Romsey Town vs. Harlton I

13:30, Saturday, May 17, 2014
Trinity College

Romsey Town (264/4 in 40 6-ball overs)
Harlton I (190/5 in 40 6-ball overs)
by 74 runs.

Report by Daniel Mortlock:

We began the day right where we left off from a week earlier: muttering disbelievingly about how we contrived to throw away our all but certain win against Helions Bumpstead. There were even theories doing the rounds that the reason a report on that match hadn't appeared was because it was all too painful to write about, which was certainly true; but the real reason was a combination of exciting recruitment training exercises and a fight against professional misconduct in the winner-takes-it-all world of astrophysics research. We were at least guaranteed that we couldn't suffer a one-run loss again this week, if only because Harlton won the toss and had chosen to field first. Given the hot and dry conditions this seemed a strange decision until it was revealed that they had a few players who had to leave early; but it turned out to be a stroke of genius, as the first dozen overs of the game were the only time all day when batting was anything other than a complete doddle.

Through a combination of decent bowling and slightly loose batting we were in real trouble at 40/4 after 11 overs, with only Nick Clarke (20) having made it into double figures. With one of the Harlton opening bowlers on a hat trick and two new batsmen (one of whom, James McNamara, was playing his first match for Romsey and hence an unknown quantity, at least to us) at the crease it was easy to imagine another wicket coming . . . but the hat trick ball was a full toss which Andy Owen pulled away to the boundary, and that really was the story for the rest of the innings. There were a few more close moments, with James in particular playing a few "airy" drives (that maybe suggested some understandable nerves), but by the time we went to drinks on a much healthier 108/4, we were already in the ascendancy.

The reason was that Harlton's openers were their only two regular bowlers, and their next best options were a first-timer who'd possibly broken a rib diving for a ball and a last-minute call-up who hadn't bowled for ages and immediately started having vertical hold problems. After his second wild no ball (that passed the batsman about ten feet in the air and was headed towards fine leg) he received a formal warning from the umpire; and, with the precedent set, there wasn't much choice but to give him a second and final warning when his next delivery was much the same. The Harlton captain had no problem with the no ball calls, but suggested that the warnings were unreasonable given this was "just village cricket" and that it was silly to double-check the rules on the MCC web-site. Maybe it was a bit fussy; but the only other option would be to just make up the rules to suit, which is surely worse. At any rate, Law 42.6 is clear that the "two warnings and then off for a third offense" for high full tosses is independent of "whether or not [the delivery] is likely to inflict physical injury on the striker". (The law doesn't, however, mention anything about physical injury to the square-leg umpire, which at one point seemed a possibility.)

All this meant that first James, and then Andy, were able to start scoring at will - it was quite noticeable that they both went from playing only their favourite shots (drives and pulls, respectively) to scoring all around the ground; and it was equally noticeable that the Harlton fielders were starting to wilt in the heat and chasing a little more slowly than they had been when we were struggling. In the end our pair batted all the way through the innings, Andy finishing on 74* and James going within a shot of Nick's club record score as he finished his Romsey debut innings on an awesome 128*. Their undefeated 224-run partnership was easily the club record and took just 186 balls. (But spare a thought for Roy and Faruk, who shared a club record partnership of their own as they both spent about two hours padded up with nothing better to do than pat the very friendly Harlton labrador that was snuffling about looking for attention.)

It felt that only James and Andy (and the fielding team) had really earned the mountains of cheese scones and moist carrot cake that had appeared in front of us thanks to Estelle Page's tireless (and delicious) efforts, but that didn't stop the rest of us tucking in, perhaps a little more than was wise given the temperature. Reality bit hard as we waddled out into the baking afternoon sun and slouched through the most perfunctory of fielding drills. While it was hard to imagine an under-manned team scoring 265+ against us, it was also clear we weren't going to blast them away, as the pitch was true, the outfield fast, and the ball dead. We did drop half a dozen catches, but they were all difficult, and had more to do with the batsmen taking enforced risks than any sort of bowling ascendancy. And we fielded pretty well: Richard Rex, Rod Dennis and Catherine Owen were all hyper-aggressive in restricting big shots to singles; and Russell Woolf, Nick Clarke, Roy Page and Faruk Kara all kept the batsmen honest closer in (even if Russ insisted on fielding only with his feet).

The unusual opening "attack" of Daniel Mortlock (0/32) and Faruk Kara (0/27) were almost perfectly boring, never really looking like taking a wicket, but were only hit for a combined total of six boundaries from their 20 overs. At drinks Harlton were just 64/1 (and the "1" was only due to the obligation of one batsmen to head off to open up his pub) and needed a round 200 off 20 overs to tie. It's the sort of thing the Chennai Super Kings might contemplate, but it was surely - even in light of last week's debacle - game over.

To finish things off we naturally turned to the partnership de jour of James and Andy, and they delivered brilliantly, James taking 2/38 and Andy denying his aching body to grab 2/36. This meant that James had also managed the second best all-round performance in club history, his 168 points being behind only Andy's 172-point effort, also against Harlton, in 2011. In the end we ran out comfortable, if dull, winners by 74 runs - although a closer result would have been just fine if we could have sent even a couple of those surplus runs a week back in time.