Mystics versus Bugle at Bugle, 28th July 2010
This was our fifth game at Bugle, and it was a minor classic. It had many of the elements of a melodrama, with a returning hero and a notable villain foiled in his diabolical plan. And in the end the goodies won.
The sun was shining as we arrived at The Bugle Inn for lunch, and everyone was optimistic that we were in for an afternoon of sunshine after the previous day's wash-out. Greta was very taken by the pub's white dog - "it's Irving's angel, " she claimed - but Hayder was less convinced, setting off on a list of all the animals he hated or feared. It was a list that Noah would have been proud of, pretty much covering every class, genus and sub genus.
After lunch had been eaten and Ernie had completed his newly devised warm-up - two pints - we strolled over to the ground; and what a sight it was. There really is something perfect about Bugle on a sunny day: the long slope down to the darkly welcoming pavilion; the short boundary with its stone wall, hedgerows and netting; the net on wheels that became a child-filled pirate ship for the afternoon and the friendly familiar faces. Adrian Thomas and the two Spencers (father Kev and son Gary) were all playing their fifth game against us, while the two Pauls (Gribble and Tucker) were playing their third. Indeed, Tucker and Thomas had come out of semi-retirement for today's match. There was to be another familiar face in the Bugle team that day as Chris Healey agreed to make up their eleven.
There was a toss, and Matt told us that Gary Spencer had put us in. Matt then asked his dad and Graham to open the batting; Sam, Chirpy and Chris Squire were to follow. Smith and Gribble had first use of the new ball for Bugle. Briefly Graham was the aggressor, plonking the pacy Smith back over his head for a resounding four. When he tried the same shot again in the tenth over, he could only contrive to pop a simple catch back to Smith. There was a brief Cook-Cook broth, but it was quickly spoiled. "Watch the ball," was dad's advice; but Sam seemed to get ball and boot confused (they both start with a B, after all), and departed second ball without ever having raised his eyes.
Chirpy and Big Cook doubled the score before a mismanaged pull (was there an inside edge? Everyone but the umpire and the fielding side seemed to think so) led to Chirpy's demise, LBW to Sean Feeney's erratic off-spin. Big Cook passed his Mystic 1000, unnoticed in the tension of the moment. Chris Squire was dropped (not a straightforward chance) before having his defence scrambled by a devilish double-bouncer from the unpredictable Feeney. 51 for four in the 19th over.
Enter Ernie, and a reassuring fifty partnership put us back on course. Paul Gribble came back into the attack and persuaded Big Cook to top-edge a pull. Gary Spencer made an easy catch look easy (and that's not always easy). Matt came in. Gribble was replaced by Kev Spencer, and, with Adrian Thomas at the other end, the combined age of the bowling attack was comfortably into three figures. After a big six into the next field, Matt was very LBW to Adrian Thomas.
Dunc and Ernie put together a few useful runs before the villain made his entrance from the slag-heaps end. Ignoring the boos and hisses from the gallery, Chris Healey bowled Ernie with one that spun through a backward-defensive shot (51 off 64 balls) and then he swooped in the outfield to take a good low catch from a pull that Duncan didn't quite get on top of. Hayder belted one four before departing, and it was my dad and the returning hero, Bryan Wendon, that took us to tea at 167 for nine. Jo and Annie (whose husbands had been despatched by the villain) ignored Chris Healey and sipped tea pointedly in his general direction.
Over sandwiches and creamy, jammy scones the Mystics agreed that 167 was a decent score. The local sages gloomily agreed that Bugle would never manage to last 40 overs, and even if they did they'd never get to 168. It helped our cause that Chris Healey had talked himself down to number 11 in Gary Spencer's batting order. And it was the senior service - Kev Spencer and Adrian Thomas - that opened Bugle's innings. Thomas soon edged Hayder to Chris Cook at second slip: seven for one after three overs, and almost half of them byes as my dad struggled to spot the difference between Hayder's leg spinner and googly (about three feet by the time it reached him). Sam replaced Hayder at the pavilion end and then, to a cheer and a group wave from the watching supporters, Bryan replaced Ernie at the slag-heaps end. While Sam sent down an errant first over (including a beamer at Kev Spencer), Bryan settled immediately into the old step-step-whirr routine, dropping the ball on a length and being pretty much the only person to get any bounce out of a lifelessly damp surface. In his second over, he got one past Kev Spencer's bat, and then Sam bowled Sean Feeney with a straight delivery that was a little quicker than the number three was ready for. 35 for three in the 13th over.
Paul Tucker became becalmed - in the pavilion his mum was muttering that he wouldn't be out there long - but Gary Spencer took a four and a six off Duncan and the score drifted on to 60. Then Ernie caught Spencer off Duncan, and Bryan hit the stumps again. 65 for five, and Bryan had the remarkable figures of two for seven off seven overs. Paul Gribble came in, and Chirpy and then Graham had a bowl. There was a flurry of sixes, but Mrs Tucker wasn't convinced. "Don't you worry, " she assured us, "my son'll be out any minute." But still Paul Tucker stayed. He and the other Paul put on 56 before Matt brought his dad on and then re-introduced Hayder to the attack. Cook had Gribble LBW, though he was far enough forward for some of the watching Buglers to have wondered if there might have been a bit of doubt to be given the benefit of.
The game was still in the balance, as Tucker and Smith put together a promising partnership. With seven overs to go, only 27 runs were needed with four wickets (including Chris Healey's) in hand. And yet somehow the watching Mystics felt confident that we would prevail. Maybe it was the doom-laden mutterings of old mother Tucker, or maybe it was just that we knew that Chris and Hayder were likely to be too good for the home team's tail-enders. The important point here, of course, is that the good Mystics captain (and Matt is certainly one of those) should dare to lose. Maybe that should be our motto. What's the Latin for "dare to lose"?
All of a sudden, Smith and Tucker were out: Smith, after hitting a six and a four, holed out to one Cook off another; Tucker bowled trying to hit Hayder over the short square boundary. Chris took a third wicket, a typical Cook wicket, yorking a batsman playing a loose forward defensive. And Bugle's number eleven was in.
So here is the "You are the Grumpire" moment. You come into bat with one wicket and four overs left. There are 18 runs needed and you're facing a tall, balding "off-spinner" - Jean-Luc Picard without the Enterprise. Do you:
(A) wander down the wicket, deliberately miss the ball, allowing yourself to be stumped?
(B) slap the slaphead over the short boundary for three successive sixes and a little Kapil Dev moment of your own?
(C) push a gentle two off the last ball of the over, saving face and leaving Dave Stevens to face the biggest-spinning leggie in the history of Bugle cricket?
I'm giving away the answer a bit when I say that I was talking to Dave Stevens in the Bugle Working Men's Club after the game, and he told me that he known what was going to happen to the leg break that bowled him: known but been unable to do anything about it. I suppose that when someone spins the ball as much as Hayder does, it kind of messes with your understanding of how a cricket ball should behave. I was to have a similar conversation with Broadclyst's Ian Hooper later in the week.
Meanwhile, Chris Healey completed his villainous role by reading out the fines - somehow, and I'm not sure how, the adjective generous best describes the way he humiliates people and then takes money off them - and Greta watched athletics on the telly. "When are the ladies going to jump in the sand?" she asked. It was a good question.