Romsey Town vs. Bassingbourn

13:30, Saturday, July 1, 2017
Trinity College (Old Field)

Bassingbourn (165 all out in 39.5 6-ball overs)
lost to
Romsey Town (166/4 in 33.4 6-ball overs)
by 6 wickets.

Report by Daniel Mortlock:

"Catches win matches." It's one of the cricketing cliches. But it's also a bold assertion that, in a team that seems to have an ever-increasing fraction of Cambridge University students and graduates, should be subject a serious logical analysis. In particular: is it true? In the most fundamental sense: no - taking a catch does does not immediately end a game of cricket. (Just as well today, or we would have all been heading home mid-way through the seventh over.) Okay, so it's clearly not literally true, but maybe has some validity in a probabilistic sense: perhaps Prob(win match | catch taken) > Prob(win match | catch dropped)? (Here probability is taken to be a degree of implication, with boundary values of 0 for impossibilities and 1 for certainties; frequentists can sod off.) This is demonstrably not always the case, as anyone who's played against a Remnants side with Dave Norman padded up and waiting to bat knows all too well; but it is generally true, so maybe we're onto something here. And in that case, maybe the converse statment, "dropping catches loses matches", is also true? Now, while it's not as catchy a phrase, it's a pretty interesting propotion; and, given the horror that most of us feel when we drop a chance, somehow feels even truer. (Not that we want to take feels to seriously in any such debate, as if feels is admitted then suddenly immigrants are a strain on the NHS, Theresa May is sensible, and Brexit is going to be a great success . . . actually, scrap that last one, as nobody feels that.) More importantly, we had what every scientist is desperate for when there's an argument to resolve: empirical data. We took eight catches between us (and completed a stumping), but also managed to drop half a dozen embarrassingly straightforward chances. Given that we couldn't simultaneously win and lose the match (although Romsey does seem more capable of managing this than most organisations outside the Labour Party) either or original proposition or its converse was going to be disproved. But which would it be . . .

Winding back the clock to the start of the match, we were faced with a very green-looking Trinity wicket which also appeared rather soft (presumably due to the torrential mid-week rain). Andy was minded to bowl first - the last few weeks have demonstrated that we're capable neither of chasing nor defending a target, so the decision had to be driven by the conditions - and then, having lost the toss, was informed that Bassingbourn would be having a bat. So everyone was pretty happy, at least initially, until our old 2000s opening attack of Daniel Mortlock (1/6 from his first 5 overs) and Andy Owen (0/6 from his first 3) kept the opposition to a dismal 14/1 after 9 overs. Ferdi Rex (2/19) then consolidated, thanks in part to a sharp stumping by wicket-keeper Kshitij Sabnis, although he would have had even nicer figures if some pretty regulation chances hadn't gone down off his bowling. Saurav Dutta (2/30) then came on from the opposite end from his previous bowling spells, figuring that if he'd been unluck there (edges falling short, batsmen not walking, etc.) then he should switch. When he got an LBW off his second ball (sufficiently over-pitched that it hit the batsman's pad on the full, and so had to be assessed on the basis that it would continue straight) he was delighted, his luck having clearly changed. But then later in his spell Saurav was effectively robbed of a hat-trick, when two stumpings were denied in the space of three balls: the first was close, in the sense that the bastman's back foot was on the line and so it makes sense that what was quite clear to the close-in fielders couldn't be assessed with certainty by the square-leg umpire; but in the second case the batsman's foot was both in the air and about six inches in front of the crease. It was nice that Andy, fielding at silly mid-on, had caught the first reprieved batsman off the intervening ball; but it was galling when the second smashed the final ball of the over to the boundary.

Had that stumping been given Bassingbourn would surely have been sunk on 56/6; but, instead, their 6th wicket pair more than doubled their total, all while scoring at more than a run a ball. They'd taken Bassingbourn to a much healthier 115/5 in the 33rd over, and another 40-odd balls of controlled aggression and energetic running could easily have seen us facing a target of 180-odd. Fortunately, the batsmen seemed to have a bit of a meltdown, suddenly deciding to slog at everything, with the result that Afkar Ansar (2/26) got his first Romsey wickets, courtesy of good outfield catches by Andy and Ferdi. When Andy (1/39 in the end) had the new batsmen superbly caught at gully by Faruk Kara next over we'd taken 3 wickets for no runs, and surely had finished things off . . .

. . . or not, as the big hitting started up again almost immediately. During one horrific 11-ball sequence our previously economical opening bowlers conceded 29 runs, although included in this were two more pretty bad drops in the outfield. Even worse, the silly new eight-over restrictions meant that we were going to have to turn to a new bowler for the final over, Faruk Kara being so disgusted with his lot that he didn't even finish his over . . . albeit only because he took the last two wickets in the space of 5 balls, with Daniel and Ferdi taking nicely judged catches on the boundary. Faruk's figures of 0.5 overs, 0 maidens, 2/3 were great, and it was impressive that we took 8 catches (not a club record, as we once took 9 back in 1990) including 3 each by Andy and Ferdi. But the figure we really cared about was 165, which - absurdly given the score half-way through Bassingbourn's innings - was the target we had to chase.

Our top order were pretty steady, Cam Petrie (24 off 31 balls), Kshitij Sabnis (15 off 42 balls) and Daniel Mortlock (15 off 31 balls) taking us to 71/3 at drinks. But then we finally got what the match had really been begging for: a really solid partnership, as Ferdi Rex and Saurav Dutta doubled our total without taking any significant risks. They did have help, in the form of an incredible 19 wides (most of which were outside the return crease), which certainly helped to take the pressure off on the few occassions that the scoring slowed. Saurav (23 off 27 balls) became the eleventh batsmen to be caught, after which Nathan Wright (4* off 7 balls) made sure there was no last-minute collapse. That left Ferdi to finish the game off with a boundary that took him to 53* (off 57 balls), a singular contribution in a match where, of the eight batsmen to make it to 23, he was the only one to make it past 36.

Coming back to the question posed at the start of the report, it also highly relevant that Ferdi was dropped early in his innings; but, unlike the other reprieved batsmen earlier in the game, he went on with the job.