Report by Daniel Mortlock:
After a week in which the ECB decided that scoring 355* (from 396 balls, in an innings where nobody else even made it past 36) wasn't good enought to get an England spot, it was only appropriate that Romsey also made some fairly extreme selectorial decisions. Following the ECB's lead of "planning for the future", we decided to implement a strong youth policy, with the result only two players in their forties made it into today's team. The only problem was that they (Daniel Mortlock, 41, and Cameron Petrie, 42) were the youngest players in the eleven: everyone else was in their fifties, with the exception of Malcolm Creek, who celebrated his seventieth birthday in April. Our average age of 52 was surely a club record - and also suggested we were going to have be very canny with our field placings to work around the various foot-speed limitations.
We were also going to have to work hard to get to the ground in good time, as we were once again beyond the confines of cozy Cambridgeshire. Dave Clark, perhaps compensating for his late arrival at Ashdon two weeks ago, was there in plenty of time and reacted with predictable delight when Andy Owen (who'd had to divert to pick up both Ev Fox and Daniel) arrived at the ground a few minutes late. Dave's goading "Take a wrong turn, did you?" was met with the unanswerable response "Nah, we just went down the wrong road from the station!" leaving everyone in no doubt about who was the better navigator.
Whatever, we headed out into the field with a full eleven, placed strategically near or far from the bat, and began brilliantly. We piled on the pressure with sharp fielding and tight bowling, and restricted the Ashwell top order to 21/2 after the first 10 overs. The first wicket had come through a lightning fast stumping by 'keeper Ev Fox when Daniel Mortlock (1/22) difted down leg; and then Andy Owen (1/25) induced a leading edge that was well caught by Daniel. After that Faruk Kara (2/36) and Cam Petrie (2/35) joined in the fun, reducing the opposition to 41/4 a few overs before drinks.
The rather, er, experienced Ashwell middle order then mounted a very steady recovery as we struggled to find the right bowling combination. We at least continued to field well, with Rod Dennis turning fours into ones on the short boundary, Andy and Nick Clarke making a number of fantastic stops close to the bat, and Richard Rex using his leg speed to save huge numbers of runs at long on. But what we really needed was wickets, which we finally got when Rog Shelley (4/22) came onto bowl. His first ball was a bit of a loosener, but it yorked the well-set batsman on the second bounce and flicked the bails off; and while he bowled well after that, the key thing was that we took a series of top catches: Nick moved perfectly with a back-foot drive to take the ball one-handed just inches off the ground; Cam nonchalantly snaffled a pull that otherwise would have put a hole in him; and Daniel, despite doing some ground repairs after a spectator had bizarrely kicked down a boundary flag, held onto a flat pull on the square leg boundary. Malcolm Creek, who'd had to spend the innings in the outfield rather than keeping wicket, almost administered the coup de gras when he just failed to hold onto a diving catch at cover - it would have been a contender for the best catch ever by a septagenarian - but we got the final wicket soon enough, as Nick took his second grab for the day. We left the field pretty happy with our efforts . . .
. . . but, really, it was hard not to think that 146 was going to be a pretty tough target on a pitch with variable bounce. No signs of that early on, though, as Richard Rex (8 off 29 balls) and Nick Clarke (23 off 37 balls) saw off the "new" ball and then started to score pretty freely. With the score 38/0 after 9 overs we were well ahead of the game, but Ashwell hadn't yet tried their slow bowlers and so how we fared against them was now going to determine the outcome of the match. This might have been their last toss of the dice, but if so they threw them well: their two spinners between them took 3/0 in their first two overs, stopping our chase dead.
We recovered to the potentially competitive 71/4 as Daniel Mortlock (18 off 27 balls) made good use of some wild leg-side deliveries, but after he got out the game went kind of crazy. Our batsmen struggled against some good bowling, the swinging/spinning ball repeatedly beating the bat and hitting the pad, and so the Ashwell players made some, er, passionate LBW appeals that seemed independent of the actual trajectory of the ball. Notable examples included a leg-spinner that pitched outside off and then turned further away from the stumps, and a short ball that hit the batsman at waist level. This was all rather unnecessary, especially since our umpires were perfectly prepared to raise the finger if the ball merited it: there can't be many village cricket innings with four batsmen out LBW. Needless to say there wasn't too much scoring during this period, and our last 6 wickets fell for just 12 runs. Ashwell hence ran out winners by what, in the circumstances, was an enormous margin of 63 runs.
The one compensaiton was that this meant more time to partake of the draught beer available at the ground: a little bar has been installed since we visited late last season. Certainly the consumption of alcohol is the only reasonable explanation for the difficulty some of us had putting grips on our bats - "ribbed for your displeasure" is a candidate for the new club motto.