Report by Daniel Mortlock:
As has become traditional in recent seasons, we came to our final match with no hope of promotion and no danger of relegation - in short, nothing to play for . . . except for playing itself. We were to be hosted by fellow middle-tablers Great Shelford, and so Andy started to plan a day as a kind of pub crawl, exploiting the proximity of the ground to both pubs and the train station. But then, like an annoying echo of our first league match of the year (which was moved from Parker's Piece to Elmsworth), Andy got a text informing us that we'd be playing at the far less convenient Stapleford ground.
We were at least able to field a full eleven, although only with the inclusion of Andy, who had decided that his knee was at least up to standing at first slip. Which, maddeningly, is where all the early action was. Both Daniel Mortlock (5 overs, 3 maidens, 0/6 from his first spell) and Stephan van Eeden (0/36) bowled superbly with the new ball, in particular inducing several "bloody outside edges" from both the Great Shelford openers. But while we got hands/gloves to most of them none were held, and said openers then played themselves in to make it to drinks at 87/0.
We were pretty frustrated, but upped our game after drinks as Ferdi Rex (3/26) and Saurav Dutta (1/40) dismissed both openers in quick succession. The new batsmen looked all at sea, particularly against Saurav, and it was no surprise when the younger of them, yet to score, played a desperate swipe and spooned the simplest of catches to Arnie Garside at point. Given that Great Shelford didn't have much batting to come we were right on top of the game . . .
. . . or would have been, were it not for the fact that cricket can be maddening in ways that no other sports can even dream of. For Arnie was fielding in the cricketing equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle, mere feet from where Faruk inexplicably failed to catch a comparably easy chance three years ago. Arnie did the same today, although magnified, as a sequence of juggles meant there were in fact three separate drops in one. And, cruelly, it is on such moments that events turn and the future is written. In this case the reprieved batsmen, suddenly sprung to life and smashed 8 sixes (including the bizarre sequence 6 . . 6 . . 6 6 . . . . 6 . . 6) on his way to 63 from just 47 balls, in the process wrecking the bowling figures of Daniel (an eventual 0/28), Amrit Biswal (0/25 on Romsey debut), Faruk Kara (0/26) and Dave Clark (0/13). Dave had also distinguished himself by having a go at Arnie for "dopping a sitter" and, when reprimanded for this, made the further claim that he'd "never drop a catch like that" and so of course did just that a few overs later.
We did finally take a couple of catches, and it's perhap no surprise that they were courtesy of our two most reliable fielders: Andy, who'd now decided it was easier for him to keep wicket; and Richard Rex, who took a superb running catch having run twenty metres in what was now quite heavy rain. Indeed, it was so heavy that we came off with 3 overs still remaining in Great Shelford's innings and eventually decided to have an early tea. As a result not much time was lost - but the pitch went from being somewhat tricky to being absolutely horrid to bat on. This affected Great Shelford a little, and they could only score 13 runs off their last 18 balls . . .
. . . but was a rather bigger deal for us, the surface evolving from puddingy to spiteful as it dried out over the course of our innings. After 11 overs we were just 12/2, with both Dave Clark (3 off 23 balls) and Olly Rex (3 off 4 very eventful balls) both missing straight ones and Richard Rex (2* off 21 balls at this stage) grimly holding on. Any chance of a rousing end-of-season victory seemed gone - but then Ferdi joined his father to put together a half-century partnership at about a run-a-ball. That Ferdi (38 off 28 balls) scored freely was just a continuation of his stellar season (264 off about as many balls at an average of 132.00), but even more important was that Richard had broken the shackles with a couple of nice boundaries. Sadly, the fun ended as quickly as it had started when Richard got a shooter so shocking that, rather than passing him at chest-height as the length suggested, it yorked him on the second bounce before clunking into the base of middle stump. Richard (15 off 53 balls) was understandably frustrated, a state that was only amplified when one of the opposition players later suggested that they'd had it just as bad in their innings.
What there was no debate about was the rest of our innings, which was a pretty turgid combination of dots and wickets - - at one stage a 7-over sequence yielded just 8 runs and 3 wickets - that was broken only by some uninhibited drives by Stephan van Eeden (25 off 18 balls). His dismissal ended the Romsey season, although it was somehow poetic that the not out batsman was Andy (0* off 5 balls), symbolically undefeated even as his team went down by 74 runs.
About half of us headed into the Three Horseshoes in Stapleford for a season-ending drink, although we seemed to spend more time driving up and the main street squeezing past a crazily high number of police vehicles than actually sitting in the pub. Kind of summed up the day, really.