Romsey Town vs. Milton II

13:30, Saturday, July 16, 2016
Trinity College (Old Field)

Milton II (121 all-out in 38.1 6-ball overs)
lost to
Romsey Town (122/4 in 30.5 6-ball overs)
by 6 wickets.

Report by Daniel Mortlock:

We arrived at Trinity for the final time this year with the sun beating down and one of the best batting line-ups ever to turn out for the club. Any fears that we were going to have to convince Andy to bat first were allayed immediately when the tentative question "Any thoughts about what to do if you win the toss?" was snapped off mid-way with a decisive "Bat!" And so it really was a pity that the Milton skipper called correctly, after which word spread like wildfire (itself a serious possibility today if someone were to be careless with a match) that we'd be fielding during the hottest part of the day.

There was some compensation, however, as it was not only hot, but also also very humid and the new ball swung a mile. Daniel Mortlock (2/24) went back on the habit of a lifetime by swapping the ball around to bowl big hooping in-swingers, most of which beat the bat, many of which beat 'keeper Andy Owen, and a number of which were (quite correctly) called wide as well. Still, this approach did yield our first wicket when the ball swerved between bat and pad, and then ricocheted off Andy's pads back onto the stumps with the batsman out of his ground. (This somewhat fortuitous wicket was initially recorded by the scorers as a run out, but any such dismissal involving the wicket-keeper in which the batsman is not attempting a run is a stumping, however improvised, with Law 39 rather pompously stating that in the case of a "ball rebounding from wicket-keeper's person (a) if the wicket is put down by the ball, it shall be regarded as having been put down by the wicket-keeper if the ball (i) rebounds on to the stumps from any part of the wicket-keeper's person or equipment other than a protective helmet or (ii) has been kicked or thrown on to the stumps by the wicket-keeper.") After this the cricket was pretty attritional: none of Daniel, Olly Rex (1/13) and James McNamara (1/17) could make a second breakthrough, but neither, as you might already have inferred from the rather tidy bowling figures on offer, could the batsmen score many runs. Indeed, we reached the first drinks break at 15 overs with the ball still to have crossed the boundary; and then the first four did come in the 18th over the result was a ripple of ironic applause and jeering from the Milton team and supporters.

The deadlock was finally broken by Robin Eddington, who started to get his yorkers right, the result of which was a succession of batsmen bowled or LBW. We broke the back of the game during a three over stretch in which we took 3/2, including the first catch of the day when Faruk Kara positioned himself under a skier at gully and, using his unique vertical hand technique, squirted the ball back up in the air before completing the catch one-handed. Tim Cannings, who to this point had barely touched the ball, then took this principle to its logical conclusion, opting to field the ball single-handed at all times. This included a number of running boundary line stops where anyone else would have gone for the long barrier, as well as stunning diving catch off a pretty well-hit cut at point.

It was at around this stage that we also got the "village cricket is a really serious business" drama of the day, when one of the Milton batsmen, G. Sanderson, convinced himself that Andy was trying to block his path to completing a tight second run and so, having made his ground, kicked the still live ball half way to the boundary. None of us had seen anything like it and we were stunned into inaction, and it wasn't until next ball that little pockets of us started to realise that, had we appealed, it would have been a clear-cut case of obstructing the field, a point about which umpire Geoff Hales was in complete agreement (i.e., he'd have given it in a flash). Most of us expected the batsman to apologise for losing his shit and sheepishly go off to get the ball, but he was defiantly obstinate; in the end one of the Milton support squad, in an implicit acknowledgement that their man was in the wrong, came on to throw the ball back. We were all set for some quality niggle for the rest of the batsman's innings, but tragically it only lasted another two balls as, possibly distracted by the steam coming out his ears, he missed a straight ball, hence contributing to Robin's hopefully match-winning figures of 4/21.

Some late-hitting notwithstanding, we managed to wrap up the Milton innings fairly effectively, with Ferdi Rex taking 2/15 with his huge-spinning offies, and good catches held by Olly (an impeccably judged skier at cow corner), Daniel (a sharp caught and bowled chance) and James (a classy take at short mid-wicket which he juggled just in case anyone thought it was a sitter). Still, for all our good work, we knew that Milton's total of 121 would take some chasing on a pitch where, not so long ago, we were bowled out for 66 in pursuit of a worringly similar target of 125.

And it appeared it was going to 10% more difficult when Cam Petrie's, er, inappropriate (read: stupid) lofted drive off the fourth ball of the innings went straight to the deepish mid-on fielder. Fortunately for us the chance went to ground; and while, given such drops are grist to the mill of village cricket, it would be churlish to name the fieldsman in question, it demonstrated admirable restraint that he didn't once again kick the ball away in disgust. This potential disaster averted, we immediately asserted a complete early dominance as Cam Petrie and Richard Rex both hit some lovely boundaries to take us to 48/0 after 10 overs. Add in a bit of acceleration and it was easy to imagine a 20-over chase and an early trip to the pub . . .

. . . but Milton weren't done yet. In particular, they made the correct tactical approach of trying out all their bowlers - they used eight in the end - presumably to make sure that if there was a killer combination they could settle on it with some runs still to play with. And with their fourth and fifth bowlers it seemed they'd done just that, as only 8 runs came from the next 5 overs. This somewhat predictably led to a wicket, that of Cam (for 32 off 45 balls), after which we had little spurts of scoring from James McNamara (8 off 10 balls) and Ferdi Rex (15 off 13 balls) before they both perished going for big shots. That left us on 92/3 after 21 overs, meaning we needed 30 runs in 19 overs - we weren't really in any danger of losing, but neither were we in any danger of getting to the pub, and there was some sense that our batsmen seemed to be labouring under the illusion that they were obliged to take all 19 of the available overs to knock off the remaining runs. A succession of full tosses were patted back to the bowler and wide long-hops were left through to the 'keeper as the next 8 overs yielded just 22 runs, almost a third of which were in the form of extras.

Off the pitch we'd resorted to playing cricketing trivia games (e.g., naming all the players with 100 or more Tests whose surnames end in a vowel), only for the sleepy reverie to be broken by the surprise decision to bring on Sanderson with 8 runs still needed. The fact that he bowled with real pace left us briefly mystified as to why he'd been held back so long, but then a sequence of five consecutive wides (on both sides of the pitch, and off both long and short runs) gave us our answer. And with one more wide (the 16th of the innings) we pulled level, leaving Robin Eddington (2* off 11 balls) to stroke the winning run while Richard Rex (36* off 93 balls) provided more evidence that Romsey is guaranteed to win if he bats through the innings - today was the third time this has happened this season.

Today's victory takes our league average up to 15.67, just a smidge behind second-placed Saffron Walden on 16.38, so if they slip up promotion is still very much a possibility. Winning the league is almost certainly beyond us, as Bassingbourn are sitting pretty on 18.30; but, more happily, relegation is similarly implausible as even if we lost all six of our remaining games we'd still end up with a league average of at least 11, while the current bottom three are all averaging below 10. So the mission for the final third of the season is to go beserk without fear of failure and play with abandon in the quest for the mythical promised land of . . . Junior 2.