Cricket is back! The Bears began their pre-season campaign away to Hampset for the first of four friendlies to be played by The Bears. A group of eleven captains and Andy Strange travelled to the Hampset City Ground on what promised to be a beautiful day – a far cry from the bedraggled affair of last season.
After a refreshingly intense warm up (only set to become more so), the Bears were fired up after a winter hibernation (obligatory Bear pun). Boosted by the addition of Mike Staves and Alex Lear, optimism amongst the crowd (3 people and a dog) was rife.
The Bears won the toss on a green topped April wicket, unsurprisingly choosing to bowl first. Captains admin (Jay Morris) and kit (Ross Newman) opened the bowling. The wicket offering much to the former who challenged both edges and the ball swinging “too much” for the latter. After keeping it tight and creating a chance or two, Newman was replaced from the pavilion end by the Bear’s Ben Duckett lookalike (George Ellis). This is when the carnage began. Standing the seam up wonderfully, the ball started to talk. He broke the opening partnership in combination with Staves who took a comfortable catch at gully. Ellis was up and running. What followed was a wonderful display of seam bowling.
After removing Hampset’s number 3 cheaply LBW, he was helped by a champagne moment of the season (already?!). The ball delivered was back of a length, Hampset’s opener leant back to pull the ball sweetly for 4. After sending the ball rocketing away many spectators turned around knowing the result. Nobody accounted for a flying, full-stretch Damian Cull, intercepting the ball with a one-handed stunner, reducing Hampset to 40-3. It truly was #BearCountry. Ellis continued to masterfully challenge the Hampset middle order, picking up two more wickets on the way to a well deserved 5 wicket haul (5-16), with Hampset eventually being reduced to 123ao.
Feeling buoyant after a strong start to the season the Bears knew that a strong opening stand, seeing off the new ball should put the game beyond doubt. Lear and the “experienced” Wilson strode to the crease. Wilson imperiously extra cover driving for 4 in the first over to set the tone. A comfortable 50 partnership followed with some fluent strokes all around the ground, with Wilson unfortunately falling LBW for 24. With the game secured Lear (45*) and de Souza (41*) knocked off the few remaining runs with the new signing being robbed of a debut half century (apologies Leary).
A strong season opener for BFCC, who will be looking to build some more pre-season momentum in next week’s away fixture against Hinton Charterhouse.