As some of you reading this can testify, I am not natural captaincy material and find it baffling that Jim entrusts me with the Mystics captaincy on such occasions, this being my third crack at it. The only captaincy related compliments I have ever received are about my politeness in enquiring whether or not a batsman would like to occupy a certain position in the order. The responses are seldom quite as civil.
And so I awoke on a glorious Sunday morning with the usual nervous tics that impending captaincy cause and figured that I should calm myself by watching England stroll to an easy victory over Australia at Edgbaston. After 100 minutes of sheer hell, without the benefit of any Lucozade, I was in a precarious mental state when I arrived at Killerton. No Mystics were anywhere in sight, other than those who would be forming part of the opposition, but Cliff Rush, Broadclyst captain and Mystic blackleg, took pity on me and declared that it would be in the spirit of things if the touring side batted first.
When the other Mystics turned up I decided to deploy a 4-3-4 system. I had a top four, a bottom four and three floaters, a passing Squire remarked that having so many floaters was most unusual for the last day of a tour. Having once declared with Sid on 92 not out, although thankfully nobody has ever reminded me of it, I thought I would give him the opportunity to reach those magical three figures in the company of Ernie. Ernie perished early on, gloving a lifter from Lee Bridger, and walked before Peter was given the opportunity, as tradition dictates, to give him not out. Grumps and Sid saw off the opening bowlers before Sid fell just 76 short of his long-awaited century.
Fraser, at this stage, had looked the batsman in the best nick. After being spanked around by his son, I sagely figured that Duncan was not likely to feature in my bowling plans. In order to collect wasps I donned the umpiring coat and got closer to the action, which also gave me the opportunity to get some clues as to the state of the pitch, having failed to do so, as perceived wisdom might suggest, before the game started.
Then something sublime happened. Older folk occasionally reminisce about where they were when they heard that JFK had been shot, but few of them actually witnessed the event with their own eyes. However, in a moment that will undoubtedly prove as pivotal in the history of the world, those of us at Killerton on that day will remember that they saw Derek Matravers hit his hundredth Mystics run, barely 20 years after making his debut. Dom Edmonds ran in to bowl, Derek took a well judged swipe at a ball outside his off stump and the ball sailed over point and to the boundary. Broadclyst sportingly acknowledged Derek's feat, a millstone in cricketing history, and joy was unconfined. (I have to admit here that, not having seen him bat for most of those years, I thought that it was his first ever four and asked him if this was the case. He took it well).
Derek perished soon afterwards, giddy with achievement, and we were into the floaters. The Mystics hopes of a big score, which had been my only game plan from the off, now rested largely on Grumpy and Duncan putting together a decent partnership. Things were looking rosy for a while but when Grumpy played inside a good ball from Edmonds and was bowled for 61, the innings went into freefall and we closed on 159 all out. Two of the floaters sank with little trace, the tail did not so much wag as flap limply during the death throes of the innings, and the last five wickets fell for 25 runs. Phil Walker finished with 3-26 and another turncoat, Sean Webb, with 2-7, while Edmonds bowled better than his four for plenty suggested. As Pete Wetherhead would have it, the end of the innings was a feast of ineptitude.
Fortunately, the feast that was tea was far from inept, in fact it was one of the finest of this, or any, season. Such delicacies as strawberries dipped in white chocolate are not seen very often at cricket grounds, nor, I hope, are there many tea ladies quite as hirsute as Lee. Setting aside our rice crispy and chocolate cakes, we adjourned back to the theatre of combat where I set the field as best as I could and threw the ball to Fred. Some potholes caused by the ferocious pounding of the popping crease by Walker gave Fred's delicate size eights some problems while the other opening bowler couldn't have hit a barn door with a banjo.
Cue Grumpy and Graham to come on and restore some control to proceedings which they duly did, taking three wickets between them including the openers Mike Greco for 29 and Ian Hooper for 22. Rush then played the kind of innings that defies polite description. Bridger came in next and started flaying the ball to all parts on his way to 26, including an attempt to put one literally down Fred's throat. Unsure of my next move, I chucked the ball to the club Secretary and scarpered off to deep midwicket in the hope that someone else would know what to do.
Luckily, they did. Jim responded with a bewildering spell of slow, and slower still, bowling and the fielders took it upon themselves to occupy positions where they had a good chance of taking catches, whereupon Broadclyst generously obliged by locating them. The rudderless Mystics thus clawed themselves back into the game. At one stage Jim was on a hat-trick but responded to the pressure with an over pitched ball well outside the off stump which, presumably, Geoff Boycott's grandmother could have played with a stick of rhubarb.
Whilst the run rate was never burdensome, the impetus was now with the yellow and orange ones and Broadclyst slipped from 99-4 to 145-9, thanks largely to Jim's reluctantly produced spell of 5-22. With fourteen required, I felt safe enough to bowl the last over myself. Defying ability, I bowled a straight one which was intercepted by the Broadclyst batsman's pads on its way to the stumps. However, Mike Greco, Broadclyst's Australian whose square leg umpiring had impressed Peter so much, decided there was some bat on it. Perhaps there were still tears in his eyes.
So, the game was drawn, and in truth neither side really deserved to either win or lose. Player of the tour was Matt Cook, although he was en route to Killerton and therefore missed the presentation. Of greater shame, so did his father. Kate was a popular recipient of the supporter of the tour, Jim bought lots of beer and the Mystics gradually drifted off into the night, or in the Cooks' case, drifted in from the night, just as the bar closed.
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