Report by Daniel Mortlock:
FIFA's decision to schedule the England vs. Portugal quarter-final for 4pm on a Saturday afternoon showed scant sregard for Cambridge's tireless league cricketers; and combined with the CCA decreeing that we weren't allowed to start matches before 1pm (even, and this makes no sense at all, if both teams agreed), it's no surprise that neither us nor our opposition were able to field full-strength teams today. Our team wasn't even full, let alone full strength, and our numbers were only boosted to nine-and-a-half after Kate Waller succumbed to Phil Watson's drunken text-messages and Daniel Mortlock agreed to drop by for about an innings-worth. As a result we were desperate to field with our maximum compliment, and so it was fortunate the temperature was so high and the pitch so benign-looking that, even if we lost the toss, we could be sure of the opposition choosing to bat first. That Andy (in his first match back as captain) did, in fact, lose the toss should surprise no-one; but that Ashwell chose to bowl is maybe worthy of a pantomime-style double-take.
After a little uncertainty about the batting order we set about trying to set a total that nine men (in the all inclusive, gender-nonspecific sense of the word) could defend. And, after an early wicket, we started to make a go of it, John Gull (11, with 2 fours) and Paul Jordan (21, with 3 fours) combining with Daniel Mortlock (30-odd at this stage) to have us well placed at 70/2 at the start of the 16th over. Unfortunately we came to the end of the 16th over rather less well placed at 72/4 (effectively 72/5 with the missing player), a Romsey collapse seemingly gathering momentum.
Andy Owen then joined Daniel with the revised mission of just trying to make use of the forty over allotment, but they finished up doing rather more than that, compiling a largely risk-free 124-run partnership off just 97 balls, Daniel making 80 (with 9 fours and 2 sixes) and Andy almost overtaking him on his way to 74 (with 5 fours and 4 sixes). Both scored almost exclusively in pull-shots, in part the result of the bowlers pitching a bit too short, but also due to the bizarre location of the pitch, only about 30 metres from one square boundary but well over twice as far from the other one. Thus some huge leg-side hoiks only yielded a couple of runs as the ball stopped just inside the distant boundary and the batsmen only then realised they'd better start running; conversely, plenty of innocuous shots in the other direction were ridiculously well-rewarded. In the most absurd case of all, Andy's gentle off-side push -- he doesn't hit cut shots, remember -- bobbled gently towards the point fielder who somehow contrived to knock the ball a few feet behind him and, to the batsman's delight, over the rope.
The fun continued even when the more threatening of Ashwell's opening bowlers came back on to finish the innings. Having beaten the bat repeatedly in his first spell, he came off second-best when a fired up Russell Woolf smashed his way to 25 (with 4 fours and 1 six), including the absolute shot of the day, a glorious, classical cover drive that sped along the ground all the way to (and a long way past) the distant white line.
That we lost a few late wickets was, of course, an irrelevance; what mattered was that we'd finished up with a huge total of 240/7, some eighty runs more than we'd made in any other match this season. The mood was pretty bouyant munching on Andy's most generous (if wasted, given the heat) tea; however it would be surprising if some dark thoughts about big gaps and short boundaries weren't starting to form as the last few dollops of doughnut jam were lapped up.
When Paul Jordan (2/49) struck twice to have Ashwell 24/2 we might have been winning even with only nine players; but it rapidly became clear that Ashwell had no similar shortages in the batting department. As if to illustrate the futility of our task, Daniel and Andy's great batting efforts, which were the two highest scores for Romsey all year, wound up being demoted to third and fourth best innings of the day behind scores of 90* and 81* by Ashwell's third wicket pair as they compiled an undefeated 220-run partnership. Our mammoth total was mercilessly hunted down with almost as much ease as England's 321 was being mocked by Sri Lanka a few hours north in Leeds. Other than Paul, only Andy Owen (0/58) conceded less than six an over and, whilst all reports are that we actually did pretty well in the field, the ball was landing on the distant tennis courts as often as on the cricket pitch -- kind of appropriate on a day during which nobody's mind could have been totally focused on any one sport.
In the end Ashwell maintained their season's undefeated record with 39 balls to spare; and we somehow came away from a pretty good team performance with just six points and some sunburn to show for our efforts. About the only consolation was that we didn't lose on penalties, even if our eventual defeat was every bit as predictable as England's latest big-tournament tragedy.