Romsey Town vs. Bassingbourn

13:30, Saturday, August 19, 2017

Bassingbourn (254/4 in 40 6-ball overs)
lost to
Romsey Town (255/3 in 37.1 6-ball overs)
by 7 wickets.

Report by Cam Petrie:

Email exchange from Thursday morning:

Hi Cam,
Can you captain Sat? I have done my knee and am on crutches

Hi Andy,
Crap! More than happy to captain for you/us.
Are you going to come out to watch? How many to we have? 

We have nine - Rog has chest infection so not sure

And then a text message from Friday afternoon:

We have ten John Moore playing will check on Rog later cheers Andy

None of this bode well.

According to club records, this would be just the eighth Romsey league match Andy's missed since the mid-1980s:

dateoppositionvenuereason for not playing
Saturday, July 11, 1987Abington IITrumpingtonunknown
Saturday, July 24, 1993Horseheath IIHorseheathMichael being born
Saturday, July 25, 1998Newton IIThe Leys SchoolMichael's 5th birthday
Saturday, June 17, 2006Camden IIRoystonhit in the face (by the ball, not the opposition captain)
Saturday, May 28, 2011FenstantonTrinity Collegeback spasms
Saturday, August 18, 2012Cherry Hinton IIQuytorn hamstring
Saturday, August 29, 2015NCI IIIParker's Piecedid not want to play (!?)
Saturday, August 19, 2017BassingbournBassingbournknee injury

Andy could never be accused of a lack of commitment - note the run of almost 8 seasons from 1998 to 2006 - and, aside from the anomalous decision not to play in the end-of-season game against NCI in 2015, his most recent absences have all been forced by injury. On each occasion that Andy hasn't played from 2006 onwards, Daniel has captained in Andy's absence; so Andy's mid-week injury and texted request meant that I have the honour of being only the third person to captain Romsey Town this century!

What all of this means, however, is that at 1.30pm on Saturday, Romsey Town would take the field with ten players, and the captain, savant, mascot and all round heart and soul of the team Andy Owen would be watching from the side lines like an anxious parent (I am sure you can picture it!!).

Beyond discussions of personnel, this match needs a bit of atmosphere and context. In keeping with the "unpredictable" summer that we have been having, East Anglia had been well watered over the last few days, and on arrival at Bassingbourn we were told that the groundsman i) hadn't mowed the pitch in a week, and ii) hadn't managed to get the covers on in time to avoid yesterday's downpour. Impressions weren't helped by the fact that the adjacent astroturf pitch was still surrounded by the practice nets and Bassingbourn FC had left up the soccer goals within 15 m of the stumps. On close inspection it was also clear that the pitch had standing grass, was wet to the touch, and even had an abundance of small mounds of dirt pushed up by enterprising worms. Having spent the entire car journey trying to convince captain Cam to bat first, Ferdi Rex quickly changed his mind to agree with everyone else as we could all see the signs of what was likely to be a "sticky nightmare" for those batting first.

It's often said that fielding at gully is a bit like being a football goalkeeper . . . but this is taking the parallels a bit far.

It is perhaps no surprise that on winning the toss, Cam took a microsecond to blurt out "we'll bowl", feeling sure that we were in for some fun, but as happened a lot today, things didn't entirely go to plan. The first few overs from Stefan van Eeden (8 overs, 2/29) and Jeff Beaumont (8 overs, 0/65) gave us a window into much of what was to follow, with each starting with a wide, then bowling clusters of great balls interspersed with either more wides or a "hit me" ball that the Bassingbourn bats pounced on. Things weren't helped when we did draw the batsmen to play lofted shots, as we either dropped the catches on offer, or didn't quite get to them. First change bowlers Saurav Dutta (8 overs, 0/39) and Ferdi Rex (8 overs, 1/35) continued the trend as Bassingbourn zoomed to 92/0 in the 19th over before Ferdi drew an edge that 'keeper Kshitij Sabnis (just) held onto. Cam declined the kind offer to take drinks at this point, and brought John Moore (2 overs, 1/25) on for a surprise change, which worked brilliantly, as he drew the other opener into a lofted shot to Stefan, who also held the catch. At least we could all reset at 20 overs . . .

However, the two new bats set about a different style of attack, as the talkative number three attempted to run his larger and less talkative partner to death, while said large lad attempted to bash balls into the stratosphere. John was the first to feel the pain, and was quickly followed by Catherine Owen (3 overs, 0/26) and Dave Clark (at that stage 2 overs, 0/17), as Bassingbourn put the foot down and tried to keep it there. By the 30th over, they were charging at 179/2, and Saurav and Stefan were brought on in an attempt to stem the flow. Bassingbourn's chatty number three continued his run charge with a sequence of dotless balls that had his partner telling him to "Fuck off" when he called for yet one more quick two, but unfortunately the dropped catches continued, and ranged from relative sitters (by Cam for instance) to leaping saves to prevent sixes that were unfortunately dropped (by Ferdi). We were only given respite when Stefan managed to first frustrate the big hitting number four by denying him boundaries and then bowling him as he went for one more huge swish. Unfortunately this brought out their big hitting number five, but Stefan cleaned him up with an identikit first ball. This second pair of quick wickets had Bassingbourn sitting sweet at 208/4 off 35 overs, and our most economical bowler done. Jeff, Saurav and Dave Clark (now 3 overs, 0/25) had the tricky job of seeing us home, and all came in for punishment.

By the end, we had suffered from only having ten out on the park, and had dropped or not managed to take at least 10 catches. In amongst all of the carnage we had seen some great efforts as a tireless Kshitij seemed to be fielding at both 'keeper and third man for most of the innings, and Dave Clark enhanced his "wall"-like reputation with a total blinder of a stop at short cover to an otherwise certain four, while Arnie Garside was tireless at point. Bassingbourn nonetheless managed a towering 254/4 on what was ostensibly a "sticky nightmare"!

As usual, Bassingbourn didn't disappoint as hosts, as we nervously tucked into their fabulous spread, safe in the knowledge that we had an enormous task in front of us - in fact to win, we needed to pull off the second highest chase in Romsey history. To EVERYONE'S surprise, we spent the next three hours doing exactly that - hitting 255 for the loss of only three wickets (which was in many ways almost identical to our record chase of 262/3 against Ashdon in 2015).

The general view was that we were a little light on batting today, so we initially opted for a staggered top order that would allow us to intersperse our "hitters" (i.e., Cam, Ferdi, Saurav and Jeff) with some level heads (i.e. Kshitij and Arnie) who would be able to hold things together.

Saurav Dutta and Ferdi Rex explain to Stephan van Eeden where they're going to hit most of their boundaries.

Although the target was massive, it was "only" a little over 6 runs an over, and we were almost exactly on target after the first two overs, as Cam Petrie (6 off 7 balls) and Kshitij set about whacking the loose and defending otherwise. Unfortunately Cam played down the wrong line to an outswinger and was castled in the third over, but Ferdi and Kshitij then set about first playing themselves in and seeing off the openers (Ferdi hit 1 run off his first 12 balls, which Kshitij interspersed strings of dots with regular singles and twos). With that accomplished, they then set about messing with the Bassingbourn bowling plans by rotating the strike and punishing any lapses in line and length with clean hitting. Ferdi trundled along to his 50* off 45 balls (Kshitij was 28* at the same point!), before belting 18 off one over - including a truly massive six into the trees belonging to the large house on the square leg boundary - and then charging to our first century of the season off 74 balls. Just as we had been forced to do, Bassingbourn brought back their opening bowlers (in the 27th over) and managed to dismiss Ferdi (for 115 off 84 balls) with an unexpected, but certainly fantastic catch at mid-wicket to a shot that wasn't quite hit high enough. (With 13 overs to go, he was certainly within range of the Romsey top score of 133*, which is still held by Nick Clarke).

Nevertheless, there was still a match to win. Arnie had been padded up since ball one, but nobly stepped aside for Saurav (46* off 30 balls), who picked up where Ferdi had left off, such that by the end of the 30th over, we were 192/2, 13 runs ahead of Bassingbourn's "worm" at the same point. With one last throw of the dice, Bassingbourn bowled out their openers, and Saurav and Kshitij tucked in, getting to 217 in the 34th over before Kshitij was bowled for a fantastic 51 off 84 balls (though the initial end of game count up saw him trapped on 49 for the second time!). Arnie once again stepped aside as Jeff came out, had a few sighters before smearing a boundary, and attempted to outdo Ferdi by hitting a forehand/linedrive/cut shot straight into the side of the pavilion for six. Not to be outdone, Saurav then hit a big six through the trees and into someone's garage door for another (that only just missed the back of a shiny black 4WD), and added a pair of fours for good measure. All of a sudden, we were at the end of the 36th over, and only needed seven to win off 24 balls, which Jeff managed to seal with a boundary off the first ball of the 38th over.

Both captains agreed that the toss had made a difference, as batting second, we certainly had the best of the pitch; but, to be fair, there wasn't much in it. Both sides batted fantastically (Bassingbourn's 19 fours and 4 sixes vs. Romsey's 19 fours and 6 sixes), but our hitting was more effective and relentless. If our catching hadn't been so deplorable and unlucky, it could well have been a very different game, but such things are lessened by over analysis. The truth was we had pulled off an amazing heist with only ten players. As usual with our Bassingbourn fixture it was a game played with great spirit by both sides, which continued into the solid hour of post match analysis, drinking and food guzzling that we engaged in at The Hoops afterwards. Chip butty anyone?

Ferdi made the Cambridge Evening News.