Report by Daniel Mortlock:
When we heard that we were going to be playing Sawston not at their actual home ground, but up the road at Stapleford, there was almost a sense that the match was being hidden away, with the opposition focussed on their first team's match against Godmanchester Town, the result of which would decide who was leading the Tucker Gardner Premier league. Once at the Stapleford rec, however, we discovered magnificent new facilities (no scuff-marks on the floors; toilets that might never have been flushed before; a strict "no spikes" rule that was actually taken seriously) that were every bit as fancy as those at HQ. The only real difference was the scoreboards: Sawston had a remote-operated electronic number which even showed the two batsmen's scores; Stapleford had a box filled with rusting bits of iron with hand-pained symbols, some of which were recognisable as digits. More important than all this was the ground itself, which had pronounced undulations (possibly betraying its previous use as a "ridge and furrow" farm in the Middle Ages) and a very soft-looking pitch that had clearly taken in a lot of water over the last few days and didn't look like it'd be too easy to bat on. And so, despite it being one of the hottest Saturdays of the year, the Sawston captain decided to field first after winning the toss.
This didn't seem the wisest of decisions, at least intially: despite some occasional trampoline bounce, our top order of Nick Clarke (26 off 27 balls), Cameron Petrie (28 off 61 balls) and Richard Rex (19 off 44 balls) all looked set for long innings. Add in the fact that the bowling was a bit erratic - Sawston's opening bowler was so unhappy with one of his deliveries that he uttered an audible "Jesus Christ!" even before it had been called a wide - and it was tempting to start thinking of another big total.
Such thoughts would, however, have been premature, as we had a bit of a post-drinks disaster. From the comfortable, if not quite dominating, score of 84/1 in the 21st over we contrived to lose 5 wickets for 42, leaving us at a rather precarious 126/6 after 30 overs. Particularly galling was the fact that this period had included a brief union between James McNamara (13 off 17 balls) and Ferdi Rex (1 off 3 balls), who'd put on a double-century partnership last time they'd batted together and, even more remarkably, hadn't failed to get to triple figures for Romsey all season. (James's comparative failure was presumably due to the fact that he is, in fact, human afterall; and Ferdi's can most likely be attributed to the fact that he was spooked by the huge population of baby spiders in the pavilion, some of which have presumably nested in his kit-bag and, even at this moment, are laying hundreds of eggs for next season.)
Whatever, we needed a big time rescue - and that's just what we got, as Olly Rex (52* off 43 balls) and Andy Owen (24* off 27 balls) finally started batting with the aggression we should have had all along. Their 64-run partnership rattled along at comfortably more than a run a ball, the highlights being some rather cheeky second runs with the ball already in the fielder's hand and Olly's three massive sixes over the mid-wicket boundary. Our eventual total of 190/6 felt pretty good, even though we knew that the now fairly dry pitch would presumably play better in the second innings.
A very good tea - complete with "make your own" baguettes which catered to everyone's culinary foibles - was a bit wasted on us, as nobody wanted to overload before going out to field in the heat. The tea break also included a little ceremony to mark the fact that it was Ferdi's 18th birthday today. We presented him with a signed bat and a delicious-looking collection of cupcakes that had been made by Catherine, who then embarrassed him with a portfolio of childhood photos (that, no matter how much pestering you do, will not be reproduced on this web-site).
We all felt pretty confident going out to defend our big total, a sense that was only increased when Rod Dennis took a good catch off the third ball of the innings. After that, however, the Sawston second wicket pair started to get their eye in, surviving a number of close calls while correctly playing hard at any off-line deliveries. We also risked injury at this point, as Andy's response to a few balls that lifted sharply was to bring in some close fielders . . . who were then almost killed when the batsmen smacked a few bad balls past - or into - them at great speed. Nick was almost sconned and Cameron Petrie (whose priorities were revealed by the fact that he was wearing shin pads but not a box) took a glancing blow to the "upper thigh region". With the score on 62/1 after 15 overs and two set batsmen at the crease it really was a 50/50 game - especially considering that our first change bowlers had started their spells with, respectively, a grotesque beamer that flew over a bemused first slip's head and a 14-run over of "hit me" balls. It was thus joyous to report that the two bowlers in question, the previously mentioned partnership of Ferdi and James, won the game for us as they ripped through the Sawston middle order. James was first to get going, generating consecutive and near-identical chances from Sawston's dangerous left-hander, the first of which Daniel Mortlock couldn't quite hold in an out-stretched hand, and the second of which he nabbed comfortably. Olly Rex then made a very public prediction that James would get a five-for (to make up for not making a century) and in the end he went damnably close, finishing with figures of 10 overs, 3 maidens, 4/22. At the other end Ferdi had started to give his offies the requisite flight, with the result that he conceded fewer runs from the rest of his spell than he had from his first over. Add in the fact that Richard Rex, Daniel (again) and James all took good catches and we were suddenly dominating in the way it maybe felt like we should have been all along. From 62/1, Sawston crumbled to 83/9, a spectacular collapse of 8/21 that even Rosmey would struggle to replicate.
A 100+ run victory loomed, and suddenly the on-field demeanour was very relaxed - although perhaps there was some evidence that we'd got a little too casual when Faruk Kara dropped the easiest of catches when the ball lobbed to him at first slip. (When, during the winter, a few Romsey "top ten" lists are compiled, this will be high up in the hotly contested "worst dropped catches" category.) Still, Faruk had a chance to atone straight away when he was brought on to bowl at the Sawston tenth wicket pair of D. Binge and A. Bradford. But it seems they'd been taking notice of the on-going England vs. India Test match, in which the two sides had compiled tenth wicket stands of 111 and 198, and the Sawston numbers nine and eleven started to bat properly, in the sense of defending good balls and hitting the bad ones to - or over - the boundary. We were never in danger of losing, but it started to get a bit silly as the total mounted and various milestones were passed: triple figures; a third bonus point at 120; and even a fourth bonus point at 160. Andy's response to all this was to start scattering the field and then to bring back Daniel Mortlock (1/24) "to finish things off". This ploy should have worked - the first three balls of his return over were a difficult (but dropped) return catch, an edge that went between 'keeper and slip, and inside edge that just missed leg stump (which seemed to be the favoured shot of the day) - but it didn't, and the runs kept coming. In the end, Binge and Bradford made it all the way to the final over of the innings, to be bowled by Ferdi Rex as a birthday treat. He duly finished the game off with an effortless caught and bowled, which took his figures to a rather nice 4/26. But it was, justifiably, the final pair of Sawston batsmen who were clapped from the ground, having made 38 and 41*, respectively, and almost doubled their team's score with a 78 run partnership.
The last chapter of the game notwithstanding, it was actually a pretty enjoyable team victory, and we were in the ascendancy for most of the day. After the match members of both teams headed off to enjoy the cheap beers available at Sawston's home ground, even catching the last few overs of the honourable draw that their first team managed.
The win has also lifted us to third in the league - although we'd be one place higher if we'd scored just two more runs against second-placed Helions Bumpstead back in May. And even then, HB's league average of 15.57 isn't significantly higher than our own 14.75, so we're at least in the hunt for a top two finish and promotion. (And, while we're certainly not completely safe, a bottom two finish seems unlikely, given that Little Shelford, Harlton and Sawston III have league averages of 11.29, 11.14 and 4.88, respectively.)