Well as friendly games played on a day that began at -0.5 degrees, this one was a real pot-boiler! The visitors from Southampton Uni looked every inch the team on a mission as they showed up an hour before the start looking resplendent in chinos, blue blazers and club ties. Our last player actually arrived an hour into the game in pilot fancy dress so our standards cannot be said to have been quite as high. As Whispering pointed out, the rocking up in uniform really loses its shine after the 50th time Spinders. Though given the recent whatsapp stream, we all suspect he wears it at Herro’s request…

After Monica, skippering his first Sunday match, lost the toss – clearly due to a faulty coin leant to him by Jamo and his “these aren’t sight screen pushing shoes” – the Park were inserted on a very damp but drying wicket. The first ten overs were about survival, with Dushy and Monica poking and prodding at imaginary vipers to reach 12 for 0 after 10. The crowd was raucous with excitement, so much so that the first 2 of the day warranted a cheer. Monica cashed in on the change bowlers and brought up his 50 before drinks at 20 overs, with the park 77-0. Having mentioned to Dushy they should push on after drinks, the next ball precipitated Dushy’s wicket as the opposition Cheese turned one back from outside off. Aseem came in, hit three sumptuous boundaries and was lbw to the same bowler. Whispering came in as their slow left armer and Captain was turning the ball square and was done through the gate going for his trademark sweep, swiftly followed by a (unusually) grumbling Herro. Who’s be an umpire eh? Poor Jurgo.

Monica went in the 29th over as fatigue (lack of fitness) caused him to play over a yorker. He was still taking off his pads when Atul was gone too. This left Spinders and Uday to bring home the innings, with Spinders carving the final ball over cover for the first six of the season – which turned out to be somewhat important!

After tea (the actual cups of tea, as made by Jamo, being a sought a grey, warmed up water with milk affair – must be how the upper classes like it), Southampton made a confident start on a much dryer wicket, reaching 30-odd without loss of 10 oversbefore Whispering struck, Mikey C taking a fine catch at point. After both Jamo and Whispering had got 6 good overs under their respective belts, Uday and Mikey C proceeded to bowl with superior swing and, after Uday’s 11 ball first over, great control to peg the Southampton boys back, Mikey deservedly amongst the wickets. Special mention to Uday for warranting 2 slips on a slow wicket on a Sunday in April! Play swung back in the park’s favour until a good 4th wicket stand meant that with 6 wickets remaining, the boys from Wessex needed 6 an over off the last 10. Spinders and the Real Cheese bowled well without luck, Cheese again showing that the ball could be swung at the Park and Spinders showing good rhythm. There were a few dropped catches and a missed stumping as the Yellow Hat of Shame was passed around, but generally the Park fielded well, with Aseem exceptional in the outfield and Atul catching sparrows. Herro had a good day behind the stumps on a very testing surface for the stumpers.

Jamo and Whispering came back and a couple of quick wickets for Steve meant the park were back in the hunt. A fantastic game, played in an excellent spirit, came down the the last over. With 8 runs needed Monica turned to Spinders. With a wicket and a run out, it came down to the last ball, with 4 needed for a Southampton win. Holding his nerve to complete a stellar last over, Spinders was heaved towards the legside boundary, where Uday calmly threw in and the second run out of the over meant the Park were home by 2. Not bad the day after snow had fallen on the ground!

The Wessex chaps joined us for the traditional blue stripe, awarding it to the hapless chap who missed the easiest run out we’ll see this season (“go to fine leg and think about what you’ve done”). Our award went to Herro for making it halfway to the middle before realising that we had decided, in a break with tradition to use bats.

Well done and come on the Park!