Another season in Junior 3 South B, another relegation battle, and another tense winter wondering whether it'll be Junior 4 for us next year. It all sounds rather familiar, suggesting Romsey's 2018 season was just like any other - but nothing could be further from the truth. While we ended up second last in our division with 158 league points, Thriplow were just 5 ahead of us on 163, and NCI were mid-table (5th of 9) with 180 points, just one more win and a few wickets from our tally. "So what?" would be an understandable reaction to these facts, but here's what:
Correct all those injustices and we'd have been on about 190 points, and comfortably 5th rather than uncomfortably 8th. Even changing a single ball - most obviously if the umpire had heard the nick in the Thriplow game, but Rickling accepting the no ball call would also have worked - might have given us the 6 points we needed to avoid the relegation zone.
Anyway, that's enough about what went wrong this year; much more interesting - or at least more fun - is what went right. The two individual stars were Stephan van Eeden (172 runs at 19.11; 19 wickets at 17.47; 4 catches) and Ferdi Rex (205 runs at 68.33; 8 wickets at 12.88; 1 catch), whose superb all-round contributions were marred only slightly by the fact that neither got an award. That the batting award went to Daniel Mortlock sums up our season's woes, not because he's necessarily undeserving as a batsman, but because it was on the basis of scoring just 98 runs at the unremarkable average of 23.25. He hence just pipped middle-order destroyer Jeff Beaumont (103 runs at 20.60) and our opening pair of Richard Rex (181 runs at 20.11) and Cam Petrie (200 runs at 18.18); Ferdi was ineligible having only had 4 innings. The bowling award went, yet again, to Andy Owen, who denied knee surgery and a broken collarbone to take 15 wickets at 8.60, miles ahead of Stephan (see above) and Daniel (11 wickets at 20.73); but spare a thought for Adi Vaidyanathan, who took 10 wickets at 7.80 but was 51 balls short of eligibility. Andy also starred in the field, taking 6 catches, a figure matched by Ev Fox in his 3 games back from Doha.
Sadly, that last little point sums up our problems as much as anything. Our first eleven is strong enough to push for promotion - our record against the top two teams was 1 win, 1 loss, 1 forfeit and 1 scandal - but, due to our players having all sorts of other commitments, we were only able to field a really strong side in a handful of games. And most of the time we couldn't get an eleven at all, having to scour the CCA's Additional Players list in 12 of our 15 league matches that went ahead. It was great to meet people from different clubs, and especially gratifying that so many said they wanted to play for us because they'd heard about our approach to the game; but it's still not the same as fielding a regular team. Of the 42(!) different players who turned out for us during the seaon, only 10 played at least 6 times, and only half of those made it into double figures.
Plenty to ponder, which we did at the pub after our final league game, and will no doubt continue to do over the winter . . .