There was no doubting that Jonny Sykes was the player of the weekend scoring 78 not out against Blagdon, as Barrow Gurney played in two otherwise disappointing defeats in the final friendly games of the season.
It was not so much the results but the number of dropped catches which littered both performances which gave rise to disappointment and allowed both visiting teams to amass much larger totals than they might have done.
Saturday was a cold and cloudy at Hobbs Lane as regular visitors Blagdon batted first. Facing accurate bowling from James Riley, progress was initially slow with Matt Owen bowling well at times from the Village end, however it took the first bowling change, with Kieran Owen replacing his brother, to end the opening partnership on 55. Board then began to open his shoulders and play some expansive shots but was dropped off a high catch at mid-wicket.
When Frank Forge was brought into the attack, the change of pace brought successive chances square of the wicket on either side but both were put down, Board then set about lofting the off-spinner and, his bowling partner Steve Owen, hitting 3 enormous sixes on his way to 101, at which point he retired. Steve then took a catch of his own bowling before keeper Phil Milton dropped the ball on to the stumps for a stumping to give Frank the consolation of at least one wicket. Phil then repeated the feat more cleanly to give Paul Glazzard a first wicket of the season.
Blagdon finished on 247-7, which was always going to be challenging, but even more so after losing both openers cheaply. Phil Milton steadied the ship with 39, but the spectators were waiting to see if Jonny Sykes could continue where he left off last season. Initially the signs were not all that promising as Jonny looked like this was his first innings of the season and failed to connect with several of his familiar drives, but when he passed 20 his timing improved and he started finding the boundaries on his way to 78 not out (10 fours, 2 sixes). Jordan Allen provided good support with 32 before being stumped but Barrow were already well behind the rate and ended up 52 short.
On Sunday, the weather forecast suggested play was unlikely. The promised rain held off to allow a start at the scheduled time, with Leema (who play their home games at Barrow) winning the toss and batting first.
In the 6 overs before the rain arrived, Gareth Ashley was able to take his first wicket for Barrow having the opener caught behind by Sykes. Play resumed after half an hour or so and the game was cut to 30 overs with more rain likely. Barrow lost a couple of bowlers due to the slippery conditions requiring spikes, but Nick Heal bowled a really good spell troubling all the batsmen, being unlucky to have a catch behind dropped (at the third attempt) by the stand in keeper while Jonny was preparing to have a bowl.
Ellie Holdaway bowled accurately and began to frustrate the batsmen, and induced a leading edge which span viciously to the skipper, Mark Forge, at extra cover and both bowler and fielder were much relieved to see the ball stay in his hands.
Jeganathan though moved powerfully on to 81 before holing out to a really good catch by Gareth Ashley at long on off Frank Forge. Ruban had provided excellent support also making a 50 before retiring.
Mark Gracey also had a rare bowl and should have held onto a sharp caught and bowled chance, before recovering and responding to the calls of his teammates by running out the non-striker. Leema finished 211-5 which off 30 overs looked a tall order.
Barrow’s openers Pete Holdway and Mark Forge, started against some sharp and short of a length bowling, putting on 50; with Pete, farming the strike and playing some trademark cut shots, departing for a top-score of 40. Mark was runout after a direct hit before Mark Gracey and Mark Fisher formed a good partnership, Gracey in particular struggled to find the middle of the bat at first, and the scoring rate was already beyond Barrow’s range, but both made double figures. Nick Heal finished off proceedings with a shot to deep cover which was helpfully parried over the ropes for six, Barrow falling well short of their target on 127-5.
So in the 4 pre-season games, 2 were won and 2 lost, but all provided good practice ahead of the league season.
Next weekend sees Barrow 1sts away at Bristol West Indians & Phoenix, the 2nds at home to Bedminster 5ths and 3rd XI home to Pak Bristolians.