Neutral Milk Cricket


Mystics versus Boconnoc at Boconnoc House Deer Park, 1st August 2017

Tuesday's mid-morning at Tor View, heralded by a lingering atonal hum, was comfortingly calm. Permeating each and every corner of the ground floor, the rumbling of unbound nostrils betrays our drowsiness. Last night's mild indulgences intensified to a soft peak, as we continue to ride the wave of an excitement propagated during the build up to the annual tour. We hosted a sort of unofficial home brew forum, to which at least three team members (Chris S, Pete and anon.) contributed their findings. Two memorable and successful brews were supped, the other (elderflower champagne) was frankly more akin to the liquor one might decant from a jar of gassy pickled eggs, left open on a bar top since 1975.

We resolve to congregate at the Globe Inn for lunch and almost immediately Olga reignites last night's conversation about what 'neutral milk' actually might be. For those of you unfamiliar with 'neutral milk', the turn of phrase derives from American late 80's rock band; 'Neutral Milk Hotel'. For context, the Internet describes them as a 'weird hipster indie band'; Chris Healey calls them 'The best band in the world'. We while away an hour or so, debating the issue, waiting for Chris to turn up with a definitive answer. Hours later there are mutterings about young Will breaking Chris's exhaust en-route to the pub or something. Of course we all knew that that Chris had probably pulled over in a lay-by to advise him categorically on the dangers of jazz music.

On Avery Island, is the first album by Neutral Milk Hotel, and takes its name from a salt dome in Louisiana, the band's home state. The area is synonymous with Tabasco sauce as Edmund Mcilhenny invented it there in the mid 19th century. The beautiful Boconnoc ground claims the longest continuous use of any cricket ground in Cornwall and it began its journey almost simultaneously to the world-renowned hot pepper sauce. The team was then composed entirely of people residing or working within the estate walls. So little has changed at this quintessential Cricket ground in fact, that it is remarkably easy to conjure a ghostly image of a handsome athlete walking out to the square in old-fashioned attire. Only then do we recognise this figure in front of us to be flesh and bone, once obscured by the humid haze, Deke, who has just arrived off the train, waves a hand.

Our captain, Fraser, loses the toss and we take our positions out in the field. The wicket has undoubtedly tasted rain and there is a sticky steaminess to the atmosphere. At one end, Ben's bowling is relatively economic, and he does well to get some pace out of the track. At the other end Will struggles to find his rhythm, but produces an impressive oscillation of extreme deliveries, one of which completely clears Sid, our keeper. In the field Jim leapt, Chris Ferro swooped, Duncan dropped (three) and elsewhere, our fielding was lacklustre. Perhaps it was down to the humidity, or that elderflower champagne? In truth it was a fantastic hard-hitting innings from first team captain Gary Spencer that had us breathlessly chasing the ball. Spencer retired at 50, which was something of a welcome surprise, as this rule hadn't been a stipulated prior to the match. The two Hyslop's batted well too in support but after tight spells from our Captain Fraser (19-1 off 6) Father Duncan (19-0 off 8) and Uncle Jim (22-2 off 6) we managed to slow the attack, leaving us a total of 176 to chase.

The ground is something to behold, yes, but the tea was truly awesome; Cornish pasties, flakey, golden, juicy and generously peppered; A perfectly spiced, old fashioned coronation chicken was bejeweled with plump raisins; The carrot cake was moist and springy; the zesty lemon drizzle adorned with silver balls (we noted the orange and yellow theme); and the fruit cake rich and nostalgic. It must be said; perhaps one of the best teas Cornwall has to offer.

Chris Ferro and Ben open the batting, optimistic now that the track has had time to dry up a little. Two short and tight opening spells from Hauke Moll and Gary Spencer keep the run rate modest, and a good ball in the 7th brings Ben back to the clubhouse on 2. There's something to be said for the unlikely batsman, waddling out to the field with pads on the wrong way round, neglecting a guard and swinging carefree at the ball, often clearing the boundary rope down at cow corner. Chis Ferro and Fraser Chave on the other hand, in almost complete antithesis with the aforementioned character, can both be categorised by their ability to channel rational judgment, patience and sheer class at the crease.

More economic bowling from Kevin Spencer (father of Gary) Matt Frith and PK (Prabhanu Keshan from Kolkata) bolstered the attack. Some athleticism between batsmen, and a few expertly driven fours saw the partnership flourish. Chris then sportingly retired at 50, which left us at 100-2. Ernie took to the field, and in an attempt to disrupt the lingering Zen, Spencer senior was then brought back on. In a whirlwind of an over he took two wickets, Fraser was bowled and Chris Squire was given out for a duck, LBW. We needed 72 from 12 now and Sid and Ernie picked up pace, both respectively reaching their 30's. With only 5 needed in the last over, it was already a tight finish. On the penultimate ball of the last over Kevin struck again, taking a third wicket and leaving the new batsman at the crease to face last ball. Out comes the unlikely batsman (S. Cook), waddling out to the field with pads probably on the wrong way round, neglecting a guard and ready to face the last ball. A boundary would clinch it, and whoosh, the ball beats the bat and narrowly avoids the stumps. It's a tie.

In the closing moments the friendly estate deer watch on, swifts loop out from under the eves, pied wagtails twitch on the pitched roof of the pavilion, the glorious oak trees burn yellow and orange as the sun sets and two buzzards hang above us, perhaps anticipating an easy meal.



Sam Cook


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