It takes Two to Contango


Mystics versus Contango at Dunsford, 25th July 1993

Contango is a team made up of various cricketers of various abilities who like playing and drinking together. Sounds somehow familiar to me. Ernie lost the toss, and his team's respect, by agreeing, without so much as a whimper, to Contango's request for a 40 over game. The dark mutterings about Duncan and Matt's extended stay in the Royal Oak turned into dark mutterings about "bloody overs games".

Our performance in the field, restricting the opposition to 168 off the allotted overs was, in the main, impressive, exceptions being the captain's fielding at gully and Colin Cecil's knee, which kept bowling short, despite its owner's best efforts. These can be set against:
1. Adi's sharp catch at point,
2. Matt's bowling and his (slightly excessively) balletic catch: the sugar plum fairy at the Superbowl,
3. Olllie's excellent catch despite all the oohs and aahs from immediately behind him,
4. Andy Payne's inspired catching, particularly the second one (I missed the first being out in the road collecting one of the results of Colin's knee), easily Mystic catch of the year.

Tea and then suddenly we were 5 for 3. Sid had batted for 12 minutes without appearing to move. Adi had essayed a rare forward defensive stroke and suffered the consequences of his own imbalance and Kevin Guy's speed behind the stumps. Adi however blames Ernie for the whole thing, which seems fair enough. In my notes concerning the third wicket I find the single word: "Deke". That, I think, will suffice.

An hour later, the hundred was up without the loss of another wicket. In fact Duncan (feigning a back injury) and Ernie put on 102 at better than five an over, the first ever century partnership for the Mystics, before Ern gave midwicket a bit of catching practice.

Out strode Matt, bristling with determination. After Saturday he had something to prove. Strangely, it was the first time these two BBC boys had batted together. I understand their being excited about that, but punching gloves was a little unnecessary really. Still, they had put on 45 when Duncan was smartly stumped for a crucial 73. Andy Payne wandered sheepishly out to the middle with his usual self-effacing "see you in a minute". Matt obviously fell for this act as he decided to win the game in one over -- and we still had five overs to score 17. Fair play to him, it nearly worked, and he had almost halved the target by the time he holed out.

"Who's in next?" asked the boxless Kevin, more intent on Annie than the game. On being informed it was he, Kev took off his Irish tour T-shirt, put his box in, let Annie go and then strolled out, bandy-legged but confident. "Leave this to me," he seemed to be saying.

A Robin-Smith-like forward prod brought him two runs and Annie's comment that she was glad Kevin had improved his stroke. At least I assume that's what she meant. However, those two runs were all that Kev could muster from the 37th over. 162 for 6. Seven needed. Off the second ball of the 38th over Andy's checked drive brought him a single and gave Kev the strike. Oozing confidence, that worthy kept the strike, squeezing the last ball down to fine leg for one. 164 for 6.

The tension mounted. Had Kev been over confident? Could he do it? He missed the first ball of the 39th over and dead-batted the second. Helen Simms fainted, Kate swallowed her stained glass pendant, Amanda muttered darkly and Annie, caught up in the general atmosphere, was briefly quiet.

The third ball brought an unlikely leg-bye. Andy had the strike and nine balls in which to score four runs. Immediately he was struck on the pad. A loud appeal rang out and eleven hearts stopped beating. Not out. The next ball was short and was nonchalantly lifted over backward square for four. Having lost his wallet one day, Andy had won a game of cricket the next.

Ernie smiled and looked as if it was all (even Kevin) part of his captaincy strategy. Maybe it was, fellow Mystics, maybe it was.



Jim Thomson


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