Romsey Town vs. Saffron Walden IV

13:30, Saturday, May 9, 2015
Trinity College (Old Field)

Saffron Walden IV (147 all out in 39.4 6-ball overs)
defeated
Romsey Town (126 all out in 34 6-ball overs)
by 21 runs.

Report by Daniel Mortlock:

We arrived at Trinity to find our spiritual home (as much as we have one) under covers and a fairly solid shower moistening the ground. But the forecast was good and the western sky was clear, and so by 2pm we were heading out to field at home for the first time in the season. Normally this is a pretty daunting task, but this year's pitch looked decidedly more, er, interesting than we'd been used to, and in the end Romsey and Saffon Walden played out a match that had much more in common with village cricket than the slightly rarified version of the sport usually played on Cambridge's college grounds.

The first sign of potential dramatics was when a shortish ball from Daniel Mortlock (1/27) shot through and hit the stumps less than six inches above the ground. Thus warned, the rest of the Walden batsmen did well to keep a number of similar deliveries out, but what they couldn't do was resist Robin Eddington's out-swingers. He and Daniel induced three thin edges in the first few overs: all went to hand, but all went to ground as well - slips catching seems to be a skill that just isn't really on offer at our level. Still, Robin did eventually get his deserved wickets, finishing with superb figures of 10 overs, 4 maidens, 4/20. The wickets included a miscued hit to mid-wicket, where Cameron Petrie jumped early and then hung in the air like a cartoon character who hasn't yet realised he's run off a cliff, and an edge to 'keeper Andy Owen, standing up as always.

These two seemed to have combined for a second wicket as well when one of the batsmen missed the ball and immediately walked out of his ground, seemingly under the misapprehension it was the end of the over (when in fact there was still another ball to go). It was certainly out by the Laws of the game - the ball had been in Andy's glove for no more than a second before he took the bails off - but it rapidly became clear that the sensible thing to do was to retract the appeal. This we did, and there was a certain sense of poetic justice when said batsman played across a straight one and was LBW to Robin an over or two later. (The only loser was Andy, who missed out on a stumping.) With Dave Clark (1/16) also getting a wicket, we were dominating the game - Saffron Walden were all but done on 49/6 at drinks.

The only problem was that we were a little short on bowling options, especially when the batsmen took a liking to natural change bowler Faruk Kara (0/25). We tried seven different bowlers in the ten overs after drinks, during which the total more than doubled. The right solution - Andy taking off the gloves to bowl - was eventually settled upon, but it was perhaps a little too late. After a horrid loosener (which was hit to the boundary), Andy settled into his beloved leg stump line; and while he fully deserved his final figures of 6.4 overs, 2 maidens, 4/14, the fact that he left 3 overs un-bowled suggests that we didn't quite use our resources as well as we might have.

Still, with the score at 124/9 after 38 overs it seemed we were going to have an easy-peasy target of 130-odd, until one of the opposition batsmen realised that it was "now or never" and, annoyingly for us, opted for "now", hitting 21 runs off the penultimate over. Andy bowled him off the third last ball of the innings, but we really shouldn't have been eating tea with a target of 147 on our minds.

Not that this looked at all problematic initially. Fresh from having just chased 256 the same top three scored pretty freely once again today: Robin Eddington (19 off 24 balls), Nick Clarke (16 off 17 balls) and Cameron Petrie (37 off 42 balls) took us to a very healthy 85/2 in the 18th over. With just 63 runs needed from 134 balls with 8 wickets in hand . . .

. . . we of course lost a flurry of wickets, finding ourselves at a rather less happy 98/6 a few overs later. This collapse was partly the result of good bowling, particularly from the young off spinner R. Deamer who got big turn (and benefitted from the fact that he could afford to pitch a bit short - the ball was keeping too low to adopt the ordinary tactic of rocking back to pull or cut), but probably the key ingredient was some excellent catching, which included two one-handed efforts off hard-hit balls and two excellent running diving catches in the outfield. Of course this also says something about the approach we were taking with the bat, which was almost certainly more aggressive and risky than it should have been. The required scoring rate was less than 3 an over, so just pushing singles and waiting for the occasional bad ball would have been enough.

That was the approach that Daniel Mortlock (16 off 40 balls) and Andy Owen (11 off 32 balls) took, although even then there were brief moments of excitement, such as when a quick single turned into a two when the fielder backing up fumbled the ball and then a three when he held onto it too long (Always return the ball!) and then almost into an eight when the belated throw bounced off Andy and missed the unused fielding helmet by inches. It was slow going, as 23 runs in 10 overs attests, but when Andy got one of his (and, really everyone's) favourite leg-side full tosses and helped it on its way to the boundary . . .

. . . he somehow picked out the one fielder in the region, who ran forward, dived low, and clasped his hands around the ball. Not sure of his name, or what else he did in the game, but he was actually a plausible candidate for man of the match as, aside from this catch, he stopped three or four "certain boundaries" with a series of one-handed saves. If he'd missed those - or if we'd managed to place these bad balls properly - then we'd have had most of the extra 20-odd runs we needed. Instead, our innings reached its low point - both figuratively and literally - as we were faced with a new, even slower, bowler whose first delivery pitched half way down the cut strip and rolled the rest of the way. It should have been called as a no ball (Law 24.7 states that "The umpire shall call and signal no ball if a ball [. . .] either (i) bounces more than twice or (ii) rolls along the ground before it reaches the popping crease."), but our lower order batsmen found themselves having to deal with a series of Dambusters-style deliveries that seemed designed to york them on the second bounce. The result was that the last 4 wickets provided just 5 runs and Saffron Walden ended up defending their low total with comparative comfort.

It wasn't as bad as last year's Bumpstead Debacle, but it wasn't far off. We should have started season 2015 "two for two" (something we haven't managed since 1999, assuming one ignores a first-up draw), but instead are once again mid-table with a 50% record.