Report by Daniel Mortlock:
Maybe it wasn't too clever to end last week's match report with a lament that Romsey had become something of a one-man team, Andy Owen having dominated both the batting and the bowling so far this year. For it's hard not to feel some guilt that this throw-away comment induced a week of painful back spasms for Andy, the end result of which was that he had to drop out of today's Romsey side, missing a league game for the first time since June 2006. Stir in the fact that we hadn't even gone close to winning a game this year, sprinkle in a grim morning of cold winds and drizzle, and we had the perfect recipe for a miserable day's cricket.
The first sign of light at the end of the tunnel came when we arrived at the Trinity College ground to find Cambridge rugby blue and cricket Crusader (i.e., seconds player) Matt Commin twiddling his thumbs and keen for some afternoon exercise. Ordinarily we'd have had to turn him away with an offer play in a future game; but with just ten players available, he could slot straight in. The fact that some of us remembered him smashing around the Remnants bowling back in mid-2010 was promising enough; the additional information that "I'm mainly a bowler, though. I get up to 70 mph most of the time - 75 when I'm angry." was like some scarcely believeable fantasy. By the time Nick Clarke (deputising for a late-arriving Daniel Mortlock, who was himself deputising for Andy) went out for the toss to be told that Fenstanton had just nine players at the ground, things really were looking up. And it wasn't even a problem that the opposition captain called correctly, as he asked us to bat, which is what we wanted to do anyway.
Fenstanton did make pretty good use of the new ball, having Nick Clarke (returning against doctor's and wife's orders to play on his recently broken ankle) dropped before he'd scored and giving Rod Dennis a few bruises by which to remember the game. But, after a deserved early wicket, it was all Romsey for the next hour as Nick, Tony Desimone (28 off 31 balls) and Matt Commin (37 off 23 balls) feasted on some rather erratic bowling. Without trying to diminish Tony and Matt's efforts, however, it really was the Nick Clarke show: hobbling between wickets on his steadily-swelling ankle, he combined determination, aggression and a sharp eye to get his half-century in 40 balls and his second Romsey century in just 76. With the total at 217/4 after 30 overs and Nick motoring, the club records for highest individual score (Andy's 128 against a seven-man Gransden in 1992) and highest team total (277/1 against Weston Colville last year) were both in danger.
But a couple of wickets exposed our rather, er, frail lower order and suddenly everything changed. We spent the last ten overs just trying to make sure we didn't get dismissed, and boundaries went from being a right to a hard-earned privelege. Daniel Mortlock (13 off 24 balls) and Malcolm Creeek (3 off 24 balls) at least ensured that Nick had partners, but scoring just 38/4 from our last 60 deliveries verged on the embarrassing. Indeed, it should have been even worse, but for the fact that Fenstanton seemed to have agreed to some strange rule where they absolutely refused to take any catches off Nick, who survived some of the most absurd dollies as the innings came to a close. 255/8 was still a winning total, and Nick, in smashing a fantastic 133* (off 102 balls, with 17 fours and 1 six), did establish a new record highest score for Romsey, but we really should have made 300+.
Not that was ever any real doubt that we were going defend the total we had: with six front-line bowlers we were sure to find the attack to match the conditions, and any tactial conundrums could be put to Andy, prowling frustratedly around the boundary. We started out with Matt Commin (1/10) steaming in to be simply too fast for the Fenstanton batsmen while Daniel Mortlock (1/22) found a way to stop them scoring after being hit for 15 runs from his first ten balls. As a result Fenstanton were just 28/2 after 10 overs and they now needed to score at 7.6 runs an over for the rest of their innings.
It's at this point that the crucial difference between the teams (or at least their performances today) was revealed: it wasn't that we had a sharp opening bowler who could induce a bit of good old-fashioned fear (as they had one of them as well); it wasn't that we had a destructive opening batsman who was seeing it like a football (as they had one too, even if it was the above-mentioned bowler again!); but, rather, it was that we held (almost) all the catches that came our way. Like the openers, Himanshu Agrawal (3/42), Rog Shelley (2/60 in the muggins job of toiling into the wind) and Russell Woolf (2/13) all bowled well enough, but all these bowlers' figures would have looked a lot uglier if not for the great catching by the fielders. If we'd been more organised we could even have awarded prizes for all of them:
Of course far more important than any individual issues was the simple fact that Romsey Town had won its first game of cricket since July 2010, and by the rather convincing margin of 104 runs. We haven't yet produced anything to scare the league-leaders, but the combination of run-scoring, wicket-taking and catching we displayed today should see us compete with most other teams in the league.