Report by James McNamara:
In retrospect, Romsey's performance on this day looks studded with bright cricketing moments against a background of gathering gloom - which took on physical form as the over rate of Milton's bowlers extended the match into the failing light of the evening.
Milton won the toss and chose to bat, relieving Andy of the need to win the toss and choose to bowl. On the hottest afternoon of cricket since early July, the opening bowlers Olly Rex and Khuzaimah Saeed were faced with some firm hitting from Milton's left-handed opener Adnan, but Milton's rapid start was reined in by the first of Romsey's vituoso displays for the day: Faruk Kara's first ball brought the valuable wicket of the left-hander, bowled, and took his tally of first-ball wickets to four this season, rivalled only by Mitchell Johnson. A few overs of tight bowling and tidy fielding took 42/0 after the first 6 to 55/1 after 10, when Richard Rex produced a flash of brilliance with a direct-hit runout from deep mid-on to remove the other opener.
Through the middle overs Faruk, Andy Owen (10 overs, 2 maidens, 2/39) and Robin Eddington (6 overs, 1 maiden, 1/15) were able to stop the run rate racing away, but the Milton captain Mohanth set about assembling an aggressive 62 which was the making of Milton's total. Paul Jordan's change of pace led to the early demise of the hard-hitting number six to a diving catch at point by James McNamara, and catches by Khuzaimah, Ev Fox and Rod Dennis, and a sharp stumping by 'keeper Ev kept the wickets coming. It was Catherine Owen's spin that finally undid Mohanth, already dropped several times, who skied a catch to Robin at long off. Faruk reprised his first-ball trick in his second spell. Without the opposition ever racing off, Romsey remained perhaps one wicket away from restricting the total effectively; tidy ground fielding was unfortunately combined with a string of dropped chances, some difficult, and all the time the shadowy presence in the background was the extras count, which came in as the second-highest score on 37 and contributed significantly to the total of 213 that Milton were able to post.
Following last week's strong start against Bassingbourn, Romsey's openers set about battling the heat and putting on an unnecessary display of character acting, Richard doing a turn as James, who appeared in the guise of Nick Clarke. [Hope I'm not the only one who struggled to work this one out - ed.] After 7.4 overs the score had rattled along to 54, but as the ominous "point four" would suggest, James (45 from 30 balls) fell to a mistimed cut shot and Milton's bowlers soon settled into a more consistent pattern. A cautious period of play ensued. Richard departed for 11, Robin for 2 and Rod (32) and Olly Rex (27) applied themselves watchfully from the twelfth to the 28th over. Milton's openers showed impressive endurance, persisting unchanged until the 17th, and the first change only tightened the accuracy. Some wide bowling from the other end helped the score along, but the required run rate was starting to climb, and two batsmen had late evening commitments that might prevent them from contributing.
It was in the twilight of the 33rd over that Romsey's last and perhaps most enjoyable firework of the day was launched. Rod, on the seventh delivery of a nine-ball over, suddenly deposited the Milton captain well beyond the mid-wicket boundary from what looked like a good length, later reporting that he had remarked to the surprised bowler, "That's for hitting me in the box!" The match was only to last another three overs, in which the remaining wickets fell, including that of Khuzaimah who had gamely stayed on past the time of his train but was run out while backing up at the non-striker's end [Presumably after the ball was hit by the striker, rather than by the bowler in his delivery stride? - ed.] in an innings that will not affect his aggregate strike rate. Somehow the extras total had come to 34, including 22 wides, but Romsey were all out for 160, including three batsmen (Khuzaimah, Catherine Owen an Paul Jordan) who, for different reasons, did not face a ball. The scorebook doesn't record the finish time, but the author of this report has a vague concern that Khuzaimah may have missed the last train out of town.
In tune with the age of three-day test matches, Romsey were able to offer the spectators the kind of package that they expect, but despite our proven capacity as entertainers we'll no doubt be aiming for a more efficient final match against NCI next week amid the crowds of Parker's Piece.