Saturday 16 July – BFCC 2XI v Uphill CC

by | Jul 18, 2022 | Match Report

Uphill Castle CC
3rd XI

205 / 9 (40)
Bear Flat CC
Saturday 2XI

207 / 2 (32.2)
Bear Flat CC - Saturday 2XI

And sometimes I wonder, why we care so much about the way we look,
And the way we call and the way we bat, and the kit we bought?
How much that cost?

Does it even really matter?

Cause life is like an Uphill battle.

Both of us (Johnno rerub) – Taylor Swift

I got my first real Newbury
Bought it at the five and dime
Netted with it ’til my fingers bled
Then one summer I hit ’69*

Summer of ’69 (DJ JD rework) – Bryan Adams

The first time the inaugural Bear Flat 2nd XI played at Uphill Castle CC’s beautiful ground, it was a day to forget. Rather than turning up to their most important game of the season that far full of calm confidence the Bears appeared to face the ground-sharing Shaftesbury Rd both unsettled and vibeless. Their first defeat of the season followed.

Today’s fixture against the incumbent Uphill Castle CC 3rd XI team had a different feel from the off. The Bears arrived at the now familiar ground bathed in summer sunshine rather than the gloom and never-quite-arriving rain that welcomed them previously. The wicket was well tended and dry potentially offering carry through for seam bowlers. The outfield becoming discoloured from this arid spell of weather indicative of it being fast, a challenge for fielders chasing balls to prevent a boundary, and a challenge for the treasurer of Uphill CC trying to balance the ‘lost match ball’ budget.

In addition to familiarity and conditions, there was a far more positive feel to the 2’s this time round. Though a subtly different line-up than previous weeks, the 2’s were composed of players drawn from the wealth of resources this community club have to offer in personnel, so for the first match this season a League debut cap was not awarded. Capt Jack’s team sheet displayed at least on paper a reasonable array of bowlers, allrounders and batters, though probably more in favour of the bowling unit. Confidence was reasonably, but respectfully, high. One surprising omission was Danika ‘four-fer’ Dyer resuming parental duties from the sidelines with her life-partner Nathan ‘Closing Tickets’ Warren picked ahead of his resurgent better-half. With their household season wicket tally even-stevens, was this the opportunity Nathan needed to increase home bragging rights?

Capt Jack again avoided the first fine of the day winning the toss electing to field. He had confidence that his team wouldn’t melt in the early afternoon heat informing the bowling unit not to be surprised if the heat took its toll resulting in regular changes. With Nathan trying hard to prove he was the best selection choice, he brown-nosed the Skipper by leading a sensibly gentle warm-up. With teammates hands match softened and circle of trust team talk complete, the Bears were ready.

The opening bowling pair was that of Nathan ‘Try-Hard’ Warren and, sporting the now familiar blue stockings on his lower arms and Llama-esque mop top hairstyle, Oily ‘Cardi’ Cox. Uphill Castle opening pair of Gareth Lloyd and Rob Skeen came to the crease while teammates sheltered in the welcome shade of the canopy of boundary-line trees.

Oily had missed last week’s fixture, deciding to exchange the sporting culture of cricket for the arts culture of popular music at the Wireless festival. Having sung hard to many a Cardi-B favourite to the point of allegedly being tempted to be on the receiving end of an act explicitly described by Cardi-B, Oily’s throat was quite sore. This didn’t stop him hoarsely appealing with regularity through his first spell. But it was one of the most consistent spells Oily has bowled this season, getting just deserts with the first wicket of the day removing Skeen through the gate (9).

It was Nathan’s turn next, desperate to increase his wicket tally above Dani’s and having bowled a measly spell resulting in added pressure on the Uphill pair searching for runs, he removed the Uphill Skipper Ian Harrington for a duck having slashed the ball to point and the welcoming and trusted hands of Si ‘hold ’em tight’ Briffett. With Nathan continuing his metronomic spell, Capt Jack gave Oily and his throat a rest, bringing on our very own Suid Afrikaan seamer Tony ‘Basil’ D’Olivera. Once settled into his action Basil started asking questions of the batsmen beating the edge on a number of occasions. But with Gareth Lloyd leading the way utilising the pace of ball and outfield to his advantage, well placed shots were hitting the boundary. Alongside him Peter Frake was helping to anchor a stand. It took Nathan to complete another incredibly tight spell (8-3-15-1) and the introduction of Matt ‘Wild-Thing’ Strange to make a breakthrough. Frake, trying to increase the below 4 and over run-rate, hit hard towards the boundary from a loose ball wide of off. It sailed toward Andy ‘Shoveller’ Strange who, with sibling rivalry put to one side, gladly took the catch between his webbed fingers. Caught Andy Strange, bowled Matt Strange – a thing of scorebook beauty.

At the 20 over drinks break, though Lloyd appeared settled and was building steadily, having bowled tightly and striking frequently for those 3 wickets, Bear Flat appeared to be in the ascendency. But what they hadn’t banked on was power of the Uphill No.5, Wez Bryant. As Matt and Basil, though asking questions of the batsmen on occasion, uncharacteristically struggling to find their characteristic consistent line and length, Bryant started to open the shoulders, and between him and Lloyd, also starting to attack with more fluency, the runs were coming with increasing frequency, balls were being lost in the undergrowth and the Uphill treasurer let out a shudder, twiddling his purse strings for comfort .

Firstly Basil D’Oliveira stepped back from the frontline (8-0-37-0) with Capt Jack turning to Si ‘Sheik of Tweak’ Briffet still fresh from the highs of a destructive leggie spell last weekend. But the hope a change of pace, shape and deceptive turn could unlock the partnership was to be in vain. The pair of Lloyd and Bryant were up to the challenge sending more balls to various parts of the ground disillusioning for the Bears team and Uphill treasurer in equal measure. When time came for the 30 over (and very welcome) drinks break the momentum had swung in Uphill’s favour with runs coming fluidly and 200 maximum batting point runs almost in their grasp.

It was now Capt Jack sensibly pulled the team together. The Uphill pair had quieted the Bears and Jack gave a welcome gee-up to the team. 10 Overs to go and belts needed tightening. He reminded the team of the uphill battle for credibility his alleged spoken of but yet to be seen in person girlfriend, apparently the internationally acclaimed popular music artist Swifty, has faced through her career. He alluded to a moment just this morning where allegedly Taylor read recently penned lyrics to him over a continental breakfast, and between bites on croissant and sip of coffee bowl, tears had fallen at the reminiscing of the moment earlier this year her artistry was recognised with the winning of 3 awards at the prestigious Billboard Awards in the US. ‘Today we too are in an Uphill battle, and it’s time to step-up like my beloved and grasp those awards’. The only reason the team weren’t moved to tears was they were too dehydrated.

Matt had given way to Johnny Essex just before the break finishing his spell 6-0-34-1. Last week Wide-Boy Essex had bowled his first and an extremely tight over just before a drinks break then returned to deliver his most erratic and wide-laden spells of his amatuer career. This week Capt Jack wisely refrained from reminding Johnny both of that spell and of his ‘wide-boy’ moniker and threw the ball to him with gentle Captains smile yet with that steely look in the eye that reminds of the plan.

Initially both Lloyd and Bryant continued to attack, with both Big Briff and Johnny Essex being dispensed to the boundary, but then Bryant, hitting straight over Johnny Essex’s head towards the boundary under hit, and the ball fell to the welcoming safe hands of the Skipper. Finally the partnership had been broken with Bryant out for a destructive 54 and Stuart Butson came to the crease. With Big Briff (3-0-34-0) making way for Oily Cox, one wondered what would happen with Lloyd still calling the shots.

But, having previously been dispatched back over his head resulting in further Treasurer anxiety, he persevered like Swifty, pulled up his blue sleeves, massaged his sore throat and tempted Lloyd into a replica shot which was mishit to the sky and, Basil D’Oliveira, rolling back the years sprinted forwards and, with glamorous hollywood backwards roll, held on tight to the ball amongst his abdominal muscle rolls to remove Lloyd for an impressive knock of 74.

With 2 new Bats the momentum had shifted again. 200 was getting closer but, though Butson was hitting boundaries, the run rate had again slowed. But again Oily did the job tempting Butson to a big shot which looped high back over Oily back peddling sufficiently to hold the catch, Butson out for 12., and 3 wickets for Oily and the completion of his overs for an impressive 8-1-36-3. Dave Wilcox and Graeme Wigg were at the crease till Johnny Essex struck, Wigg looped the ball over Matt ‘Inspector Gadget’ Strange who managed to find another 2 metres arm length grasping the ball back and above his head. Uphill were now 7 down and the Bears rocking.

Andy Leach had joined Dave Wilcox at the crease and we were into the death overs. It was here Capt Jack turned to last week’s revelation with the ball, Andy ‘Shoveller’ Strange. Though providing comedic variation in his delivery he eventually bowled a line and length ball resulting in Wilcox striking in Capt Jacks direction and, diving forward and to his left, another impressive catch entered his scrapbook of fielding dreams. Uphill had reached 200 but were 8 down.

So to the final over to be delivered by Johnny ‘wide-boy’ Heywood (with only 2 wides to his name today, an improvement on the 2.5 wide an over average bowled the previous week). Uphill Castle, with wickets in hand, were desperate to increase their total as far as possible and on the penultimate ball a kamikaze run by Andy Leach left Uphill’s youngest player and team mascot Harley Dixon high and dry with Oily Cox back in the action, chancing his luck and throwing down the stumps aggressively from a foot away. Pete Jobling came to the non-strikers end, the final ball was struck for a misfielded 4 (which Danika would have stopped) and the Bears target was set – 205 Uphill runs to surpass.

Match tea complete, Uphill Castle took to a field now basking in league-topping temperatures, a gentle heat haze shimmering from the grass. Making their way to the crease the Bears very own BANES Council ‘no ladder required’ street light LED replacer, Si Brocklebank and rustic ruffian Charlie Samler, hot off the back of his half century the week before. Andy Leech and Peter Frake opened the bowling for Uphill Castle and were controlling the runs well. Si, even though significantly closer to the sun than other players, wasn’t overly affected by the heat continuing his fine form scoring well, boundaries coming with sufficient frequency to keep the required run rate in sight, even striking a four off his legs past square-leg – another milestone first reached this season. Charlie, having applied extra dubbin to provide more flexibility to his leathery epidermis, was playing a less aggressive and more anchoring role while ensuring Simon did take an odd uncharacteristic run between the stumps. Noted was the obvious discomfort Charlie was experiencing, having dragged himself from hospital bed just that morning following double hip-replacement the previous day, discarding walking frame with disdain upon the changing room roof on arrival.

But it was during that first opening spell that Simon, still breathless from a recent two-stride quick single, let a loss of concentration get the better of him playing around a full ball by Frake, clean bowled for an important 25 runs including 3 fours and 1 six.

This did bring a man to the crease who had something to prove. Underperforming by his usual explosive standards with the ability to wield his Newbury ‘Kudos’ and take oppositions apart, Andy ‘Shoveller’ Strange has cut a despondent figure at the crease this season. Today he was determined to change that, yet doing so with a humble approach embracing his most recent failure by happily sporting the ‘Duck Off’ cap presented after the previous week’s latest batting debacle. Joining Charlie at the crease the temperature had soared a degree more. Even Charlie’s deep copper complexion hard darkened a shade further to a regal mahogany, an indication of conditions faced by both batters and fielders.

The pair noodled and frustrated, seeing off the first bowling pair and bringing Stuart Butson and Pete Joblin into the bowling game. And it was the former who soon forced a breakthrough, Butson tempting Charlie forwards to one that went straight on to his pads. A guttural appeal from the Uphill Castle close fielders saw the Umpire’s finger rise and Charlie, repeatedly looking back and forth from pad to stumps, out LBW for 14, turned with a subtle shake of the head and walked back to the shade of the trees no doubt thoughts now progressing to the lubricating ale he would soon be imbibing to soften the suns exposure and hip discomfort as well as softening the blow of his dismissal when batting so comfortably.

The dismissal of Charlie caught Capt Jack, chatting on his handheld device off guard. He hurriedly reassured the call recipient ‘don’t worry, hun, writer’s block can happen on a hot day, and I’m sure the lyrics will come to you soon sweetheart, best go now, Ciao’ before re-focusing on the job to hand, bat under arm, striding more fluidly now the ankle was healing from recent loving touch and attention, and in a few strides was at the crease. The Bears were a quarter of the way to the required total marginally in front of the required run-rate, and without the depth of batting the Bears usually have to offer, another couple of quick wickets and the balance would well and truly tip back in Uphill Castle’s favour.

An innings of the season was required by Andy, and another settling innings required from the Skipper. And, so it came to pass. Both playing patiently and gradually accelerating the run rate, Andy and Jack replicated Uphill Castles earlier example making the Uphill Treasurer sweat more profusely with match balls and replacements regularly embraced by thick foliage around the ground. They saw off Butson and Jobling then persevered through the replacement bowlers Dave Wilcox and Harley Dixon. The Junior Harley a vision  to behold, the youngest player by far and throwing down some lovely loopy leggies – one to watch for the future for sure. There were Bears hearts in mouths with appeals for caught behind and LBW not going the way of the Uphill Castle team, and Andy survived, his Newbury Kudos gaining more kudos as fluid shots were stroked around the ground. The Skipper replicated his partner’s strokes, enthusiastically and with surprising ease running between the stumps to push the 1’s and 2’s. Whatever magic this rumoured, but never quite seen, internationally famous ‘girlfriend’ had been applying to his ankle was doing the trick.

Both reached and surpassed their 50’s with style and grace prior to the final coup de grace with Andy, Duck cap pulled firmly on head yet never further from the mind, stroking towards the boundary off the returning opening bowler Leech, striking a wandering Common Seagull (Larus Canus) on route – and the game was the Bears. 207-2 reached, Capt Jack on an impressive 83 and Andy, convinced he had finished on his favourite figure of 69* on recount had achieved a heady 74* (though Andy is still disputing this, much preferring, and to this day telling all, it was a 69). The disappointment of Somerset CCC’s defeat in the T20 semi-final gave way to Bears elation at a win against a solid Uphill Castle team, and further delight on hearing their 1st Team had too won their fixture at Calne. The evening at the Cross Keys would be one to behold, for sure.

With game complete the Bears retired to the changing rooms peeling off kit to wash salt, suncream (and dubbin) from tender skin. The locals were treated to the eye-popping sight of semi-naked Bears retreating from the showers with towels barely covering crown jewels and shiny Bears bare bottoms. Ablutions complete, they joined their opposition Captain and nearby Uphill opposition to share in a cool beer for post-match debrief and fines. Our very own Ben ‘ready and’ Able becoming a firm favourite with a local dog desperate to get their jaws around his burger, however uncharacteristically Ben was able to keep tight hold of that spherical object. Maybe there is something in this and visualisation techniques could be utilised imagining the ball to be burger in training on Thursday to improve handling techniques?

A light fines pot this week due to the improved performance with both bat and ball, and with them done the Bears took to their carriages back across the beautiful landscape, deep green Mendips in the distance to celebrate with the Bear family back in Combe Down.

Catching up with Andy Strange the next morning, he was found in a reflective mood. With eyes squinting slightly to protect a sore head from effect of the morning glare he expanded, ‘The pressure was on as I knew I had something to prove to the team before they, like the 1’s before them, lost faith in my abilities’ he explained as he raised his right hand and took a deep draw from his fifth roll-up of the morning.  ‘I knew I had it in me and wearing the Duck cap to the crease kept me focused on what I needed to do.’ Then, raising his left hand before taking a deep breath of his Ventolin inhaler he continued ‘and besides, can’t have that brother of mine thinking he’s got one over on me in the batting stakes. And I’ve got my eye on the family bowling honours this season too’ he said with a sly wink.`Good to chat but need to jog on now, just heading to Sainsbury’s to take this shopping trolley back, that Oily Cox has got a lot to answer for, I can tell you!’ Then with a flurry of deep phlegm laden coughs, the line went quiet.

Next week – Bear Flat 2nd XI host Frome 3rd XI at PSJ