Report by Daniel Mortlock:
And so, after four months of struggling to stay up in Junior 2, it came down to this: if we won then we'd stay up; if Wilbrahams II lost to NCI then we'd stay up; if either our match or Wilbrahams' match was rained off then we'd stay up; or, if Wilbrahams won and we lost to Ashwell but get seven bonus points (e.g., 150 runs and 4 wickets) then we'd still stay up, albeit by the skin of our teeth.
Pulling the curtains aside this morning it seemed the wash-out was the most likely option, with ominous grey skies threatening to deposit even more water on the already wet ground. Convening at Fitzwilliam College's Oxford Road ground, this impression was only reinforced: the outfield was already soggy, and there were inch-deep puddles in places. Some water had also gotten under the covers and onto the pitch, and it looked like it would be pretty tricky to bat on. We needed to win the toss, field, get a handful of wickets, and then relax, safe in the knowledge we only needed to chase 120 or 150 rather than whatever the actual target was. Thus it was all but pre-ordained that we'd lose the toss and be made to bat first, and that's exactly what happened (even if the Ashwell captain apparently gave serious, crazy considering to batting first himself).
Ev Fox and Rod Dennis set about building the innings, but found scoring very difficult at the outset, limping to 8/0 after 7 overs. After that they scored steadily, eventually taking the score to 93/0 after 28 overs. It was an impressive partnership when taken in isolation, but in the context of the match we probably needed to start taking a riskier, more aggressive approach about ten overs earlier, even if just by trying to steal singles. The partnership was eventually broken when Ev was dismissed for 29 (off 78 balls with just 2 fours) - which, in the absence of the Pages, was sufficient to secure his first ever Romsey batting award. Rod lasted a little longer and was starting to accelerate, but when he was bowled for 66 (off 109 balls, with 7 fours and a six) we'd lost any real chance of making a big total.
After 30 overs we were 102/1: very short of runs, but with wickets in hand. Thus it was entirely predictable that the innings finished with 10 overs of mayhem: we scored - scrapped, really - 60 more runs whilst losing 7 wickets, including two run outs in which Pauls Collings and Jordan put the team first and went for crazy singles at the death. We did at least get five bonus points for passing 150, although I don't think anyone on either team thought 162/8 was likely to be a winning total.
During tea we crowded 'round the television to watch the action from the fifth Test at The Oval, although soon the Poms were scurrying off the ground as the rain came to save them from the mighty Australian batsmen. For a while it seemed that Romsey might be saved in much the same way, but unfortunately we were soon heading out into persistent drizzle with the simple aim of getting the four wickets we needed.
And, to cut a long story short, we got just one. The bowling was good in patches, Andy Owen (0/24), Paul Jordan (0/28) and Daniel Mortlock (1/50) all generating chances with their medium pace and Alex Cook (0/29) and Tom Jordan (0/27) both economical with their spin. The problem was, as so often this season, that the chances went begging. In fact maybe it was an appropriate way to finish off our year: almost every time we've fielded through a century partnership (such as the unbeaten 127 Ashwell put on for the second wicket today) or clapped opposition batsmen's milestones (the surviving opener smacking 90* whilst the number three went to his half century with the six that finished the match) it has been after we've given a life or three - the top order batsmen of Junior 2 must relish playing us, taking confidence in the fact that all they have to do to chalk up another half century is avoid getting bowled.
It was a pretty forlorn time in the field, and when the drizzle finally stopped the clouds responded by getting lower and darker. Unlike the Australians, the batsmen declined an offer to go off for bad light, and the winning runs promptly came with some 8 overs (and half an hour of daylight) to spare.
The mood in the dressing room was as dark as the sky was outside it. The frustration at our own performances mixed in with the fatalistic belief that Wilbrahams would somehow have contrived to beat the considerably stronger NCI - it's amazing what you can do with a few first-teamers in your side. Our enthusiasm for the traditional post-season curry had all but vanished and, in the end, only three of today's eleven (Andy, Daniel and John) made it to Mickey Flynn's this evening. Fortunately Malcolm, his son Matt, Rog and Russ were already there and in infectiously good moods - presumably the fact they hadn't been involved in today's debacle was a contributing factor, although possibly even more critical was the hypnotic presence of a particularly attractive player who seemed to know exactly how many eyes were following every swish of her flimsy skirt. And there was actually some cricketing cheer too: Rog humbly accepted our congratulations for winning the bowling award for the second time, and then Andy gave us the fantastic (if undeserved) news that Wilbrahams had lost to NCI and we were, once again safe. The only appropriate reaction to this little piece of good fortune was, of course, to head across the road to The Curry Queen and, now full of dansaks, bhunas and the like, we ended the season with a beer-fuelled walk through the deserted streets of Romsey Town.