With the longest day already a week behind us, Glastonbury in full swing 20-odd miles down the road and the start of football’s pre-season a matter of days away, it can only be the halfway point of the 2024 red-ball summer. And for the second week running, we’re off to a bottom-but-one v bottom encounter, this time in the Bristol & Somerset division of WEPL Premier 2.

Keynsham CC is a classic town ground, surrounded on all four sides by residential properties; houses in three directions and on the fourth a well-appointed, fixed-base mobile home park, which is an oxymoron in anyone’s book. A row of big, white, detached dwellings screens the ground from the main road and even though the entrance has a large sign welcoming people to KCC, it’s easy to drive straight past without realising there’s a sporting arena here.

With acres of potential outfield beyond the boundary rope, this ground’s area must make it one of the largest single-squared venues in the WEPL pyramid, meaning if the town council were ever in need of a space for a couple of hundred extra homes, the plot would, heaven forbid, be worth a small fortune. Or even a big one.

The Frank Taylor Memorial Ground is a hub of the local community and close to its hundredth anniversary, having been bought by the club way back in 1927. Taunton Deane CC, meanwhile, was founded in 1959, the only drawback to its delightful ground at the Convent Field just to the south of the town centre is its propensity to flood in much the same way and at around much the same time as Worcester’s New Road does on a seemingly annual basis.

Keynsham go into today’s game as ‘favourites’, having won one league game to date, compared to Taunton Deane’s zero, an unwelcome statistic for these two fine institutions. Somerset and England cricketers past and present, Marcus Trescothick and Jack Leach, are former stalwarts of Keynsham and Taunton Deane respectively, but the predicament the clubs currently find themselves in delivers a salutary message, in that whatever your history or community standing, there are no guarantees of success. ‘It’s all about bloo-oody winning,’ as Fred Trueman was once prone to trumpet.

The opening hour of Keynsham’s innings is an entertaining affair, the home side reaching three figures off just 13.2 overs, losing two wickets, surviving three nearly-caughts and profiting hugely from no fewer than 36 wides in the process.

With Mellor having accounted for both Keynsham openers, Ackland and Carstens set about constructing the decisive partnership of the game, adding 138 for the third wicket to put the hosts firmly in control before Ackland is bowled by Squire for an entertaining 64 from 72 balls.

While the Ackland-Carstens coalition is in full flow, one of the late-order Keynsham batters is warming up by facing a series of no balls (Law 21.2: Straightening the Arm) from his two-year-old son, but sadly, umpires Steele and Stygal fail to spot any wrongdoing. ‘Did you see that?’ asks the batter of the fella sitting in the little red car a matter of yards away, ‘cut that one straight past backward point.’ ‘Been to every game this season,’ growls Red Car, ‘and haven’t seen you cut nothing past no-one.’ Grammar apart, the statement is probably accurate, given the batter misses the next three deliveries by a considerable distance.

Carstens and No 5 Baker apply a slightly more pragmatic approach for the next ten overs or so, though their scoring rate compared to that of the earlier batters isn’t helped by Deane’s refusal to concede any more extras, at least for the time being. 49 is still added for the fourth wicket, before Carstens is held in the deep off Burgess for 66, a dismissal that prompts Baker to free his arms and begin to find the boundary with a series of well-executed drives.

Due to the size of the ground, none of Keynsham’s 29 fours thud into the advertising hoardings, there being an impressive 50-plus companies attached to the perimeter fence on two sides of the arena. The banners are encouraging us to buy anything from kitchens to compressors, though it’s the ‘Empire of India’ board that captures the attention, as any club sponsored by the local spice house receives a king-sized Phil Smith tick in its commercial box. Keynsham’s main club backer is Lancer Scott, a construction company that describes itself as a: ‘Ground Breaking, Place Creating, Future Making’ organisation, a mantra that’s as impressive as its upmarket website. Even the covers at the Frank Taylor Memorial Ground are sponsored, one side encouraging you to Borrow, Invest & Protect and the other offering Wills, Probate and Powers of Attorney. E5 is clearly a company for the duration and beyond, one half of each cover focusing on the current situation and one on the afterlife.

Baker eventually departs, run out by the merest of deflections off Salt’s little finger nail at the bowler’s end, before Eyston concludes the innings with a bang, hoisting each of the last two deliveries of the 50th over, not into the advertising hoardings, but a long way over them to take the score to an impressive 300-5, a total that includes 49 wides, a traumatised wicketkeeper and some seriously sore upper arms for the match officials.

One of the West of England Premier League committee’s finest ever decisions occurred early in 2024 when the powers-that-be decreed that cricket teas would return following their Covid-induced cessation. KCC had been lauded for their culinary offering long before the pandemic struck and today’s Smorgasbord suggests that standards in this part of the world are in little danger of slipping. There’s an impressive array of sandwiches, savouries, cakes and fresh fruit and despite the sizeable quantities ingested by some, there’s still plenty left over if anyone fancies a few extras.

Burston soon has Williams-Pritchard caught behind as Deane’s reply gets off to an inauspicious start, though Captain Harry Smith makes his intentions clear from the outset with a trio of boundaries, and in tandem with first Warren and then Hameed, takes Deane to 121-2 at the midpoint of the innings.

Enjoying themselves just as much as Smith seems to be is another father and son combo who are engaged in a boundary-edge Man v Boy encounter under the ever-watchful eye of Red Car. Sadly, Boy’s catching technique proves to be as dodgy as Man’s out-of-season garb – a thick purple jumper and khaki trousers of indeterminate length, a cross between very long shorts and very short longs. Boy drops a skyer and feigns injury, just as a sharp chance seventy yards away escapes the clutches of first slip. Red Car, not known to over-exert himself unless absolutely necessary, shakes his head once, half a shake in response to the boy’s antics and half a shake in response to the fielder’s slip.

Wijayakumar bowls Ahmed for 22 before Smith’s 97-ball, 82-run resistance finally ends in a slightly unfortunate manner, as he drags a delivery from spinner Mattingley on to his stumps. A couple sitting in easy chairs wearing straw hats and rictus expressions have clearly driven up the M5 hoping to see a Taunton Deane victory today, such is their look of horror as Smith’s leg bail drops ever so slowly to the floor.

Other parts of the ground are filling up quickly – the Ultra’s Corner beneath the pleasantly shady tree has tripled in population, the net area beyond the northern boundary is a hive of activity and the large patio in front of the pavilion is pretty much full as news of Keynsham’s impending victory buzzes around the town. The influx of extras is particularly good news for the accounts of the two-tele’d bar, particularly if they decide to give out free beer to celebrate today’s twenty-pointer.

The locals don’t have too long to wait to savour the moment, four of the last five TD batters failing to trouble the scorers and when Stone finally castles No 5 Mellor, who’s been forced to watch the procession of wickets at the other end while accumulating a stoic 22, Deane are still 140 short of their victory target.

While the 55 extras conceded by the visitors hasn’t helped their cause, this is a big win in more ways than one for the home side. Only five points now separates them from third-bottom Ilminster and a win at sixth-placed Weston-super-Mare next Saturday could reignite their season. For Taunton Deane, though, already 35 points shy of safety, the outlook is little short of grim. And just like his heroic namesake 112 years ago, Captain Smith could very well be going down with his ship.

Keynsham: 300-5 (J.Carstens 66, B.Ackland 64, R.Baker 63, Extras 55; E.Mellor 2-44).

Taunton Deane: 161 (H.Smith 82, A.Hamid 29; H.Mattingley 3-30, J.Carstens 2-23).

Keynsham (20 pts) beat Taunton Deane (4 pts) by 139 runs.