be enough to get above either Burrough Green or Helions if they'd lost all their remaining games. So, barring a near-miracle, we're going to have to settle for mid-table mediocrity and another season stuck in Junior 3.