Report by Daniel Mortlock:
Romsey's 2015 league season started as so many others have before: with club cars zooming up and down country lanes in search of the ground. Today's task was made marginally more difficult by the fact that Ashdon isn't even in Cambridgshire, but rather on one of the better-surfaced roads in Essex. There is precedent here - our 2007 season began with similarly farcical scenes in Suffolk as we tried to find the town of Thurlow - but it's kind of more embarrassing in these days of GPS and Google Maps.
Come start time only ten of our eleven were present; combined with a fairly true-looking wicket and a fantastic batting line-up this maybe suggested that we should bat first upon winning the toss . . . but instead we opted to get first (i.e., only) use of the new ball and make do with the fact that we were going to be one short for the first ten overs or so.
The reason we didn't have an eleventh man was that Dave Clark had decided to take an impromptu tour of the country: having first decided to check in on Whittlesford, he then took his lead from the Voyager spacecraft, taking a sling-shot trajectory past Ashdon and all the way to Saffron Walden. There were unverified claims that Dave's car was seen speeding past the ground in the sixth over, but all that can said for sure is that it skulked around the playing field in the eighth. Its owner then disappeared for a good five minutes, eventually appearing on the pavilion steps in the most casual fashion, evidently happy to wait out the tenth over of Ashdon's innings, lest their batsmen be unfairly disadvantaged by having to deal with a full field setting. Dave was finally called onto the ground at the start of the eleventh over, taking up his conventional place at gully.
By this stage Ashdon was making light of the early loss of two batsmen and their third wicket pair were starting out on their 127-run partnership. We bowled okay, but there was precious little in the wicket and it was hard not to dream of an alternative universe in which we were batting and most of us were lounging in the pavilion watching the total grow. With the score at 164/2 as Faruk Kara (2/59) sent down the first ball of the 26th over, it was hard not to imagine a 300+ total, especially as the delivery in question was an over-pitched full toss. But the batsmen played over it and the ball yorked the stumps in the manner of one of Barnes Wallis's bouncing bombs; Faruk then got a second wicket later in the over (a top-edged sweep nicely pouched by Robin Eddington) after which Daniel Mortlock (3/44, despite the wind resistence caused by his current fluffball hairstyle) bowled the remaining opener in the next over. 166/5 was a very different score, and with the new batsmen struggling to deal with Faruk's flight it felt like we were a few good balls away from a rout . . .
. . . but that never happened, as the Ashdon sixth wicket pair milked the regular supply of bad balls to go close to a century partnership of their own. That they didn't add another three figures to their score was largely due to our resolute fielding, with Rod Dennis, Ferdi Rex and Richard Rex all doing superb service on various boundaries. Adi Vaidyanathan (1/55 on debut) got a wicket with the second last ball of the innings, but Ashdon's total was already 256 and, given the highest total we'd chased in three decades was "just" 233, it was hard to imagine we wouldn't be starting our season with a loss. (Even worse, someone overheard the Ashdon players saying something along the same lines, so they knew as well as we did that the match was almost certainly theirs.)
Whatever small chance we had of a miracle chase appeared to have been shrunk further as the Ashdon 'keeper set himself up 15 yards from the stumps, with first slip a further three yards back. But, after a rather testing start (that saw us score just 16 runs from the first 28 balls of our innings) we began to bat with just as much ease as our opponents had earlier in the day. Nick Clarke (25 off 39 balls, with 2 fours and a six) was rusty but effective, playing a superb suuporting role to Robin Eddington, who was batting as if he'd time-slipped from last August.
Indeed, those of us not out in the middle were having a much harder time of it, with scorers Richard Rex (clad in wind-breaker and gloves) and Daniel Mortlock struggling to avoid hypothermia, and scoreboard operator Cameron Petrie putting up the total after 11 overs as 56/0 when it was in fact 57/0. Perhaps an understandable numerical mistake for a humanities scholar, but still not the sort of thing that is acceptable within Romsey's highly disciplined club culture. There was brief talk of revoking Cam's membership as punishment, but we eventually opted for lenience . . .
. . . a policy that was quickly rewarded when he came in after our 90-run opening partnership and pushed the innings into the fifth gear we needed to have a chance of overhauling Ashdon's total. The key passage of play was immediately following drinks after Ashdon's opening bowler had exhausted his ten-over allotment: would they have a fourth bowler? Well yes, but the fact that they also had a fifth, sixth and seventh tells you all you need to know. Cameron and Robin smashed 110 runs between overs 20 and 30, completely breaking the back of what had still seemed like a pretty implausible chase. Suddenly we needed just 48 runs from the last 60 balls, and it was going to take something extraordinary for us not to win.
There was a brief moment when this appeared possible: after Robin was bowled for a superb 114 (off 108 balls with 16 fours and 2 sixes) we had a bit of a lull, with just 4 runs (and 1 wicket) coming in the next 3 overs. But Cameron (89* off 62 balls with 7 fours and 5 sixes) and Adi Vaidyanathan (3* off 12 balls), along with a flurry of wides, made sure that we won with some 16 deliveries to spare. Our 262/3 was easily the highest chase in any Romsey game (albeit partly because it's quite rare to have a target that large) and we all felt pretty eurphoric about a rather remarkable first-up win. Indeed, as Denise Owen pointed out, just getting a win at all was remarkable: the last time we won our first (league) match of the season was back in 2008.
Both teams retired to the delightful Rose & Crown, where Faruk continued educating Daniel in the ways of real ale, while Daniel (in turn) continued in his efforts to convince Andy that leg byes should be banned. Neither endeavour was successful.