Report by Daniel Mortlock:
After two full warm-up games, it seemed we were in good shape for our first league outing. Okay, sure, the pre-match catching practice was a largely unbroken series of drops and fumbles and we still only numbered ten when we headed out to field; but, offsetting that, we looked like a real squad in our Romsey red gear.
And initially we backed this up on the field, as we restricted Saffron Walden to a mere 22/2 after 13 overs. A corollary is that our opening bowlers' figures were looking pretty healthy: Daniel Mortlock had taken 1/17 from his 7 overs and Marcelino Gopal was in fantasy territory with 6 overs, 4 maidens, 1/6. Add in the fact that there were some new batsmen in, Andy Owen was looking sharp behind the stumps and the likes of Richard Rex, Arnie Garside and Rod Dennis had made some brave stops on the bumpy outfield, and it was easy to imagine we were a few wickets away from a rout.
Unfortunately we suffered the fielding equivalent of a Romsey Collape (TM). The bowling got looser - and, in particular, shorter - and Daniel's and Lino's next three overs went for 34; we induced a good number of edges, but they all went to ground; the fielding got a bit ragged, with the reapparance of the out-stretched foot favoured over getting body behind ball; and the batsmen started to play more aggressively, with good shots and mis-hits both scurrying away to the short straight boundaries.
At the belated drinks break the game was evenly poised at best: with a total of 71/2 after 21 overs Saffron Walden must have been eyeing up a total of 180-odd if they could avoid losing wickets. Our change bowlers, Girish Lakhwani (1/52) and Rog Shelley (1/45), both struck early in their spells, and the new batsmen - both young and presumably inexperienced - looked decidedly scratchy, surely soon to be dismissed. But, to their credit, they weathered their early discomfort and then started to hit out, and for the next hour we seemed pretty impotent as the batsmen put on a century partnership at about a run a ball. By the end of our time in the field the wheels had fallen off, and Saffron Walden ended up passing 200 in the final over - given also that it was also bitterly cold by this stage, the clubhouse was a most welcome relief.
Fuelled and watered, our chase started brilliantly, 11 runs coming from the first over as Rod smashed a cut to the long boundary and then the batsman ran an extra of a waist-high no ball that also clunked into the 'keeper's helmet. Nobody was really sure what to do; the eventual verdict was that there was a run for the no ball, another for the scampered run and five penalty runs for the helmet. The scorers were also bewildered, eventually settling on a random mess of heiroglyphs that clearly wouldn't stand up to future scrutiny. Nicky Mellish would of course have known what to do, but she isn't able to score for us this year as her ME has gotten considerably worse. Nicky was a vital and constant presence behind the scorebooks for the last few years and will be greatly missed - but she will be reading these reports, so we can at least try and do her and Adie (who is acting as her carer) proud in her absence.
But, sadly, not today. After scoring 5% of the required runs off the first 5 balls of the innings, we were steadily reeled in by some tight and niggly slow bowling, excellent fielding, and our own rather painful running between the wickets. The latter meant we missed out on plenty of runs we should have got and, even worse, two calling meltdowns led to the dismissals of Roy Page (7 off 32 balls) and Rod (34 off 73 balls). At drinks we were 74/2 - ahead of our opponents at the same stage - but somehow it felt we were already on the verge of a lost cause. Andy Owen (15 off 19 balls) and Marcelino Gopal (16 off 18 balls) both chanced their arm, but perished going for big shots, and with half a dozen overs to go it was once again back to playing for bonus points. Richard Rex lasted all the way to the final over, and with two balls to go was a big hit from both a fourth batting point and his own half-century. Unfortunately his big swing resulted only in an outside edge, and so he had to settle for a solid 47 (off 87 balls). That left Girish Lakhwani with the task of having to hit a six off what would be the only ball he'd face. He came down the track and swung through the line, but the ball only went half-way to the target and we had to make do with just 5 bonus points and a post-match pint at the local pub.