Saturday 18 June – BFCC v Shaftesbury Road

by | Jun 22, 2022 | Match Report

Shaftesbury Road CC
1st XI

143 / 3 (22.1)
Bear Flat CC
Saturday 2XI

138 / All out (33)
Shaftesbury Road CC - 1st XI

“Hang your head low in the glow of the vending machine” — Cruel Summer (Taylor Swift)

 It’s been regularly rumoured in a variety of respectable match reports that Swifty’s been following the tribulations of the Bears 2nd XI closely this season. It has been said in some quarters this is partly to do with Tayl’s appreciation of the natural habitat this disparate band of red-ball Bears exist within (just refer to the wistful lyrics of ‘The Lakes’). Arguably though it may be the presence of her No.1 fan and muse, Captain Jack, attracting her gaze and full attention towards the trials and tribulations of his team.

And who better placed to empathise with a team experiencing the lows that so often follow heady highs. Swifty’s path has never been an easy one, her journey never linear in becoming one of the world’s most artistically sound and prolific artists in modern times. As her favourite Uncle Ronan so succinctly put it, life is a rollercoaster, you just gotta ride it.

On the back of an unbeaten league run there had been some minor wobbles preceding this top of the table clash against also unbeaten social media sensations and biggest garden cricket club, Shaftesbury Road.

The Bears had an uncharacteristic batting wobble in their short cup run when losing for the first time this term to a competent Timsbury. Their league momentum recently tempered with their previous 2 weeks league fixtures being cncelled with teams conceding. 40 over match play was a few weeks past, but with the continuity selection has offered this season, surely all would be well?

But this week Ronan’s rollercoaster had reached the top of its peak, and a steep drop was appearing over the horizon. Two players down during the week (Damo rumoured to have been seen slithering in the direction of Keynsham, Charlie having had a flare up of his ‘gentlemen’s troubles’) saw the Bears calling out to all available Brethren with Rowan Fisher stepping up, and Ben Abell making his Bears Saturday debut, taking up the keepers role. 

And it was a cruel twist of fate on that cloudy Saturday morning that saw the Bears lose Sam Vesey, their best bowling/batting/fielding/wicket-keeper in the South of England (currently not keeping due to ankle injury), dropped to the 1st XI. So Captain Jack turned to long time clubman, the vertically impressive Simon Brocklebank, to fill some big batting shoes. Caught in the middle of a family Sainsburys shop (other supermarkets are available), he literally answered the call. With deft control of a wayward trolley, gently passing his firstborn into the arms of his understanding wife, he charged from the surrounding consumer hell racing to the aid of teammates desperate for his calm cricketing brain and batting nous. He did not disappoint.

Though buoyed by the news the 11th man was on his way, the pre-match prep was slightly devoid of the normal vibes. Captain Jack, nursing a sprained ankle as swollen as Gemma Collins going into anaphylactic shock, was pensive. This hadn’t been ideal prep the ‘game of the season’ deserved. That said, in Bears we trust! And there were the Bears present who could all do a job with concentration and application.

With Captain Jack winning the toss the Bears were ready to bat. They knew they would be up against the best bowling attack they had faced this season so far, and Shaftesbury Rd proved that to be true. A tight, controlled opening spell saw the Bears nibble away gradually at the runs till disaster struck with opener Pete Woods paddling to slips. The avoidable nature of that wicket was mirrored in a number of other dismissals that afternoon. Calen Joubert (who again had batted himself in well before nicking off to a cracking ball) was soon followed by Andy Strange (intent on turning the tide but unfortunate to miss time and turn the ball back to the bowler).

But then came the pairing of Captain Jack and our very own London tourist attraction Si ‘The Shard’ Brocklebank. ‘Hit the Road, Jack!’ was the cry from the bench, and he duly obliged crashing a number of well placed shots over the boundary rope. Si was gradually getting his eye in, nibbling away and rotating the strike well. Just as the run rate was finally starting to accelerate, a momentary lapse of concentration by Jack, possibly brought on by a sudden sharp throbbing pain from the swelling below, possibly brought on by his mind daydreaming towards images of a stellar Swifty/Styles uber-duet, saw him miss time a drive and he was gone, caught. 

And then the collapse of collapses. What was needed were cool heads and time at the crease – there was plenty of time. But cool heads were in short supply. Time and again, while Si Brocklebank stood tall for the Bears, hitting freer now and soon passing a well deserved 50, the others around him played unnecessary and mistimed shots that saw their removal. As Si made his way to a ‘Player of the match’ unbeaten 63 not out, there were 4 ducks (Ben A, Matt S, Jon H, Ollie C), and a further 7 runs from Si Briff (1) and Rowan F (6).

Nothing taken away from the Shaftesbury Road bowling unit, but the Bears had uncharacteristically gifted a low score to chase – 138 all out, 139 needed the Shaftesbury Road off their 40 overs.

There was a contrasting atmosphere across the two teams between innings. But Bear’s negativity was soon alleviated with the emergence of a near long forgotten cricketing ritual resurrected on the Shaftesbury Road picnic tables….. a match tea! Expertly created and presented by the Shaftesbury Road WAGs, the most delicious spread was shared across the teams. Those ladies are keepers, Shaftesbury, keepers!

Stomachs and appetites appeased, and the mood and malaise lifted, the Bears took to the field. They knew it was a tall order, but with a capable bowling unit early wickets were possible and a tight victory could still be in their grasp. The opening pair of Oily Cox and Essex wide-boy Heywood started well, restricting the runs to streaky shots that would be encouraging for a bowler in normal circumstances, but these circumstances weren’t the Bears normal. With no buffer, restricting runs was essential and every boundary or wide hurt. 

There was no need for Oily to ask the umpire to move to the left a little this week, and clad in his familiar blue armbands (worn in respect of his cricketing hero, the ever youthful Jo De Susie) he did strike early, removing an opener early on with a fine hooping ball catching them plumb LBW. With armbands streamlining his run up, countering the drag his flowing locks offer, Oily continued to bowl tight through his spell. He tempted a Shaftesbury opening bat into a pull over the head and shoulder of specialist fielder and W.I. bake off champion, Pete Woods. An incredibly awkward chance he couldn’t collect on the run, just spilling what would have been an exceptional catch. Later a nick-off from Jonny Essex wasn’t collected behind the stumps. 2 half chances and chances which may have made the difference on another day.

The Bears were pacing the outfield aggressively, teeth bared and claws sharpened. Explosive fielding and rapid return of ball to Ben Abell behind stumps kept the intensity high. The epitome of this intensity came from Rowan F, our teenage yet 20-something fielding sensation. Prowling the inner ring, chirping away and appealing with such ferocity at one point he nearly smashed through his delayed puberty and voice almost broke… Almost.

With overs and run rate ticking up, the Shaftesbury batters were now well in, and a change was needed. Matt Strange, sporting a rejuvenated cheesehamstring, had already demonstrated his enthusiasm having made it to the ground earlier in record time by utilising his road-map knowledge that by far surpasses all current satnav systems (allegedly in 1995 Matt was approached by TomTom for advice in developing their latest system, however was said to have turned them down when they refused to use his voice-over, suggesting a Somerset accent wouldn’t engage the big-money spenders in the South East subsequently giving the honours to Frank Bruno – an example of commercial East/West divide still blighting the nation today). Matt’s arm and taught hamstring consistently asked questions of the pair with some excellent traditional fastish-medium pace swing bowling, ideally suited for the conditions. Beating the bat at will it was surely just a matter of time before a nick would come his way. Alas, the ball ignored its navigators directions regularly turning left when it should have gone straight on, alluding both top of off and bat edge. 

But the settled Shaftesbury partnership was finally broken with Si Briffett stepping up. Just that morning having finally swapped Jet black Van Heusen 3 piece for crisp cricket whites on exiting his 14 day mourning period (marking ‘ball of the century day’ in respect for his friend and mentor, the legendary Shane Warne) he channelled his inner ‘Earl of Twirl’ dropping down his ripping leggies thus tempting the settled batters into expansive shots where Captain Jack had set the trap. Essex Boy wayward-Heywood summoned all the calm learnt at Thursday training, shaking off the hoodoo of catches dropped-past, by watching closely, holding on tightly to a stratospheric shot that eventually reached him at deep mid-on. Scenes! This was soon followed by another tempting delivery from Briffter bringing a punched shot straight to Capt Jack at extra cover. 2 incredibly dangerous batsmen had gone, 30 runs required. 

Could a recovery truly be on the cards?

Simply put…….. No. 

Having set a mediocre T20 score for Shaftesbury to chase, it was just a matter of time.  The Shaftesbury No.5 started to attack and boundaries came fluidly. No buffer for Briffett, and the final runs came in the 22nd over. Shaftesbury victorious and cementing their position at the top of the table.

The Bears came off the field obviously disappointed with each of their performances in one discipline or the other. That said, there was a strange air of optimism in the post match debrief. Each Bear knows where they went wrong, and how they have the ability to get things right. For all the errors, each Bear also contributed positive moments to work on and amplify.

Over a post match beer, as the rain prophetically started to fall heavily over the Uphill CC pitches, the feeling of each player was one of a frequently-losing addicted gambler morosely hunched over a fruit machine, its glow lighting the lines on sad, long faces – but this gloom soon started to lift. Fines were plentiful and none held back, this group confessional releasing the weight of guilt and grief. Smiles started to appear, Bears started to wake from their hiberational slumber. A wounded Bear is a dangerous one. A wounded Bear who now knows his main rivals strengths, and weaknesses, an even more dangerous one.

With the Harptrees next week, the Bears believe they can bounce back. And later in the season, at the return Shaftesbury fixture at fortress PSJ the Bears believe they can turn this result around.

When the Road come down to our woods that day, they’ll be in for a big surprise. Bears love to eat Berries for breakfast, lunch and tea and will be mighty hungry that day, for sure.