Report by Cameron Petrie:
The renovation of the Trinity Old Field pitch over the winter has made it challenging to predict what comprises a defendable total, and thus far this season various teams have won matches with scores of less than 190 - and we had ourselves been unable to chase down the 222 set by Bassingbourn three weeks ago.
Today's second fixture against Ashdon would be a good chance to test the limits of an effective chase, as our previous game against them this year saw us hit a mighty 262/3 (in 37.2 overs) in chasing down their 256/6 - making an overall aggregate of 518 runs off less than 80 overs. This first match demonstrated two important lessons: i) Ashdon is capable of hitting big scores; and ii) we are perfectly capable of chasing said scores down with suitable application.
For today's game we had an even stronger batting lineup than last time, with two extra Rexen, and James McNamara (who scored his third Romsey century a fortnight ago) batting in place of Robin Eddington (who scored his first Romsey century in the Ashdon chase). This coupled with our success batting first last week against NCI meant that it was perhaps no surprise that Andy chose to bat first on winning the toss.
For reasons unclear, playing Ashdon has produced wondrous things from us this year; and, for those willing to look, there has been a comforting parallelism in the Romsey batting scorecard for both games. Today James and Nick Clarke got stuck into the Ashdon openers from the off and we were soon being treated to some "vintage Clarke" as Nick surged back into form by spanking 10 fours, with lofted on drives and pulls into gaps being a notable feature. When the second change spinner finally bowled Nick (for 49 off 43 balls), he and James had put on 84 by the 13th over. This brought Cameron Petrie to the wicket, and he and James spent the next hour and twenty minutes defending straight balls and punishing loose ones, resulting in a scorecard dominated by ones and fours, with the occasional two or six for variety.
By drinks we were an impressive 119/1 - a run-rate of (all but) 6-an over - with nine wickets in reserve. There was a brief post-hydration-break slow down brought on by a tussle between the Ashdon off-spinner Furze and Cam, who was being lured into a leg-side trap, but the desired catch was dropped on the boundary. Cam and James eventually managed to hit boundaries that brought us to 161/1 at the end of his spell in the 29th over. The tight bowling and the hesitancy with the running that it induced (at least in Cam) became increasingly frustrating to the pavilion crowd and resulted in much yelling and waving to encourage Cam and James to move out of "cruise control" mode. What was undoubtedly not clear to those basking in the sunshine on the boundary was that it was scorchingly hot and humid out in the middle (as emphasized by the fact that Cam knocked back three pints of water at the lunch break, while James drank an entire jug's worth).
Anxiety on the boundary was high by the time we reached our 200 in the 34th over, as there was a perception that we should be scoring faster than our almost 6-an over, and everyone was acutely aware that we still had Ferdi and Olly Rex fuelled and ready to go. Cam was eventually run out (for 89 off 90 balls) trying to regain his ground after an aborted quick single in the 37th over with our score now on 217/2. This unleashed a turbo charged Ferdi Rex (23* off 9 balls), whose first two scoring shots of four and six kicked the final four overs of our innings into overdrive, and he and James took turns belting boundaries and taking sweat-inducing twos. One of the latter shots included a stop on the leg-side boundary that split the webbing in one of the Ashdon player's hands, meaning that he wouldn't take any further part in the game.
A quick count at the start of the last over showed that James was on 94, but Ferdi had the strike. A 3 off the first ball, however, brought James on strike, and a dot followed by a quick 2 had him perfectly placed to make the most of the last three balls. In the end, James only needed the first of these - a particularly tasty waist-high full toss - to bring up his fourth (and second consecutive) Romsey century with a big six over square leg, and just for good measure, he hit a two and then a four off the last two balls to end on 108* off 115 balls. Romsey had set a towering 265/2 off our 40 overs, and eagerly set about enjoying Bettina Rex's fabulous tea as a reward.
Our batsmen had all shown the importance of playing straight where necessary, and punishing errors in length and width - would Ashdon would learn the lesson? Their opener White had proven particularly devastating earlier in the year, hitting big and batting through their innings, and that he was capable of doing it again was shown when he hit the first ball from Steven Mann (1/45 off 7 overs) for four. In the second over, however, Ferdi (2/20 off 8 overs) bowled three slower balls and then a quicker one, inducing White to play on, and put us on top with a wicket maiden. Ferdi continued the pressure in his second over, bowling the Ashdon number three, to have them 21/2 off 4 overs. And then Steve got in the action, bowling their number four to have them 31/3 off 7 overs. Little wobbles were perhaps inevitable, as Ferdi momentarily lost his mojo to mess up his heretofore-peerless figures (e.g., 2/2 off 3 overs became 2/14 off 4 overs), and Steve eventually lost his nagging line, so a double bowling change was called for - come in Olly Rex and Faruk Kara. Olly's (0/29 off 4 overs) first three overs were relatively tight, but it was Faruk (2/37 off 10 overs), who drew the next breakthrough, guiling the other well-set Ashdon opener to drive straight for a neat(-ish) caught and bowled. Olly's last over saw the Ashdon number six on the attack, so Andy decided that it was time to hand over keeping duties to Cam and immediately applied pressure, first bowling a maiden, and then a wicket maiden, and then taking wickets in his third and fourth overs as well, removing their numbers six, seven, and five - all bowled.
This left Ashdon stalled on 148/7 with more than 10 overs to find the needed 118 runs, and only two wickets left, as one of their players was now at Addenbrookes. Frustratingly, their last two partnerships put on close to 20 runs each before Faruk drew a lofted catch to Ferdi, and Andy (4/35 off 7.4 overs) was able to removed their last pillar of resistance - again bowled - leaving us the victors by a very comfortable 82 runs with 3.2 overs to spare.
In stark contrast to our robust batting performance, Ashdon had only three batsmen score over 10 runs, and three of the others were dismissed (all bowled) for 1 run. In fact, of their nine batsmen dismissed, seven were bowled, leading them to rate the "new" Old Field pitch as "poor", which was pretty harsh, especially given what we had achieved on the same surface.