Report by Daniel Mortlock:
After the best part of two months failing to win in the cozy confines of our home ground at Trinity, we had a chance to fail to win at the intriguing-sounding Rickling Green in exotic Essex. It was a picturesque if, at least today, a mis-named setting: after a month without rain the outfield was burnt dry and really should have been called Rickling Yellow or Rickling Brown. The prospect of a long hot day in the field was at least offset by the promise of a beer or two in the lovely-looking Cricketers Arms (not the pub of the same name run by Jamie Oliver's parents a few towns away), but that was 150 metres and six hours away. In the interim, it was clear that the batsmen would be getting full value for their shots and so the toss would be a battle to see who'd bat first . . . and so the opposition players were predictably astounded when, having called correctly, we elected to field. Our players weren't particularly pleased with this turn of events either, but nobody could argue with the reasoning, which was that our wicket-keeper had to leave at 5pm: it was better to field with a full eleven for the hotter part of the day than with ten later on.
We got off to a cracking start when Stephan van Eeden (2/42) induced an edge that seemed likely to fly to the boundary until Ferdi Rex, at first slip, intercepted the ball one-handed to take a superb catch. He almost repeated the trick next over off Daniel Mortlock (1/39), but couldn't quite hold on. After this, the batsmen asserted the sort of ascendancy that we'd all feared, with one particularly dismissive six going over not only the longest boundary, but also the roof of a nearby row of houses. After a protracted search involving numerous players from both sides we agreed to continue with an old ball, only for play to be delayed further when one pub-goer's dog decided that mid-wicket was the ideal spot to start rolling around scratching its back on the dry grass. After all this faffing around we'd managed about four overs in half an hour and it felt like we'd be lucky to get one innings in before dark, let alone two.
Fortunately things normalised after that, and we did pretty well to largely keep the run rate under control - at no stage did it go above 6 an over - while, inevitably, having to spend a fair bit of time retrieving the ball from the far side of the road that ringed most of the ground. A few stars emerged for us in this period: Ferdi Rex took 3/20 from 8 overs of immaculate off-spin; Will Saunders, on Romsey debut, saved huge numbers of runs zooming around the long boundary and firing in fast throws (as well as conceding just 10 runs from 3 economical overs); Arnie Garside saved almost as many runs with a series of diving/falling stops at mid-wicket; and Nathan Wright, having announced that his running technique now focussed more on horizontal motion than vertical motion, made plenty of good stops at long-on and third-man. Indeed, we were arguably on top of the game during the period that Rog Shelley was bowling in tandem with Ferdi. Indeed, Rog immediately got into a great rhythm and would have conceded just 12 runs from his first 4 overs but for one loose ball which received the maximum punishment . . . but then, after Daniel decided to interject himself for an over, found the spell was broken to the degree that 27 came from Rog's next over.
Still, we kept fighting, getting a few late wickets thanks to Jon Hill, who took 1/21 in his second and final match for us as a CCA Additional Player, and a run out when Rickling Ramblers' top scorer sacrificed himself for the team on the final delivery of the innings. Their total of 218/8 was certainly decent; but, given the conditions, it was eminently chaseable, particularly if the bowling was loose at all.
We certainly scored fast enough from the outset, with the run rate hovering at around a run a ball, thanks in part to some of the hoped-for loose deliveries, but mainly because our top order really went for their shots. Cam Petrie (13 off 19 balls) was first to get going before being beaten by an away-drifter; fellow opener Kshitij Sabnis then took up where he left off, racing to 24 off 21 balls before he got the "5pm, time to go" signal from the pavilion and hence sacrificed his wicket with a wild swipe. (The bowler was oblivious to the off-field situation and thought he'd defeated Kshitij with his wide half-tracker, the result of which was an elaborate celebration/send-off that was rendered even more comic than it would otherwise have been due to the fact that it was based on a misconception.) Will Saunders (12 off 7 balls) then stepped us up a gear by opening his Romsey account with sixes as his first two scoring shots, before he got distracted by the fact that Kshitij had somehow got his car stuck on the grass verge (see below), and he was caught next ball trying to hit his third six. You'd have thought things would have calmed down after that, but then Jeff Beaumont (33 off 28 balls) went one better by hitting sixes off his first two balls before settling for some more measured destruction.
At the half-way point we were 115/4, and with Stephan van Eeden and Ferdi Rex both scoring freely we were probably favourites, not least because Rickling were looking a bit ragged, with increasingly frequent loose balls and lots of internal squabbling - it's generally a sign that not everything is going to plan when the bowler's response to the captain's request that he sort out his lines is "Fuck off!" It seemed we were going to benefit from another wild delivery next over when Ferdi (on 29* off 39 balls) got a chest-high high full toss, which he managed to pull awkwardly to leg. Even though the ball flew to the boundary fielder, who took a simple "catch", the umpire had has hand outstretched to indicate that it was a no ball . . . although, in the absence of an audible call, Ferdi had started to walk off before he realised, and found himself scampering to the non-striker's end as the fielder, now also alerted to the umpire's decision, took a ping at the stumps. The throw missed, Ferdi made his ground, and that should have been that . . .
. . . but then the fielders started to complain that the umpire had only raised his hand in response to the catch being taken and soon both the umpire and Ferdi were surrounded by mobs of angry Rickling players. We ended up with both captains on the field and a general sense of mayhem. Attempts to convince the Rickling captain that his team were obliged to accept the umpire's decision and that it was his responsibility to ensure this were ignored, with the repeated mantra being that the standing umpire shouldn't make such calls (wrong) and that he'd put up his hand only after the catch was taken (incorrect, although presumably most of the fielders didn't notice he had his hand up initially). In the end Ferdi defused the situation by walking off the field, although he explicitly said it was because of the intimidating and aggressive behaviour of the opposition players, not because he believed he was out. But while that resolved the immediate conflict, it didn't change the fundamental problem, which was that the Rickling players refused to accept the umpire's decision.
At this point we should have called a halt to the fixture and informed the opposition that we'd leave it to the CCA to adjudicate the matter; but in the moment our own instinct to get on with the game was too strong, and so we did just that. (In essence we were collectively in shock - it was like the moment half-way through From Dusk 'Til Dawn when what had seemed to be a road movie becomes a vampire flick - by the time everyone started sharpening their stakes it was too late.) Needless to say, the rest of our chase was rather, er, unenthusiastic, and only Stephan (24 off 23 balls) got into double figures. After 30 overs we were still up with the required run rate on 161/8; but a wicket next ball ended the match - our number eleven Rog Shelley had, quite reasonably, decided that he wasn't interested in batting given the way the fielding side had behaved earlier. So Rickling Ramblers completed an apparently comfortable 57-run win - "job done" as they said on their Twitter feed - when in fact we were ahead at the moment that the sporting contest ceased to be one.
Needless to say we did not go to the Cricketers Arms, instead ending up at the far less appealing Coach And Horses in Newport. While this was nominally for post-match drinks, it was in fact an impromptu team meeting where we quickly arrived at the unanimous decision that none of us were prepared to spend six hours sharing a cricket pitch with the Rickling Ramblers in two weeks' time, and that maybe the CCA should be informed about why . . .