Report by Daniel Mortlock:
After a bye and a wash-out (and sufficient rain to wreck most mid-week matches), most of us had gone three weeks without any cricket - or at least without playing any cricket. There has, of course, been the vicarious pleasure of daily World Cup matches to listen to, or to read about, or even, for those with Sky Sports subscriptions, to watch. All of that should have led to unbridled enthusiasm for today's game, but such feelings were moderated by the fact that our two matches with Cam Kerala last year were tarnished by what might charitably be called "differences of opinion" about the laws (sorry, Laws) of the game and the role of the umpires. These were annoying but ignorable in our first match, but completely wrecked the return fixture. Still, while this was the same club, it wasn't the same team: we were up against their seconds rather than their firsts - and a post-match comparison of the scoresheets reveals there were no players in common. So perhaps a sensible cricket match was on the cards . . .
. . . although the early signs weren't good, with the toss delayed by the fact that their captain arrived at Trinity only a few minutes before the 1:30pm start time. He at least did us the courtesy of calling incorrectly, meaning that we were able to bowl first, motivated both by our rather weak batting line-up and the reports from from mid-week that the track would be difficult to bat on.
The early play called the above pitch assessment into question, as the Cam Kerala openers rarely seemed to be in trouble, even if they clearly considered Stephan van Eeden (4 overs, 2 maidens, 0/4 in his first spell) too good to do anything more than block out. At the other end Daniel Mortlock (0/15 off his first 5-over spell) generated the only real chance, in the form of an edge to slip that went to ground, but we were otherwise fairly impotent. Change bowlers Saad Shoukat (0/32) and Nick Grogan (0/23), both playing their first games for Romsey, were similarly frustrated - and it was at about this point that our fielding started to show a few cracks, with feet being used instead of hands, some step-overs that would have done Ronaldo proud, and a general vibe of only 80% commitment (as opposed to the mythical "110%" that we know all sports teams regularly achieve). When we went to drinks Cam Kerala were on 80/0, and it wasn't so hard to imagine that turning into 200/0 given the way things had been going.
But any worries of fielding through a wicketless innings (something even Romsey has never endured) quickly evaporated as Faruk Kara (2/41) came on first over after drinks and got a wicket with his fourth ball, his lack of pace inducing a horrible cross-bat mow from the previously circumspect opener. This precipitated an 18-over period during which we played simultaneously better and worse than we had during the first half of the Cam Kerala innings. The "worse" was just the standard stuff of junior league cricket: erratic bowling, with most overs including a "gimme" four ball down leg; and a few more "gimme" fours as the fielders now added some new techniques such as running the wrong way or getting out of the way of the ball, to the more "vanilla" behaviour mentioned above. The "good" was, ironically, also primarily in terms of fielding efforts: Catherine Owen and Saad both chased tirelessly in the deep; Andrew Granville took a nice running catch off Stephan (2/32 in his second spell); Claude Warnick then took an even better version of the same when he held onto a huge top edge induced by Daniel (2/13 in his second spell); and Ev Fox made two lightning-fast stumpings of the sort that make robelinda2's YouTube videos of Ian Healy in his prime. The second of these stumpings finally saw the back of Cam Kerala's decidedly un-Keralan opener, Gavin, who'd held their innings together with his solid innings of 68 (and who had somehow found a shirt several sizes too big for his decidedly bulky frame). Once Gavin was gone the floodgates opened as we took the last 7 Cam Kerala wickets for 34 runs. The other successful bowler was, inevitably, Andy Owen, who took 2/26, including a nice return catch where he initially went with both hands before seemingly opting for the right to protect his shoulder. Andy also contributed with a direct hit run out off his own bowling, which was quickly followed by another run out when Stephan fired in a quick return to Ev, who whipped off the bails to end the innings with 8 balls still to be bowled. But our late-innings successes shouldn't mask the fact that the solid batting by Cam Kerala openers, combined with our own lack of discipline, meant that we were facing an imposing total of 191 that it was hard not to feel would be enough today.
Probably our best hope would have been if Cam Petrie could have got himself in and stuck around, and three boundaries in his first 14 balls seemed promising . . . but sadly 10 dots followed this, after which he got a faint edge to the 'keeper, whence he walked for an unfulfilled 12 off 25 balls. Andrew Granville and Daniel Mortlock then set about trying to go slow and steady, which they managed - albeit with the emphasis very much on the former. After Andrew strained a muscle quick singles were off the menu; and Cam Kerala then opted for a unusual but successful policy of bowling shortish balls outside off that were pretty easy to cut, which would make no sense but for the fact they had their three best fielders at point, backward point and gully. Over the next hour twenty or thirty decent cuts must have been stopped by these three - which perhaps reveals that it was all actually the classic approach of bowling to one's field, and having the right fielders in the important spots.
But, perhaps worried by the possibility that their great fielding might go unnoticed, two of the three decided that they'd start having conversations while the bowler was running in, and despite the batsmen pulling away several times, it ended up requiring an explicit instruction to the Cam Kerala captain before they stopped. Unfortunately, this wasn't the only annoyance during this passage of play. First, while the inappropriately-timed chat had stopped, this was quickly replaced by the mid-off fielder's decision to do warm-up exercises, causing another pull-away - it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if the batsman had hit a return catch to the bowler and then claimed distraction (which some of you may remember from the first game of our season). Second, there was the absurdity of the Sightscreen Stand-Off: when Stephan had briefly gone around the wicket earlier in the day we'd asked their batsman if he wanted the screen moved, but he declined, a decision vindicated by the fact he smashed the next two balls for four; but when one of Cam Kerala's bowlers made the same change our batsman did want the screen moved, to which the first response was that Romsey players should do this, followed by repeated grumbling that this was a waste of time. (This was rather ironic, given that our 40-over innings lasted most of 3 hours, implying that Cam Kerala's over rate was slower than in international cricket.)
The full range (i.e., the good and the bad) of Cam Kerala's singular approach was nicely summed up in a single delivery, the 2nd of opening bowler Hari's 6th over. Before the bowler had even let go of the ball the umpire had started to raise his hand to call a back-foot no ball. The delivery itself was yet another shortish ball outside off, and Andrew duly played a nice late-cut that flew to the gully fielder, who effortlessly completed a sharp "catch". That should have been the end of it, and most of the fielders seemed to accept that it was a legitimate and timely call; but the gully fielder and a few others surrounded the umpire (or, more accurately, the spot on the return crease which the umpire was using to show the bowler where his back foot had landed), asserting with great certainty that "this is not a no ball." This reaction wasn't as extreme as their club mates' reaction to the same call last year, but it was still ridiculous: it's one thing not to know all the rules (sorry, Laws) of a game; but it's altogether another to berate an umpire on the basis of ignorance.
It was also a pointless argument to get into, not just because the umpire wasn't about to rescind his call - even if it had been wrong, it was early enough to have influenced the batsman - but also because Cam Kerala were controlling the game most effectively by entirely legitimate means. Andrew and Daniel did manage to stay together 'til drinks, but we had just 64 runs on the board at this point, meaning we needed more than a run a ball. That wouldn't have been so challenging if either Andrew or Daniel could have cashed in - not implausible, given that they'd now both faced plenty of deliveries - but instead they both got out in quick succession, for 30 off 79 balls and 18 off 42 balls, respectively.
This meant our middle order were all coming in under severe pressure, which yielded varying results. The most successful was Stephan van Eeden, whose innings of 29 (off 26 balls) briefly had the opposition a bit worried. The most spectacular was Saad Shoukat's brief innings of 12 off 12 balls: he began with an enormous six (the only one of our innings); he followed this up with a similarly-dismissive one-bounce four; and he then played a similarly expansive shot that would no doubt have been a twelve - if he'd hit it, whereas instead the ball had crashed into the stumps. (Saad then returned to the pavilion and insisted that it was a calm defensive shot.) Claude Warnick (8 off 15 balls) and Faruk Kara (8 off 9 balls) were both valiant, albeit briefly, although there was too much to do; and by the time Andy Owen (15* off 12 balls) got in the match was over as a contest. Smashing the final over from the returned opening bowler for 4 . 2 . 2 4 was certainly a victory - it more than doubled the runs he'd conceded, as well as getting us another batting point - but it was clearly pyrrhic, as the relevant number was 31, the number of runs we lost by.