Cricketing neophytes would be forgiven for thinking that the term "Worm-on-a-length" was the starting instruction for the game of "Sperm Racing", suggested later that evening.Ê However, this was a game that featured the Mystics' biggest victory, a planted-substitute "Cook-ing" the result, family vendettas (non-Cook related) and "Did not bother to bat" written in the score-book. It was almost pre-ordained to be unique, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by the use of little wiggly-woos in order to influence its outcome.
Bugle is one of my favourite grounds and not just because of its short leg-side boundary, a boundary so close that a fielder positioned in the deep could be arrested for alleged lewd behaviour with the square-leg umpire. Bugle was built on china-clay and is now dominated by two huge heaps (please note the resistance to using the word 'slag' when describing these heaps). These two huge mounds lie in the manner of an abandoned woman, the Tracey and Sandra (ref. Viz, the Fat Slags, for those Mystics who are too well read) of a glorious mining past, dominating the skyline above this patch of turf where action is seen several times a week.
Bugle doesn't have the wild beauty of, say, St Neot's and it isn't set amidst the stunning scenary of Falkland or Largo (or Old Trafford), but it just kind of works for me. I like the Bugle Inn and the Working Men's Club. I'm amused by the well-kept ground that is dominated by relics from a rich industrial past and the rows of Leylandii protecting smartly-manicured houses. And the short leg-side boundary.
The weather on Sunday 31st July 2005 was greyer than the whites that I'd been storing in the attic since the 2004 tour. Light-meters aren't necessary at Bugle; the umpires just have to look at the clouds descending over Tracey and Sandra, protecting their modesty like a damp boob-tube on a sweaty Saturday night. It was the weather that probably proved to be the decisive factor, although Cooks, Spencers and earthworms might care to differ.
The Mystics took to the crease, offering-up Ernie and Sid as numbers 1 and 2 respectively. What skill and judgement then, that their final scores matched their batting-order. Both fell victim to Allen, with Ernie scooping one to the juggling P Feeney at mid-wicket and Sid caught at deep cover by G Spencer (remember the name). Matt Cook (remember the name) came in at 12 for 2, safely guiding us to 45 when he was caught Gribble, bowled S Feeney.
We're already getting into some name repetition and we're only 80 words into the actual report of the game. It's probably best to explain the names as I understand them, otherwise this might start to look like a speed-dating/meet-my-banjo event in Tiverton. In the Mystic team there were two Sharlands, two Thomsons, two Healeys and three Cooks. The only two players without a sibling in the team (Squire and Chave) are married to Thomson sisters and therefore related to the two Thomsons through marriage. For Bugle, I've counted two Spencers, two Allens, two Toms and two Feeneys.
This game appeared to have a slightly more liberal use of substitutes than an England football 'friendly' and Matt was promptly brought on to field for Bugle, joining his brother Sam. By now Duncan was in full flow, obviously feeling in his element operating beneath two large mounds and, no stranger to similar items, Chris Squire helped himself to 24 before being deviously bowled ('pitch it up' came the cry from behind the stumps). Chris H replaced Chris S and a cunning vendetta was unleashed...
Last year Chris hit Spencer Snr on the head with a misdirected throw. As a town, Bugle has a documented history of violence, as illustrated by this quote from the Royal Cornwall Gazette, 5th February 1864, under the heading, "Savagery at the Bugle Inn":
"We had some words, and the defendant struck me. I caught hold of him to hold him fast, so that he should not strike me, when he bit off my ear... I said if you do not let me go we shall have a scuffle". Gad-zykes.
Well, what should greet Chris but two head-high beamers. "Meet my son", said Spencer Snr. Chris had the last laugh, as both deliveries were no-balls.
Incidentally, the Royal Cornwall Gazette also holds the key to the lack of a minibus on tour these days and why as a team we're directed to the Working Men's Club and not the pub. From the 20th March 1875, "The Bugle is too respectable for common-place vehicles! Perhaps the paint was slightly abraded, or there was no silver-mounted harness to correspond to the grandeur of the Bugle. Let all travellers see to it, that before expecting any accommodation at this grand hotel, they be careful to have smart vehicles ... and they themselves free from obesity (for there is no room for "stout" men)." I digress.
Chris Healey busied us along to 124, scoring 25 and sharing in a 50-partnership with Duncan before being bowled Thomas, caught Sam Cook. Brother Nick replaced him and was joined by Chris Cook after Duncan was caught by Matt Cook, bowled Gribble, for a mighty, if damp, 74. So many cooks in one paragraph, but I shall resist the urge to call this the Cooks' Report, or the Cooks' Tale, or Cookin' the Books, or Don't Cook Now, or Ready Steady Cook, or Cook-ing up a Storm, or Don't Cook Back in Anger, or Cool as a Cook-umber. That would really take the biscuit. Or Cook-ie.
Nick Healey and Chris Cook guided us to 190 after our full 40-overs. We took tea and sheltered in the club-house whilst the clouds decided to unburden themselves over the ground and surrounding area. The weather looked to be set for the rest of the day and the debate turned to abandoning the match, but the Cooks were not to be defeated and launched into catching practice in the outfield. This show of bravado was enough to scare Spencer Snr, who promptly relegated himself to the bottom of the batting order. A case of too many Cooks spoiling the cloth, perhaps.
Well, we took to the field as the Bugle Captain, N Toms, wanted to bat and the Cooks wanted to field. We could have left them to it and retired early to the Working Men's Club, but Mystic games are made of less predictable-fare than that and Sam Cook opened the bowling (well, he was first on the field after tea).
It was Sam's bowling that resulted in my favourite Mystic-quip of all time. Halfway through an over, one of the Bugle batsmen took several paces forward, aimed carefully and tapped the ground with the bottom of his bat. He looked up and in a perfunctory way said, "Worm on a length". "Safest place for it, with Sam's bowling" replied Sid behind the stumps.
And from there the game just kind of passed me by as I tried to work out how worms could be employed to alter the course of the game. I say "passed me by", but actually we only got 21-overs of the second innings, as the Bugle wickets were mopped up by Martin, Chris H, Jim and Graham. None of them, however, got a chance to bowl at K Spencer who decided that enough was enough and "Did not bother to bat" entered the score-book. This was the Mystics biggest victory, with Bugle all-out on 48 and a winning margin of 142.
After the game, Chris Healey managed to gain access to the Bugle Inn and sent the following text-message: "T Rex, Scissor Sisters, Undertones, Jamelia, Golden Earring, Macy Gray ... All with the same heavy metal solo. Beautiful." We won't be expecting Chris's guitar playing and his group Arco to take on a new sound as a result, but the thought makes me smile (an equivalent would be Nick Drake laced with gangsta rap).
Oh, and the rules for the game of Sperm Racing? Less Wisden, more Jizz-den.
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