Saturday XI versus Biddestone 2s (A)
Bears 194-4 45 overs
Biddestone 147ao 39.1 overs

Mark Gunning brought the curtain down on 10 years as Saturday XI captain with a typically GRITTY and unbeaten 84 which set up victory on a nail-biting final day of the Wiltshire League season. However, it proved not to be a fairy tale end to Gunners’ tenure, with Swindon NALGO’s comprehensive win over champions Burbage meaning that the Bears missed out on promotion by the slenderest of margins.

Batting first, the Bears failed to secure maximum bonus points, falling six runs short of the 200 run requirement, with the skipper again showing application and determination aplenty in batting the entire innings. In doing so, Gunners once again passed the 500-run mark for the league season – the benchmark for batsmen – and was joined in achieving that feat by Ashwin Agrawal, who rounded off a brilliant debut year for the Bears with 29. A third batter, in the form of Ross Newman, almost made it three in the 500 Club, but was cruelly run out for 17, just five short of this target. Saturday’s innings was rounded off with meaningful contributions of 22 and 20 not out from Rob Wilson and Matt Amner respectively, but as it turned out, the failure to reach 200 was to prove costly.

With no knowledge of events transpiring in the NALGO/Burbage match, the Bears took to the field with the simple aim of making sure that they won the game, though prospects in that regard began to look a little bleak as the Walker/Evans and Walker/Foston partnerships, achieved in good time, took the home side to within a 100 of victory. Evans and Foston looked particularly dangerous, but the Bears had the pitch to thank in dismissing the former (an Agrawal worm burner) and then the indispensable Ross Newman for the removal of the latter: Roscoe producing an in-swinging gem of a delivery to trap the hard-hitting batsman in front of middle stump. After Ashwin had then also accounted for Thomas Walker, it quickly became apparent that the Biddestone batting locker was now bare, and from a one-time promising position, the home side crumbled to 147 all out, providing the Bears with a further six bonus points.

As the players left the pitch, the skipper exiting through a guard of honour before collecting a photographic memento of his 10-year reign, news began to filter through from Burbage that NALGO were closing in on victory. A desperate search for a handbook and some deciphering of the bonus points system led the assembled to conclude that the Swindon-based side had pipped the Bears to second spot by just one point, but in heart-breaking fashion it actually turned out that the points tallies were level and that by virtue of having won more games, NALGO would claim the second promotion place.

So, the Bears are consigned to at least one more season in the second tier of the Wiltshire League, but on balance it has once again been a successful year: the heroics at Taunton more than making up for the failure to gain promotion.

And it’s farewell to Captain Gunning, who will join one of his predecessors, Dave Godman, at the top table of retired skippers, though we of course welcome him back to the rank and file and wait with bated breath for the announcement of his successor. Whoever that proves to be, he (or they!) will inherit a side in good shape and one eager for more glory next season.

COYB!