No Triumph, no Callum-ity

Mystics versus Broadclyst at Killerton House, 2nd August 2015

Reluctant captain, Jimmy Ton, reluctantly won the toss and decided we'd bat first. Some compromises had been reached to allow me to field 11 willing-ish players, and it looked a pretty strong Mystics side with abundant batting and four seamers capable of propelling the ball down to the other end in excess of the national speed limit for single-carriageway roads. The day before, Sean had warned me that Broadclyst would have a good side, and added that "Joshie's playing". Well, he was at least part right. Euan Davey is always a handful with a new ball, and, with PWJ (Philip Walker Junior) at the other end, there was plenty for Sid and Pete, opening our innings, to think about. There was a half chance as a catch looped PWS's way off his son's bowling, but it went begging. In show jumping, it was suggested, PWS might have been docked four points for a refusal. A slew of extras kept us at about five an over, and we were 57 when the first wicket fell in the 11th over - the horribly tall Pete bowled by a Davey straight one that kept horribly low. It felt like a particularly unlucky dismissal as, that ball apart, the pitch was pretty much blameless. In fact, it may well have been the best wicket we played on all week.

Sean came in, and Sid started to move up through the gears. He had been watchful through the early overs, happy to let Pete and byes lead the run-accumulation, but now it looked as if he was ready to cash in. PWS came on, and Sid eased his gentle off breaks over and around the in-field for three fours in four balls. The fifth ball, however, was Sid's last and he wandered off shaking his head at the unfairness of it all. Now, I was 60 yards away behind the mid wicket boundary, and batsmen are notoriously poor judges of LBW decisions; but talking to the fielding side at tea, it quickly became clear that there were only two people out there who thought that the ball had hit Sid in line and that it wasn't going on to miss off stump by half a foot. Unfortunately for Sid, those two people were the ones that mattered most: the bowler, who appealled with an intensity that Graham Sharland might have struggled to match, and the umpire, Lee Bridger.

Still, every individual tragedy on a cricket field brings joy to some and opportunities to others. PWS had his man and Callum, batting at four on his Mystics debut, had his chance to shine. The first ball he faced was dispatched to the cover boundary with blink-and-you-miss-it fast hands, and PWS's figures after his first over were one for 16.

At the other end, Sean hit two well-struck off-side fours, but he soon settled in to playing second fiddle as Callum started to accelerate. Admittedly there was some unchallenging stuff delivered up, but it still needs to be hit. Joshie, the West Indian leg spinner, was the only one to make Callum really work for his runs, and the duel between those two was probably the best cricket of the afternoon. There wasn't much in the track for the spinner, and Joshie concentrated on containment, managing to escape the worst of the punishment for his first three overs. After that, Callum had played his way into taking on Joshie too. There were moments of fortune - Callum apologising to the bowler after French cutting a single down to fine leg - but a heck of a lot of good shots. Callum went to his 50 off 38 balls, hitting nine fours on the way.

The introduction of Peter Hill's looping slow stuff brought the end of Sean, stumped for a Mystics best of 22, and it was 166 for three in the 28th over. Matt came in and he and Callum compiled a merry 79 in about six overs. With Callum 95 not out, Cliff brought himself on to finish things off. Matt duly took a single off the first delivery and Callum obliged by hitting the second and fifth for emphatic fours. Jimmy was able to declare with the Mystics 245 for three off just shy of 34 overs and Callum 103 not out off 65 balls (14 fours and four sixes). It was our first ever ton on debut, and our third highest total. Perhaps interestingly, it was our fifth score over 200 against Broadclyst, something we haven't managed against any other opposition.

Tea in the new pavilion was a triumph. It's great to play against oppostition where there's rampant competition to produce the best, most generous teas. And Pete Weatherhead, tea lady for the day, certainly hadn't let himself (or us) down. By that time, quite a crowd had developed. Richard Hitchcock had turned up to watch Clem, Les and Alan Robertshaw were there too, along with my mum and dad, and it was like an Erratics equivalent of one of those Sounds of the Seventies music shows. Neil Hadley was enjoying the first day of his cricket retirement, stacking up the beers and entertaining everyone with tales of his great days. "Aberfeldy in 1995. I scored all the runs. At least for a while. And then there was Grampound Road. That Jeffrey van der Saay, well, he might have made Pakistan work for their runs, but he couldn't work me out ..."

Ian Hooper, last year's centurion, opened Broadclyst's innings with Dave Urch. And, despite our having four proper seamers, we started with 26 overs of spin, with Fraser and Graham delivering the first 14 of them. Wickets fell in the second and third over: Hoops angrily banging his pad after letting through his defences a ball that did little more than ease off the straight; and Urch accepting with a shrug that he'd nicked one through to Sid. Six for two became 17 for three as Graham picked up a second, Fraser taking the catch to dismiss PWJ. Cliff and Euan battled for eight overs, scoring mostly in singles as Fraser in particular bowled tightly (he conceded only 13 runs in his seven overs). In the end, though, it was Graham who broke the partnership with an incontrovertible LBW - just deserts as he'd bowled a lot of good balls in his spell, without perhaps achieving Fraser's consistency. Cliff's dismissal was useful in a wider context as it enabled him to get on with cranking up the barbecue and dishing out the double entendres.

On a bench on the other side of the ground, the first three batsmen dismissed sat in the late-afternoon sun and told each other how it could all have been so different if they had only hit the ball that bowled them or missed the one that they were caught off. There really isn't any difference between cricket at this level and the professional game. Apart from the money, of course, and the talent, dedication and practice. But the batting post mortem is a universal thing, and Hoops, Urch and PWJ were no different from Cook, Lyth and Bell a week later, all sitting on a bench at a ground with a slightly older pavilion, telling each other that they were just starting to feel good and if they only hadn't missed the ball that bowled them or ...

Meanwhile, out in the middle, dad and Alan Robertshaw had taken up the umpiring coats, and put in a solid shift. It's difficult to argue with 150 years of experience. Clem and Matt took over the bowling, and Matt soon had Euan Davey with a sharp caught and bowled. A wicket in his next over and Broadclyst were 50 for six in the 18th, still almost 200 runs shy of the target. A partnership of substance was needed. Fortunately for the home team, the new man, Joshie, was a man of substance. Sean replaced Matt and then, four overs later, Chris Ferro took over from Clem at the new-pavilion end. Ed Rodgers and Joshie kept things going into the last 20 overs. The score had reached 98 when Chris yorked Rodgers and then, two balls later, got Rob Scott to edge one to first slip where Matt made an easy catch actually look easy. Joshie was now batting with the tail and he decided it was time to hit out. Sadly for him, his pasa doble down the pitch to Sean was a couple of steps short and he only succeeded in popping up a catch to Clem at mid off. 32 from 45 balls was almost twice the next highest score in the innings.

Callum came on to replace Chris Ferro. He started with a wide, taking the total to 99, but there was no further scoring. Jimmy Ton brought on Duncan as our eighth bowler. This meant that Pete and Jimmy himself were the only outfield players not to get a go with the ball. Duncan's fourth ball persuaded PWS into an indiscretion. Sean took the catch and both the game and Duncan's position at the top of the tour bowling averages were sorted. It was our biggest ever win and our sixth victory (to Broadclyst's three) in the 15-match series.

Jim Thomson

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