Romsey Town vs. Saffron Walden IV

13:30, Saturday, May 23, 2015
Saffron Walden County High School

Saffron Walden IV (172/8 in 40 6-ball overs)
Romsey Town (168/9 in 40 6-ball overs)
by 4 runs.

Report by Daniel Mortlock:

There was only one dish on today's menu, and it was to be served cold: revenge for our idiotic loss against Saffron Walden two weeks ago. (Although, really, revenge isn't quite the right word - it was more a case of trying to absolve ourselves of a sin.) The venue for this potentially appetising meal was, once again, well outside Cambridgeshire: for the third time this season we broke its boundaries, today heading off all the way to Saffron Walden County High School. The ground was something of a smorgasbord: the square looked immaculately maintained, the cricketing equivalent of fine dining; but the outfield was sloped and pitted, more like finding yourself hungry at a train station and being fatally tempted by the Cornish Pasty stand.

We got first use of it, fielding first for the fourth time in four matches, and fairly quickly established a pattern of creating chances and then failing to take them - perhaps a dozen in all (depending whether you count leg-side edges with the 'keeper standing up). And that's to say nothing of a similar number of shots that just lobbed over a fielder's head or fell tantalisingly short. None were easy, but all were catchable and our morale rather took a hit - there's nothing like seeing a batsman hit the ball to the boundary when you know he should be cooling his heels in the pavilion.

The one saving grace was that our bowling remained fairly tight: Daniel Mortlock (1/32) and Robin Eddington (2/36) went for less than 4 an over; and James McNamara (3/48), Rog Shelley (0/21) and Andy Owen (2/27) generated more than their fair share of opportunities - it wasn't the plan to come back to those, but somehow we have. Most weren't very interesting, but two at least bear immortalising for future generations of Romsey fans. The first was almost the instant catch of the season: the batsman got a genuine edge which first slip Arnie Garside dived for, somehow flicking out at the ball with his foot; he connected so cleanly that the ball looped back to 'keeper Andy Owen, who reacted well to dive and get his glove under the ball, but he just couldn't close his hand around it, and it popped out with the impact when he hit the ground. Andy was also involved in the second missed opportunity when the batsman hit a firm but reasonably straightforward return chance that slipped through his hands; cue much resigned shaking of heads . . . until the next ball when the same batsman was through his shot too early and lobbed up the day's simplest chance, which Andy duly took to an ironic chorus of "Great catch!"es.

The end result of all this wasn't disaster, though, as we managed to restrict Saffron Walden to 172/8. It was maybe 30-odd more than we should have allowed them, but it was also a pretty true wicket - it had none of the demons that Trinity had held in our previous match.

Our chase began rather shakily when Robin Eddington got a leading edge in the first over that saw the ball go straight up in the air. Robin didn't know where it was and bizarrely decided to wander out of his crease; the bowler was off balance in his follow-through; the wicket-keeper didn't seem to consider catches in front of the wicket as part of his job description. The results was a life . . . which sadly wasn't taken as Robin (5 off 13 balls) and then Cameron Petrie (19 off 11 balls) both fell to the other opener, the young off-spinner who'd caused us so much trouble a fortnight ago. With Nick Clarke (13 off 33 balls) also out cheaply, our top order firepower that had chased 256 against Ashdon was back in the hutch and we were in big trouble at 38/3.

Although, really, we should have been in marginally less trouble at 40/3, as the standing umpire had twice missed waist high no balls that had been clearly indicated by the square-leg umpire; the deliveries in question were sufficiently egregious that the Saffron Walden captain was actually moved to enquire "You know it's a no ball if it's over waist high, right?" thus being a shoe-in for the Sporting Gesture Of The Year award. Not that it did any good: the balls will forever be recorded as dots rather than extra runs - to say nothing of the two extra deliveries we missed out on. Most likely they'll quickly be forgotten, although someone was heard musing that they'd matter if the game went down to the wire . . .

After the flurry of wickets we mounted a spirited comeback, in some part due to some good batting, and in some larger part due to some enforced age-related bowling changes. James McNamara picked up where he left off last season, playing the calm centre to the innings, forging good partnerships with Daniel Mortlock (25 off 26 balls, surpassing Dave Clark's 8 against Little Shelford in 2013 as the highest Romsey innings made without a box) and Andy Owen (31 off 57 balls). The latter partnership would have been even better but for the fact that Andy had pulled his hamstring - he was thus unable to heed his own advice to "Run hard, boys!" and what would otherwise have been several easy runs were missed as a result. Still, James and Andy had pushed our noses in front for possibly the first time all match: with 22 needed from 24 balls and both opening bowlers done we were surely winning.

But a new paragraph can mean only one thing: disaster. A couple of mis-timed shots saw both of them easily caught - particularly galling as the opposition batsmen's similar mis-hits never turned into sitters of this type - and our chance had gone. Richard Rex (5* off 8 balls) got us to within a single big hit of victory, but with a possibly broken rib it was unlikely to come from him; and the last four overs yielded just two scoring shots that were more than a single. In the end we fell 4 agonising runs short of Saffron Walden's total - at which point it was hard not to cast one's mind a few paragraph's back in the sad narrative and think of what might have been with 2 more runs and 2 more deliveries.

The result notwithstanding, it was a geuninely exciting game of cricket between two closely-matched teams. Their batting was more solid, with contributions all the way to the end; ours had higher peaks, especially when James and Andy were scoring so freely towards the end of their partnership. Conversely, our bowling was more consistent, but theirs was more threatening at times, particular with the openers on. The only real systematic difference was the fielding: while we had relented on last week's extreme "youth" policy, we were still rather long of tooth and slow of movement in the field; by contrast, the Saffron Walden line-up included five teenagers who ran and dived with energy and abandon, saving several "certain" fours, any of which could (given the final result) reasonably be considered a match-winning effort.