Romsey Town vs. Madingley II

13:30, Saturday, August 17, 2019
Downing College

Madingley II (182/9 in 40 6-ball overs)
Romsey Town (176/9 in 40 6-ball overs)
by 6 runs.

Report by Daniel Mortlock:

Romsey's preparation for this match began with a team meeting of the current regulars (i.e., all those who've played 6 or more matches this season, although Faruk had to send his apologies). Not so unusual, you might think, but for the fact that it wasn't on the day of the game, and wasn't even in Cambridge. Instead, it took place at Adi's flat in London on Friday, an apparently strange choice justified entirely by the view from his balcony:

The view from Adi's balcony.

Joane, Stephan, Adi, Hiranya, Andy and Daniel discuss team selection for tomorrow's game.

Sky Sports decides to interrupt the broadcast of the second Ashes Test to do a feature on Romsey Town CC, with Stephan, Huw and Andy, along with Adi's father Ganesh acting as special advsior, deciding on whether any of the England players might be worth considering for league duty.

In the end, it turned out that our planning was redundant as we had just ten players available, and so there were no selection decisions to make. We did end up with a complete our eleven thanks, once again, to the CCA Additional Players list; this week Jake Ellis joined us from Sawston, taking on the critical role of wicket-keeper.

The venue was Downing College's sports fields in south Cambridge, a ground neither Romsey nor any of us had played at previously. It was not only an objectively lovely spot for a cricket match, but compared rather favourably with last week's venue. The only potential problem was the lack of covers: while today's conditions were near-perfect, the rain that had wrecked yesterday's play in the Lord's Test had also left the Downing pitch decidedly spongy. Cam, having won the toss, hence had no hesitation in deciding to bowl first - although in the end the pitch was fairly true for most of the day, and neither it nor the toss seemed to have much of an impact on proceedings.

Certainly neither Daniel Mortlock (0/8 off his first 5 overs) nor Stephan van Eeden (2/34, bowling his 8 straight through) got much out of the pitch - but once one side of the ball got scuffed up Stephan started to get significant swing, and with it two well-deserved wickets. (Both bowlers could have gotten several more wickets from numerous mis-hits, but the ball kept landing just out of reach of our fielders.) Those initial breakthroughs opened the door for Vibhu Tewary (3/28) and Faruk Kara (1/27) to tear through the Madingley middle order, and we'd reduced them to 76/6 in the 23rd over.

These wickets brought in Saad Shoukat, who'd started the season playing for Romsey but had transferred to Madingley for the somewhat mysterious reason that "they would be better suited for me". Saad had been due to come in quite early, but kept pushing himself down the order to avoid facing Faruk, who'd got him out first ball in a Remnants game during the week. Saad certainly looked uncomfortable against Faruk early on, with a couple of tentative shots resulting in edges that (again) evaded our fielders - although his mental state was best revealed when, after missing a leg-side delivery from Faruk, he immediately wandered out of crease, apparently trying to psyche himself up. Jake, who'd made yet another sharp take, whipped the bails off and appealed for what was an unambiguous stumping; but in the end we rescinded the appeal - while it was terrible cricket by Saad, he obviously wasn't trying to go for a run, and that isn't how we want to dismiss opposition batsmen. We'd much rather get wickets by, say, taking catches and Saad soon gave us several opportunities to do just that - but we dropped him twice, a fact that he exploited to the full, eventually top-scoring with 38 before hitting a genuinely undroppable chance to Daniel off the bowling of Andy Owen (3/26).

Andy quickly got another wicket, that of "Mr Chairman" (this tautologous title appearing on the back of his shirt), when the ball popped off a length and took the edge to provide Faruk with his third catch of the day (to go with a number of great diving stops, all in his favoured gully position). We were again in the ascendancy with the score 132/8, which should soon have been 9-for when the number ten batsman was stumped off Daniel, who finished with 0/28 . . . figures which make sense only because the appeal was turned down, a truly inexplicable decision given that the batsman didn't even try and regain his ground until alerted by the noisy appeal. None of us could work out how the umpire could possibly have given it "not out", but to do anything other than accept the decision would have taken us into Rickling territory. Even more annoying, the reprieved batsman went onto smack a quickfire 18 that, with determined support from the rest of the lower order, saw Madingley finish on a decidedly healthy 182/9.

After the worst of starts - Nick Clarke played what seemed like a superb cut shot off his first ball, only to be superbly caught low down by the gully fielder - our chase proceeded smoothly for the first hour, as Cam Petrie and Daniel Mortlock combined disciplined defense with decisive punishment of the numerous bad balls. After 11 overs we were racing along at 76/1 and the opposition seemed to be falling apart, with lots of squabbling about fielding positions, at times with parallel debates going on in different languages. Given the general sense of anarchy it was not so surprising that it took Madingley more than three hours to bowl 40 overs - even international teams are considerably faster than this. About the only thing the Madingley players seemed to agree on was the importance of a pre-delivery ritual, led by the indefatigable chairperson, of rapid hand claps and requests to "rattle those peggies" - sadly, junior league sides seem to have bought into the idea, so popular in the professional game, that repeating the same phrase several hundred times in an afternoon is a useful contribution to a cricket match.

For our part, all we needed to do was keep our discipline . . . but Daniel tried to sweep a straight ball from Madingley's leg spinner and was bowled for 30 (off 37 balls). Cam stuck around, and got useful support from Jake Ellis (8 off 16 balls) before he made the same mistake as Daniel, after which Vibhu Tewary came in and immediately looked completely comfortable at the crease. In the over after drinks we reached 112/3, meaning we needed 71 from 116 balls with 7 wickets in hand; and, with two set batsmen at the crease, it was our game to lose . . .

. . . which we promptly started to do. Probably the moment the game tipped in Madingley's favour was when Vibhu (13 off 20 balls) seemed to succumb to perceived scoreboard pressure, chancing a lofted drive that went straight to the mid-off fielder. That wicket precipitated a collapse of 5/26 that was largely self-inflicted - although do spare a thought for Arnie Garside (1 off 6 balls), who found himself the subject of a reasonable but over-the-top LBW appeal and remained where he'd finished his shot while waiting for the umpire to make his decision. That was eventually "not out" (albeit of the "not sure" rather than "definitely missing" variety), but by this stage the chairbeing had noticed Arnie was standing out of his ground and threw the wickets down, resulting in a second wild appeal from the one delivery. There was no question it was out according to the Laws - Arnie never regained his ground after attempting his shot - although it was also obvious that he was just waiting for a decision, and it was certainly no more an attempt to gain advantage than had been Saad's walk-about earlier in the day - but Madingley were adamant in their appeal and so, in the words of Michael Clarke, Arnie "had to go".

By now the scoreboard pressure was real - we needed more than a run a ball, with just 2 wickets left - and so Cam, now with Faruk Kara for company, had to start taking chances. This was arguably the best passage of pure cricket of the day: Cam tried to engineer twos and fours or a single at the end of the over to retain the strike; Madingley responded to this with field changes after every ball, and appropriately different set-ups depending on the type of bowler, all with the primary aim of denying Cam the strike. Which, annoyingly for us, they managed pretty well. By the end of the 38th over we needed an implausible-sounding 18 runs from the final 12 deliveries. That meant boundaries, but a tiring Cam couldn't get any, and Faruk (8 off 17 balls) managed just one before sacrificing himself by coming back for a hopeless second run purely to keep Cam on strike. In the final over Cam managed three big hits for two that were, maddeningly, stopped just inside the boundary. Madingley's death bowling was too tight, and they didn't concede even a single boundary in the last 7 overs.

Cam, who finished on 91* off 106 balls, was generously clapped off the field, but despite playing easily our best innings of the season he was more concerned with the fact that it hadn't been enough to get us over the line. Most of the rest of us remained annoyed at just where that line was set - if the stumping towards the end of the first innings had been given one of Cam's final-over shots would almost certainly have resulted in the winning runs.

In terms of the league table, Madingley's 20 points takes them 149, meaning they're almost certainly safe from relegation; our 8 points take us to 133, which is out of the relegation zone . . . but only just, as Milton are on 130 and Longstowe are on 129. Still, our fate at least remains in our own hands given that our final two matches are against Milton next Saturday and Longstowe the week after that.