Frome 2s endured a chastening leather-chasing afternoon on Saturday but fought valiantly to scramble 18 pointsagainst Burnham-on-Sea and head into a winner-takes-all final match of the season in 2nd place. On a day which at one point was in great danger of careering out of control, the Showmen managed to emerge just ahead of Long Sutton in the table. After 17 weeks of effort, it finally all boils down to a mouth-watering clash at Fromefield with the same opponents next weekend to see who clinches promotion to the Somerset Premier.
On a sweltering Bank Holiday Saturday, Frome travelled to the coast for their final away trip of the season. Presented with a surface which appeared soft, Captain Potter finally won a toss and decided to invite the hosts to bat first. As the second drinks break arrived at 30 overs with the score at 208-0, this began to look a debatable call.
Destructor-in-Chief was opener Brad House, who from pretty much ball one smashed a thumping unbeaten 160 which took the game away from Frome. Clearing the boundary with regularity he dominated an opening stand of 211, well supported by a classy knock of 68 from the division’s leading run-scorer Rob Driver.
In the face of such a mammoth opening stand, the Showmen deserve great credit for fighting back in the final third of the innings. After Wheeler trapped Driver LBW, all of the bowlers worked hard to maintain discipline at the back end and whittle away the rest of the Burnham order. Cox (3-37) and Arthur Harman (3-64) in particular, aided by some sharp fielding, helped keep a lid on things by taking regular wickets – restricting Burnham to 276-9 when a score well in excess of 300 was on the cards at one stage.
Faced with an imposing chase Frome started steadily with Leonard (28) again finding some early boundaries.However, after he mistimed to square leg Burnham turned the screw with a series of tight overs that saw the asking rate climb. As the pressure mounted the Showmen’s top order departed one by one trying to accelerate the scoring, with only Gullock (30) making a serious impression. When Cantrell top edged to square leg, Frome had slumped to 105-6.
With victory now well out of sight Frome had to prioritise batting bonus points, with Arthur and Mark Harman combining well in a 7th wicket stand of 77 to take the score past 180. Combining stout defence with clinical punishmentof anything loose, Arthur deservedly registered his first half century of the season (50*), whilst a late dart in pursuit of200 saw Mark (26) and Cox fall in the final over. Theinnings eventually closed on 190-8 – 86 runs adrift.
Despite a long punishing day, Frome head into the finalhurdle with their promotion destiny still in their own hands –a great achievement in its own right after last season’s flirtations with the drop. They will need to be at their very best next week as they entertain an in-form Long Sutton – a high-stakes encounter at Fromefield providing an exciting season with a fitting finale.