The Art of Cricket

Mystics versus Broadclyst at Killerton House, 1st August 2010

This is an impossible task. It was nearly a year ago, and all I have to go on are photocopies of the scorebook, my detailed contemporaneous notes, and some video footage. It's so unfair. I think it's probably racist. They can do you for that.

Anyway, knowing my co-correspondent's penchant for unusual angles, I will attempt to provide a conventional match report.

On an overcast day, in front of a large crowd of knowledgeable supporters, Hayder Al-Mohammad and Pete Weatherhead walked out to open for the Mystics. The former was packing his new 3lb bat, the latter his new £3 haircut. Hayder's purchase was the less successful, as the hoped-for string of boundaries failed to materialise against decent seam bowling on a wicket with a bit of lift, and he eventually departed for a remarkable 31-ball two. I don't know what game he thought he was playing, but in the scorebook the two singles against the two neat rows of dots look eerily like a cribbage board. It's entirely possible he looked the definition of cricket up in a dictionary and missed. He missed everything else.

Pete was in no such trouble, cutting and driving with great authority and style. Every time I've seen Pete bat he looks a very good player; of course he's never really had the chance to make a real go of it because being a pace bowler, you're naturally relegated down the order and denied opportunities. This is just one of the ways in which society discriminates against tall people. (Not enough ways for my liking, of course. Although I do approve of the fact that there are minimum heights, as well as eyesight criteria, for joining the army. The idea of all those tall, athletic chaps with perfect vision being shot at while us myopic midgets are safe at home is a tonic in the dark days. Actually I doubt Pete would make a good soldier; for a start all the hair would have to come off, with the consequent postural imbalance issues. He'd be all over the shop in the drills. I digress.)

122-1 looked like a solid enough platform. Turned out it was Piper Alpha. A mightye conflagration ensued, as Phil Walker and Ken Horne shared six wickets for a mere 15 runs. Kev was advised by Ernie to "just enjoy yourself"; Kev took this advice literally, ignoring the implied "while scoring some runs". Tricky business, coaching. You have to be so precise. Pete's superb knock of 77 ended with an equally superb over the shoulder catch by Cliff, though in truth Pete won most of the internecine battles. My notes record: "Ernie and Fraser missed. That is all."

Sam didn't. Playing with all the self-confidence and freedom from responsibility of an art student, he overcame a painfully slow start - his first 10 runs took 7 balls - to whack a 21 ball unbeaten 41. (Incidentally, I saw Sam's degree show recently; he's into alternative pigments, and was displaying various shallow circular containers containing slowly congealing mud. Like a drought-afflicted riverbed. Or, literally, watching paint dry. Very moving.) The tiny video clip I have of the game shows him battering an enormous six. It also shows Gemma painting children's faces. "The Body As Canvas; Inverting The Gaze". That's a 2:1 right there. (I'm not bitter. I'm totally over Kate telling me 20 years ago that her typical week at uni had involved one hour of lectures. I'm down with it. It's cool. Over. Gone.)

Anyway, 180-8 at tea. (Really - not an issue.) Hayder then somehow talked his way into opening the bowling too, with rather better results. Indeed, so unplayable was his first over that Cliff turned down the biggest run ever to avoid having to face his second. Wise move as his partner Hooper got cleaned up instead. Hayder was then removed to avert the risk of Cliff having a full-on panic attack. Actually Cliff did bat very well, making a fine 32, before being bowled by Kev, who was using the springy end of the wicket to great effect. (Look at my face.) A brilliant and typically nonchalant one-handed catch by skipper Jimmy Ton doubled Kev's haul.

At that point Broadclyst were 55-4, and Kev was on the verge of selection for the NZ squad. The next 7 overs yielded 60 runs however, as Jim T and your correspondent took a battering from Rainer Kersandt and John Bathurst. They were looking like they'd cruise it, but when Jim came round the wicket and finally bowled Kersandt the balance had shifted back a bit - 125-6 and 55 needed off 15 overs.

Time for a captaincy masterstroke - enter Fraser. Cunningly allowing the batsmen to whack 14 from his first over and become overconfident, his second over produced the wicket of Walker Sr as Kev clutched a bullet to his chest and plunged to earth like an extra in a bad Western. Suddenly it all fell apart for Broadclyst. Sam cleaned up Ken Horne next over, Fraser did the same to Parker, and it was nearly done, this frail travelling coincidence.

It was left to Chris Squire and Jim Thomson to show me that great art is about inspiration, not perspiration, as Chris' first and only ball of the match was plucked delicately from the turf by Jim in a moment of conclusion that seemed to sum up everything beautiful about the game. It was effortless; but it was undeniably brilliant. Kate, forgive me; I think I'm over it now.

Chris Healey

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