Romsey Town vs. Great Shelford II

13:30, Saturday, May 20, 2017
Trinity College (Old Field)

Great Shelford II (80 all out in 29.3 6-ball overs)
lost to
Romsey Town (83/3 in 27.5 6-ball overs)
by 7 wickets.

Report by Daniel Mortlock:

Bloody outside edges. There must have been about thirty over the course of the day, and that despite the fact that a total of just 57.2 overs were bowled. For once, though, it was our opposition who clearly had most to gripe about: their bowlers made a fantastic effort defend a seemingly hopeless total, and if just a few of the many edges they induced had gone finer or wider - or higher - then the result might well have been different. And while our bowlers also induced a number of edges that didn't result in wickets, this was more because we couldn't quite hold on to them, the ball repeatedly going into hand (or glove), only to pop out again.

Still, the fact that we generated so many edges says plenty: we bowled really well to what looked like an excellent top order today, Daniel Mortlock (2/15) and Deaglan Bartlett (2/12) allowing just 15 runs off the first 9 overs. And even when that turned into a slightly healthier 33/2 after 13 overs (largely due to an anomalous three-ball sequence of mega-wides from Deaglan without which his figures would have been 8 overs, 3 maidens, 2/5), we were still very much in the ascendancy . . .

. . . if also very much back in the changing room: the predicted rain had come. Such is the nature of the internet age that a cavalcade of laptops and mobile phones came out, with the screens a collection of weather forecasts that had most of us convinced that the rain was here to stay and the game was over.

But, 20 minutes later, we were all back on the field, and we immediately took another wicket, which was enough to convince us to . . .

. . . leave the field after just 7 more balls, with Great Shelford in even more trouble on 35/3 (after 14.1 overs). This time the rain really did settle in, sufficient to induce an early tea, prepared by Faruk. He was particularly keen to report on his canny sourcing techniques (i.e., Aldi) that included spotting some ultra-value high-quality offcuts of ham that were sufficiently tasty that he was going to head back there this evening to get more "before it sells out". The ham was indeed good - flavourful, and with real fibre unlike the fully processed stuff - although it was hard not to feel Faruk was over-egging things a little . . . until, completely unprompted, one of the opposition players generously said "Thanks for the tea, and particularly the ham - where'd you get it?"

Post-tea the conditions were glorious - with the sun beating down it was hard to believe there was wind, rain and black cloud just half an hour earlier - and so we resumed the match suddenly optimistic about playing it to completion. Certainly we were keen, as first change bowlers Karan Gupta (2/27) and Khuzaimah Saeed (4/20) started taking wickets for fun. Given that there were still a dozen overs left, and that there was always the possibility of more rain, we'd expected the Great Shelford batsmen to knuckle down and bat out their overs, even if it just meant nicking the occasional single. But instead the middle and lower order just started swinging. In the case of one S. Matthews this worked pretty well: he hit 15 off 13 balls, easily the fastest innings of the day; and, with 2 fours and a six, he hit 60% of his team's boundaries. It couldn't last, though, and he was caught behind by Andy (the only edge that was taken all day, but also one of the few balls where he was standing back a bit), and soon after we were heading off the ground, having bowled out Great Shelford for 80. (We were obviously pretty happy with this result, but spare a thought for Rog Shelley, playing his first game since June 2015 and with 223 league wickets to his name, and Faruk Kara, who's taken 17 wickets in his last 5 league spells: neither got a bowl.)

Our chase, which started without a break, began pretty well as Cam Petrie and Richard Rex took us to 27/0 (i.e., more than a third of the way to victory with all our wickets still in hand). But then Cam got through his shot early to ball that "stopped", to be out for 19 (off 30 balls), after which the scoring dried up while wickets kept falling: we scored just 5/2 off 8 overs at one stage (during which Olly Rex, in scoring 6 off 9 balls, almost lapped Richard, who'd nurdled his way to 7 off 38 balls before missing an in-ducker and being adjudged LBW).

It was at about this stage that Great Shelford's first change bowlers came on and the aforementioned edge-fest really began in earnest: Tim Cannings and Daniel Mortlock found themselves getting no pace and no bounce (except when the occasional delivery leapt off a length) while dealing with tight in-swing from one end and tight out-swing from the other. Daniel cashed in two decades of unrewarded edges as a bowler to score almost exclusively in the arc between the wicket-keeper and gully, while Tim perfectly exploited the fact that Junior 3 bowlers seldom go an over without one bad ball, repeatedly subjecting the opposition to the maddening ". . . . . 4" sequence. We were both literally and metaphorically edging our way towards the target, and it gradually became clear that even if we did lose a few wickets we weren't going to be bowled out for a sub-80 total . . .

. . . but that's not the same as saying we were guaranteed to win: the sky now looked apocalyptic - one of the opposition players started talking about Independence Day (presumably alluding to the appearance of the giant alien spaceships behind banks of dense clouds, and not Brexit) - and when the wind started to build up it was pretty clear that the rain would reach the ground soon. With the tension building we take up the action with one ball remaining in the 27th over:

Great Shelford would be happy continue with the Inglestant and Ellum combination - at the current rate it'd take Romsey another 7 overs to get the 13 runs they need, and by that time the rain would surely have arrived. Unfortunately for Great Shelford, Ellum's bowled out his 8 overs (taking 2/15, with 4 maidens) and they now have a decision to make. It seems they're going to go back to their opening bowler, Johnson, who took 1/10 from his initial 5-over spell. He might be fast enough to cause trouble in this light, but it's a risky call as the pace on the ball will surely yield runs if the batsmen can hit it.

There was no "perhaps" about it: by the time we'd got the covers back on it was a full-on downpour. So while on paper it looks like a comfortable chase, it was in fact a last-ball victory. Great Shelford probably could have escaped with a draw if they'd persisted with the "slow and tight" approach, rather than going for pace in that final over; but, then again, we don't know what other bowling resources they had. They could also have gotten a draw if they'd dawdled and opted for time-wasting tactics of the sort that are seen so often towards the end of tight Test matches - but in fact they consistently did the opposite, trying to get through their overs quickly to maximize the chance of playing out the game. Aside from this being the perhaps natural result of them seeming like a very sporting bunch, they presumably also felt they were a real chance to mount a miracle defense - which they might well have managed if they'd been a bit luckier with those bloody outside edges.