Saturday 2XI 241 / 6 (40)
3rd XI 203 / 8 (40)
Out came the sun again for the newly formed Bear Flat Saturday 2nd XI as they arrived at their new head office, the Ken Willcox Ground, Peasedown St John, to face Uphill Castle CC 3rd XI.
The excitement of this new venture in Division 7 Blue of the Somerset Monmouth League was reflected by enthusiasm as 10 of the team arrived early to familiarise themselves with the new setting, help clean up the changing rooms, set up the outfield and ingratiate themselves with our working partners at the clubhouse.
The wicket was a bit of an unknown. It looked a fair track, not too green, with just the odd patch a little more tlc could improve further with grounds-keeping tricks suggested by our green-fingered senior, Charlie Samler. A first outing for the 2’s it would be interesting to see how the ball carried through and what sort of variation there’d be. The outfield was certainly one that had seen regular footy games, a good eye and long barrier would be essential to ensure not being undone by the random bounce.
Our very own dynamo of enthusiasm and GIF specialist, Simon Briffett, led the warm up, this pre- match sharpening another reflection of how each game this season will be approached. That said we all had to take a moment to stop and gaze admiringly at the final piece of today’s 11-man jigsaw, our senior inspiration and role model the ‘nearly as good as a pro, once’ Mr C Bence, arrived. Perfectly timed for maximum effect (and perfectly timed to miss the ‘late arrival’ fine) the familiar sleek black Mercedes drifted effortlessly down the club’s driveway, aviator classics in place, the man was the epitome of cool, calm and very… very collected. In awe I asked myself, does he even sweat?
As with last week the pre-match team talk led by Captain Jack, along with essential insight by Sam Vesey, again focused on the same theme. Though on paper we have one helluva team, we mustn’t take any team for granted and need to each take responsibility for our roles and not rely on others. Bat well, bowl tight, field hard and keep the intensity up. More of that later.
With Jack avoiding an early fine by winning the toss the decision to bat was made, a decision with wise intent. Even if faced with a top quality Uphill offensive bowling attack the Bears batting quality and experience possess the ability to put on a defendable score above 200, gaining maximum batting points with cumulation of bonus points essential if we are truly to aim high in this league.
Pete Woods and Charlie Samler took to the crease. Unable to build on last week’s fabulous knock, Pete uncharacteristically was caught in two minds, half playing a shot and was caught cheaply. But in sauntered Chris Bence and he and Charlie (again as last week playing an excellent patient supporting role) set up shop. The pitch was proving variable with bounce and was slow. The pace offered by Uphill bowling attack further made it hard to get away. Bencey, who had played a patient game to reach 24 (including 5 gloriously timed 4’s) was caught out by the pace of the pitch, half- hitting and chipping one up for an Uphill fielder. Bears were 47-2.
In came Andy Strange. He knew what was needed, a patient partnership with Charlie to reset the innings. Unfortunately, it was not to be as chasing a wide ball he too was caught (4). So, the Bears turned to the ‘best amateur wicket-keeper in the West who’s injured so not currently keeping-wicket’ Sam Vesey to readdress the balance – and so he did. When Charlie was finally out (LBW) for an important patient ship-steadying 17, in came Capt. Jack, a skipper on a mission, one with the confidence of believing he was locked in and totally ‘in the zone’. We were not proved wrong.
In post-match interview, Jack thoroughly praised Sam on the impact he had on the Skips’ innings and the match, expressing gratitude to Sam for setting the tone from the off with a perfect ‘welcome to the crease’ chat. No messing about, no chat about the weather, bowlers or conditions, just Sam setting solid goals of what should be achieved by the drinks break. Exactly what an ‘in the zone’ skipper needed. Game on.
Sam was finally undone (26), but an essential 80 run partnership with Jack had set the tone. The Bears had earned their right to score freely by the platform he’d built during his time at crease. He’d played his part helping Jack reaching his 50 and at 151-5 with overs in the bank the 200 run goal was on.
Jack repeated innings goals to Si Brocklebank, who batted to plan (again in interview, Jack thanked Si for his role in keeping the goals alive, great application and game awareness, and not getting bogged down by rotating strike at a critical stage). He saw Jack to 90* also surpassing a 50 run partnership until not quite going as big as intended, he chipped on to mid-off for 12.
With sun shining and beer flowing the pre-FA Cup final atmosphere upping a significant level – perfect timing for lifting the intensity at the crease. In came ‘Big Bash’ Matt Strange with one goal in mind – quick runs….. and they came… and quick. Captain Jack could argue at times too well, with multiple 4’s keeping Matt at the crease and Jack, stuck at 99* for 3 overs not. It looked like he’d not reach that magic number.
Until, that is, the very last ball of the innings. A quick single snaffled and there it was an inaugural 100 for the Skipper.
And there we were, 241-6 at tea, Captain Jack 100*, Matt 20*. Uphill had, well, an uphill battle on their hands.
So now to part 2. Plans don’t always go completely to plan, and neither did today’s fielding stint.
Matt Strange and Essex Wide-boy Heywood (though not quite as wide a boy as last week) started proceedings. Though not the tightest start the run rate was kept down to below the required. The 2’s are currently thin on the ground with a full-time bowling attack, so when your opening pacer, Matt Strange, pulls up with a painful hammy his 3rd over in it can be a bit of a worry.
But we had cool-hand Chris to turn to, and Bencey put in a shift with 2 wickets including an athletic caught and bowled belying his years and middle-age flexibility. Heywood toiled away on a slow wicket picking up Uphill’s confident and potentially problematic opener.
But as the wickets started to fall, the extra’s continued to rise. Si Briffett entered the fray, popping in the odd dirty, floaty leg filth that had the batters inside out. Nursing an ankle strapped tighter than a dominatrix’ restraints, Sam Vesey had his first stint throwing down the cherry this season picking up wickets along the way.
As the atmosphere from the PSJ FA Cup massive peaked, so a strange atmosphere took hold of the Bears in the field. Aforementioned extras cumulated through the afternoon from start to finish, misfielding peppered the outfield and a drop in the intensity alongside an unfathomable psychological cloud which settled which over the team took its toll.
Uphill, emboldened by the atmosphere, and some may say desperate to be anywhere but their pitch side table surrounded by 100 screaming footy fans took the game to the Bears and basically started to give it a whack. Repeatedly balls were launched skywards, swings that could have sent the ball anywhere, but for them to only to land safe in space.
Those wickets did keep coming through the afternoon. Catches from Bencey, Matt and Andy Strange. Sharp fielding from Vesey, exceptional today as always in the field, saw to another Uphill batter.
Matt Strange hobbled back into the attack for the final few overs with Captain Jack making a final cameo on the penultimate over, tight as a gnat’s chuff and not one no-ball in sight.
Victory was assured as the 40th over came to its conclusion and Uphill had fallen short by 38 runs having lost 8 wickets in reaching their score of 203. But it was a huge shame that the earlier batting heroics by Jack et al seemed over-shadowed by the dark atmosphere that seemed to have taken hold over the Bears. It was a win, and all but 2 points from the maximum possible, yet didn’t seem that way.
On reflection surely the raucous atmosphere pitch side played a part. Add to that the fact this is a brand-new experience for all the 2’s – new clubhouse, new wicket, new team, new league. It’ll take time for the 2’s to truly feel ‘home’ at PSJ, and reap the benefits that familiarity brings. Once the bowling unit work on the extras tally, fielding is a tad sharper, with the desire, enthusiasm and application that each of the players have the potential to offer, there’s no doubt that it will come together for the greater good and progression of Bear Flat CC 2nd XI and the wider club.
And in the Man of the Match, Captain Jack Mainwaring, the 2nd XI have the man to lead them.
At the post match interview on route to the Cross Keys, Man of the Match Captain Jack expanded on his innings motivation “Of course as a Captain you want to lead from the front, setting an example to the lads, so that’s what I tried to do. The work I’ve done on improving concentration through conscious abstinence and putting aside my usual nightly hand-held device viewing, instead utilising mindfulness and visualisation apps, has really sharpened my focus. I feel like I could achieve anything at the moment. But I also have to thank my sponsor, B & B’s Chilli Chicken Fries, for providing that added spicy motivation and…. (with wry smile and cheeky little chuckle) …they’ll taste that much better tonight! This one’s dedicated to them”.
His idol Taylor Swift was also suitably impressed by her No.1 fans effort. Coming off the Houston NRG stadium stage T-Swizzle couldn’t hide her delight for her favourite Swifty “For a man to be able to focus and apply himself to the task at hand for that length of time is a big plus in my book.” adding “You know with my track record I’m prone to a pale strawberry-blond, he’s quite tall too! perfect for a tall lady like myself. Hey, Jacko, look me up and swipe right, baby, swipe right!“ before emitting a gentle, alluring (and slightly provocative) country-style “yee-hah!”, and subtle flick of hair, shoulder sweat glistening like star-dust, as she skipped away backstage.
The Bears Saturday XI are away next week vs Frome CC – 3rd XI