Report by Jeff Beaumont:
A crisis of personnel dominated the week leading up to the match. All four of Romsey's top-scorers in recent weeks were absent, and club stalwart Daniel Mortlock was also unavailable. In their place Andy scrambled together a side - or mostly so. In the end, only ten Romsey men could be found to assemble at the Wale Rec ground - now sporting a fantastic, brand-new pavilion - and of that ten, both Dave Clark and Andy were nursing injuries.
The match started off bright and sunny, but in a howling, 40 mph wind and with rain forecast but not immediately imminent. If only we had a distinguished meteorologist to consult as to how the day would unfold - and we did, in the form of Ev Fox, back on holiday from Doha. Expecting the weather to hold, Romsey won the toss and, with his usual bravado, Andy elected to field. Ben Carroll opened from the Pavilion end, generating significant bounce to go with movement through the air and off the pitch. It was notable that Ev was fully twelve paces behind the stumps and was taking the ball comfortably waist-high or higher. The second half of the new ball partnership was rather less imposing - yours truly, spluttering into the wind like an asthmatic ant carrying particularly heavy shopping.
Being a man short in the field meant that it was vital to chase everything and take any chances that came our way. Rod Dennis removed one opener by holding on to a bullet-like shot at point off Ben, while the other opener departed the following over, bowled off one that kept low; and after 10 overs the score was a respectable (from a Romsey point of view) 36/2.
Ben finished his opening spell with figures of 1/25 off his 7 overs, which allowed us to bring on our secret weapon: the guile and flight of Faruk Kara. Combined with Andy keeping it tight at the other end, Faruk proceeded to tie down the Little Shelford middle order very effectively. The wind had by now reached full strength and caused considerable trouble by repeatedly dislodging the bails. An early drinks break resulted when Andy removed one persistently-wayward stump and tried to backfill to shore it up. So successful was he that the stump could not be re-inserted for love nor money until heavyweight apparatus was brought from the groundsman's shed. We reached the half-way mark of the innings with Little Shelford restricted to 81/3, which reflects well on both the bowling and especially the hard yards put in all over the field.
Faru in particular got due reward for his efforts, eventually accounting for four of the Little Shelford top six (4/59 from his 10 overs) and precipitating a small collapse to 108/6 off 27 overs. Realising that they needed to accelerate, Little Shelford's lower order tried to up the run rate. Some clean hitting meant that the lack of an extra man in the field was being felt, and no doubt a number of twos could have been restricted to singles with an extra fielder. The effort and application in the field wanted for nothing, however, and Romsey continued to chip away at the remaining wickets. Andy (1/32 from 9 overs) took the crucial scalp of their most free-scoring batsman, and Ben cleaned up the tail to finish with 2/37 and leave Little Shelford defending a solid 188.
After an excellent tea, openers Rod Dennis and Tim Cannings were sent out to begin the reply. Little Shelford's opening pair were quick and accurate, and there was further evidence of uneven bounce which made scoring difficult. 11/1 quickly became 20/2, then an alarming 20/3, and a somewhat unedifying 25/4 after 9 overs. What we needed was batsmen to dig in, and we got that in the form of an obdurate innings from Faruk, while Ben began to get his eye in at the other end. Passing 40 runs was greeted with a mild cheer; a batting point secured!
The shots began to flow for both Faruk and Ben, and after drinks, we reached 80 runs in the 23rd over - another point! Faruk finally departed bowled for 17, but his limpet-like resistance at the crease was taken up by Ev, who compiled a gritty 21 while Ben was showing his class with a composed and well-compiled half-century. Ev finally departed with the score in 121 off 29 overs; from that worrying beginning, we’d at least given a good account of ourselves.
Or so we thought: Ben continued to accumulate and found enough support at the other end in the form of Andy Owen (batting on one leg and eschewing quick singles) that suddenly, not only had we given a good account of ourselves, we were actually closing in on the Little Shelford total. After 35 overs, the score reached 159 and a thoroughly unlikely victory was well and truly on - if only Ben and Andy could keep up the pace.
Crucially, the boundaries continued to flow until the 39th over ended with the scores level. Dave Clark, the sole Romsey batsman remaining, happily unstrapped the pads, telling everyone "If it's on leg, Andy will smash it around the corner, he loves them there." Sure enough, that was precisely what happened, and somehow Romsey had pulled off a superb victory with 5 balls to spare. Andy finished on an unbeaten 20*, while Ben Carroll was surely the star of the show with 75* to go with his excellent bowling figures.