Coming off a run off three pretty grim defeats it was very pleasing to see that we were up against The CB XI, a team we'd never lost to. Moreover, we had a decidedly strong line-up out: seven or eight proven batsmen and even more bowlers. For a while it seemed only the weather could rob us of our certain victory but, just like last night, conditions were perfect by the time we walked onto the ground.
Things continued to go well for a while after that, too: Bryan Lea (1/17) started us off with another excellent spell; and even though Alex Brown (0/26) was unlucky to have a few top edges (four in one over!) fall into space, he got a partial revenge when he fielded yet another skyer and ran out the batsman when he foolishly went for a second run.
With the score 73/3 after 13 (six-ball) overs it seemed we were finally going to be chasing a manageable target - the only problem was the continued presence of The CB XI's diminutive wicket keeper, who was now coming down the track and smacking boundaries with monotonous, if spectacular, regularity. He had gotten his fair share of the aforementioned egdes, and had a few other lucky escapes, but he was almost single-handedly responsible for doubling his team's total in the final third of their innings. This succession of boundaries notwithstanding, the fielding held up pretty well, with Andrew Lea catching a bullet at square leg, Les Collings scoring another run out after chasing a ball that no-one seemed interested in, and Bryan Lea, Paul Jordan and Andy Owen all doing plenty of running in the outer. On the bowling front Daniel Mortlock (2/27) and Rupert Brown (0/11) managed to slow the scoring a little, but when the aforementioned batsmen was clapped off the ground with 89* to his name there was no question who was leading on points at this stage.
Still, seven runs an over seemed well within the capabilities of today's top order, especially when the bowling was revealed to be no more than solid, a positive respite after the last few matches facing 70+ mph bullets. Phil Watson (11 off 13 balls) and Ev Fox (a superb 25 off 23 balls) both kept the scoreboard ticking over, playing the perfect foils for Andy Owen, who hit 54 off 48 balls (after a slowish start), despite claiming to be out of form. True to his word he retreated to his bread 'n' butter shot - the paddle behind square leg - and it was after one of these shots that the match descending into madness for a good few minutes.
One of The CB XI's bowlers had banged a few in short and had Andy caught after he played a hook at a ball some way over his head. The only problem was that Les, umpiring square leg, had indicated to Geoff (officiating at the bowler's end) that it was a no ball. Andy, having seen this signal, wasn't going anywhere, although it's not clear that Geoff actually called "no ball" until after Andy had pointed towards Les's out-stretched arm. By the time the call had been made most of The CB XI had followed the ball in the direction of square leg and were exchanging jubilent high-fives - apparently the fielder in question was not expected to hold what was a very good catch - and there was quite a lot of celebratory momentum to absorb once the word got out that it was, well, not out. The crux of the problem seemed to be, once again, that not many people realise that any delivery that goes over the batsman's head should be called a no ball (according to Law 42.6 a ii) a misconception that is, unfortunately, reinforced week after week as such deliveries are allowed to go unpenalised. It took a while to clear up just what had occured, and there was a certain degree of "wailing and gnashing of teeth". It all got a bit silly until Geoff intervened with the eminently sensible suggestion that people "either leave this here or end the game".
Sanity eventually prevailed and the game did not end there, and our innings continued to build in a most convincing way, so much so that even when we found ourselves needing 76 runs off the last seven overs the match seemed (at least to us) to be in the balance. For the next four overs we kept up with the required rate; the only problem was that both Ev and Andy had fallen along the way. Rupert Brown (5*) and Daniel Mortlock (11* off 11 balls) tried to swipe and scamper the 31 runs needed off the final two overs, but in the end managed only half that amount, meaning we fell 14 runs short of The CB XI's total.
So, four losses on the trot for the first time since 2002: can things get any worse? Well, no and yes. No, in the so far as we'd probably have won today if one of those early skyers had gone to a fielder, and we played a perfectly respectable game of mid-week cricket. And yes, there is worse to come as, presumably, you haven't yet read this message that Geoff asked be put on the web-site.