Report by Daniel Mortlock:
Cricket in September? It's an absurd idea - just a way of ensuring wash-outs ruin both Australia's chances of retaining The Ashes and, more importantly, Romsey Town's chances of avoiding relegation.
Except that's not quite how it worked out, at least today. Arriving at Great Wilbraham we were greeted with one of the county's most distinctive grounds (characterised by bites taken out of it to accomodate the social club on one side and the churchyard on the other) shimmering in the sort of blazing sunshine that forces you to squint for at least half an hour.
Having "done a Ponting" (i.e., won the toss and decided to field first) it initially seemed we'd made a comparable mistake, the first few overs leaking easy runs with byes and leg-side deliveries a particular feature. Fortunately, this state of affairs lasted just those first few overs: after that Rog Shelley (2/13) and Andy Owen (4/24) tore through the Wilbrahams' top order, Rog all but securing the bowling award for 2005 and Andy taking returning his best figures this century. Largely this was down to their superb bowling - both Rog and Andy combined a nagging line with an unconventional sub-medium pace that saw the ball move absurd amounts off the pitch - although the batsmen's strange shot-selection also had a role to play, three of them getting bowled 'round their legs as they walked across their stumps to work the ball to the on-side.
Rog and Andy would, no doubt, have finished the job themselves had they not run out of overs; as it was it fell to Russell Woolf (2/18) Daniel Mortlock (2/19) to do the mopping up. And when they combined to take three wickets in two overs it seemed the mopping would be done most effectively - Wilbrahams were 53/9 and in danger of earning just the one batting point. Their last wicket pair, however, knuckled down with far more resolve than their theoretically more skillful predecessors had shown, and kept us at bay for about a dozen overs. The younger of the two concentrated on leaving anything outside off-stump, while the more senior came forward with bat and bad together, presenting a near-impenetrable barrier (and even swatting a six at one point). Their rearguard action did eventually come to an end, but they'd gone within 23 balls of batting through their overs and put on by far the biggest partnership of the innings. We'd dismissed the opposition for just 81, and yet it was the two batsmen who were (deservedly) clapped off the ground.
That said, it seemed pretty inconceivable that we'd fail to chase down the target, so our main problem was trying to arrange the batting order so that the seven non-bowlers got a go. And, on this score, we failed dismally, Roy Page (33*) and Rod Dennis (34*) managing to do the chasing all by themselves (well, with a little help from a plentiful supply of wides and no balls, along with a bowler who didn't "fucking believe it" when an LBW appeal off a thigh-high full-toss was turned down).
Thus a record five of us (including Romsey debutante Robin Woolley, despite being handy with both bat and ball) had to go home having neither bowled nor batted - a "TFC", if you like. Given that we're now 6th in the league you might have thought there'd be a chance to mix things 'round next week, safe in the knoweldge we'd avoided relegation for another year . . .
. . . except that we haven't: Helions Bumpstead have the wooden spoon all sewn up, leaving Romsey Town (on 137 points from 13 matches) in a three-way race with Wilbrahams II (123 points from 13 matches) and Ashwell (130 points from 13 matches) to avoid the other relegation spot. So if we beat Ashwell next week then we're fine; and if all the matches are rained off then we're fine. The trouble comes if we lose to Ashwell and Wilbrahams beat NCI, and even then we'd be okay if we could get seven bonus points. 150 runs and 4 wickets doesn't seem too much to ask for . . . but imagine posting a total of 150-odd and then watching Ashwell get closer and closer to our total with just just three wickets down - it would almost make The Ashes seem boring.