Mystics versus Boconnoc at Boconnoc House, 2nd August 2011
Boconnoc earns an entry in its own right in John Betjeman's Cornwall. Pencarrow doesn't. Both houses are Georgian, but Boconnoc is so long, thin, elegant and almost symmetrical that it makes Pencarrow look short, squat (and symmetrical). You can get married or play cricket at either: something for bachelor Mystics to ponder on. Not that Boconnoc House, a Royalist stronghold in the Civil War and now home of the Fortescues, was visible, but there was enough to give us a feeling for the 300 acres of parkland and gardens. Our cars passed from the twenty-first century into the Edwardian era once they were through the white boundary-gate. There were deer to wonder at before the game, and the shot silk of the rouge-splattered sunset sky after it. Between whiles, there was the match itself.
Matt Cook caressed the first ball for four, and had bagged all the 18 runs on the board when he was smartly caught and bowled by Stacey, and Graham Sharland struggled to the same score by a more circuitous route - batting in glue some of the time. There was some impressively tight bowling (Wills went for 8 off 3 overs, O'Reagan for 5 off 2). Local rules enforced retirement at 25 (is that too few? Matt was only 7 short after the first nine balls of our innings), which accounted for Chris Ferro and Sam Cook. Since this was his last game on his first Mystics tour, Ferro - not yet out - has to figure in the averages under "also batted," which just goes to show the shortcomings of averages. Jim Thomson was out to the final ball of our 20 overs, after accumulating 1, his brother and Pete Weatherhead having proved not quite so successful. Neil Hadley, instinctively taking up a defensive position on his own goal-line, was run out by slightly more than the length of the pitch. Fraser Chave struck Hawkin for a lusty four to leg and was clean balled next bowl (why not? language is more pliable than a box). As for Chris Squire, I can't be the only Mystic to have noticed the habit he's developed over the course of this tour of uttering the sort of anguished cry more normally associated with a man who's just knocked over a full pint of Betty Stoggs every time he's bowled by a straight ball that he was trying to plant over mid wicket. (He produced an even more plaintive one against the Erratics on Saturday.) Never mind. Six per over isn't a bad return in this kind of game, even though Trescothick and Kieswetter would probably scoff at it.
What with the bar being open and the evening all aglow with grass-dappling rays, there was plenty of incentive for the spectators to disport themselves. Rita set out with Scooby on a "Spot Boconnoc House" tour of the estate, but returned unspotted. (I used to be puzzled by the Christmas carol about "a virgin unspotted" - transposed for Methodists to "a virgin most pure." I was suffering from adolescent acne at the time, and unseasonally envious). It was Chirpy, I think, who drew my attention to the pavilion information that Boconnoc is the oldest cricket club in Cornwall. Who, he wondered, did they find to play against back then. Where the spectators were crucial to the Mystic cause was in keeping the barman busy through the Boconnoc innings. (Blake is the surname I'll choose when I'm resurrected. There was a D. E. Blake in Hampshire's team at the first county match I attended in Bournemouth; Sexton Blake and his chum Tinker kept the fictional streets clear of crime through my boyhood; William Blake's visionary genius speaks for itself; and Peter Blake produced the album cover for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band). Unlike any of these, Barman Blake has scored two double centuries (there are cuttings about them on the wall of the pavilion). He was due in next when we bowled our final over - an image in absentia of gentlemanly cricket.
What a wonderful place to play cricket! What a great team to play cricket against! What more - other than a 2 o'clock start - could we ask for?