After five weeks of sunshine, the rain started to fall on Devon the day before the Chairman's Cup match. When I got up that Saturday morning, a wet, grey blanket of cloud hung over Moa Hill. The weather forecast on the television suggested it was not likely to get much better. A wet, grey blanket of despair hung over Moa Hill. Poor Windy. All his hard work in setting up the game looked like coming to nothing.
The forecast on the radio sounded slightly less unpromising, and we decided, what the hell, to make the sandwiches. Sometimes you just have to follow your impulses.
By the time we got to the Blacksmith's Arms, the sun was shining. Windy was already there, arms folded smugly and looking a lot like Tony Blair had eight days earlier (*). "Look," his body language said, "look what I've done."
Just as we were finishing off our lunch, a tropical rain storm hit Plymtree, and Mystics scuttled into the skittle alley. It was quite a downpour, and, without Plymtree's artificial track, the match would probably have been washed away too. As it was, the sun came back out and we were able to start at 2:30. Dad won the toss and they batted.
On average, Ollie and Kev bowled a good length, and the opening batsmen were soon in trouble: unsure quite where to hit Ollie's full tosses and Kev's long hops. The yin and the yang of bowling. Adi dropped a sharp chance at gully off Kev, and then Ollie's raw pace caused Jon Kirby to miss a straight full toss. Soon it was 24 for two as Ollie surprised Tom Harris with a half volley.
Kev made the most of the short boundary on the leg side, allowing himself to be hit for six over it twice. Duncan took over from Ollie and bowled a tight spell. Matt took over from Kev and bowled a shite spell. More yin and yang. This was cricket for the connoisseur ... of feng shui. Dunc swapped ends and I took over at the far end. After all, as captain, I was hardly likely to choose to bowl with the short boundary on the leg side.
Alfie Weiler, having made hay while the Cook spun, was confused by Duncan's change of ends, and by his failure to bowl a series of long hops and full tosses. In fact, when Duncan did eventually bowl him a full toss, Alfie yelped in surprise and hit a catch to me at extra cover.
Sam Cook replaced Duncan and restored the family honour with some good seam-up dobbers. The runs dried up, and Brian Carpenter fell on his bat by attempting an unlikely single to Duncan. "Bugger, wrong fielder," he shouted as he was run out by about 19 yards, prompting questions about who he had thought he was hitting the ball to. Surely only Matt Cook would have been slow enough to allow that single. A sudden four by Simon Orpen off Sam, and I went over to reassure the youngest Cook and to explain that they were going to start hitting it in the air now and that we would catch one soon. Sam could be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that I knew what I was talking about when another intended leg-side slog to the next ball shot up into the air off a leading edge and I did indeed catch it.
Kev came back from the far end, and was soon back in the swing of things. A couple of wides were followed by a short ball. Just before it bounced for a second time, Nick Discombe drove the ball. It spooned up and nearly carried back to Kev. John Pearson, who had been batting well, was transfixed by the bowler's attempts to turn his follow through into a diving catch. The ball bounced over Kev's flailing hands and cannoned off his usually unreliable arse into the stumps. Poor John was several feet out of his ground as the bails were dislodged. He walked off cursing his luck, and we wandered over to congratulate Kev, secure in the knowledge that the Mystic Moment trophy had been won.
After the Lord Mayor's arse ... there was a nonchalant run out by Adi, and a wicket for Ernie, but it all seemed a bit anti-climactic.
During tea, there were a few spots of rain, but it did not start to rain properly until we were ready to restart. After a fifteen minute deluge, the rain stopped, and we were able to go out and inspect the damage. The wicket, after a bit of sweeping to get rid of the surface water, was fine, but the square looked very damp. At about 6:15 it had dried out enough for us to risk starting. We needed 150, and had 15 minutes plus 20 overs to get them. There were early setbacks as Dan was run out by a direct hit and Adi was bowled, both dismissals the work of John Pearson. Sid had been a very reluctant number three ("I won't be able to hit the ball. I won't be able to run. Even talking hurts my back. It's a bit hot too...."), but he and Matt began to build a decent partnership. Matt in particular looked in good form, and an on-driven four off Pearson was a candidate for shot of the day. His dismissal, lbw to Pearson, left us 41 for three in the tenth over. Ernie was bowled for a battling 17, and Dunc came in with 71 needed off eight and a half overs.
Runs were coming, but we were always just behind the required rate. John Somers replaced Harris at the pavilion end, and was himself replaced by Thomson; the captain choosing to close things out at the pavilion end himself. 40 needed off the last four. Sid started to turn purple, as he and Duncan kept hitting threes to the long side of the ground. It brought back memories of a similar run chase at Clackmannan in 1994. Sid passed his fifty without realising it, the spectators assuming he (or his back) was too knackered to lift his bat in acknowledgement of their applause.
11 needed off the last over. Father bowling to son. An inviting full toss outside off stump was square cut savagely for six. It was not quite enough, though, and Dunc was run out off the last ball, trying to run three leg byes to the 'keeper. A draw, which was enough for us to retain the Chairman's Cup.
After a quick drink in the Blacksmith's Arms, we were back to Moa Hill for the last time. A bonfire burned late into Sunday morning and everyone told everyone else how clever and beautiful they all were, and how well they had all played.
(*) Note that in both cases, the significant work had been done by a bald man who grew up in Yorkshire and drinks beer by the gallon. Also note that this is the only footnote ever to refer to both William Hague and Peter Thomson.
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