The Second Ton

Mystics versus Breadalbane, 29th July 1995

Saturday dawned a typical Scottish morning: black clouds, sunshine, white clouds, light rain, mist, more sunshine, and somewhere in the distance the sound of a man cursing. The Mystics rose warily, following the previous night's drunken ceilidh and headed north. It was felt best to avoid the twisty turny route through the glens that had last year turned some from noisy to nausea, so instead we were propelled like a giant orange and yellow arrow up an absurdly pretty dual carriageway. Oddly, the further north we went the better the weather got, and the good citizens of Aberfeldy were soon treated to the frankly repulsive sight of our leader applying factor 15 to his exposed cranium.

Awaiting us at Victoria Park were our splendid opponents Breadalbane ("Don't forget the E" they chorused, possibly in veiled reference to the team's drug habit). Whilst they went through a very professional looking fielding routine, the Mystic XI opted for formation lying around on the grass. First psychological blow to the home side, and they followed up with the toss, as Adrian Borley Ultimate Destroyer began his rapid return to ground zero with an incorrect call. The wicket was green and springy, and rather like in a good porn film, insertion was inevitable.

Out to the wicket strode a confident Adie and a terrified Charlie, who was convinced that the score would soon be 0 for 1. He was right, as Adie drove to point. The tension continued as, to cries of "Oh, my poor darling" from Laura, Charlie and Duncan negotiated successive maidens. Finally Charlie slapped through cover for 2. The spell had been broken, and the bookies were smiling. After 6 overs we had reached 3 for 1, with Neil accounting for all of them. Sadly this brought him to face McCallum of the sharp outswing, and soon he was back in the pavilion, to an ovation which bemused a few locals.

Ernie, hastily summoned from the pub to replace Sid (who had evaporated in the heat and was being kept in a jar by Naomi), hung in there for a while but he too perished to McCallum, who finished with 8-7-5-3 and seemed to beat the bat about eight times an over. A four guided skilfully to third man by Dr Matravers was his only blemish.

Halfway through our 40 overs, Mystics And Magicians stood somewhat inelegantly at 45-5. Mutterings of "Misfits and Beauticians" could be heard from the spectators on the public benches, who were watching for free and not really getting value for money. We'd been making a habit of turning games around, but this one was going to take something special.

Step forward Duncan Chave. Or rather, hobble forward, as the previous evening's midnight ramble had left him with a sprained ankle. Reduced to his natural game of trying to score in fours, he began to smite the ball around the ground like a man with a big heavy bat. Supported at the other end by Freddie and Peter, and from the boundary by an increasingly hysterical band of what can only be called groupies, he powered his way to only the second ever Mystic ton, and lifted the team to the unthinkable heights of 145 runs. How we managed to avoid a streaking incident from Annie I'll never know.

Tea was taken by the tennis courts, a chance to wind down and reflect upon an innings so good that I wouldn't be surprised if a small monument has been erected to it by next year. (You might think that a bit far-fetched, but then we are talking about a town whose Tourist Information Board lists the local Scout Hut as a place of interest). The other talking point was Breadalbane's huge range of shirts from past tours, none of which any of them seem to have been on.

The entertainment continued after tea with two extraordinary bowling performances. At one end Sumo charged in and bowled extremely quickly and dangerously, several times nearly decapitating the Breadalbane openers Simon and Valentine. Mothers turned their children's eyes away as he mercilessly exploited what he clearly felt to be a helpful spot about eight yards down the wicket. Fortunately, after some harsh words from the umpire and the threat of NATO intervention he slowed down and pitched it up, and was immediately rewarded with a fine diving catch by Jim.

Meanwhile Kev, so confident, nay cocky on Friday about his new bowling technique, was in all kinds of trouble. His first twelve balls were delivered with twelve different bowling actions and went all over the place. Frozen with fear in the glare of public attention, he bounded in with a bizarre display of hops, leaps and skips, sometimes jumping off the right foot, sometimes the wrong foot, and sometimes both. We're used to seeing him bat like a rabbit but today he bowled like one instead. Eventually he gave up, returned to his old action and bowled really well. So much for coaching.

On came Jim and Freddie and the pressure mounted. At half-way, with three down, Adie brought Cook and Sharland into the attack. Cook's first three overs were a model of flight and control. However the next wicket went to a rank long hop from Ernie. "Well bowled!" came the savage irony from the Mystics' knowledgeable supporters. But Cook is nothing if not a quick learner, and his very next over was a collection of long hops and full tosses, one of which produced the desired result, via a catch in the deep from Sumo. Fine tactical thinking and 72-5. The game was nicely poised.

Here however I feel compelled to abandon the bare narrative (look in the scorecard if you must). Every game of cricket is a work of art, a construction of formless beginnings that grows through skill, effort, imagination and luck to a moment of completion somewhere in the vast space of possibilities. Sometimes the work builds to a climax of excitement, with contrasting themes madly staking their claim for dominance; other times it assumes a more contemplative air, with elements gradually cohering into a sublime contract of figure and ground. Let it be written that this was one of those games. In deepening sunlight an other-worldly calm descended, and time itself seemed to slacken as the match drifted gently away to the Mystics. As the shadows of the trees swept slowly across the ground, like children being gently ushered off to bed the players departed the arena, exchanged salutations and retired to the blessings of the night.

You could hardly move for goodwill in the pub. We quietly raised a glass of Aberfeldy's own malt to a wonderful day, and to the gentlemen of Breadalbane. See, I didn't forget the E.

Chris Healey

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