An excellent bowling display and a nerveless batting rescue act from Joe Smart steered Frome 2nd XI to another victory on Saturday, this time at home to Purnell. After impressing for much of the afternoon the Showmen still needed to overcome a batting wobble during another fraught run-chase, and were indebted to a heroic 8th wicket stand to see them out of peril and eventually over the line.
After a wet Friday things started well for Frome – winning the toss and inserting the opposition to exploit the early conditions with the ball. Purnell’s openers started steadily and carefully negotiated the early exchanges, however when Collis (4-21) was brought into the attack the game swung decisively in Frome’s favour. In an excellent display of full bowling targeting the stumps at good pace, 36-0 became 43-3 as the stumps were rearranged at alarming regularity. When a flying edge from Brain was then nonchalantly snaffled (full length, one-handed, two inches off the deck) at first slip by Smart, the top 4 had been blown away in a flash and Frome were firmly in the ascendancy.
A tight spell from Arthur Harman kept the pressure on whilst the seamers were rotated at the other end. Some lower order defiance threatened to frustrate Frome, however firstly Wheeler (2-21) and then Prince (2-14) kept chipping away with wickets at important times to keep any potential recoveries in check. By the time Prince pouched a return catch from Bryant, Purnell had battled on to post 121 all out – advantage The Showmen at half way.
After an excellent tea Frome’s reply got off to another disappointing start when the out-of-nick Potter was castled first ball. Despite this setback, Leonard and Pinchen pounced on the loose balls on offer well to rebuild the innings with few alarms and ease the score to 47-1.
With the game seemingly drifting towards a straightforward run-chase however Leonard (23) overbalanced to depart stumped and set in motion a spectacular collapse, which even by Frome standards threatened to push the envelope. An eclectic mix of long-hops interspersed with decent deliveries saw 6 wickets clatter for 28 runs in a chaotic 8overs, leaving the innings in disarray at 75-7.
Amid the chaos Smart watched on from the other end with the game resting on his shoulders as Wheeler strode out to join him. From a precarious position a responsible, mature innings was required and the tall right-hander duly delivered. After initially halting the collapse, gaps were picked for ones and twos as the runs required gradually ticked down and the volume of the visitors began to diminish.
As the pendulum swung back Frome’s way the pressure mounted on the bowlers and the extras count began to rise. Sensing the momentum-shift Smart then picked his moment superbly to seize on the loose balls on offer and launch a series of boundaries after drinks. Wheeler (11*) continued to scamper effectively to bring the target down to single figures, and with the hard work complete Frome powered past the finishing line in fitting fashion - a booming thump over mid-wicket from Smart (37*) taking the partnership to 50 and sparking celebrations on and off the field.
Whilst the display dipped slightly below the high standards of recent weeks, three tight run-chases have now all gone Frome’s way highlighting the impressive bottle and character within the team. A welcome 34 points lift the Showmen up to 2nd in the table, and with a third of the season now gone they find themselves handily placed as the league approaches its middle third.
Today’s batting wobble provides a stark reminder that the margins in this league are very small and that no-one can afford to become complacent. However the long, ever-growing list of players that have now stuck up their hand and produced a big performance to help win a game this season is great to see!
A key run of games coming up, with next week’s trip to Cheddar set to provide another tough examination.