With the regular Romsey vice captain and reporter away on tour with Father And Sons, it is down to me, roving cricket reporter Seymour Stumps, to bring you the following report from the most absorbing cricket game I have had the pleasure to witness in many a year. The game in question was Coton vs. Romsey Town, played at Coton on July 10, 2010. (Not that you have to take my word for it, as Coton have also published their own match report.)
The sky was clear and blue and the sun was blazing hot, very hot in fact as the teams gather at the ground. The day didn't start well for the normally reliable Romsey scorer Nicki Mellish, who must have been affected by the heat - on opening her kit bag she let out a groan. She had got her coloured pens, but her pencil case containing her pens and pencil and erasers, etc., had been left behind. Fortunately she was rescued by Malcolm, who had a couple of spare pencils and a sharpener.
The toss was won by Romsey captain Andy Owen, who decided that Romsey would bat first in the heat. The Romsey openers - Nick Clarke and Rod Dennis - took the task of facing the Coton opening bowlers - George Speller and Neil Sparnon. George bowled an uncharacteristic opening over: the first two balls were wides, and there were two more for the over. The Romsey openers took a single off one, and Rod also got one off the bat, so the first over went for 6. This set the tone for the first four overs where Romsey advanced to 24 without loss. George had by now got his radar sorted and, after a second over which had gone for only 1 run, he started his third over with two dot balls the third ball was one of George's slower ball which was a full toss which the unfortunate Rod Dennis (5 off 19 balls) chopped on to his stumps. This then resulted in the romsey scoring slowing down as they scored 9 runs in the next 7 overs as the Coton opening bowlers found their groove. Sean Dennis (3 off 21) was then run out, which brought drinks and Jon Steele (26 off 25 balls) to the crease.
With Coton's slower bowlers on, runs and boundaries were a little easier to come by, with Nick and Jon adding 54 in just 7 overs. Just as Jon was getting into his stride having taken two fours and a two off the first 5 balls of McCorquade's 2nd over, a full toss came Jon's way, but he was only able to smack it straight back at the bowler, who took a smart caught and bowled chance. Nick was now joined by an in-form Marcelino Gopal (34 off 43 balls), and in the next 13 overs they added another 87 to the Romsey total. In the 23rd over a lovely leg glance to the boundary saw Nick Clarke go to a second fifty for Romsey this season in a fighting 59 balls. In the 33rd over Marcelino was trapped by George LBW, bringing in Romsey Captain Andy Owen (23 off 23) balls to the wicket.
At this stage Coton's opening bowlers returned to try and limit the late-innings scoring, but they couldn't stop Andy and Nick sharing an unbroken partnership 41 runs in the last 7 overs. Nick had been scoring steadily and the excited on-looking Romsey players kept asking Nicky what score Nick was on and everybody was wondering whether they should let Nick know. The last over came with Nick and Andy rotating the strike and on the final ball Nick was facing needing 2 runs to get to a very deserved century. He clipped the ball of his legs and ran a single with the watching players screaming at them to run the second, but Nick and Andy decided on safety first, so Nick carried his bat through the Romsey inning for 99* off 100 balls. This took our total to 221/4, just one less than the 222/6 we made in the season's previous Coton game. I'm sure it was the Romsey players that were the happier as the teams took tea.
The Coton openers took to the field with Coton requiring 222 runs at 5.55 per over. Romsey opened with Andy Owen (1/40 in three spells) and Russell Woolf (1/29). The first overs saw Coton make a reasonable start, as they scored at around 4 runs over. The heat seemed to affect the Romsey fielders, and they weren't as sharp as they have been over the last couple of weeks. The first break-through came as Russ tempted Gabriel Fox to drive him and Nick Clarke, fielding in his usual place close-in, stuck out his right hand and plucked the ball out the air (definitely Nick's day). Every over change saw the on-field enforcer Nick also trying to gee up the Romsey fielders. The first drinks break at 13 overs saw Coton slightly ahead of where they needed to be, and after drinks Andy called the Romsey players into a huddle and stated they were still in the game but needed to sharpen up in the field.
This had the desired affect on the Romsey team and the game ebbed and flowed in either direction as Marcelino Gopal (0/32), Olly Rex (0/22), Adrian Mellish (0/31) and Winker Watson (2/55) all bowled tightly, but neither side really could get ahead. As the players took a second drinks break, the match was finely balanced and Romsey then made a change that may well have turned the game. Russ had to leave the game as he had a prearranged night out with his snooker team; Romsey, having first asked if they could bring on their twelfth man, brought on Richard Rex. Winker then got the second break through in the 27th over: he tempted Richard Allison down the pitch and Malcolm Creek did the rest with a nice stumping. So ending a very promising partnership of 93 off 19 overs. The required rate had edged up to around 7 an over - had the game swung Romsey's way?
Then, in the 34th, over Andy ended a 7 over 44 run partnership by bowling Dave Simmons. This was greeted with short excitement as they saw George Speller striding to the crease. The end of the over saw Coton needing 51 from 6 overs, but George was at the crease this game was far from over. In the 37th over the game took another twist: Romsey brought Lino back on to bowl, but after he sent down his first delivery it was clear that Lino was in some real discomfort, with either cramp or a pulled hamstring. After a few minutes of stretching it was decided that Lino couldn't continue, and Andy turned back to Winker Watson to complete the over. On the last ball ball of this over Romsey made another breakthrough as the remaining Coton opener hit Winker off his legs square to the boundary, where Adrian Mellish ran and made a great diving save. Jon Steele, running round to his right, then picked the ball up and threw it in to 'keeper Malcolm Creek, who took the bails off to end Alastair Breward's fine innings of 75. This over ended with Coton requiring 32 to win in 3 overs.
Nine runs came in the 38th over and Winker started the 39th over with a single to Adam Wright this brought George back on stike. Next ball 2 runs were scored, and George launched the third ball over Richard's head at long on for 6, bringing whoops and cheers from the watching Coton players and the handful of supporters now gathered at the side of the ground. The fourth ball went for a single and on the fifth ball Adam Wright tried to repeat George's big shot, but he didn't hit the ball quite as hard and was caught brilliantly by Richard Rex running backwards at long-on. This brought a jumping celebration from Richard. The batsman had crossed and George was back on strike for the sixth ball; this was a little slower from Winker, and George only managed to sky it back towards the bowler. Winker steadied himself under the ball, a hobbling Lino was coming in and called "Winker!". Winker thought Lino was going for the catch so moved back, but Lino had been calling for Winker to take the catch. The outcome was that the ball fell to the ground between Winker and Lino, and the batsman got a single which also left George on strike for the last over.
Coton needed 12 runs to win from the last six balls, with the two opposing captains facing each other from oposite ends of the pitch, George with bat in hand and Andy with the ball in his hand. Which tream would keep their nerve?
Ball 1: George come down the wicket and swing hard at the ball, connecting so well that it sails over the boundary (where the trees stopped it from reaching the houses opposite the ground). So: first blood to Coton, and with 6 runs needed from 5 balls they were probably winning.
Ball 2: Andy in to bowl George down the crease swings the ball goes out towards the boundary in the area of cow corner; Nick fields to keep the batsmen to 2 runs, to Coton 4 runs 4 balls.
Ball 3: Andy in to bowl George turns the ball off his legs square Rod Dennis fields 1 run to Coton more importantly George off strike.
Ball 4: N. Sparron on strike Andy in to ball dot ball. 3 runs 2 balls .
Ball 5: Andy in to ball Neil Sparnon hit's the ball out to Richard Rex (I think - by now I was lost in the excitement) out at long on. The ball came in Andy, who took the bails off - Romsey waited. Coton waited. Umpire's decision: the finger went up. Dot ball; Sparnon run out. 3 runs to win; 2 runs to tie; one ball; George on strike.
Ball 6: Andy in to bowl George who clubs the ball out towards Richard Rex or Nick Clarke. Andrew East backing up from the bowlers end makes the first run with screams coming from the Coton players wanting a second or a third, and screams coming from Andy to "get it in". The ball comes in to Andy who takes the bails off with the unfortunate East short of his ground. The game is over and Romsey has won by one run.
Both sets of players had taken part in one amazing game. When the dust settled and players had stopped talking of the game members of both teams went the few hundred yards down the road to quench their extreme thirst at The Plough. Whilst your roving reporter was left to sit and wonder and reflect on the amazing game he'd just seen unfold.