Report by Daniel Mortlock
Some things just aren't meant to be, and this cricket match was one of them. For most of the week we had just nine players, and while we briefly touched the heady heights of eleven when we got David Perry and Tom Newton on loan from Little Paxton, we were almost immediately back to ten when rejuvenated strike bowler Rog Shelley (who's taken 5/39 in his last two spells) had to attend to a family emergency.
Not that any of this looked likely to matter - the forecast was for solid rain from mid-afternoon, and it really would have been very tempting to pre-emptively call the game off, especially given that our only previous game at Therfield, back in 2006, had also been wrecked by bad weather. Arriving at the ground only reinforced this sense: it was already spitting at 1pm, despite the various weather sites insisting it was fine. Still, there was no reason not to go out and toss up, and it was at least good news that Andy called correctly, allowing us to field first - the only possibility of winning the match would be to bowl the opposition out cheaply and mount a quick chase, whereas batting first and compiling a huge total probably wouldn't be so useful, as there'd be enough time for the team batting second to hold out for a draw.
Neither of these two options looked very likely initially: we couldn't get any wickets and Royston couldn't get any runs, the rather turgid start to the game summed up nicely by Daniel Mortlock's dull but effective opening spell of 4 overs, 3 maidens, 0/1. At the other end Stephan van Eeden (1/28) got the ball to do a bit more, repeatedly beating the bat before in his last over finally forcing an outside edge that was well caught by 'keeper Kshitij Sabnis. Change bowlers Tom Newton (0/67) and Andy Owen (1/46) both induced a number of mishits and leading edges; but, with field settings that seemingly consisted solely of gaps, it's perhaps no surpise that most of these chances were either out of the fielder's reach or dropped. The one exception was a superb reaction catch off a leading edge by Richard Rex at gully - it had the vibe of the sort of sharp, decisive act you normally only see on TV.
At drinks Royston had just 67 runs on the board and it looked liked we'd be faced with a pretty manageable target . . . but the new batsmen combined big hits and superbly aggressive running to start scoring at almost 10 an over, a rate they broadly maintained for the rest of the innings. The batsmen's only real mistake was the one time they decided not to go for a second run: after Tom had fielded a mis-hit off his own bowling Cam Petrie had run into the bowler's stumps and was screaming for him to throw in the ball; but Tom saw that he had time to decrease the range first - and then, when the nearer batsmen slipped, kept his head to run all the way in to complete a Jonty Rhodes style solo run out (albeit without the horizontal dive at the end - that would have just been showing off given that the soon-to-be-dismissed batsman had given up and was now focussed exclusively on criticising his partner's call). Otherwise, though, it was one-way traffic in the wrong direction, as Cam (0/22 from 3 overs), Faruk Kara (0/37 from 5 overs, bowling despite a groin strain) and Daniel (1/45 from his decidedly less enjoyable second 4-over spell) all getting the treatment. In the end 184 runs came from the last 20 overs as Royston finished up on 251/4, the 11th highest total we've ever conceded.
Any fantasies we might have had of compiling what would have been our second biggest chase were immediately dashed when we lost wickets in the first two overs, David Perry (0 off 2 balls) getting through his shot early to complete what must have been a pretty unenjoyable afternoon - no good deed goes unpunished - and Cam Petrie (5 off 7 balls) being out LBW to a bowler who'd basically only delivered wides up until that considerably better delivery. Richard Rex (20 off 41 balls) and Kshitij Sabnis then put together a steady partnership as they defended solidly and put away the fairly regular bad balls. It's hard to imagine the Royston players thought their mammoth total was in any danger of being overhauled; but they must have been starting to worry that our innings would last long enough for the rain to come.
That seemed much less likely after a second flurry of wickets just before the drinks break - as we took refreshments on 85/5 our one hope of salvation was that the few spits of rain that were topping up our glasses heralded the start of something greater. And, while we didn't get a flood of biblical proportions (a strange phrase, given that most bibles have a volume of about a litre at most), the rain got steadily heavier, a fact that might explain why Kshitij (now on 49* off 60 balls) and new batsman Andy Owen (1* off 14 balls) had started to stonewall. Soon the players on the field were replaced by covers (well, a single white plastic sheet), leaving us all squeezed into the pavilion and huddled around satellite images of what looked to be solid rain. After 40 minutes of this the captains shook hands and that was that. Royston had definitely been robbed today, but maybe there was some justice in that given that their victory last month had rested on a final over wide call sufficiently dubious that their captain, who was batting at the time, admitted over post-match drinks today that it should have just been a dot. In the alternative universe where that call hadn't been made and the rain hadn't come today the final ledger between the two teams would have been something like 28 points to 26 points in Royston's favour - perhaps a bit generous to us given that we weren't going to come close today. But in the real world it was 32 to 17, which maybe reflects their performances over the two games. The main problem for us that was that we got less than 20 points from the two games, the result of which is that both Royston (now second) and Great Shelford (now third) have gone above us on total points while also having, respectively, one and two games in hand.