With only 3 weeks to go of the league season, Barrow Firsts are comfortably mid-table of Bristol & District Division 5 after their opposition (Woodpeckers) conceded on Saturday.
At Hobbs Lane though Barrow were fighting for survival in Division 13 in a game against Coalpit Heath 3rd XI. Put into bat, a makeshift Barrow team did surprisingly well as Pete Holdaway found some form playing a classy innings of 63. Pete seemed unusually aggressive and added some powerful drives to his trademark cuts and pulls. One strike over mid off for six will last long in the memory. Pete found some support from Roger Finnimore (21) before skipper Mark Gracey joined the fray, Mark making 53 not out as the bowling often fed his leg side shots. Stranded for a long time on 49, debutant Jerry Sanders suffered being run out without facing a ball as Mark sought his half century. Barrow though had had a slow start and 185-6 seemed a little short of par on the quick scoring ground.
In reply Coalpit Heath suffered a scare, being reduced to 9-2 as Pete Rooney and Paul Gard took early wickets. Pete soon took another before Mark Baldwin started to build an innings. With 3 wickets down and Baldwin nearing his half century, Nick Heal came into the attack to find some prodigious turn for his off spin taking a couple of wickets for 52 runs, but the fall of the 5th wicket seemed to galvanise Baldwin who accelerated rapidly to a chance-less century. Richard Hierons, also making his debut, having taken a good catch earlier was unlucky with a close LBW decision from the home (Barrow) umpire but there were few other scares as Coalpit Heath ran out the winners.
As the teams came off the ground, news reached them that Pucklechurch 2nds had conceded their game meaning Barrow were safe from relegation with 2 games to go.
At Blagdon on Sunday the game began in unexpected sunshine, the pitch looked a little green but the prospect of facing either the sun behind the bowler’s arm late on or the gloom of a cloudy evening suggested it was better to bat first. So, on winning the toss, skipper Mark Forge chose accordingly.
Opening up with Frank Forge and Connor Jones hoping to get a good start did not work as planned as Frank (after 2 delightful boundaries) was the first to experience that this pitch was much slower than expected and chipped up a catch to midwicket. When Connor creamed one to mid on and ran an ambitious single making only 90% of it before the fielder threw down the stumps at the bowler’s end, Barrow were struggling at 20-2.
Then followed, what turned out to be, the key partnership of the match as Colin Fletcher returned to the Barrow fold after 5 or so years to bat alongside Bernie Forge who he had probably never seen play before. At first there was some suspect running, and an occasional lucky shot. Fletch played lots of good shots but without fail seemed to hit the fielder. After 11 overs Barrow were on 25 and only 12 of those had been scored in the previous 8 overs. Bernie then started to find the boundary with some powerful shots and Fletch began to do the same. When Bernie failed to clear mid off the partnership had put on 67, Bernie making 26 of them. As all the batsmen struggled on the rather slow, dead pitch Rob Figuereido, also making a welcome return, added a useful 15 as Fletch finally succumbed for a really well-played 43. The tail then set out in search of a competitive score but apart from 13 from Nick Heal were disappointing in their efforts. 153 all out in the last over looked at least 30 lite of a good score but you can never tell until both teams bat can you?
After an enjoyable tea, Barrow opened the bowling with the pace and swing of Connor Jones at one end and the spin of Frank Forge at the other.
Well Connor showed just how much Barrow have missed him over the last few weeks bowling with genuine swing and pace and he soon accounted for one opener caught well at square leg by Ben Thorne before clean bowling the Blagdon skipper. Then Nick Heal took a brilliant catch at point to give Connor his 3rd wicket (for only 17) and with Frank being unlucky but accurate at the other end, Blagdon were 25-3.
Lyons then started to play some powerful shots and the total passed 50 well ahead of the required rate, but as Adam Brace came on and began to stifle the scoring rate (5 overs for 5 runs) a quick single attempt to Ben Thorne resulted in a quick throw to Bernie Forge to leave Blagdon 4 down. By this time Rob Figuereido was now bowling his off cutters to good effect, still finding some of that old pace with his quicker ball and when he dismissed Lyons for 42, he then ripped through the middle order taking 3/19.
Drinks were taken at 78-7, and Leo Brace and Nick Heal then came on with their different styles of off spin. Nick taking 1/5 and Leo (2/22) withstanding the brief resistance of a young Blagdon player who batted very well for 13, before finishing the innings off for 105.
Barrow ran out winners by 48 runs after a barren few weeks. It was a good team performance with some excellent bowling and fielding and the better batting on a difficult pitch.