Mystics versus Boconnoc at Boconnoc House, 28th July 2015
"If you know your history, then you would know where you're coming from", as that great historian Bob Marley once put it. So, to put this victory in context, a short history lesson – the parish of Boconnoc can trace its history back at least as far as the Domesday book (that's 1086) and as such has been in existence for almost 900 years longer than the Mystics and Magicians Cricket Club. And yet we were still able to muster a victory. Just think how good we will be by 2915!
In fairness to our opponents they probably only have a few centuries' head start: cricket will only have been played in Boconnoc since the 1700s, when the game first became formalised (and when the house was owned by the Pitt family, who produced that famous couplet of Elder and Younger Prime Ministers). The Deer Park in which the cricket field sits can claim impressive lineage though, and dates back to the medieval period (pre-1500). It's fair enough then that the deer exert their ancient right to liberally litter the outfield with "deer dumplings" [one for the categories game there – some of you will know what I'm talking about] for all that it might not be ideal for those fielders with an inclination to dive about. Thankfully, there were few such among our number.
Of course, not everyone shares Bob Marley's enthusiasm for history. Perhaps some readers of this report are more philosophically aligned with The Wurzels School – "I never couldn't see, no point in history; 'cos I weren't there, so I don't care". In which case, let's return to the events of 2015.
The key moment came at lunchtime on the day before the game, when Chris Squire ordered the seafood chowder at The Lobe [sic – according to their signage]. It didn't agree with him, and Chris dropped out of the team to be replaced by Matt Cook, who would go on to play a crucial knock. One can only speculate about the extent to which the previous afternoon's "wind conditioning" training session at Tor View contributed to Matt's success, but there was certainly a strong breeze to deal with as the Mystics opened up the game batting first. Chave the Elder's wind training had been to no avail though, and after a steady start he injudiciously attempted to loft the ball into the prevailing wind and over the head of a 7ft Stacey at mid-on. He was caught. Chave the Younger hadn't lasted long either, undone by Jeremy Johnson's leg-spin (hardly fair that Jeremy had opened the bowling, Fraser complained, arguing that he was only an opening bat so that he didn't have to face leg-spin).
But the Mystics wobbly start was soon forgotten, as Matt Cook and Chris Ferro came together and constructed what turned out to be a match-winning partnership [cut and paste one of the myriad Erratics' match reports eulogising a Cook-Ferro stand here]. Thanks to some imperious hitting Cook amassed his fifth Mystics ton, and his first since 2010, whilst Ferro's watchfulness was rewarded with an unbeaten half century, his second such in the yellow and orange. A useful cameo from Sid "Useful Cameo" Thomson topped up our total to a promising if not formidable 217 for 8 at the tea break, the highlight of which was the first-rate raspberry sponge cake on offer.
Having rather over-indulged on the latter, your humble narrator somewhat huffed-and-puffed in his opening spell of bowling. Debutant Ben Youngman fared better from the other end, but neither bowler was able to provide the frugality or penetration Captain Healey was looking for, and the Boconnoc openers Rob Foot and P. Martin offered their best impressions of Virender Sehwag in getting the chase off to a flying start. Healey shuffled his pack though, and came up with an ace in the shape of Sean Webb, who produced a very fine spell of off-spin that not only provided control but also brought some key wickets at key moments. And what a fitting name for a spinner! Like the spider, his industry and skill snared many a victim. Anyway, weave drawn this pun out long enough ...
Still, for all of Sean's efforts Boconnoc looked comfortably on course for victory as a post-drinks partnership between Johnson and half-centurion Jon Niblett gathered pace. And then, the Mystics came alive in the field. The first half of the Boconnoc innings had witnessed more drops than a bottle of Optrex (other eye drops are available) including one that had split open Fraser's left-hand. But when Ferro took a splendid running catch in the deep to dismiss Johnson, and Chave the Elder held on to a towering fly-ball in front of the sight-screen at long-on to return the favour to Stacey, the game was back in the balance. And then, a rather unlikely turn of events tipped the balance in our favour. Despite having lost the use of one of his hands, Chave the Younger's bowling hand was still intact, and so the young stoic was brought into the attack. As it turned out he was more effective with one hand than two. He somehow managed to complete a run out – one-handedly gathering a throw from the Elder and breaking the stumps. If that induced a bout of disbelieving chuckles from both sides, what followed reduced the Mystics, at least, to hysterics, as Fraser proceeded to dismiss Boconnoc's remaining batsmen with not-one-but-two one-handed-caught-and-bowleds (easy for you to say). And so, after a rather bizarre ten minute spell of cricket, the Mystics, who had spent the bulk of the innings feeling like defeat was inevitable, found themselves victorious by 14 runs.
As we stood in a brief spell of evening sunshine – the first of the tour – sharing in the disbelief, hospitality and BBQ fare of our fine hosts, those long-time residents of the Park came to reclaim their turf. The deer are remarkably tame (presumably that wasn't a good trait when they were actually hunted here) and were perfectly happy to saunter over to the BBQ and be served hand-to-mouth. Indeed, so civilised were these beasts it was almost possible to imagine that they had wandered onto the outfield with a view to partaking in a spot of cricket of their own. One even appeared to be practising its bowling run-up, I observed, as it pranced towards the strip. "Ah yes" quipped Ferro "it seems to have modelled its run up on yours". At least it wasn't as cruel as some of the contributions to Cards Against Humanity that followed back at base ...