Report by Daniel Mortlock:
After two away matches it was nice to be in the familiar setting of Trinity College's Old Field site. Walking into the womb-like darkness of the home changing room and looking around brought a sense of comfort . . . until one's eyes got dark-adjusted and it became clear it was full of strangers. The reason was that a series of injuries to Romsey regulars has led to a terminal player shortage, and so Cam and Andy had between them cobbled together a Romsey-Trinity International Invitational Eleven. Deaglan Bartlett, Markus Bernhardt and Jan Kirkham were thus introduced to the rest of the team and hopefully made to feel welcome by Romsey veterans like Tim Cannings and Karan Gupta (both playing their second Romsey games today). There was a general sense of confusion as people tried to learn each others' names, and there were also a few surprises, such as when Karan asked Daniel how long he'd been playing for Romsey and got the answer "17 years" - given how quickly Karan's jaw hit the floor it's probably just as well he didn't ask Andy the same question. The international nature of our side was also rather striking, with two players who were born in Australia, one born in Germany, two born in Kenya and one born in New Zealand to go with the five born-and-bred Brits. (It was probably just as well that the nation hasn't adopted Nick's favoured UKIP immigration policies - we'd probably have end up forfeitting in that case.)
Heading out to bowl we set about trying to find the right spot for everybody in the field, although this was fairly academic initially, as several balls in the first over shot through at ankle height, and there was the sense that we wouldn't really need any fielders if we could keep the ball on the stumps. This approach was adopted very effectively by Daniel Mortlock, who had fantasy figures of 7 overs, 3 maidens, 2/4 (which eventually became 2/11, the second most economical full-length spell for the club this century) by the time the ball was prised from his hands. Add in comparably good spells by Karan Gupta (0/20) and James McNamara (3/19) and we were absolutely in charge with Dullingham at 72/5 after 22 overs.
Andy Owen (3/15) then came on in now familiar role of middler-order mopper-upper - remember that he used to open the bowling for many years before he started opening the 'keeping - as the Dullingham tail found that hitting across the line to straight balls was not necessarily to their advantage. While all but one of our wickets were bowled (which implies that we were right to feel frustrated that all of our many LBW appeals were turned down), there was a nice catch (by Deaglan Bartlett, who moved sharply to hold onto a pull at short-mid-wicket) and a number of top fielding efforts by Tim Cannings (who got his finger-tips to what would have been an absolute blinder at square-leg) and Markus Bernhardt (who spent most of the day at slip, at one point getting a bit too close and taking the ball on the chin, but who also chased energetically on the numerous occasions the ball scooted off the edge or shot past the 'keepers). We really should have been looking at a two-figure target, and went within an inch of that aim when James took a few steps back to judge a superb catch on the short square boundary, only to be told that he'd put his heel on the line, meaning Dullingham's obdurate 'keeper got six runs instead of a free trip back to the pavilion. The aggrieved bowler, Faruk Kara (1/32) then rather lost his length, with the result that we found ourself facing the rather nastier, if still not exactly imposing, target of 145 (which several of us noted was worryingly similar to the 155 we memorably failed to chase last week).
Fuelled by Bettina Rex's tasty tea, our innings started rather nicely, with Cam Petrie and Richard Rex taking us to 24/0 in the 6th over before Cam was out LBW for 18 (off 22 balls). Which, frankly, was a pretty annoying, not because it seemed like a bad decision - the thoughtful umpire had pondered the decision for a few seconds before deciding that he couldn't find a reason not to give it - but because Cam had got a big forward stride in, whereas we'd repeatedly caught the opposition batsmen on the back foot, shuffling across their stumps, only to get repeated "not out" decisions. There's no real complaint about that, either - none of us are trained professional umpires, so being conservative on LBWs is kind of accepted - but the net result was that our form batsmen was out to what probably wouldn't have even made it into the top ten LBW shouts of the day.
Still, one wicket was hardly a disaster, but then when James McNamara nicked one of the 'keeper a few overs later the match reached its critical stage. Dullingham had brought on their change bowlers, whose strategy was to bowl slow and straight: it was easy to dead-bat each delivery; but there was a sense of risk in trying generate some pace off the ball with the knowledge that a miss might well be fatal. Our third wicket pair of Richard Rex and Tim Cannings found themselves rather paralysed by this situation, as not only the runs but the scoring shots retreated into a shell of careful blocks. At one point they played out 30 consecutive dot balls, and our total progressed by just 11 runs between overs 11 and 21.
With the required run rate now up above 5 an over and the crowd of supporters hollering for more runs, something needed to change, which it did in the obvious way - the batsmen started to take risks. Tim (13 off 42 balls), Daniel Mortlock (8 off 13 balls) and Andy Owen (3 off 5 balls) all perished in this fashion, but more important was that the run-scoring had accelerated, albeit still not quite to the required rate. Overall, the sense was that we'd blown it - and certainly we weren't winning - but we finally found the partnership we needed when Deaglan Bartlett joined a now-energised Richard (14* off 65 balls at around this point) for a 51-run fifth wicket partnership in under 10 overs that was easily the best of the match.
By the time Deaglan was stumped (for a superbly adventurous 23 off 29 balls) we needed 34 runs from 28 balls, numbers sufficiently small that it was no longer about classical "batting" and all about scampering singles and putting the fielders under pressure. Which is exactly what Richard and Karan Gupta did, the critical moment coming when Richard hit a cut shot straight to the boundary fielder, only for the ball to make its way through his hands and across the line (thus giving Richard his first boundary off his 96th delivery).
We began the final over needing 7 runs to win, which Karan and Richard worked their way towards with scampered singles and cheeky twos (thanks largely to the now manic calls of "Run!! RUN!!!!" coming from the boundary). With two balls to go we needed 3 to win or 2 to tie, and when there was a mis-field the batsmen went for the second . . . but the fielder recovered well and fired in a superb throw to the Dullingham 'keeper, who had the bails off with Karan (7 off 5 balls) a few feet short. That mean Markus Bernhardt had got his wish: he'd spent the entire innings saying he wanted to come in with us needing 12 an over, so that he wouldn't have to think but could just hit; and now the required run rate was exactly 12.00 an over, albeit in the reduced form off 2 needed off 1 ball. Markus swung as intended, but missed, the ball flying through to the 'keeper . . . or, no, past the 'keeper and into the empty space behind him. So that meant an easy bye (or was it a leg bye?) to tie the game . . . but suddenly it became clear that none of the nearby fielders were from Dullingham's supply of fast youngsters, and the first run was completed with the ball still sitting on the turf. So Markus and Richard turned back, in the end completing the winning run comfortably before the ball had even reached the 'keeper.
The Dullingham players were understandably devestated - they'd been ahead for the last half of the innings, only to have the game stolen fromt them - but we were predictably delighted with what was our second ever last-ball victory. Everyone ran out to congratulate Markus (0* off 1 ball) and epecially Richard (who, in all the mayhem, had made it to an unacknowledged half-century, finishing up with 56* off 111 balls in a match where nobody else made it past 35), and also to sympathise with the Dullingham players who'd gone within one delivery of mounting a remarkable defense.