3rd XI 126 / All out (36.5)
Saturday 2XI 129 / 3 (32.3)
Another fine day welcomed the travelling Bears to the picturesque village and ground of Mells, home to Frome 3rd XI. A subtly changed side saw the introduction of bowlers Ollie Cox and Rowan Fisher plus all-rounder Calen Joubert, all making their season and league debuts. Certainly this was a more balanced team with clear bowling and batting units at the Skipper’s disposal. We had the added bonus of Si Cox attending as official scorer, surprising himself that someone of his generation could work the new-fangled tabletty thingy with a plan to enter the game in real time via the Play-Cricket application.
With all Bears present and correct in good time (not a fine in sight), as the team spilled their kit bags contents onto the cosy changing room floor a palpable positive buzz ensued. 11 Bears slipped into training kit whilst accompanied by a banging Spotify playlist compiled just the evening before by those team members locked in to latest 20’s youth culture trends and tunes. The malaise that embraced the team last weekend appeared, at least on the face of it, to have been cast aside. Would match play antics reflect the same?
Pitch side they jogged, and with the newbies Caps presented the skipper delivered his motivational pre-match speech, channelling his inner Taylor Swift, ‘The Bears are no longer in ‘Exile’, ‘My tears ricochet’ as I embrace my recent ‘Epiphany’ – We can be ‘The 1!’
Emboldened and enthused, the Bears again had an impressive warm up led by our very own Briffeny Spears. Balls hammered along the ground were collected seamlessly, ones fired high into the Mells atmosphere calmly snaffled, the gently perspiring Bears glowed with confidence.
There was still a touch of moisture coating the countryside following last week’s damp weather so with cloud cover embracing the skies above, temperature and humidity rising, there was a feeling that bowling conditions would suit the Bears swing bowlers. As Captain Jack strode to the wicket alongside the Frome Skipper, taking his characteristic loping and unnaturally long strides out to the wicket for the ritual toss, there was no doubt, toss-win willing, what he’d like to do. The fines Master still had to wait for the first of the day as win the toss he did – the Bears would take to the field.
The wicket was an unknown entity. Being an uncovered track open to elements the feeling was it would be slow, hard to get the ball to carry through and this proved true. Anything short would sit up and be punished. Thankfully for bowlers the outfield was even slower so any short stuff, unless dispatched cleanly, may slow up in the fielders favour. Runs may prove hard to come by.
Suitably warm and stretched, the Bears assumed their seated circle of trust and received a final no-nonsense match plan expectation from Captain Jack and other senior players. Game faces were on!
A late change to the opening strike partnership was required with Matt Strange pulling up in the warm-up having exacerbated his previous week’s injury, today’s heat melting his thighs supporting Cadbury’s Flakes resulting in a pulled cheese-string of the posterior upper thigh.
So up stepped league newbie, Oily Cox to partner Essex wide-boy Heywood in the opening spell. As mentioned, line and length was essential and both generally didn’t disappoint. Facing traditional swing bowling that was tight as a gnats chuff, Frome toiled and struggled to gain momentum with wickets falling steadily in the opening 12 overs. Oily picked up his first league wicket and finished his spell with an honourable 6-0-15-1. The Essex metronome didn’t disappoint either, rolling back the years bowling through his full allocation and returning his best ever Bears figures of 8-1-13-3. Not lost on all was that he lived up to his moniker bowling a wide per over in 5 of his overs denying him a second wicket maiden and 5 maidens overall. Something to work on for sure. During that spell Matt ‘I look uncannily like Calen today’ Strange ignored the pain dropping sharply to his left to snaffle a sharp edge for Heywood’s first – reaction fielding at its finest.
Next the skipper turned to Newbie 2, Rowan Fisher, and Briffy Clyro to keep up the pressure. It was Rowan’s first game of the season and first league game for many years and he did well to adapt from nets to open wicket dropping in some of his filthy loopy stuff that can frustrate and bamboozle. Indeed, a steady partnership at the crease for Frome was broken with said trade delivery. This was Rowan’s first league wicket as subsequent celebration attested to- arms wide, palms facing the heavens, face glowing upwards in sublimation to the cricket gods – beautifully executed in ‘final wicket of a Lords Ashes series winning’ style…… The fines-master was off the mark- kerching! A good spell nonetheless finishing with 7-0-27-1.
Our gorgeously positive Briff unfortunately didn’t get his just deserts. Struggling to find the desired length those lucky enough know he can offer, particularly in tight positions, and faced with the frustration that the Frome middle order had started to swipe unfearing of consequence, the ball too often fell tantalisingly close to fielders but never close enough to grab. However he did provide the fielding moment of the day, treating us to an exhibition of his ‘Pingu ice-slide no-hand body barrier™’ cutting off a certain 4 runs. Applause rippled around the ground, our No.1 supporter Eddie Kane was on his feet amazed by the display of athleticism and the fines-master gave a sly smile as he wrung his greedy little hands.
The Frome middle order had set-up shop, their competent teenage No.6 was playing controlled shots, their No.8 was giving it a less cultured whack and had reached his 50, the pair taking their score from 47-6 to over 100. It was time for a change and some added control to the bowling.
Captain Jack turned to himself and the experienced old timer Sammy Vesey Junior. It didn’t take long before Sammy V Jnr got through the young No.6 defences (119-7) followed by the pair working in tandem, Captain Jack removing the No.8 as he punched the ball again skywards, but straight down the throat of the perfectly placed Sam – he doesn’t drop those! (119-8). Play was briefly interrupted as our very own scoring purist, Fi Isaacs, on her way to offer support and no doubt lost deep in thought at the prospect of technology taking over from good old multicoloured pens and scorebook, wandered in front of the sight screen behind the bowler’s arm. Oh how the fines-master shuddered with delight!
The Bears were into the tail now, but work still needed to be done. Sammy Vesey Jnr, ankle strapped up tighter than a camel’s arse in a sandstorm and whistling some of his old favourites he used to sing on the Vegas stage with his best buddy ‘ol blue eyes’ just kept nibbling away. Between Captain Jack and Mr Show Business they wrapped up the Frome innings with a score of 126.
The Bears had been totally in the zone in the field all day, a significant improvement on the previous week, and as the team settled down for their match tea, the anticipation was apparent for a positive result.127 required from their 40 overs on a slow scoring wicket – it was possible and now in the hands of the batting unit.
Specialist opener and square leg, Pete Woods and our senior-pro Charlie Samler started the chase. With Frome sticking to their line and length runs were particularly hard to come by. Patience was required and the 2 openers were proving equal to the task before disaster struck. 2 full tosses thrown down by their opener were both mistimed and both holed out in horrible style, Pete for 13 (24-1) swiftly followed by Charlie for 5 (25-2).
But fear not, because Sammy V Jnr and his side-kick Captain Jack were here to save the day. Sam ‘the best batter wicket-keeper in the southern counties currently not wicket-keeping but bowling because of an ankle injury’ V Jnr and the Skip started to build steadily. Not a drop of sweat broke from either of their brows, boundaries were coming, including 2 mahoosive 6’s from Sammy (now humming one of his favourites- ‘that old black magic’). The crowd were on their feet!
But time at the crease eventually got the better of Sammy Vesey Jnr as his mind drifted to his final appearance alongside his Rat Pack buddies at The Sands Hotel, Vegas in 1960. With the partnership at 97, this lapse in concentration saw him top edge a slog-sweep intended for cow corner (38). But, with Andy ‘trying to be better than the other’ Strange arrived at the crease the Bears were 92-3 with overs in hand and well in control.
A controlled innings was needed from Mr Strange, but he tried his best to make it hard for the team, when, still on 0, he whacked one skywards to deep mid-off. As the ball looped it’s way down the fielders throat Andy and fellow watching Bears used their psychic energy to influence the situation. Thankfully all had followed Captain Jack’s pre-match set homework by watching ‘Derren Brown – his secrets revealed’ and put new found skills into action. With psychic energy crackling through the warm summer air, the fielder didn’t stand a chance, a certain catch was dropped and Andy survived. Having bragged at tea that he couldn’t think of anyone who deserved to be fined in the first innings, including himself, the fines-master was ecstatic that the situation arose. Ker-ching!
Jack had continued to play the cool, calm, Captainains role and soon the 2 settled. Runs came fluidly till, with 1 run required for the win it fell to Andy to smash one, cleanly this time, well over the boundary for 6 to bring up the win, finishing on 17*. A classic Captain Jack innings (42*) was met with elation for a second week running by his latest Insta follower and No.1 fan, Taylor Swift. “He’s my guy” she purred as we spoke remotely, she laying in her extremely large satin-sheeted bed in her Rhode Island penthouse, slightly dishevelled (it was early stateside) yet flawlessly rocking the natural look. “I’m heading to London soon, my Primrose Hill pad…. I think it’s time….”
Time for what, one can but wonder, but what we do know is that at the moment it is time for this Bears 2nd XI. 3 wins from 3, a team with depth, breadth and still improving.
As Oily Cox lathered himself up in the showers for one final time that afternoon, and as a banging spotify playlist with associated vibes emanated from the changing room as strongly as the Lynx Africa liberally applied over buff Bear bodies, the lads cast off any final clouds from the previous week and enjoyed a deserved and briefly table topping win. Their 1st XI Bear-buddies were on route to the Cross Keys and were calling for Bears reinforcements, and they duly answered the call.
To mis-quote the fantastic and gone far too early Kurt Cobain – ‘This smells like team spirit!’
Next week – Bear Flat 2nd XI vs Churchill CC (Home at PSJ)