Report by Daniel Mortlock:
With Andy Owen sidelined after tearing his hamstring last week, Daniel Mortlock got a rare chance to captain a Romsey Town XI. But things didn't begin well when his first act - choosing to field on the hottest day of the summer so far - was met with near-universal derision from the rest of the team, who presumably imagined some long hours chasing leather in the shimmering heat.
And that certainly looked a possibility when the pitch was revealed to be pretty lifeless and the Cherry Hinton openers began solidly, playing like they were intending to bat all day. Thankfully Ferdi Rex (2/12) once again got prodigious sideways movement in the air - so much so that half the runs he conceded were from wides when the ball swung too far - and bowled both openers in his opening spell. In the first instance it was largely the result of an ill-advised swipe at a straight ball, but in the second it was all his work, the ball pitching on leg and curving away to take the top of off stump, a delivery so good that the batsman stopped to shake Ferdi's hand before heading back to the pavilion.
At this point we got some light relief in the form of Olly Rex's perplexing mix of deliveries. Aside from the now standard switching between "left-arm around" and "right-arm over", we got speedy darts, floaty yorkers and at least one half-tracker an over. Olly's own reaction to all this was something between frustration and embarrassment, but he persisted, ending up with perfectly respectable figures of 1/22. This was, admittedly, partly due to the Cherry Hinton batsmen's curious approach to calling and running, which veered between the hyper-conservative (e.g., several instances in which the ball was hit to a fielder on the deep boundary and the batsmen somehow managed not to even run a single) and the suicidal. This second approach was best illustrated when Romsey first-timer Cameron Petrie chased down a well-hit shot and hurled in what was at best an average return as the batsmen completed an easy second run . . . except they suddenly panicked half-way through the mission and made the insane decision to head back to base, giving 'keeper Dave Clark plenty of time to collect the return and throw down the stumps.
The game then entered its third distinct phase as Girish Lakhwani replaced Ferdi from the "downhill" end and delivered surely the most remarkable debut spell in club history. (Girish had actually played for Romsey earlier in the season, but had been denied a bowl on that occasion - big mistake.) Girish sent down a series of beautifully-pitched out-swingers that forced the batsmen to play and then curled tantalisingly past - or into - the outside edge. By his second over he was bowling to four slips, as Daniel, Maximus Rex, Robin Eddington and Rod Dennis all fought each other for the chance to snaffle the catch that would surely come their way. But, to their credit, the batsmen managed to avoid this seemingly inevitable fate, giving just two chances to the cordon: the first went through Dave's gloves and Daniel's hands (and resulted in the only run Girish conceded from his first 32 balls); the second went low and fast between Daniel and Maximus, but neither could get down and across quickly enough even to touch it. For a while it seemed Girish's bowling was going to go largely unrewarded, but then something made Daniel push Robin out to a deep point . . . and two balls later the previously circumspect batsman went for a big drive and got a sprialling outside edge . . . that eventually found its way into Robin's sure hands. In the end Girish finished with richly deserved figues of 10 overs, 5 maidens, 3/11 and instant Romsey immortality.
After that, the rest of the innings was bound to be something of an anti-climax. Robin (0/8) was mid-way through a nice spell when Daniel (2/15) suddenly realised he had the chance to have a ping at some tail-enders, and promptly pulled rank. The result was that he doubled his season's wicket tally in two balls, and would have been on a hat-trick but for the fact that Cherry Hinton only had ten players, so their innings ended on an unimposing 80/9.
Certainly they didn't seem to think they had a chance of defending their total as they headed out into the field hoping to "at least making the game last to the first drinks break" . . . which, in fact, it didn't. We hit the winning runs in the 14th over, and of the two wickets we lost one (Rod Dennis, for 11 off 15 balls) was an LBW which was only given because the umpire missed an inside edge. Otherwise, it was decidedly one-way traffic as Cameron Petrie (31 off 33 balls), Robin Eddington (23* off 18 balls) and Roy Page (10* off 16 balls) all scored with ease. The bad deliveries were hit to the boundary, and easy singles were run off many of the good balls as the batsmen repeatedly realised that innocuous shots had gone into one of the seemingly countless gaps.
Today's win obviously improves our position in the league, although nobody seemed to realise that our average of 12.50 could see us rise as high as fourth (out of nine teams). Maybe more importantly, we're as good as safe from relegation after Elsworth's loss today: even winning their last two games would only raise their average to 10.11, and to stay ahead of that we'd need just 2 points from our last two matches, which surely even an Andy-less Romsey couldn't fail to achieve . . .