Bugle is sweltering. All around Mystic men are perspiring, which is an unusual sight, let alone at 2pm. In the shade the Mystic women are gently glowing, and not only with their customary saintly forbearance.
The Chairman, however... Having set off early with Kevin and Amanda for a pleasant walk to the ground from our base at Tor View, they arrive after hours in the baking sun, their route transpiring unexpectedly to be in excess of five miles. Yet with his companions respectively perspiring furiously and glowing gently, Deke presents himself with forehead dry and with neither tie nor top button loosened.
"Standards!" he asserts.
And this year the Mystics raise their standard on a different end of the mainland, to fabulous weather, lovely people, a beautiful ground, and let's mention that fabulous weather again.
And we make an instant impression. Fraser describes Charlie's first-over return to the pavilion: "He wasn't very good was he?"
A wobbly start, as now Grumpy and Jimmy Ton are both dropped. Our decision to bat is questioned. "I prefer to field first" confides Deke, "so you can have lots and lots of tea!" You can't teach this sort of thinking. With the radio announcing what Smith and the South Africans are doing to England it is perhaps only a matter of time before our nation looks for a new skipper, perhaps one in the Brearley mould: psychological, inspirational, a wicked line in blazers.
Immediately, another example: constrained by hedge-bound boundaries, a car careers over the outfield. "They can't field in that!" Deke exclaims. He's right: Law 41, of course. Would Hussein have noticed?
We see off the openers Kellow and Spencer. On come Thomas, a spinner, and Brad Pitt (or so a glowing Mystic tells me). Both Grumps and Jim go on the attack and are bowled. Chris Squire falls to Thomas after two balls; "watch the straight ones, Deke" he advises, "they're very deceptive." Deke hoicks one over point; his first Mystic runs since a previous millenium.
Ade is dropped at slip, and promptly hits the next two balls to the boundary. (Remember Hussein dropping Graham Smith?)
Attis comes on and airs one a bit too much, a full toss dispatched for four by Deke to rabid applause. Brearley might have won the Ashes but did he ever hit a four? I don't think he ever did. Deke is so excited he's bowled next ball.
And then another tragedy, as Ade calls for a single, Chris Cook says no, and after that "Yes-No-YES-NO" that I'm personally all too familiar with, they're both at the bowlers end, and it's Chris who goes. (Eventually.) "I'll forgive him if he keeps scoring" says Chris, perhaps less than 100% convincingly for someone trumpeting his season total around the pub at lunchtime. Still, a string of fours follow from Ade.
Kev returns without troubling the scorers, chipping one back to Kellow. "Hit the middle of the bat though," he declares positively. Seven down for 96; not good. "Well over an hour to go," Jim advises Ern, on the latter's way out. The openers are on again, but Ade screams past 50 with two sixes over the "long" boundary. Annie sheepishly knocks on someone's door: "please mister..." And if Ade can do that to the "long" boundary... I confess I then miss a chunk of the game helping search for a couple more of Ade's sixes, way over the nets that attempt to protect the short boundary. When I return, little has changed apart from the scoreboard saying 160-odd. A few minutes later Ern departs swinging to leg and a new Mystics' all-time 8th wicket partnership enters the record books, but not before Ade has entered himself (oh don't) as a couple more fours bring up his maiden Mystics century.
Somehow Ade had been declared a mere two million pound player in the fantasy league. Doping is suspected (of the handicappers).
Bugle set off chasing 197 with Charlie dropping one of the openers off Ernie at square. Kev ambles in, his run-up shortening with the advancing years, but for once his signature action, the epileptic combine harvester, is failing to confuse batsmen into surrendering their wickets. Runs are coming, and Charlie contrives to drop a second chance off Ern.
But Cooky and Grumps come on, and 54-1 becomes 70-5 as the stumps are skittled time and again. Spencer, the opener, finally falls, after a marvellous 68, to a ball from Charlie as unplayable as it is indescribable.
And with a full toss / yorker, according to your point of view, Charlie takes another. That's six clean bowled in a row. What are the odds?
A quick burst of runs from Kitts and the 20-overs-to-go mark arrives with Bugle 120-7. Still game on, given the short boundaries, but a Grumps catch at mid-on dispenses with Kitts and gives the Red Barron his well-earned wicket.
Jim sets a field you don't often see: five men up, on the leg side, saving the boundary. But they're not needed, as he bowls Attis. "The Bugle Kid" comes in, for an admirably long last stand, but The Man With No Mane takes the last wicket for a 41 run victory.
A day to look back on warmly, in more ways than one - let's mention that weather again - and a fitting start to a new Mystics era.
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