What a perfect day. It all began bright and early with a fry-up at The Regal, hit its one lull when we had the cheek to ask the pretentious wanker in Regent Street Oddbins if he had any beer, and then entered into a joyous seven-hour plateau of beer-drinking and cricket on sun-drenched Parker's Piece. After much reasoned debate it was agreed that Romsey and NCI would spend the day playing a customised hybrid of Test and Twenty20, with two 25-over innings per team (although with two separate coin-tosses for the two halves of the match).
By 11:30am everyone was fuelled and ready to go and, for the first time since June, Romsey batted first, with Paul Jordan (19) and Tom Jordan (9) seeing off the new ball so successfully that it was eventually replaced on the grounds that it was the shape of a cheesburger. We were going a bit slowly at 43/2 after 11 overs, but then the new batsmen took a liking to the new, spherical ball, Mickey Lambert (26), Russell Woolf (47*) and Edmund Rex (24) all scoring freely. With the total mounting so well the main interest was in whether Russ could score his first ever Romsey half-century -- and when he was facing on 46* with three balls remaining it was about an even money bet. A single wasn't quite what the doctor ordered, but that was then what was demanded from the boundary line with Ed on strike. He had other ideas, though, instead smashing the ball way over long-on for the day's only six. Poor old Russ was gutted to be informed he'd gotten so close to his maiden batting jug, but the whole team was pretty happy with our first innings total of 153/6.
Out in the field we rammed home our advantage, with Andy Owen (3/11) going through the NCI top order, albeit with some inside help in the form of NCI regular Russell Ward, who took the first slips catch we've held all year. And this was pretty much the pattern for the rest of the innings: the bowlers kept taking wickets and the fielders held all the catches that came their way. Marcelino Gopal starred on both fronts, taking 1/8 to go with his three catches; Russell Ward (2/11) took a wicket with his first ball all year; and Daniel Mortlock (2/9) and Tom Jordan (2/15) finished off the tail with their wrist-spin. All in all it was one of the best Romsey team efforts of the year, and we'd managed to bowl out a pretty decent batting line-up in under 25 overs.
The general consensus over tea seemed to be that Romsey should bat again to ensure the game went the full length, but NCI won the second toss and decided to have another go themselves, this time promising that there'd be no mucking around with the batting order and that their best batsmen would be in at the start. We reacted to this challenge with a demonstration of our own bowling depth, opening with Paul Jordan (3/27) and Russell Woolf (0/12), neither of whom had been required first time around.
There was immediate drama when NCI's first innings number eleven took his rightful place at the top of the order and set about avoiding a pair of golden ducks for the day. It didn't look good when he edged Paul's first ball into the keeper's gloves, but the catch went to ground and so the batsman was away. On the face of it he seemed the sort of guy who you couldn't afford to give chances to; in the end it turned out you could, as he promptly nicked his second ball to Edmund Rex in the gully and, after a little bit of a bat throw, headed back to the pavilion, not to be seen for the rest of the day.
Paul's other two wickets also both came from edges as Russell Ward out-did his own first innings efforts to take not only the second and third slips catches of our season, but two of the best catches in the club's history. All this meant that NCI's ``proper'' top order had been dismissed almost as quickly as their pretend one had been earlier in the day, and we had a sniff at bowling out the opposition for a second time. Certainly the wickets kept coming, with Tom Jordan (1/13, and pick of the bowlers second time 'round), Andy Owen (1/11), Daniel Mortlock (1/8), John Moore (1/13) and Adrian Mellish (1/12) all having some success, although NCI still had three wickets in hand as Adrian prepared to bowl the 25th over.
Our hopes of finishing things off seemed to have vanished when the first two balls were smacked for four and the third was cheekily reverse-swept for a couple. But then Adrian got his revenge, bowling the cheeky batsman, meaning we now needed two wickets in two balls. The penultimate ball was smacked to leg, but only as far as Andy Owen's forearm, a few metres from the bat. Even though Andy didn't hold onto what was a very tough chance, he did have the presence of mind to throw the ball back to Adrian, who duly ran out the non-striker by a couple of feet. So now we had one final chance to, for the first time in the club's history, dismiss a side twice in one day; and, happily, NCI's last pair obliged, going for a hopeless second run and finishing up several yards short of their ground.
As the shadows began to lengthen, we finished our summer with the ``challenge'' of getting 68 runs to win -- even in a season during which we'd struggled to chase a hundred or so, surely this was going to be a doddle? Yes it was: Daniel Mortlock and Marcelino Gopal (both 9) played entertaining cameos while Russell Ward used his knowledge of NCI's bowlers to anchor the innings with a chanceless 36*. It was, fittingly, Andy Owen (1*) who hit the winning run, with some 6 wickets and 9 overs to spare.
And whilst that was the end of Romsey Town cricket for 2007, there was still plenty of drinking to be done, and so everyone headed off to the pub to see if they could manage two innings' worth of drinking before closing time.