Report by Daniel Mortlock:
Romsey Town CC today achieved something it hadn't previously managed all season: we fielded an eleven made up entirely of Romsey Town CC players. In all our previous matches we'd had to draw on CCA's additional players' list, but today we were sailing under our own steam. That metahpor is, sadly, appropriate, as our team had a slightly "steam-powered" feel to it, with a reasonable number of what Andy classified as "runners" (i.e., players who could reasonably be ordered to make long chases around the boundary) but plenty of, er, . . . well, the other group was never given a name, but it was implicit that their contribution was expected to be more of an in situ nature.
Having won the toss and elected to field, we immediately got to see this two-tier system in action, with the "runners" spending most of the innings in the deep while the others were in catching positions. (The only real ambiguity here was how to classify Cam: in terms of intrinsic capabilities he was surely a "runner"; but as wicket-keeper he was effectively relegated - er, sorry, that suggests a value judgement - he was effectively re-classified, meaning the "runners" were out-numbered five to six.) Not that any of this mattered too much initially as Stephan van Eeden (2/20) continued his superb season by bowling another nearly unplayable spell that finally got its just reward when Daniel Mortlock held onto a devilish high spiralling outside edge. At the other end Deaglan Bartlett (1/31) was simply too quick for the Cam Kerala batsmen, and he would surely have gotten more than the one wicket if he'd attacked the stumps more often.
After further breakthroughs by Daniel (1/32), Faruk Kara (1/39), Andy Owen (2/29) and Huw Davies (1/7) it seemed we'd broken the back of the Cam Kerala batting line-up, having reduced them to 120/7 in the 31st over. The problem was that they didn't really have a batting line-up in the traditional sense; it was more that they had eleven decent club-level batsmen who could reasonably have come in any order. It was the cricketing equivalent of the Netherlands' "total football" of the 1970s, albeit at a less-exhalted level. And thus our two-tier fielding arrangements were finally found out as their eighth-wicket pair put on 44 runs at just under a run a ball. That said, our two star fielders had one member in each category: Catherine Owen did superb work on the leg-side boundary, her impressive ground speed and powerful arm repeatedly preventing second runs; and Arnie Garside was superb closer in at mid-wicket, repeatedly preventing first runs. We did get one last wicket in the final over, when probably the best of the Cam Kerala batsmen got stumped by Cam (not Kerala, unless he's changed his surname), but this couldn't distract from the fact that we'd let them off the hook (or, perhaps, that they'd removed themselves from said hook), and it was hard not to feel that their total of 170 would be out of our reach.
What was not out of our reach, however, was Catherine's superb tea, which included our first ever platter of freshly-made bruschetta, to say nothing of the delicious chorizo wraps. Given that we weren't about to go out and field we could indulge fully, while simultaneously hoping that the opposition succumbed to temptation and weighted themslves down.
Sadly, their fielding was uniformly energetic, and while their field placings were typically too deep - there were lots of easy singles on offer - they were able to cover the boundaries pretty effectively. Add in almost uniformly tight bowling - other than one bowler who sent down a dismal over of no balls that leaked 16 runs, the rest offered up virtually no "four balls" - and we had our work cut out for us. Cam Petrie started brightly with some nice late-cuts but then got a leading edge to secure the "most frustrated player of the day" award as his 5 off 8 balls was destined to remain eternally unfulfilled. That left Deaglan Bartlett (17 off 37 balls) and Arnie Garside (13 off 57 balls) to try and bed in, which their total balls faced (94) indicates they did well . . . although their total runs (30) correctly implies that they were never able to free themselves.
By the time our third wicket fell, with the score on 66 in the 23rd over, it was very much time to "piss or get off the pot". Given that new batter Catherine Owen was playing her first league innings of the year and had yet to face a ball, while Daniel Mortlock was well set, it was it quite clear who was going to have to take up the challenge. Sure enough, Catherine smashed 14 off her first 9 balls, which was even more impressive than it reads as two of these deliveries were chest-high no balls that she had to fend off.
(Two of the Cam Kerala bowlers had vertical hold problems, and one had to be taken off mid-over after his third beamer. The only sour note of an otherwise an enjoyably convivial encounter was when some of the fielders complained about this, in particular invoking the fact that it was "friendly cricket". But once a hard leather sphere is flying towards one's head at 60 mph, the nominally friendly intent of the bowler has become an irrelevance, as physics has taken over. That's why someone who can't - or won't - stop sending down such deliveries has to be taken off in any form of hard-ball cricket.)
Even though the asking rate was now more than a run a ball, Daniel and Catherine at least kept us in touch, although in the end the scoreboard pressure was too great and both were bowled going for big shots of straight balls, Catherine for 27 (off 35 balls, including 4 dismissive boundaries, equal highest for the day) and Daniel for 47 (off 81 balls). Stephan van Eeden (7* off 5 balls) and Huw Davies (1* off 3 balls) made a valiant attempt to craft a miracle win, but there was simply too much for them to do.
Still, there was no shame in losing: Cam Kerala had defended their moderate total very well. And the general verdict seems to have been that we'd been far more competitive today than in previous weeks. Certainly a final total of 154/6 reads much better than all-out scores of 120, 107 and 59. But it is still the batting that is the main concern: the dismal statistic of the day is that Daniel, playing his first match of the year, was briefly the top run scorer for the season (until Stephan's hitting took him past Daniel's total of 47 runs to the grand total of 49 in 5 matches). So while some more "runners" might be nice, what we really need is just plain old-fashioned runs.