Report by Daniel Mortlock:
In the last month New Romsey has taken Cambridgeshire cricket by storm, our sequence of three consecutive wins making a pretty stark contrast with the six defeats that began our season. This success has been built on strong batting performances, our totals of 240/7, 172, 249/3 and 242/3 being all the more remarkable for the fact that we'd passed 140 only once before that all year. The key ingredients have been big partnerships and long innings, with eight scores of sixty-plus from seven different players -- an indication of depth if ever there was one.
Even such depth has its limits, however, and the team which congregated at Fitzwilliam College today was without four of the above run-scorers, Olly, Roy, Tony and John all being unavailable. When Andy won the toss yet again, New Romsey's bat-first policy thus faced its first real test: would he resist the temptation to go back to the old ways and field first with today's bowler-heavy line-up? Eventually, after some serious debate, we kept faith with the new philosophy and again chose to bat, even though it meant opening the innings with a bowler and the one batsman who hadn't yet made a big score this year.
Daniel Mortlock got us off to a good enough start, taking 8 off the first over, before getting bogged down in just the way a bowler is likely to, scoring just 9 more off his next 38 balls. This would have been a disaster (and disastrously dull) were it not for the fact that Rod Dennis was playing beautifully at the other end, scoring at comfortably more than a run a ball with some huge drives and pulls, two of which resulted in lost balls off consecutive deliveries. Rod was eventually caught in the deep in the 22nd over, having dominated a 102-run opening partnership with a fabulous 77 (off 73 balls, with 6 fours and 3 sixes).
Given that it was the "wrong" batsman who was out, there was some danger that we'd stall at this point; that we didn't was largely down to Paul Jordan (26 off 39 balls, with 1 four), who played his shots from the word go, and probably would have had a fifty as well if it wasn't for some amazing (and frustrating, from our point of view) stops in the covers. Nonetheless, the scoreboard kept ticking over healthily, and we didn't lose our second wicket until the 35th over, when the score was 178. By this stage Daniel had begun to justify all those early dot balls, finally hitting out whilst being on the receiving end of huge slices of luck, such as starting a third run with the ball already in the gloves of the keeper (who wasn't looking) and responding to a long-range stumping attempt by placing his bat on the crease (which the umpire noticed, but for which there was no appeal). Starting the final over on 90 (off 115 balls, with 11 fours), ten more runs would have made the for the most undeserved century imagineable . . . but justice at last prevailed, Haslingfield's nippy off-spinner taking two wickets and conceding just the one run from the final over of the innings. As a result we didn't make the 230-odd that we really wanted, even if our final total of 214/4 was still pretty healthy.
Heading out into the field we were clearly favourites, but it would only take a few big overs or one batsman to get in and the balance of power could shift rapidly. And rapid shifts really was the story of Haslingfield's innings -- they'd repeatedly build up momentum almost to the point of getting their noses in front, only for us to get a vital wicket right when we needed it. After Tom Jordan (3/48) had gotten rid of most of the middle order with some more great leg-spin, we had hopes of polishing off the tail when Haslingfield were 123/4 after 27 overs. Rog Shelley (1/30) consolidated with a fabulously tight spell which saw the required run rate climb ever higher, and when the equation became 71 needed off 36 balls our victory was surely secure.
At this stage the opening pair of Andy Owen (3/60) and Daniel Mortlock (3/41, to complete what, in statistical terms at least, is the equal greatest ever all-round performance for Romsey) came on to tie up the loose ends . . . only to be smashed all over the place as the next overs yielded 7, 9, 10 and 14 runs, respectively. That left Haslingfield needing a just-possible 31 off 12 balls which, even with everyone on the boundary, became 25 needed off 9 after yet another clobbered four. Then, for the first time in several overs, the ball beat the bat, hitting the batsman's back pad somewhere in front of leg stump; there was a big appeal, followed by a wonderful act of integrity, the umpire going with his instinct and raising his finger, despite the fact that his decision would end his team's gutsy chase.
We indulged in a lot of relieved back-slapping as we left the ground, but it was the Haslingfield number ten who got the biggest plaudits, his 30 coming from just 15 balls and including boundaries through long-off, cover, point, slip, fine-leg and backward-square. That such details can be reported is down to Haslingfield's support crew, who came equipped with a lap-top that was set up to record every shot played all day. It was simultaneously cool and hilarious to be able to look at one's "wagon wheel" for an innings played in a CCA junior league match, but such is the rapid march of progress that what was unheard of at international level a decade ago is now appearing in village cricket. Some things don't change, however, and both teams conspired to break into the bar at the ground and then drink it dry, finally giving up as the sun was setting at about half past nine.