Report by Daniel Mortlock:
With nothing riding on today's game, the last of our season, the instruction from Andy was simply to "go out and have fun". An admirable sentiment indeed, born in part from the knowledge that "there's always next year" . . . but hence one which Burrough Green couldn't necessarily share, as there was very serious-sounding talk about them dropping out of the league after this season. Lack of players is the all too predictable problem, as is pretty obvious from the fact that they've forfeited five matches this year and only had nine out against us today.
Still, that nine did include one Ben Briscoe who, despite having been recruited in the local pub during the week, managed to completely dominate his team and the game. Fortunately for us, this was only in part due to his explosive batting and energetic bowling, both of which were totally eclipsed by his non-stop verbals. Opening the batting, he was initially fairly quiet (both literally and metaphorically), being most fortunate to survive a series of inside and outside edges, before suddenly taking a liking to the pace of his namesake Ben Carroll (0/37). The full sequence of their battle was an implausibly decisive . 4 1 N 4 LB 4 1 . 4 4 6 . 6, or 35 runs (and a leg-bye) from 14 legitimate balls. In part, the problem was that Ben's good balls were simply way too good, flying past the batsmen and slamming into 'keeper Ev Fox's gloves at chest height, despite the fact he was at least 15 yards back behind the stumps. But anything wide got slapped to, or over, the short pond-side boundary, resulting in seemingly endless sorties into the thorny undergrowth in search of the ball (or, in one case, a ball - everyone had resumed their places and was set to resume play when it was noticed that the ball we'd retrieved from the undergrowth wasn't the one we'd been playing with).
As disastrous as a score of 89/1 after 15 overs might sound, slowing things down was of course an option - or even, really, a compulsion, given that none of us could bowl at anywhere near Ben's speed. Medium pace was a bit more successful, provided it was tight, which Robin Eddington (0/31, to go with two catches) and Daniel Mortlock (1/18) both were, the latter to the degree that he was the only bowler all day not to concede a boundary. But when neither could makde the critical breakthrough we slowed things down even more, which meant turning to Faruk Kara's off-spin. His first over at Briscoe (4 . . 2 . .) suggested more of the same, and his second began with a dismissive flat drive towards long off . . . where Richard Rex ran round and took a superb catch just feet inside the boundary.
Following that initial breach, Faruk quickly made three more, giving himself four full overs to search for his fifth wicket . . . but it never came, and he had to be content with merely superb figures of 10 overs, 2 maidens, 4/36 - and 22 wickets for the season, behind only Andy Owen. And Andy, you probably won't be amazed to discover, added to that wicket tally during this period, reducing Burrough Green to a much more manageable 121/6 after 24 overs.
The seventh wicket pair then dug in, scoring just 5 runs in 7 overs at one point, in an echo of Andy and Faruk's go-slow partnership against NCI a month earlier (rather ironic, since Andy and Faruk were now bowling). We couldn't dislodge them and, sure enough, they eventually started to score a bit more freely in the last few overs of the innings, getting to within a few good hits of 200. Martin Thomas (1/31) eventually separated them with his first wicket for Romsey (which should really have come a few overs earlier when Faruk carefully set himself under a lofted pull, watched the ball all the way into his hands, and then watched it somehow burst through and over the boundary, the net result of which is an as-yet-unpaid one-pint debt). Andy (2/27) then finished things off thanks to a clever stumping by Ev, who had to wait for the batsman to complete his first rotation before his second took him out of his ground.
188 was not going to be an easy target to chase, and it seemed even larger when we saw the above-mentioned Briscoe marking out a thirty-yard run up. Given his success with the bat and the rumour that he was "mainly a bowler", we all watched with baited breath as he accelerated into his long run . . . and then breathed a bit more easily when he deccelerated a little . . . became confused when he sped up again . . . and finally realised everything was going to okay when his first few balls revealed him to be comfortably slower than Ben had been earlier in the day. He did get good movement, inducing several genuine edges, but they all went to ground - as did Briscoe every time he was subject to the cruel misfortune of a play-and-miss, a dropped catch, a half-chance, or the runs. (Indeed, it was only a solid forward defensive that he seemed to consider a legitimate result.)
Once it was clear we weren't going to blasted away (or maimed - there were a few bouncers, but these were comfortably avoided), openers Robin Eddington (63 off 76 balls) and Richard Rex (37 off 58 balls) were able to score without too much fuss, helped by a fairly regular supply of loose deliveries and the big gaps in the nine-man field settings. (Given that Burrough Green defended a much lower total against us with just eight men earlier in the season, it's arguable that their best option might have been to send one of their guys home.) Robin and Richard had taken us to 97/0 in the 20th over, but sadly our hopes of going to drinks in triple figures were scuppered by a rather unnecessary run out, which meant Richard finished his season as our top scorer with 425 runs . . .
. . . unless number three James McNamara could score 38 or more in his final innings for Romsey before moving back to New Zealand. Some uncharacteristic early slogs notwithstanding, he managed this with predictable ease, finishing up with yet another undefeated half-century (62* off 56 balls) and an aburd Romsey record of 1063 runs at what one is legally obliged to refer to as a "Bradmanesque" average of 96.64. James got good support from Daniel Mortlock (13 off 23 balls) and Ben Carroll (6* off 16 balls), both of whom managed to give him plenty of strike - James got to face two-thirds of the deliveries during the time he was batting. The only pity of all this was that we were denied the second half of the Battle Of The Bens that had started the match, Briscoe having bowled his ten overs. He was thus reduced to sledger-in-chief - although the main target of his possibly feigned grumpiness was his own players: one was labelled a "joker" for not managing a direct hit run out; and even the captain was informed that he's decision to make Briscoe bowl into a "howling gale" was "a complete waste of time".
This all probably makes it sound like we were winning in a canter, and we were definitely ahead . . . but not so far that a couple of maidens wouldn't change all that. And there were a few quiet overs with just a few singles before James finished his time at Romsey with a lovely cover drive to end the game, which we won with 7 wickets and 8 balls to spare.
Both teams headed across the road to The Bull to mull over the season just gone (although Burrough Green do have one more game to go), with the inevitable topic of convseration being the struggle that most smaller clubs are having at the moment. The most pessimistic prediction was that the big regional clubs (Granta, St Giles, Saffron Walden, etc.) would hoover up players and we'd end up with Granta XII vs. Saffron Walden XXII or whatever. As the evening light faded over the Burrough Green ground it was hard not to see it as symbolic - although we did finish on the brighter note of organising a day-long twenty/20 tournament next year, with the pub doing a BBQ and pints all day. So stay tuned to see what 2017 brings . . .