Report by Daniel Mortlock:
On this glorious summer afternoon, with the outfield fast and the pitch true, we once again resigned ourselves to fielding first: Andy would opt to bowl upon winning the toss; and the opposition captain would surely choose to bat if he called correctly. As indeed he did . . . only to invite us to bat. With a combination of disbelief and a sense of "finally!" we set about the unfamiliar task of padding up, finding umpires' coats and, in the case of Russ, getting out a bottle of Koppaberg non-alcoholic pear cider while he scored.
At first it seemed like NCI's decision was to be revealed as madness, as we raced to 29/0 off 4 overs, James McNamara in particular scoring freely. This, however, could largely be attributed to the bowlers pitching too short, and once they sorted their lengths out our scoring all but dried up, just 20 runs coming from the next 8 overs. But while James and opening partner Richard Rex (3 off 32 balls at about this point) were struggling to score, it was even more important that they were staying in, as we had a fairly long tail that was not guaranteed to wag. (Not that this stopped lots of barracking to "run hard, boys" and "push for two" from the stands, the loudest voice of course being that of Bettina Rex.) When James recovered his early mojo and Richard got his eye in and started scoring freely himself, we moved into a comfortable ascendancy that we never surrendered thereafter. By the time Richard (20 off 53 balls) was well caught by the NCI 'keeper we were 91 in the 20th over, and had the perfect platform to push on.
That we did, as first Olly Rex (34 off 33 balls) and then Andy Owen (33* off 30 balls) shared 69-run stands with James, who just kept steadily accumulating runs. There was a brief fear that he was going to miss out on a hundred through lack of strike, but he duly completed his third Romsey century (the first person ever to do so) in the penultimate over. That he was bowled (for 108 off 123 balls, with 15 fours and 1 six) in the final over was of no consequence to anyone other than injured number five Daniel Mortlock (5* off 2 balls), who was hence forced to hobble out for the final 4 balls of the innings. (Although, really, the greatest symapthy should go to Faruk Kara, who'd spent the entire innings padded up with the repeated promise of being "next in" snatched away just before each successive wicket fell.)
With 237 to defend there was no real pressure to get wickets, and the main thing was to start with a few tight overs to quickly push the required run rate out of NCI's reach. And that's exactly what we got, as Daniel Mortlock (1/10 off an even shorter run-up than usual) and Steve Mann (1/29) gave nothing away, just 5 boundaries coming from their 15 overs. That they also got a couple of wickets was a bonus, although it really should have been three but for another batsman (who'd possibly read our Harlton match report) successfully trying the increasingly popular "bump ball" defense after he popped a catch up to James McNamara at short mid-wicket. (It was perhaps revealing that when the batsman in question was adjudged LBW a few overs later he hung around looking indignant and then seemed about to take up the issue with umpire before eventually trudging off towards the pavilion.)
After we'd made those initial breakthroughs, Faruk Kara (5/32) scythed through the NCI middled order, taking his second five-for this week. Here our catching came to the fore, as Dave Clark, Olly Rex (twice) and 'keeper Andy Owen all took solid catches off Faruk's bowling. The ground-fielding was also good, Arnie Garside and Richard Rex in particular making some superb stops in the outer and James once again brilliantly sharp closer in. By this stage a big win was assured and the only question was the margin. Olly Rex (1/30) made another breakthrough when his "dambuster" delivery, a slow bouncer, pitched in his half of the wicket and then lobbed down to flick off the bails, and Catherine Owen (0/8) threw off her post-exam blues to bowl an accurate, if abbreviated, spell. The reason it was abbreviated was that Paul Jordan (2/5) snaffled the last two wickets in consecutive deliveries, to leave himself on a hat-trick for all eternity. We thus restricted NCI to just 119, meaning that they took only 3 points from the game, and that we'd completed our sixth biggest runs win ever.
Just as importantly, the game was played in a great spirit (bumpgate notwithstanding); the only pity was that, once again, we were lacking a natural venue for a post-match drink. The pavilion bar has been out of action for years, and the nearest pub is so far away that there's some debate about its identity: as the crow flies it's The Pickerel or The County Arms; in terms of driving time it's probably The Granta; and for simplicity the Red Bull on Barton Road is the winner.