Mystics versus Bugle at Bugle, 1st August 2012
Bugle has been a cornerstone of the Tour since 2003, and a lot of tourists will be sad to hear that 2012 may have been the last fixture in the series. Many fine games have been played, and many friendly rivalries developed, but rarely have we made it through a match there without some form of precipitative event. If the gods already knew this might be the last one, they were going to send us out in style. It was aIways going to rain.
(We didn't really help matters by giving a debut to Varun Kothamachu, named after a deity who in Vedic tradition was the bringer of rain. The selectors have some tough questions to answer.)
In fact it had already rained quite a lot in the morning. However, we were able to start more or less on time - the Bugle field drains well, as you might expect from the amount of practice it's had. The home team opted to bat "so they could make tea" (or possibly Mystics opted to field so they could eat more of it).
Bugle looked to have a strong batting line up, with Raven perched ominously at the top. The Premier League all-rounder, an ex-county u17 star and striker of the finest, most beautiful straight six I've ever seen, might have expected to be in the runs. But steaming in with the new ball was a fired up Jimmy Ton. Outswing is his stock in trade, and today he had his shape under control (a goal he might one day consider more generally). After four balls of high quality, Raven decided to try and guide one through the slips, which second slip took as an insult and caught. Jim's spell remained at the same high standard and he finished with 5-2-6-1, which would have been 5-3-5-2 if Patrick Feeney hadn't been dropped by the same fielder (perhaps because it was a genuine edge and so no offence was taken).
The batsman was one of several Feeneys who have appeared in this fixture, and it was very good to see two of the three regular Spencers, a couple of Couchmans, a Hocking and the familiar names of Toms, Tucker and Moore. No Thomas or Gribble this year, which was a shame, but the continuity a club like Bugle can find over the years is a wonderful thing. (I heartily recommend a look at their website, where this continuity can be seen in pictures going back into antiquity. If you want to see what these guys looked like in their younger days - and believe me, you do - check it out. Kev Spencer's "Spandau Ballet Roadie" look just pips Adrian Thomas' Graeme Garden impression as the winner for me. And I'm allowed to comment as I spent half the eighties looking like a Leo Sayer tribute act.)
Varun's efforts with the new ball kept the scorers interested. And the batsmen. And the wicket keeper. And fine leg. And slip. And the umpires. In fact pretty much everyone was riveted, even if some were looking through their fingers. Most overs included several huge inswinging leg side wides, a couple of beamers, and at least two totally unplayable jaffas. You can't coach that. (No, really, you can't coach that.) He made Kevin Barron look like Glenn McGrath, and ended his spell, quite brilliantly, with the least predictable thing he could think of - a maiden.
In at no.3 was Kev Spencer. Now I can only imagine that Kev is not Bugle's fixture secretary, as he would surely have wanted this fixture to continue for the next 25 years. Going back over the records, his career stats against Mystics are: 6 Innings, 334 runs avge 83.3.This year he claimed to be coming in off a string of ducks, which he was blaming on the wrong sort of ball. It appears it was merely the wrong sort of bowler, something we were happy to correct1.
After Fraser came on to bowl and found a good delivery to dismiss Feeney, we were joined by Chris Hocking. He'd made only 2 in the inaugural fixture in 2003, and then (presumably out of shame) didn't play against us again until this match, returning for one more go and showing alarmingly little progress in making 8. (Maybe he's the fixture sec, and he's had enough. And is taking his fixture home with him. Another theory is that this game was never intended in the first place - the Bugle website features pics of games against a team called Misfits. Was Jim's initial approach only successful because of a dodgy phone line?)
Anyway, from 39-2 after 15 overs the innings suddenly took off. From literally the first ball of the 16th over Kev and Gary Spencer cut loose, and the little stone wall boundary got peppered. It can't have been a batting Powerplay; anyone fielding on that boundary was already inside the 30yd circle. Graham and I took some proper stick, but Fraser held his nerve and was the only bowler other than Jim to end up conceding 4 an over or less. There was slightly less holding of nerve on display in the field, Deke memorably getting the hell out of the way of one Spencer missile with a loud "SORRY!!" Still, his lovely soft hands were preserved, which is important if you want to get through appointments panels in academia these days. Kev swiftly moved to his 100th career 50 for Bugle, a tremendous achievement in his retirement year.
But the showers were looming. The first one was especially impressive, the sort of rain that announces itself acoustically with a loud hissing in the trees. The sound had everyone running for cover before the rain even arrived (apart from one of the umpires, who presumably thought his hearing aid was malfunctioning). It still caught up with us as we ran, like a Hollywood disaster movie CGI, or one of Charlie's farts. We came on and off a couple of times but a proper deluge eventually did for us at 139-4.
Spare a thought for Chris Ferro though. Having travelled down to Cornwall for one game, he threw himself around all afternoon defending the short boundary. Promised a spell bowling at the death and opening the batting, the game was rained off three balls before his involvement would have commenced. Soaked and covered in mud, he made it to the Bugle Inn and was able to buy everyone a drink before he realised he had to get going.
Farewell then Bugle, if indeed farewell it is. Sound the Last Post for the fixture, and thank you Paul, Kev, Adrian and the rest for having made it happen - the god Varuna permitting - for the last 10 seasons.