In a masterpiece of enthusiastic disorganisation, Romsey Town went from "not knowing it had a post-season match against NCI" to "having ten players changed and ready to play" in less than 24 hours. And even though we arrived at Parker's Piece to find that the strip was both uncut and two yards short, the main thing was that we had a final game of cricket for the year, and glorious conditions in which to play it. Given that the weather was also perfect last year for the mid-September fixture between the two clubs, maybe we should think about pushing the season back a few weeks; and if not let's hope we can sort out one of these double-innings Twenty/20 games against NCI in 2009 as well.
Romsey took to the field first, and dominated the next hour in almost unbelieveable fashion. By the time Daniel Mortlock (2/15), Ben Armitage (1/9) and Adrian Mellish (3/4) had finished their opening spells, NCI had been reduced to 18/4 with almost half their innings gone. They did mount something of a recovery (largely thanks to an innings of 21* from Russell Ward, playing for NCI today after becoming an instant Romsey legend in last year's game with his three slips catches), while we took the chance to give Catherine Owen her first full spell in adult cricket. She bowled very well to get 0/18, although that would have been 0/13 but for a bizarre instance in which the batsman played a sedate block straight back down the pitch to Catherine, only for her to calmly watch the ball roll past her in the expectation that someone else would field the ball. It's not that she was being a prima donna, mind, but merely that other members of the team had been taking the faster-moving balls for her. This time nobody did, and so the result was that the batsmen ran a freebie single, which was immediately followed by a four next ball. Towards to the end of NCI's first innings Ben demanded that John Moore (1/22) take a hat-trick when the bowler informed him had three balls left, and whilst a fairly unthreatening full toss wasn't quite what the doctor ordered, it was hit straight to Ben at short mid-wicket, who took a rather spectacular diving, juggling catch. Sadly NCI's lower order managed to deny John what would have been a preposterous hat-trick, and scored reasonably freely for the last few overs, almost getting to respectability with their final total of 79/8.
Our response to this unpreposessing first innings total was some very conservative lead-building, as Dave Williams (31) and Daniel Mortlock (48) compiled a rather careful 69-run partnership (more than twice our next highest opening stand all year). We passed NCI's first innings total when Daniel hit a monster six that landed on Park Terrace, going within a few feet of hitting a passing child, as well as inducing a parked car to hurriedly be moved out of harm's way. Not that such prophylaxis was needed as the innings went haywire after this, with wickets falling at the rate of about one an over in the scramble for runs. Ben Armitage (6*) and Adrian Mellish (4*) at least survived the carnage, although Ben nearly didn't survive at all when he found himself diving out of the way of a beamer that, in the end, he managed to edge to third man. It might have all gotten a bit ugly, but the main thing was that we had a healthy 37 run lead over NCI at the mid-point of the match.
At this point we learned our lesson from last year, and Romsey batted again to avoid a repeat of the rather silly 69-run target Romsey was presented with that time. John Moore (13), Dave Williams (11), Arnie Garside (10, made up of a four and a huge six) and Russell Woolf (11) all got starts, but the fact that none of them made NCI pay is rather suggestive of our league efforts in the season proper. That it took Andy Owen (24*) to get us to triple figures was thus decidedly thematic.
That meant NCI was faced with a target of 140 -- almost twice what they'd scored a few hours ago, even if it was, when considered in isolation, a gettable 20-over target. And this time round they batted much better, Richard Young (50) and Russell Ward (39) building the best partnership of the game. Catherine Owen (1/17) bowled well again, and got her first ever senior wicket when she induced a mis-timed drive from Matt Voutt that went straight to the fielder. But the NCI middle-order found things pretty easy going, and so it fell to Andy Owen (2/14) to mount his second rescue effort of the day. For the third Romsey match in a row, he took off his 'keeping gloves (which were passed to Ben Armitage, who did a fine job in his few overs behind the stumps) and set about keeping NCI to less than ten runs from the final over of the season. It would have been poetic if we'd managed yet another tie, but this time we had a few more runs to play with, and finished up winning a superb game by 4 runs.