Report by Daniel Mortlock:
Romsey Town CC assembled today for the first time in eight months, something that was significant in itself after the Brexit-level shitshow that was our 2018 season. Indeed, Andy broke with the habit of a lifetime and gave a pre-match speech, the basic message of which was to have fun. That might sound almost vacuous in the context of village cricket - what's the point of even being there if not to enjoy oneself? - but in fact it's not, as several teams we encountered last year had clearly been seduced by the obvious falsehold that winning a CCA Junior League match (or title) is a genuinely significant achievement. Happily, Romsey has never really bought into this nonsense (which is not to say that we haven't gotten overly-competitive from time to time), but there are other challenges to enjoying a cricket match, and today there was a different sort of cloud looming on the horizon, in the form of . . . er, an actual cloud on the horizon. Absurdly, it was hailing at the nominal start time, and while there were patches of sun, it was bitterly cold and windy for most of the afternoon.
When we did get out onto the field we managed to put Andy's words into practice. Despite the fact that most of us hadn't so much as touched a cricket ball since last summer, our first hour in the field was arguably as good as Romsey has ever produced. The clear star was Stephan van Eeden (2/10), who led off with three maidens, and at one stage had figures of 2/0, along with a superbly-held outfield catch in what was now a gale-force wind. Stephan's wickets were also down to catches, as Andy Owen made one of his trademark goalie-style saves and Cam Petrie completed a diving catch off a confusing full toss (that we double-checked with the square-leg umpire was not over waist height). The fact that the batsmen were pressured into playing risky lofted shots was largely down to some superbly tight fielding, especially from Jon Hill (once again on loan from Ely) and Huw Davies. And when Daniel Mortlock (0/24) began the 9th over by holding onto a simple return catch off surviving opener Chris Cundell, Comberton were on the ropes at 14/3 . . .
. . . or would have been, but the batsman stood his ground saying he'd been distracted by our mid-on fielder "waving his arms about". Said fielder, Karan Gupta, had indeed been warming up in preparation to bowl the next over, but had stopped before Daniel had started his admittedly minimal run-up. The batsman clearly should have indicated his distraction by pulling out of his shot; and, given that he didn't, we would have been within our rights to have claimed the wicket. But to neither did we want to take a wicket by distracting the batsman, however inadvertently. After a minute's impasse we eventually decided to take Cundell at his word: if he'd genuinely been distracted by one of our fielders then he shouldn't be out; and the only alternative was that it was an absurd fabrication that would have gone beyond even last year's pathetic competitiveness. Talking to various opposition players later in the day they seemed to be split on the matter - several said they wouldn't have withdrawn the appeal if they'd been bowling - and amongst our players we were only unified in our expectation that "no good deed goes unpunished" and that Cundell would go on make much more than his current total of 5.
Sure enough, he led something of a charmed life, edging between 'keeper and slip, padding up to a ball that probably would have hit the top of middle stump, and then not being given out when he failed to ground his bat while going for a quick single. This was so obviously out that he just continued on his way to the changing room, but by this stage he'd completed a determined half-century and given his team a total to defend. But once we finally made that breakthrough the floodgates opened as Adi Vaidynathan (2/17) and Andy Owen (3/27) scythed through Comberton's middle order, which crumbled from 125/3 to an eventual total of 138/8. This was probably under par, albeit not by much given that there'd been variable bounce - but it was also surely a much larger target than we'd have been faced with had we taken the hard-nosed option early on.
Any sense that we might have calmly knocked off the target had evaporated by the end of the first over, when non-striker Kshitij Sabnis (5 off 20 balls) called Cam Petrie through for what should have been a sharp but comfortable bye: Kshitij made his ground before the 'keeper's throw narrowly missed the stumps; the problem was that Cam had stayed where he was. Fortunately, none of the Comberton fielders had backed up the throw, so Cam was eventually able to complete his part of the run comfortably, but not before giving us all a big scare.
What we got for the next couple of hours was exactly what you'd expect from junior league cricket: batsmen missing straight balls with alarming regularity - seven of our players were bowled and one LBW, and our biggest partnership was 37 - but also plenty of loose bowling, as evidenced by the final count of 11 wides and 4 no balls. The wides were pretty uncontroversial, but the various different types of no balls revealed that nobody on either team was completely sure about all the new rules. So, by way of a public service announcement (and with the benefit of internet access), the relevant laws are:
We gradually got the upper hand, thanks primarily to Cam (34 off 52 balls), who hit 2 3 4 3 2 . . 4 4 before getting over-excited and playing all around a straight one (that possibly should been called as another double-bounce no ball). Then Adi Vaidynathan (15 off 46 balls) and Daniel Mortlock kept the score ticking over, albeit by the less spectacular method of nicking lots of quick singles and leg byes. We finished the 32nd over on 121/6, just 18 from victory and with Daniel looking comfortable on 29* (off 44 balls). During the change of ends Daniel headed towards the pavilion, but rather than requesting fresh gloves or a second jumper, he instead headed into the changing rooms and then rode off in his whites - he had to catch the 19:24 train to London. That meant we had just 3 wickets left and two new batsmen at the crease, an altogether less satisfactory situation . . .
Report by Cam Petrie:
With the plaintive cries for Daniel to "stay for five more minutes" still echoing, there was the perhaps inevitable speculation around the scoring table that there might be a Romsey Collapse (TM) on the cards. In contrast, Comberton, who had previously been on the ropes, clearly also now thought that they were in for a chance.
It was up to Stephan van Eeden (6 off 11 balls) and Karan Gupta (11* off 22 balls) to use the remaining 8 overs see us through. Things started well with 5 runs off the 33rd over, but Stephan became our seventh victim to a straight one, and next over John Hill got in a big stride, but was given LBW, so we were all of a sudden nine down with 9 runs still needed.
Andy made his way to the middle, where tensions were high; and tight bowling soon saw huge appeals for a stumping and an LBW, but both were adjudged not out. Things really could have gone either way, but in the rush to get the last wicket Comberton made the potentially fatal mistake of bowling out their four most economical bowlers with 3 overs to go. They inevitably needed at least one more over from the relatively expensive fifth Comberton bowler (Chris Cundell, of above non-dismiaal fame, for those who want to know), and thankfully Karan hit a two and then a four to bring the scores level.
The relief in the pavilion was palpable, knowing that at least we couldn't lose from here - but could we win? Although we had 12 balls to get there, Karan went for one more swipe off Cundell's final ball . . . and didn't properly connect . . . and the ball popped to mid-on at a catchable height and speed. Everyone at Old Field watched the ball arc to the seemingly safe fielder who got himself set . . . but then managed to grass the chance, and simultaneous waves of relief from the pavilion and despair from the field rippled around the ground.
Comberton now had to turn to their sixth and otherwise untried bowler to try and hold on, and although he started with a dot ball Andy managed (in his words) "the best shot I have hit in ages", spanking a boundary through the off side, and bringing us to a heart-stopping victory. We seem to like odd years, as we have managed to win the first league match of the season in 2015, 2017 and now 2019; but prior to that we hadn't done it since 2003, where we won the first match by forfeit! Let us see if this all bodes well for our season to come . . .