We’ve played Marldon twice before: the first game resulted in an oddly-comfortable win for the Cavaliers, and the second was such a comprehensive win for the Marldon boys that we ended up playing twice in one day and losing both times. This was a much better game of cricket and resulted in a close but deserved win for the hosts.

The game got off to the best-possible start for us, as Denny went hard at a wide loosener and was caught – absolutely brilliantly and at full-stretch, it has to be said – by Andy at cover point. Both our opening bowlers did really well, with Chris always aggressive down the hill and Mick tight bowling up. After seven overs Marldon had meandered to 31-1 and if we’;d taken our chances it could have been three or four. Andy and Jim were both tidy and both got wickets bowling up the hill, while Si exerted his usual control coming down. I’d decided to repeat the experiment with Chip opening the batting, so he didn’t come on until the 17th over.

And blimey, what an impact! The first ball was watched past the edge of the bat. The second looked a pretty good shout for lbw (not given), but the third was bobbed back up in the air for a caught-and-bowled. The new batsman tried to drive the fourth ball away on the on-side and was bowled, and on the hat-trick ball the delivery, shot and result were repeated and Chip had our first-ever hat-trick. It was a wonderful moment and his wife, daughter, mother and mother-in-law were all there to witness it!

Marldon ended on 100-7, and we felt reasonably confident that the bowlers had done a good enough job. It wouldn’t be easy, of course, but it was well within our grasp. Five an over should be pretty straightforward, right? Just pick the bad balls.

However Marldon were tactically very astute. Everything they bowled down the hill was outside or on off-stump and it proved virtually impossible to hit a boundary from that end. They always had their best fielders in key positions and they turned a lot of fours into ones. And our lack of big hitters was exposed by a grassy outfield and committed fielders.

Perhaps we would have done better if our openers had been able to hang around for longer, but apart from me none of the top order were able to score (Nick Harrison was really unlucky to be run out without facing a ball) and it fell to Jim and I to recover the innings. When it came to the time to hit out we never quite fired, despite a few promising overs, and our innings ended in a few chaotic run-outs as we chased every opportunity for a run in the final two overs. In the end we were 12 runs short, finishing on 88-8.

However it was another encouraging performance, and as ever Marldon were a great side to play against. They are rapidly becoming Cavaliers favourites, and we look forward to the return game later in the year.