Saturday 25 June – BFCC v Harptree Villages

by | Jun 30, 2022 | Match Report

Harptree Villages CC
Saturday XI

237 / 4 (40)
Bear Flat CC
Saturday 2XI

238 / 2 (28.5)
Bear Flat CC - Saturday 2XI

Life was a willow and it bent right to your wind (oh)

They count me out time and time again

Life was a willow and it bent right to your wind (oh)

But I come back stronger than a 90’s trend

‘Willow’ – Taylor Swift 

Salix alba ‘Caerulea’ – this fast-growing and straight-stemmed variety of willow produces wood  tough but lightweight and does not shatter easily – ideal for cricket bats.

The wind was gently bending the trees as the various vehicles carrying the Bear Flat 2nd XI wound their way towards East Harptree to face the Harptree Villages CC.

Though gusts were easing, it was still wise for part-time stunt-driver and the team’s slippery allrounder, Damo ‘Badger’ Cull to make sure he didn’t splash his shoes by aiming into the breeze as he had a brief pit-stop on route, the excitement getting the better of him and his enlarging prostate (it’s an age thing). Finished, he accelerated from the lay-by with Captain Jack and Jonny Essex forced back into their seats, faces contorted, Damo let out a whoop. Deprived of cricket for a number of weeks, and desperate to show off his new 80’s retro white leg-warmers, he certainly wanted to get to the game on time, breaking a number of land speed records on route.

They soon arrived at the beautiful Harptree ground, excellent clubhouse facilities and a recently covered wicket beyond which the Somerset hills rolled off into the distance, North and East, a sight to behold which reportedly when witnessed often brings on an aural hallucination of William Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’.

As they broke their gaze from such beauty and at the ground early saw they weren’t the only ones. Already present the unmissable figure of Si ‘BFG’ Brocklebank casting a long shadow across the ground as he warmed up, stealing dreams from sleeping children in the adjacent adventure playground (as they dreamt of cricketing hero Johnny B hitting big), bottling those dreams up ready to sip at them prior to heading out to bat.

Also present the diminutive figure of the best bowling/fielding/batting wicket-keeper in the minor counties (currently not wicket-keeping due to an ankle injury), Sam Vesey, fresh from his flirtations the previous weekend with the 1st XI, and ready in principle, to stake a place back in the bosom of the 2’s. Could his desire follow through to reality?

The other rag-tag 2nd XI bunch of misfits soon rolled in; Ben ‘Ready And’ Abell, Peter ‘Holly’ Wood, Matt ‘Better’ Strange, Oily Cox, Si ‘Send ‘em off’ Briffett and, following a late call up to the 1’s for Calen ‘I’m a nice South African, honest’ Joubert, a special guest appearance by Dave ‘Super-Sub’ Morris. Impressively all early enough to miss a fine, and in time for a pre-match warm-up – essential to loosen up those ageing muscles and show the warm and welcoming Harptree team they need not fear – they know how to misfield and drop catches as well as anyone.

With warm-up complete and toss won by the Harptree Skipper Tom Houlton, the decision for the home team to bat was made. There was still time for Capt Jack to deliver a brief match plan in the familiar Bears circle of trust, presenting caps to Dave M and a belated presentation to 2nd week debutant Ben A. Nearly half a season in and still players representing the Bears for the 1st time this term, a wonderful reflection of the depth on offer this season, and willingness of clubmen to help wherever they can.

Like a visual representation of a Madonna song, the Harptree opening pair of Mike Marsh and Peter Haigh soon settled into the groove. The Bears bowling opening partnership of the young Oily Cox and Matt ‘Hamstring’ Strange nibbled away with intermittent questions being asked, particularly from the newly patched up and metronomic ‘Better’ Strange who bowled through with an impressively tight 8-3-15-0. It took for a change of bowling unit with Captain Jack resting young Oily (5-0-34-0) and bringing on the original Essex wide-boy Jonny H. With a smattering of wides disrupting Peter Haigh’s concentration, Jonny Essex found the gap between bat and pad removing the stubborn Haigh for 12. Harptree were 66-1 with a classy Marsh scoring steadily.

With Matt S bowled out, Damo ‘Lewis Hamilton’ Cull joined the party alongside Heywood. Both bowled tight and true, but the pair of Marsh and Steve Thomas proved up to the task, continuing to add runs to the board. Jonny Essex finished his 6 over spell with 1-24 and was rested with Simon ‘Earl of Twirl’ Briffett coming on to disrupt proceedings.  A shrewd change eventually saw Thomas hit to Sam Vesey, the safest pair of hands in the Bears, and off he walked for an important 32. With the Harptree Skipper Tom Houlton arriving to the party, Mike Marsh was still patrolled the crease on 78* and appeared unmovable. Earl Briffett continued to flip, float and leg-break till an apparent break-through. Houston mistimed a shot and up popped the ball looping to Jonny Essex at extra cover. Unfortunately Jonny noticed that as the ball approached it was spinning at extremely fast revolutions and, fresh from a week of physics revision alongside his teenage son, he became lost in the fascinating world of parabola’s, particle spin and rotational kinetic energy calculations, forgetting he needed to catch the ball. A let off for Houlton who would go on to finish the innings 14 n.o.

With a breakthrough essential it was time to turn to the irrepressible Sam ‘tight-strap’ Vesey. Possessing a surprisingly large appetite for such a small man, he earlier had to disappear from the field of play for not one, but two samosas. With said snack finally well digested he was ready to bowl his controlled line and length to tease, and tease he did. After a fantastically controlled innings, a widish ball to the off side saw Marsh cut straight to backward point and the waiting ‘Badger’ Cull. A parry to the sky and subsequent hold by Cull saw Marsh finally walk off, bat under arm, for an important and impressive 91. Vesey demonstrated a glimmer of his perfectionist mantra shooting daggers at Cull for not taking the catch cleanly. Compared to earlier efforts of Jonny Essex, however, it was a fantastic catch.

A positive vibe settled across the Bears, an important scalp had been taken and with an achievable score of 158-3 with just 4 overs left positivity rippled through the team. But what they didn’t know that Riyaz Shaikh, quite tranquilly making his way to the crease was about to demonstrate the art of destructive batting. Jonny Essex was entrusted to partner Svesey in the death overs, bowling from the Hall end. Economical and accurate in his first spell, he felt confident he could keep the pressure on. But no, as Riyaz had other plans and quite simply took him apart, dispatching him, and Svesey, to all corners of the ground attacking Oak trees and Mercedes bonnets with the ball scoring the most explosive 59 runs (from less than 25 balls) until under-hitting and being caught by Oily Cox, holding effortlessly and deep mid-off.

A couple of boundaries came from new bat Phil Hogarth before it was half time , but the damage had been done with Riyaz extending the Harps to an impressive 237-4 off their 40. Important batting points and a serious total for the Bears to chase.

A quick match tea and the teams switched places. Out wandered our very own baking legend, the right reverend Peter ‘Holly’ Woods trying to keep up with Si ‘BFG’ Brocklebank taking ten quick steps to the BFG’s  one. The Harps had indicated they were thin on the ground with a bowling attack having lost their usual unit to a combination of Covid and others raving it up in fields, warm ciders to hand, in nearby Pilton. The Bears couldn’t take anything for granted though, and concentration was essential. All started well with runs coming freely till the BFG was caught out by a drifting loopy one from Steve Thomas, yorking him and off he walked having made a quick 22, the Bears 37-1. But all was calm in the Bears camp as out toddled Svesey, a man who seems to get younger with every passing day. He had a glint in his eye that either meant he was well up for this, or that the strapping on his ankle was a tad too tight and his eyes were protruding a little more than normal. Either way he seemed, as he rather unusually has been this season, quite happy.

A change of bowler saw the destructive Riyaz saunter o the crease. Could he be as destructive with ball as bat? Immediately he caused problems with Sam ‘Strapping’ Vesey chipping straight back to him twice in one over only denied by the power and pace of the strikes. Unperturbed Riyaz kept chipping away till just rewards were collected, the Reverend paddling one straight to first slip. Disappointing as he’d seemed to have risen to todays occasion like one of his best sponge cakes, but in the end wandering off as deflated as a collapsed souffle for 24, the Bears 72-2.

But what was this? Who appeared from the depths of the Village Hall, eyes of steel and determination, striding with purpose with only a hint of a limp from his heavily strapped ankle barely affecting his usually long, loping stride. – Captain ‘Hugo’ Jack! As he approached the crease the Umpire, Jonny Essex, could just make out the gently hummed chords of Swifty’s ballad, Willow, a song championing the ”never give up but come back stronger” attitude the Skipper is instilling in this Bears side. Looking across to his fellow throbbing ankled teammate and grasping his own piece of trusty willow in hand, he took his guard.

The rest nearly entered Bears folklore. The Harps, significantly weakened by a lack of the usual bowlers, rotated the honours through the team hoping for a breakthrough, but the Bears pair were dispatching the ball to the boundary with increasing frequency and intensity. The scoreboard ticked over at an increasing rate until finally the chasing score was reached in 28.5 overs, Sam striking the winning runs and, amazingly, taking him over the line for his century and finishing 103*. Captain Jack had too played an integral part, finishing on 82*. The 2 had put on a 166 run partnership – a hugely impressive feat in any circumstances. To say they were vibing to the max when peeling off each others ankle-tape was an understatement. Not even a cold shower could dampen the feeling coursing through their minds – awesome vibes, awesome knock – would either sleep that night?

Unsurprisingly the Harps were gracious in defeat and what followed was the epitome of everything weekend amateur cricket could and should be. Both teams made their way to a local hostelry and enjoyed yarns over a few beers. Fines were delivered brutally. The Harps scorebook came out and in it games from The Harptrees vs The Bears past. One in particular caught the eye from back in the day when Oily Cox was just a glint in his Father’s eye – and there he was! Si ‘The Terminator’ Cox, documented evidence of his Dad’s all-rounder prowess, proof to Oily that all those bedtime stories of cricketing excellence weren’t all made up. As the evening drew in both teams, in dribs and drabs, reluctantly made their way home or, for the more youthful amongst them, to destinations yet to be decided. Living life to the full, there were celebrations, burgers and plenty… plenty…. of barrels to enjoy.

Next week sees a return to PSJ in a home game vs Mark CC 2nd XI.