Ashwell vs. Romsey Town

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Ashwell (73 all out; 30.2 overs)
lost to
Romsey Town (75/1; 13.2 overs)
by 9 wickets.

After two months being the whipping boys of the league, Romsey Town has suddenly emerged as a destructive force, last week batting, and this week in the field. Critical to this week's triumph was Andy calling correctly at the toss: he took one look at the dusty, bumpy, sloped, irregular pitch and instantly chose to bat - no, only joking: to bowl, he chose to bowl. And thus Ashwell found themselves outnumbered: their eleven players were competing against the same number of us and what turned out to be an almost malicious pitch. Not too much kept low, but anything short of a length was likely to jump or seam in either direction.

Daniel Mortlock (1/10, having figures of 7 overs, 5 maidens, 1/2 at one stage) and Joe White (4/23, and dead unlucky not to get a five-for) got first use of the beast, repeatedly hitting the Ashwell batsmen and getting plenty of balls past the edge of the bat. When it became clear that just staying in was a struggle, the fielders began to circle the batsmen like a pack of hyenas around a wounded water-buffalo. At one stage, with Ashwell 31/6 just before drinks, all nine outfielders were in a ring about five yards from the wicket, safe in the knowledge that even the best defensive strokes would eventually result in an edge or a bat-pad chance. The only time this wasn't true was when two particular Ashwell batsmen shrewdly decided there was no point in trying to play ``correctly'', and instead attempted to smash the ball at any opportunity. Neither lasted too long, both being dismissed by Andy Owen (2/16), but, in making 18 and 20, respectively, they combined to contribute more than half their team's runs. The final link in the bowling was Rog Shelley (3/16), who cleaned up the tail after the seventh wicket pair had taken the total from 31 to 61.

On the fielding front we didn't really have that much to do, although Arnie Garside's superb running catch at square leg was a highlight. The real star, though, was Malcolm Creek behind the stumps: he stood up to everyone bar Joe, took a superb catch, almost managed a few miracle stumpings and, excepting balls that went over his head, let through only one bye.

As we readied ourselves to chase the 74 needed for victory we were all agreed that attack was the way forward - no point blocking away just waiting to make a mistake. In particular we had to have a go at anything fuller than a half-volley, as anything shorter was a bit of a lottery. We were obviously optimistic, but none of us thought we'd be walking from the ground after just a dozen overs. Alex Cook (10) got going first before, predictably, being done by a shortish ball; after this it was the Roy Page show. With Rod Dennis (scoreless but undismissed after calmly blocking out some 31 deliveries, a a club record) eschewing all attacking strokes and the Ashwell bowlers repeatedly over-pitching, Roy kept driving and glancing again and again and again. He rode his luck on occasion, a few lofted strokes falling tantalisingly out of the fielders' reach, but it was, fundamentally, a victory for positivism. In the end he was clapped from the field having made 62* off just 39 balls, with 11 fours and a 6. That sort of innings would be impressive enough in a high-scoring match on a good pitch; but to put these figures in their true context, Roy scored more than three times as much as any other batsman on either team and two fifths of all the runs scored in the whole match. And scoring 83% of our runs was, needless to say, the greatest relative contribution to a Romsey innings on record.

After two wins on the trot the post-match vibe was fantastic - even the English team's poor showing in the first Ashes Test couldn't dampen the mood - although it should be kept in mind that it might have all been very different if the coin had landed the other way up a few hours earlier. Most relevantly we'll be playing Ashwell again a bit later in the year, presumably on a less diabolical wicket, and the result of that match will, most likely, be a far better measure of the two teams' relative merits.