NCI II vs. Romsey Town

Saturday, June 4, 2005
Parker's Piece

NCI II (201/4; 40 overs)
Romsey Town (93 all out; 36.3 overs)
by 108 runs.

Today's enormous loss was even more depressing than the previous three. That we suffered our first hundred-run defeat in almost two years was bad enough, but what really sucked the jam out of one's doughnut was when Tony arrived with news that the New Zealand readership had been complaining about the somewhat downbeat tone of this year's match reports. Damn ingrates (or "ungrits" as they'd say it) -- you spend hours slaving over your keyboard, trying to bring our exciting, not-quite-inevitable failures to life through the medium of the written word, and what thanks do you get? Well, about as much as is deserved, probably; and, really, it's pretty cool to have any readers at all on the other side of the planet. Moreover, the phrase ``exciting, not quite-inevitable failures'' is a bit of a lie. No, not because our failures are actually completely inevitable; rather it's because there just hasn't been any excitement along the way of late -- writing these match reports has felt a bit like trying to polish a turd. Hence being endlessly sidetracked by all the off-field goings-on - anything to escape the mundanity of real life.

And today it seemed escape was a common thread: two of our number had to leave early, and only seven of us were there in time to take the field for the punctual 2pm start. For the next half hour it was almost as if there was some rule that, after a team drops a catch, they are allowed to have one more fielder: several times an NCI batsman was left shaking his head at his luck only to look up and see an extra Romsey fielder run on at the end of the over. The late-comers all blamed heavy traffic from Strawberry Fair, some of which spilled onto the ground, with belligerent gangs of chavs loitering at mid-off, and even a streaker (not that anyone actually got to see his willy). In the midst of all this mayhem Joe White (1/36) bore the brunt of the non-catching and Paul Jordan (0/38) got some great bounce, but probably won't be trying his slower ball for a little while.

Having gone to drinks with NCI cruising on 90/1 it seemed we'd be facing a monster total, but for the next fifteen overs we really pulled it together in the field. Daniel Mortlock (2/49) and Andy Owen (1/45) reaped the statistical benefits of two good catches by Andy Page and a superb one from Paul Collings, and this pair also did some great ground-fielding during this period. We also had two wicket-keepers today, with both Andy Owen and Roy Page taking plenty of balls in the face and nipples, respectively. Unfortunately many of these efforts were in vain as some effective late slogging by the NCI middle order saw them past 200 in the fortieth over, and so we were left facing almost exactly the same target as last week.

And, just like last week, it was clear from the first few overs that we weren't going to be mounting a serious challenge. The only decent partnership was a slow and steady 41-run union between Joe White (40 off 63 balls) and Rod Dennis (an exciting 8 off 58 balls). Joe thus continued his excellent form -- the golden boy is topping both the batting and bowling averages at present -- and Rod finally got some much needed time in the middle. The one moment of serious drama was when Rod pulled a high full-toss straight to square leg and began to walk off . . . until people started to notice that the umpire had (correctly) called ``no ball''. Confusion reigned for a minute or two, and it seemed there might be some dissent, until one of the NCI opening bowlers passed the sage judgement that it was ``excellent umpiring''.

Joe and Rod were were still together after drinks with the score a reasonably healthy 62/2, which provided an excellent launching pad for . . . yes, that's right, yet another Romsey Collapse (TM) -- or, as Joe suggested it be called, Romsey Batting (TM). Over the next ten overs we lost 8/31, including sub-collapses of 6/10, 5/4 and 4/2. The only player to even go close to challenging wides as second-top scorer was Roy Page with 10 (although even this might have been attributable to the presence of golden boy Joe as his runner).

All this meant that, once again, we'd failed to bat out our forty overs, and we trudged from the field without even having made it half-way to our target. Not that this should surprise anyone -- a quick glance at the averages reveals only two players averaging more than 20, and nine ``batsmen'' making fewer than 6 runs per dismissal. If only some of the opposition batsmen would hand us their wickets with the same generosity we show their bowlers! A glorious rainbow aside, maybe the only bright spot today was the realisation that we have three weeks to regroup (and maybe take up other sports) before heading off to play Royston II on June 25.