NALGO 184ao 43 overs
Bears 185-7 44.1 overs
Whisper it quietly, but the Bears are on a roll; a momentum shift in their favour that they hope will lead to cup final glory at The County Ground, Taunton on 4 August and then, ultimately, redemption in the form of an immediate return to the top flight of the Wiltshire League as the season reaches its denouement.
The scene for the latest instalment of the Bear Flat renaissance was the dog walkers’ paradise that table toppers Swindon NALGO call home. Not helped by Friday’s deluge of rain, the pitch, a fruity combination of rolled mud and doggy doo doo, played like a somewhat slower version of that infamous Sabina Park deck that resulted in the first ever abandonment of a Test match back in 1998, though instead of Curtly Ambrose causing the carnage it was the Bears’ Jay Morris. With balls rearing off a good length, though fortunately like tennis balls rather than cricket balls, it was all fairly exciting for the Bear Flat fielders until it slowly dawned on them that they too would have to bat on it.
Despite the bowler-friendly conditions and the loss of an early wicket, credit must be given to the NALGO top order who batted bravely and with patience in building a solid platform, though three dropped catches during the initial exchanges certainly helped their cause. However, from a seemingly strong position the home side were unable to kick-on in quite the style that they may have hoped as an initially lacklustre Bear Flat performance finally spluttered into life. For the second weekend running, George Ellis was the go-to-man for skipper Gunning – an upgrade in underwear undoubtedly the catalyst for season-best figures of 5-52, as the Bears prevented NALGO from utilising their full allocation of overs. George was ably assisted by the excellent and economical Nathen Warren who returned 1-23 from his nine overs and exuberant youth, Matt Amner, who claimed a couple of victims with his brilliant slower ball.
Still, a target of 185 on a ropey pitch was never going to be a straightforward task for the Bears’ famously brittle batting line-up. And nothing less than a crushing defeat looked “odds on” as the visitors slumped to 65-5 before drinks: a succession of misjudgements playing into the hands (sometimes quite literally) of NALGO. But the Bears bat deep and, similarly to last week, the middle order was on hand in the form of the returning Simon ‘Rimmer’ Porter and Sam Vesey to support opening batsman Ashwin Agrawal, who had managed to escape the initial capitulation. First up it was the Porter/Agrawal show; the pair adding vital runs before Rimmer was unfortunate to be adjudged LBW for 23 as he advanced down the pitch – the bowler’s apology scant consolation for a poor decision. However, the partnership had given the Bears hope and that hope was soon to become belief as Sam picked up the mantle from Rim, complementing the awesome Ashwin, who with a succession of huge straight sixes ensured that the run rate at least would not be the Bears’ downfall. But with the win increasingly looking assured, Ashwin completed the final stage of his transformation into a true Bear by giving his wicket away and reigniting some minor panic amongst the onlooking players and supporters, though his superb 89 had made him a hero in victory or defeat. And it was to prove the former as Jay, teasing the NALGO fielders, helped Sam drag the Bears over the line with three wickets and five balls remaining.
With Captain Gunning heading off to be mugged in Naples next weekend, the Bears will be led for the first time by Ross Newman, the king of admin, who just can’t wait to get on with the job in hand as the Bears entertain Swindon United Churches at HQ.