On the 8th day of the tour it is said that the Mystics team picks itself: that should at least be a cause for celebration, since it is usually unable to bat, field or bowl for itself after a long and winding trek through Cornwall and Devon. And so it was that approximately eleven players assembled on an overcast Sunday afternoon at Killerton for the annual finale to the tour.
Broadclyst, nothing if not ingenious, tried to disorientate the visitors by introducing a new, beautifully appointed (and National Trust approved) second pavilion to the proceedings, though quite rightly given the state of week-old touring kit, Mystics players were kept well away from it.
A slightly delayed start saw Duncan and Chris Ferro open the innings for the visitors. It was just as well the start was only slightly delayed, because if it had been any more delayed it would have missed Duncan departing for one to Bridger's second ball in the second over.
Cometh the hour, cometh the Charlie, and he wasted no time in imposing his pedigree on the Broadclyst bowlers. He quickly raced to the position of equal top scorer in the match, before succumbing, as the great Richie Benaud might have said, just 99 short of his first Mystics hundred. Charlie fell to a stumping which to many bore the hallmarks of careful planning between Edmond and Dean following detailed video analysis of Hadley's batting style. Such are the lengths teams have to go to just to remove him from the crease (especially if the bar is closed).
At 4 for 2 in the third over, the Tour looked destined to wither out before Pete W and Jim M had made even a slight dent in the stockpile of bottled beverages that seem to prop up the well-used Broadclyst pavilion bar. But Ernie knows a thing or two about digging in (as anyone who's seen his smallholding knows), and he and Chris Ferro tried cautiously to turn things around. A different side to the normally carefree Sharland batting was evidenced by taking 12 balls to get off the mark, but the supporting role included 3 neat fours, whilst Chris commenced his tenure at the crease in a characteristically assured and unhurried manner.
Adi tagged with Ernie with the score on 29, and continued watchfully at one end whilst Chris started to find his rhythm at the other. In the 20th over, Walker Snr claimed the first of his 2 wickets by getting Adi to play on attempting a cut, but with the score on 73, at least a platform of sorts had been built (albeit one that creaked a bit and needed a folded beermat under one leg to stop it from wobbling).
Infused with more culture than one of Sean and Cliff's Petri dishes, Chris continued to accumulate runs and assimilate boundaries. Pete kept the score moving with regular assaults on and (once) over the rope. Having perished for 34 from just 29 balls, it was left to Tony to continue playing the fiery madras to Ferro's cool and soothing cucumber raitha. He quickly fashioned an identical score to Pete, with an identical boundary count, and together the pair headed the Mystics cause towards the 200 mark. Eventually Edmond (whose 2 for 52 off 12 was the most notable of a solid Broadclyst effort) got the better of Tony in the penultimate over of the innings.
This left just enough time for Sean to add some stylishly executed dots to the scorebook until Chris could underline his fine week with the bat by reaching his first 100 in orange and yellow with his 15th four of a smooth and faultless innings.
During the tea interval Sean gave guided tours of the vast new pavilion to anyone that would listen (or couldn't run away quickly enough), whilst others kept a watchful eye on the gathering rain clouds. Mystics children gambolled in the fields of Killerton House as if the week's exertions had been but an hors d'oeuvre to a more substantial meal, whilst players lay about and creaked, stretched, cajoled their limbs, persuading themselves that another 150 minutes of exertion, if not wise, would surely not be fatal.
The Broadclyst quest for 212 began serenely for both sides, with Ian Hooper and David Urch settling into their stride against admirable bowling from Kev and Tony. Kevin had not bowled for a long time on these shores, but he summoned up a spell from dim and distant parts of his cricketing memory, wherein lie tales of skiddy feet, bottom assisted run-outs and (alas) Andy Mickle Dee (all certain to feature when an autobiography appears, as I'm afraid it inevitably will).
Tony and Graham collaborated to dismiss Urch in the eighth over with the score on 23, and this brought Pete Vikusic to the crease, heralding the start of a 50 run partnership in which Hooper started to find scoring shots on all sides. Jim and Pete covered the attacking shots at either end of the ground whilst Chris and Adi, kindred spirits of the Mathematical world, covered the Pythagoras positions (some of the square on the other 2 sides). Pete bowled a tight five over spell without achieving a breakthrough, whilst Charlie tried to lull Hooper into a false sense of security by selflessly encouraging him to help himself to a pair of sixes in one over. It was finally Graham that broke the impasse though, bowling Vikusic for 16 as part of a wicket maiden.
Walker Jnr arrived and set about building a potentially more decisive and destructive partnership with Hooper, sharing boundaries and imposing themselves on Graham and Sean such that Hooper breezed past 50 and pushed on towards a hundred. Kev finally showed what a safe pair of hands he has in catching Walker Jnr off Sean for 26, but with the score already at 154, there was little margin for error, especially as Cliff set about the remaining run chase with enthusiasm. Hooper reached a brilliant century off just 91 balls, and as the evening drew in Broadclyst needed just 24 from 5 overs with 7 wickets in hand. Unfortunately for Broadclyst, as the target got closer so did the rain clouds, which slowed the outfield and soaked players and ball alike.
In a gripping last half hour, Duncan and Jimmy Ton arrested the Mystics decline with inches to spare, and once Jim had removed Hooper for a pulsating 108 the task of getting across the line became that much trickier. Three wickets in eight balls from Duncan removed the last hope of a Broadclyst win, whilst Charlie ensured the lady of ample proportions closed her mouth and packed away her musical repertoire, with an effortless catch to send Cliff back to the bar in a scintillating climax.
Warm handshakes all round at 8 o'clock were followed by warm beer and tour presentations in front of the pavilion. Ernie received the Player of the Tour award, Yoda the Supporter of the Tour. Everyone agreed Jim had surpassed himself and produced an especially shit tour, and that all parties would need to come back again in 2015 to ensure he delivered on a promise to make it even worse. Sean was last seen wandering the corridors of the new pavilion like Miss Havisham with added pasties. Children are probably still running around the fields of Killerton like wild banshees and may be reunited with their parents during next year's game. The Mystics Team had just enough energy left to disband itself into the evening gloom: another minor miracle on the eighth day of the tour.