Report by Daniel Mortlock:
Fitzwilliam College's sports grounds have long been Romsey Town CC's home away from home. We've played 44 league games here over the years (although, curiously, not so far this decade, our last match at Fitz being back in 2009); and it was our actual home ground in the mid-'90s. Moreover, about half our team play for Remnants with varying degrees of regularity, and given that they're practically anchored to the place it means some of us turn into the little driveway on Oxford Road more than a dozen times a season.
Conversely, our opposition (Abington III, who we thumped back in June and have been languishing at the bottom of the ladder all year) were in such unfamiliar territory that they all headed to Trinity, despite a call from Andy re-confirming the venue. All of this surely meant advantage Romsey; it certainly meant that the game started 10 minutes late.
Abington won the toss and chose to bat - understandable in hot and humid conditions, although that did mean that we got first (er, sorry, only) use of the new ball. And use it we did, Daniel Mortlock (3/27) starting with three consecutive maidens and Ferdi Rex (0/18) delivering a series of near-perfect out-swingers. Both of them repeatedly beat the outside edge of the bat, although there was only one genuine nick - this was at least pouched one-handed by Daniel at slip. There were high-fives all round and the batsman trudged off . . . although it was actually a clear bump ball (as distinct from the, er, less clear variety seen against Harlton and NCI), and so he was quickly recalled to the crease.
Which was rather a pity - having survived those first few very testing overs with the hard ball, he then exploited the inevitably easier batting conditions once it softened; and, with good support from the rest of the top order, took Abington into a very strong position. With both our bowling and fielding (and field positions) lacklustre - there was a certain degree of wilting in the heat - Abington raced to 139/2 after 30 overs. (And while the run rate was "just" 4.5, don't forget that this is a team whose average score in the league this season has been just 123 all out; in relative terms we were being hammered.)
We finally wrested some degree of control thanks to Olly Rex (2/39) and Andy Owen (2/46). That means Andy now 25 wickets this season, equal fifth on the all-time list and just 6 away from Agha Khan's record of 31 back in 1991 (when conditions were ever so slightly more bowler-friendly - Agha, Andy, Rog Shelley and Russell Woolf between them took 70 wickets at 9.97 that season). The fielding never reached great heights, but good catches were taken by Richard Rex (a skier at mid-off) and Daniel (a "worm-burner" an inch off the ground at cover) and first-timer Juned Al-Mubassir's superb pick up and throw should have resulted in a comfortable run out, but for a fumbled take over the stumps. Still, Abington's compact number eight (or was it their compact number seven - the scorebook's orgy of redirection arrows leaves the matter uncertain) had a good enough eye to stay in 'til the end, hitting three enormous sixes, one of which landed in the middle of a giant thistle patch. With just three balls of the innings remaining the game stopped for five minutes as the batting side hacked away at the bushes while we tried to a replacement ball in as crap a state at the match ball. We were all set to start playing with a proper hard cricket ball for the first time since the tenth over when the bush-bashing was successful. The match ball was thus returned to the field . . . only to be immediately smashed back from whence it had come, taking Abington to a highly creditable 199/7.
Our pursuit of this big target began disastrously, as Cam Petrie (0 off 2 balls) played a late cut that was a bit too late and was superbly caught at first slip. After that things went from the ridiculous to the sublime as Daniel Mortlock and Robin Eddington combined reasonably solid (but very definitely not impenetrable) defense with superb opportunism, and spent the next hour racing along at more than a run a ball. Robin peppered the leg-side boundary; Daniel fed off his beloved cut shots; and both of them swooped like hungry vultures on the seemingly continuous supply of inexplicable overthrows that the Abington fielders offered up. Add in a variety of no balls (over waist high; front foot over-stepping; three fielders behind square leg) and our woes in the field were rather put in perspective. That said, one Abington player did produce the stop of the day, diving down to block a cut shot that was hammered off a wide full toss - it would have been a good effort by a Test player, but was truly remarkable given he was a last-minute substitute who'd just turned up to see his son play. Not that this was enough to prevent our free-scoring, and after 18 overs we were 118/1 and cruising towards our target.
At this point Daniel retired out (for 44 off 45 balls) to catch his train, but this just resulted in even faster scoring as Ferdi Rex (39* off 23 balls) picked up where he left off last week. Both Robin and Ferdi were dropped a couple of times - and Ferdi was caught, but off a no ball - all of which added to the sense that it just wasn't a day to be fielding. Robin did eventually hole out for 72 (off 78 balls), caught by the same fielder who'd nabbed Cam at slip, after which Rod Dennis (13* off 27 balls) completed the chase with Ferdi. In the end it was almost a pity when the winning runs were hit - with more than 10 overs still to come we had a shot at 300+ and maybe even a new club record score.
Instead we had to be satisfied with a BBQ and beers in the sun - no bad way to end what, eventually, was a good day.