Report by Daniel Mortlock:
One a cold spring day the Romsey Town team found itself assembling gradually at the Friends' School in Saffron Walden, with eight of our eleven present in good time for the 1:30pm start. Which was a pity, really, as we were actually playing at Saffron Walden County High School. Fortunately, Google Maps insists that the one is just a two-minute drive from the other, and so the rest of the team - well, except Richard Rex, who'd entered into some sort of complicated car-sharing deal with Bettina and so was stranded - was able to join Andy, Catherine and Daniel in time for a not too seriously delayed start.
Having chosen to bowl, we were at least able to make up for lost time - literally. Through a combination of short run-ups and the Saffron Walden's openers inability to score (and, indeed, lay bat on ball, for the most part) we raced through our first 20 overs in just under an hour. That drinks were served was hence a bit of anomaly - and while Daniel Mortlock (1/31), Luke Barnes (0/17) and Faruk Kara (0/32) had bowled superbly, beating the bat about 30 times between them, the fact that there was a "0" in the wickets column meant our imbibations felt a bit unearned (especially since a few chances, all tricky, had gone down). While it was easy - and, indeed, legitimate - to grumble that the opposition openers had given new meaning to the phrase "charmed life", the bottom line was that they were still and now had a platform for the second half of their innings.
With only 54 runs on the board the Saffron Walden captain had had clearly - and correctly - given his batsmen instructions to start going the tonk. The predictable result was the desired acceleration, along with some some wickets. The first of these were taken by Karan Gupta (2/23 on debut), who got an outside edge with his first ball for the club and then took a wicket with his second. At the other end Andy Owen (3/37, not quite on debut - indeed, his second wicket was his 500th league wicket, at least that we know about) stuck to his lines and reaped the rewards when the batsmen got too adventurous.
This led to what, from a neutral perspective, was the most interesting part of the innings. One of the more experienced Saffron Walden batsmen started nicking outrageous singles, exploiting the fact that the outfield was so bumpy that a clean pick-up was almost impossible, proving once again that there's almost always a run if you back up well and take off fast. There were of course some run out opportunities, including one moment where Daniel stopped the ball with his foot in such a way that it flicked up into his hand and then fired in an accurate throw to 'keeper Cam Petrie, who had the bails off with the disbelieving batsman comfortably out of his ground. The only problem was that the ball had popped out of Cam's gloves, and said batsman survived all the way 'til the final ball of the innings, when he was elegantly caught by Rod Dennis on the square boundary.
Largely thanks to his hyper-aggressive efforts we'd been set a non-trivial target of 156, although it was starting to look decidedly more trivial when Cam Petrie and Richard Rex took us to 58/0 after 10 overs. Everyone - the opposition supporters included - was already talking of early trips to the pub, and even when Cam (40 off 26 balls) played across a straight one, Luke Barnes (46 off 44 balls) took up where he left off. Luke, Richard (who retired hurt at 17* off 50 balls when he pulled his calf) and Tim Cannings (23 off 46 balls) saw us to the brink of victory without any real trouble: after 24 overs we were 124/1 and needed just 32 runs from 96 balls with 9 wickets in hand . . .
. . . which was remarkably similar to the dominant situation we found ourselves in against Saffron Walden a year ago, when we managed to throw away the easiset of wins by batting - and running - like complete morons. But this clearly wasn't going to happen today, especially when Rod was presented with a juicy full toss to smack to the leg-side boundary . . . except he top-edged his ball into his face, smashing his nose (and his glasses). With blood and debris everywhere and Rod in a daze the game - and time, really - stopped. After a few very anxious minutes Rod was helped from the field by two of the Saffron Walden players (funny how convention is that this act is done by the fielding side) and then surrounded by an impotent cloud of the concerned. The first sign everything was going to be okay was that Rod started to get annoyed at so many people making a fuss; the second was that he then started grumbling about having to get new glasses.
A few Saffron Walden players cheekily tried to suggest we call the game off an call it a draw (a tactic they also tried when there were three or four molecules of rain), but Andy said that we'd be finished in a quarter of an hour and we should just wrap up the game before working out plans for cars, pick-ups and the like. After a 20-minute delay the game resumed, but somehow with the wind sucked out of its sails - or maybe just ours, as our meticulously built chase suddenly fell apart into a mess of bad calls, nervous shots and, er, total shit. The sequence of events is too painful to recount in detail, but a few facts suffice: our last seven batsmen scored 4*, 5, 0, 4, 0, 0 and 0*; we endured collapses of 4/2, 5/4, 6/8, 7/14 and 8/25 (all of which feature high up the worst collapses list), and, given that Rod obviously couldn't bat again, it meant we'd slumped from 141/3 to 149 all out. Which, as you'll all immediately realise, is 6 runs short of what half an hour earlier was the easiest of targets. Given that the bowling was no more than tight, it was an extraordinary achievement, but one we've managed before - how the fuck it is we manage to do this is possibly beyond explanation.
When the final wicket fell the understandably delighted Saffron Walden captain called his team in for a "little cuddle", but it was really us who needed such ministrations. Sport can certainly be unfair at times, as it was today - although even then it is of course only sport. It might mirror life in many ways, but as dismayed as we all were, the one thing that really mattered at the end of the day was that Rod was okay (which can be confirmed - a trip to A&E revealed no damage to his eye, and he is planning to be back in Romsey red in a few weeks' time).