Report by Daniel Mortlock:
With our team-level ambitions largely decided - we're safe from relegation and won't get promoted unless Burrough Green suddenly falls apart - it was maybe time to look at things from a more individual perspective. On the batting front James McNamara's 251 runs at 251.00 seems set to be the stand-out effort of the Romsey season (and maybe of all Romsey seasons), but he can't get the Batting Award has he only had 3 innings before leaving the country. That leaves a very tight race between Olly Rex (184 runs at 46.00), Andy Owen (227 runs at 45.40) and Robin Eddington (255 runs at 42.50). A big innings by any of these three today might decide the award; big innings by all three would be even better, as it would presumably decide the match. The race for the bowling award is a remarkably similar story: James is also topping the bowling averages, with 7 wickets at 10.57, but only sent down 24.0 overs, 16 short of the qualification requirement. A similar fate will befall Jeff Beuamont, whose 5 wickets at 12.00 has come from just 9.0 overs - with only two matches left there's no way for him to qualify either. That leaves the familiar pair of Andy Owen (14 wickets at 13.43) and Daniel Mortlock (20 wickets at 13.65) neck-and-neck in a two-horse race, with Ferdi Rex (7 wickets at 14.86) also unable to qualify (as he wasn't playing today) and Catherine Owen (13 wickets at 19.00) probably too far adrift to catch up.
A quick look at the Ashwell wicket - and memories of very low scores on our only previous visit - made it seem unlikely that anyone would be able to do much on the batting front, a notion that was rapidly confirmed as Ashwell won the toss and promptly got two quick wickets. The game was then balanced for the next hour or so: we repeatedly put together promising partnerships of 30-odd before losing a wicket just when it seemed we were about to break free. (Not that this was surpsing, mind - all the batsmen said they never really felt "in".) Olly Rex (15 off 25 balls), Andy Owen (14 off 19 balls), Jeff Beaumont (13 off 11 balls, including three hilariously dismissive boundaries off consecutive deliveries) and Ev Fox (10 off 19 balls) all played useful support innings, although the fact that only one of us made more than Olly's 15 perhaps suggests a disastrously low total.
Critically, though, that one innings was a real big-'un, Robin Eddington facing the first ball of the innings and staying in all the way to the last ball of the penultimate over. He finished up getting 97 off 124 balls, hitting 12 fours and 4 sixes, and scored 60% of the runs we made off the bat. Robin was the beneificiary of the day's comedy dropped catch (a top edge that went straight up in the air, allowing the mid-wicket fieldsman plenty of time to run in under the ball, go to far, realise too late and then half-heartedly stick out a hand in the general direction from which he'd come), but, really, his innings was streets ahead of anything else we managed today. (It also meant he has established himself as firm favourite for the batting award, his 352 runs at 50.29 now comfortably ahead of Andy, with 241 runs at 40.17, and Olly, with 199 runs at 39.80. Robin almost certainly won't be playing next week, so that means Andy would need to score 61+* or 112+ or Olly would need to score 53+* or 103+ to pass Robin.) More importantly, Robin's efforts meant we had a surely winning total of 192/9, and so we went to tea pretty happy . . .
. . . only to become ecstatic when we were presented with a delicious combination of sandwiches (made with proper bread), sausages, cheeses, mini-quiches, cakes and scones. The more cynical amongst us imagined it a ploy to try and induce us to self-immobilise before fielding, and there was even a rumour that a signal had been sent out for the Alpha Tea once it was clear Ashwell were going to be batting second. Whatever, it was a seriously delicious meal, of which members of both teams were clearly most appreciative.
We came out with the idea of applying the old "Daniel and Andy strangle" that's worked well so many times before when defending big totals, and while both Daniel (2/40) and Andy (1/23) got early wickets there was a certain lack of control which meant that runs were coming all too easily. For some reason they - and, really, all the bowlers - sent down one bad ball (short and wide or a full-bunger) per over, almost all of which were exploited to the full. When we also added in a horrid fielding mix-up (a lofted drive was headed somewhere between Rod and Robin on the boundary, the latter calling passionately that the catch was his, despite the fact that he later confessed he had "no idea where the ball was") that seemed likely to be very costly indeed as the boundaries kept mounting. With the score at a worrying 72/2 in the 12th over it was easy to get pessimistic, and it's fair to say that our heads rather dropped at this point.
Olly Rex (1/35) came on first change and, after seeing a high full toss pulled for six it seemed another, lower full toss was destined for the same treatment . . . except this one was headed vaguely in the direction of Richard Rex, who back-pedalled brilliantly to be in a position to take the ball at the limit of his reach. While the runs kept coming, it was all a bit scrappier from this point, and it felt more a case of when, rather than if, the next wicket would come. And soon it wasn't even a case of "when" as Jeff Beaumont and Faruk Kara came on and cut through the middle and lower order, Faruk (1/16) also added a good catch off his own bowling, and Jeff finished his 6th over on 4/18 after Nick Clarke took his second good catch of the day. There seemed to be a decent chance that Jeff would be able to get his first Romsey five-for, but for the fact that the Ashwell number eleven wasn't anywhere to be found. Some hands were shaken and the match was all but ended until it was revealed that he was just attending to his "care for the elderly" duties and might well be back at the ground and able to bat before being timed out. Sure enough, a car pulled up and he started to head out to the middle in his yellow shirt, blue trousers and brown loafers. Pads, gloves and "a left-handed box" were rapidly attached and so the game was allowed to continue.
With Ashwell needing another 62 runs there didn't seem to be much danger of an upset - but then again we did rather let things get out of hand in similar circumstances against Sawston a few weeks ago. Sure enough, catches started going down with alarming regularity, Faruk (twice), Nick and Rod all failing to grasp difficult chances in the next few overs. Jeff announced he was too tired to bowl another over but was convinced to give it one last try, although this too appeared likely to be in vain when Ev's sharp stumping attempt connected only with fresh air. Fortunately, the batsman was still out of his ground, so Ev was able to calmly remove the bails at the second attempt, completing his second stumping of the day and leaving a happy, if tired, Jeff spreadeagled on the ground with figures of 6.1 overs, 0 maidens, 5/18.
With the match finishing at a rather civilised 6:30pm, there was plenty of time to head to The Bushel And Strike to soak in the evening sun and savour Jeff and Robin's well-earned jugs. Conversation turned to all the usual topics - the day's on-field highlights, whether Kirin is as good as Sapporo (it's not), whether "thingies" will flush - before moving to the inevitable questions about whether we can be promoted. Winning today meant we did our part of the bargain; but Sawston didn't put up much of a fight against Helions, conceding before a ball was bowled, so they're now out of our reach. So now we need i) to beat Milton next week and ii) for Burrough Green to lose to both Helions and Milton, getting a total of no more than 10 bonus points.