(This report is liberally spiced with words and phrases out of this year's guest publication, Roger Melly's Profanisaurus. Each word or phrase refers to the same popular activity. My all-tour challenge is this: anyone presenting me with a full, error-free list of the words and phrases wins a pint a night off me for the entire 2003 tour. Anyone presenting me with a list with an omission, or a list with a member not included in Mr Melly's work, buys me a pint there and then.)
Some sausage grappler had organised a soccer competition during the cricket season, and a parcel of Mystic rogues were still in a Silverton pub watching television when the game was meant to start. According to a questionable tradition, a Sharland had been awarded the honour of captaining the Mystics, and, according to clause B of that tradition, that Sharland was one of the rogues. I was alone at the Killerton ground, oiling my bat and polishing the Chairman's Cup, feeling a bit like Mary Chipperfield without her monkeys.
I tossed up, but my coin landed on fallow ground. By the time Graham and his errant dance-troupe had waltzed in, Eire were out of the soccer world cup, Ronaldo was getting a rub-down and the Broadclyst openers were padding up. Worse: disorientated by the non-appearance of the team I had selected, I found myself agreeing to a forty overs match. It was enough to make a bald man cry.
Kev ratcheted in for the first over, pumping his bowling arm up and down like a plumber unblocking a sink. Half way through the over, I counted the fielders and realised that, in my anxiety to ensure we had eleven, I had picked twelve. Embarrassed, I made my excuses to Graham, and shot off into my wife's comforting arms.
Jimbo bowled an awkward, Bambi-on-ice maiden from the field end. After six overs, Broadclyst had only scored seven (four of those coming in wides). At this point, Kev's bowling action went off to feed the ducks, and his next two overs went for 21, including a six through the open door of the home dressing room: a six which landed straight on the foot of their Welsh number four batsman.
Graham decided it was time for Chris Healey and Matt to have a go at dislodging the openers. The former knocked one out with his first ball. The latter, meanwhile, with a flick of his supple wrist, persuaded Gray, the new batsman, to lob one back at him. Ham-fisted, Matt spilled it. In the next over, Healey's dexterous fingers brought about a repeat of the lob. This time it stuck, and Gray wandered off cursing his luck and jiggling his jewellery. An expensive over of leg spin, and Graham scrubbed the Cook, bringing Clem on to weave his palmistry from the field end. He soon struck, bowling Bradford for a fine 50 and having Alderman LBW for a slow two. 27 overs gone, and Broadclyst were 82 for four.
Before the hundred was reached, Clem had a third, Humphreys smartly caught by Windy. Edmonds (the captain) and Webb steadied the ship. Graham rang the changes, giving Sam, Ern and Chris a roll of the dice. At 131 for 5 after 34, the captain decided it was time to spin his own propellor. Three overs of left arm orthodox at the end of the innings brought him three for 12. Broadclyst's 155 for eight included 17 wides - too bloody many.
After tea, Graham asked Ern and Windy to open the innings, and the white-knuckle ride that is a Mystics innings had begun. Ern fell in the sixth over, thrapping a poor ball straight to midwicket. Windy was bowled, leaving the ball alone; out for 30. Matt and Chris Healey were left to re-establish the innings. At halfway, we were 70 for two, and Chris Healey was moving into sixth gear. Five overs later, however, he popped up a caught and bowled, out to the eighth ball of an expensive Bridger over. Hitchcock and Cook then managed to contrive a run out, and it was Matt who had to walk the plank. He was soon followed by Graham and Jimbo (both caught). In eight overs, 113 for two had become 122 for 6. Clem was dropped twice, and Sam followed his brother's example: he was half way down the track when Clem put the red lights on. Sam was run out by some distance. Kev looked at the scoring rate and exclaimed that we were behind the Arse King. I was unsure what or who he meant, but I smiled and nodded anyway.
Not even my genie rub on the Chairman's Cup was enough to turn our fortune. Clem failed to be dropped a third time, Chris took the ever-popular caught and bowled route (the third to fall that way), and my Dad, realising that all was lost and that the bar was open, fell on his sword. Kev was left high and dry, a menage a une at the wicket. How was he ever going to catch up with the Arse King now?
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