Clash of the Tight 'Uns

Mystics versus Broadclyst at Killerton House, 5th August 2007

It was Broadclyst v Broadclyst as Cliff and Sean took on Jimmy and Pete for the right to say "you're even more village than me". Cliff and Jimmy were captains for what would refreshingly not be another overs game. Nine lucky mystics were along for the ride, probably relieved that their team included the pace and hostility of Pete and Jim, rather than the gentler spin and subtlety of Sean. And Cliff. It's a miracle that Sean and Cliff were still speaking actually, having spent many fascinating hours on tour arguing heatedly over the relative merits of Bowmore and Glengoyne whisky. But cricket is the great social lubricator, and if ever two guys needed to lube up and just get on with it, it was Sean and Cliff. For their part, Jim and Pete were both champing at the bit and looking forward to bowling a stream of short stuff at Cliff. It was all about how many bruises they'd have time to inflict - you sensed that they had an image in mind of Cliff's torso covered in an assortment of ugly purple and blue splotches. And they weren't just thinking of one of his shirts.

Dunc and Adi opened. The weather was scorching, and so was Dunc, who stroked the ball around beautifully. I could only watch in admiration. Sadly, so could Adi, as Dunc denied him access to the bowling with a superb display of strike stealing clearly picked up from his experience at Lanhydrock. When he did get a hit, Adi swung hard before falling to a ridiculously good slip catch. I reckon he was aiming at Duncan.

Enter Stewart. Now the mystics, as any casual glance round the changing room would tell you, have a wide range of helmets of varying size and colour. But none I venture is as large or shiny as Stewart's. It certainly seemed to occupy Donna's mind to an unhealthy degree. Stewart however ignored the attention and immediately impressed with proper cricket shots in attack and defence, en route to a terrific 48, 42 of which came in boundaries (many of which placed the huge mystic creche area in considerable danger). The Broadclyst boys meanwhile entertained themselves in the field with the biggest display of pointless slides since Adi & Talia got back from holiday.

Dunc's departure brought in Pete Weatherhead, who appeared to have a King Charles Spaniel trapped under his sunhat. Pete made a stylishly futile 12. Next up was Chris "Evening" Squire, and Sean immediately showed his bottle by coming on to bowl and dismissing the dangerous no.5. Bravely, Sean kept his nerve and stayed on despite the arrival at the crease of Dr. Derek Matravers, the well-known Cambridge Blue (whisky tasting). Though he did quite reasonably bowl at Derek with a long on just in case (good call in fact as Derek slapped his second ball right down there). Remarkably, Sean also managed to dismiss Derek cheaply, although Derek did outlast his new partner Jimmy Ton, whose innings consisted of two swishes and a "good afternoon, gentlemen".

Somehow we were 121-7. Sidney and your correspondent snuck us up to 144, though our attempts to finally get on with it in the last few overs resulted merely in Sid being bowled, me shamefully running out Graham and then chipping one up. 160 might not seem much, but the bowling was good and Cliff's captaincy was of Test match standard. Well, in that the final over rate was dead on 15 per hour, anyway. (I appreciate that captaincy must put you under extreme pressure Cliff, but when they say time seems to slow down in moments of great stress, that's supposed to mean for you, not for everybody else.)

Tea was splendid and plentiful, and one can only assume that Broadclyst opener Paul Stewart ate most of it, as it took him 38 balls before his score passed 1. The lethal pace attack he was facing consisted of Graham and myself, neither of whom ever got over 35 mph - a bit like Derek's driving in fact, although without the element of unpredictable swerve. So I'm not sure I can explain the batsman's difficulty. Except to say he looked uncannily like David Salter. Hmm. Anyway, at the other end, James Woollam compiled a careful 13. But something had to give, and Jimmy Ton's clear saving of himself and Pete to bowl at Cliff was sacrificed for the good of the sport. Pete came on and bowled with reasonable pace, though it being Broadclyst the only bounce he got was from his luscious hairdo. Can't have been easy for the batsmen to concentrate, with Pete bounding up backlit by the sun and looking for all the world like a 1970's hairspray advert. By contrast, Jimmy Ton looked like an government information film on the dangers of cider abuse.

The results were immediate though as both Pete and Jim took a wicket. But Cliff seemed to be avoiding coming in. It was time for another chess move. Pete and Jim were withdrawn and Jimbo and Dunc brought on. (Kt-Q6) Suddenly Paul Stewart came to life and smashed Jimbo to all corners of the mid-wicket boundary. Dunc immediately took the wicket of Ewan Davey, hit on the toe on the full. Ewan loitered and glared at the umpire before slouching off, and was later fined half his match fee (10 cans of lager). Now suddenly on came Cliff, sensing the chance of a few overs of gentler fare. (P-K6) Jim waited till he got within earshot, then shouted "Get loose, Pete!". (B-Kb7) Pete began an impressive stretching routine, and Cliff now saw the trap that had been set. He was forked. He had three balls of Dunc's over left, and shamelessly spooned the first up to point. (Resigns.)

Dunc's second over produced a true Mystic moment. Stewart front edged a big swish up in the air over mid-wicket's head. Deke eventually realised that he was mid-wicket and ought to get involved. He turned and staggered away underneath it. I'm ashamed to report that at this stage, none of the possible scenarios playing in my head (broken fingers, fresh air catch, hit on head, falls over before ball arrives, attempts to trap ball between thighs, martian lands and catches ball) involved Derek taking the catch. Then something weird happened. At the ball's apex, he was seized by a sudden panic and looked anguishedly around in a last desperate hope that someone else might be arriving to save the day. But he was out on his own in the spotlight. He now had only a fraction of a second to relocate the ball and attempt a very difficult running catch over his shoulder. I've since asked several experienced mystic hands if there was even a scintilla of doubt in their mind at this point that the catch would be dropped. There was no such scintilla. When he flung out his hands and caught it the team was simply consumed with joyous pride. If ever there was a moment that summed up what the club is for, this was it.

When Jim then bowled Lee Bridger (the scorebook records that he knelt down as if taking benediction before finally walking off), Broadclyst were 56-6 and - how can I put this delicately? - in the shit. 5 overs later they were 101-6. And one of those was a maiden. That's some hitting. With 60 needed from 16 overs they were right back in the game. Evening was coming slowly in as Edmonds top edged Jim towards short fine leg. It was just as well he was, as the ball came straight to him and he took an assured catch. Interestingly, no-one questioned later was in any doubt whatsoever that Chris would take it. There was an air of transition to it somehow, as if he'd arrived as a fully fledged fielder. In its own subtle way, it was a moving little moment.

Finn Morley was still blasting away heartily at one end, but now the opening bowlers were both invited to try spin, in what Jimmy must have hoped would look like a calculated insult. If insulted, the batsmen responded by going into a sulk. 14 runs were added in 9 overs as Finn's partners turned the scorebook into a pointillist (and indeed pointless) exercise. Last man Ian Hooper was sent in with imstructions from Cliff to "block the shit out of it". Jimmy Ton came back to bowl the final over, and at least Finn slapped a couple more fours to end with a very creditable 58*, as Jim's attempts to bowl the unplayably quick yorker were easily rebuffed by the hockey player Morley. It would have been a fitting end to that government information film.

It was a curious day. Between them, the last three batsmen in the run chase scored 2 from 37 balls, as Broadclyst's innings ended in the same perplexing way Paul Stewart had begun it. I don't know what instructions came from the captain, but when it came to calculating the required run rate, their grasp of simple multiplication and division seemed no better than your average chemistry graduate.

But one mustn't carp, when one can play cricket against a splendid bunch of chaps like the 'clyst in such fantastic surroundings. Even the rain, forecast for 4pm, miraculously held off. It wasn't until 9pm, as we all sat around in the twilight talking and drinking (and for the record, Jimmy Ton did indeed drink the bar out of cider), that it finally arrived. Great waves of it drenched us all, as if a weather god were reminding us: "Look you ungrateful bastards, I've just given you 8 days of glorious sunshine in the middle of the wettest summer in history. Don't push it. Piss off home why don't you!"

So we did.

Chris Healey

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