Report by Daniel Mortlock:
Our recent trips (in 2013 and 2014) out to Milton have been slightly strange - and slightly strained - end-of-season affairs, doused in the melancholy knowledge that there'd be no more cricket for eight months. So it was much more interesting to head there today with the season still up for grabs, especially as Milton were second on the league table, more than 2 points ahead of third-placed Ashwell. Given that we were sixth out of nine (and less than half a point ahead of Saffron Walden in the relegation zone), you'd have thought they'd have been keen to get out and play, but the game started in the tardiest fashion - and continued on that way for the rest of the day.
Milton won the toss and chose to bat, leading to a solid hour of old-skool village cricket. After an early breakthrough by Daniel Mortlock (2/23), courtesy of a superb catch by Dom Summers at short mid-wicket, we had two nuggety Milton batsmen refusing to give their wickets away as our bowlers were - or at least tried to be - similiarly uncharitable regarding runs. Unfortunately, we sent down a few too many four balls, with the result that Milton went to drinks by far the happier team at 71/1. Not only did they have wickets in hand for the second half of their innings, but they'd well and truly seen off the new ball: it swung and bounced for about 10 overs, after which both it and the pitch were about as lifeless as the Greek economy. A corollary of this was that Milton would really have to exploit their good start, as we'd be getting a full 40 overs with what Prince would surely call The Malleable Raspberry Shperoid Formerly Known As The Ball.
Sure enough, things did liven up in the second half of the innings: the opposition batsman started smashing boundaries; and our bowlers started taking wickets. Prima inter pares here was, perhaps unsurprisingly, Andy Owen: having handed over the 'keeping gloves to Romsey first-timer Will Elsby, he made regular breakthroughs on his way to his 29th four-wicket haul for Romsey - although he was probably less happy about that than he was grumpy to have been hit for 62 runs in the process. The wickets included good outfield catches by boundary line specialists Richard Rex and Daniel, and there was also the nice touch of a family five-for as Catherine Owen (1/31) bowled the most aggressive of the Milton batsmen when he came down the track once too often. The other wicket-taker was Dom Summers (2/18), with both Faruk Kara (a diving effort at gully) and Cam Petrie (a sharp chance in what was nominally Dom's position close-in) contributing to a sure-handed effort by the whole team. Add in some good ground-fielding by Arnie Garside, Rod Dennis, Richard and James McNamara and it was tempting to think we'd done well in the field . . . but, really, Milton surely had their nose in front with a total of 194 on what had, at least in our previous matches here, proved a difficult wicket to score on.
This sense was only reinforced when we began our chase, with both James McNamara (5 off 6 balls) and Richard Rex (0 off 10 balls) out in the first 5 overs. Two wickets of any sort would have been bad enough, but Milton presumably didn't know that James had, prior to today, four centuries and a fifty from just seven Romsey innings, so to have lost him so cheaply - playing an ill-advised cross-bat shot to a straight ball - was a huge blow.
All the signs were there for a classic Romsey collapse, but we instead got the complete opposite as Cameron Petrie and Dom Summers combined solid defense with decisive aggression: of the first 10 balls each faced only one was anything other than a dot or a four. The rest of us spent the next few hours in relaxation mode: we had the real cricket on the radio (Australia 362 ahead with 10 wickets in hand at stumps, since you asked); there were some beers in the esky (albeit not as big as those that magically kept reappearing out of the small bag brought by one of the Milton supporters); the sun beat down at a considerately non-blinding angle; and we even had some supporters of our own (a real treat for an away game). Graeme ??? and Malcolm Creek provided company for our boundary fielders during our innings, after which Bettina Rex, Sophie Jackson (who'd quite understandably opted not to take on the surname Petrie) and Vickie Summers cheered on our chase, the latter pair very pleased to see their respective spice (oh, okay, spouses) batting with such skill. Sophie also came to Cam's defense when we reacted with exasperation at what looked like an easy missed second run, pointing out that he had a badly sprained ankle, and hence was only capable of turning in a QEII-style circle. Vicky wasn't quite so one-eyed, however: while she was very proud to announce "that's my husband" when Dom pulled a superb boundary off a decent bouncer, she later denied any link when he joined in with Cam's unadventurous "wait . . . no" game.
In the end Cam (89 off 89 balls) and Dom (51 off 82 balls) compiled a 145-run partnership off 154 balls, putting us in a completely winning position. Milton were getting increasingly frustrated, as evidenced both by their end of over committee meetings and their wicket-keeper's sarcastic use of the T-shaped review signal when yet another "optimistic" LBW appeal was turned down (no small irony, since he'd been allowed to keep on batting after he shouldered arms to a ball that would have hit middle stump had he not been standing in front of it). When Dom and Cam were out in quick succession there was a brief worry that we were going to muck things up, but Rod Dennis (18* off 24 balls) and Andy Owen (12* off 13 balls) calmly saw us home with 16 balls to spare.
Most of our players had to leave - the game had proceeded in such a ponderous fashion that we didn't finish 'til 7:30pm - but a few did head to The Lion And Lamb for a post-match drink. Unfortunately, the oppo didn't arrive until our guys were finishing their pints, a failure to connect which was somehow symbolic of the day as a whole.