Stuck in Ernie's Crease

Mystics versus Erratics at Dunsford, 4th August 2007

Weather-wise it had been a dismal summer and I was expecting the worse for the Chairman's Cup. Fortunately my weather forecasting prowess is thereabouts with my batting prowess and my worries were unfounded. A grey, damp morning at Tor View slowly gave way to blue skies and sunshine as we drove back to Devon, passing the long lines of happy caravaners flocking towards a dank Cornwall. With various tour members scuttling off, some to drop off dirty kit, others defecting in order to flog an opposition league team, some simply disappearing to the pub, the Magical remnants eventually reassembled at the picturesque Dunsford Cricket Club.

We greeted our new tour arrivals, Adi and Deke while Chirpy hid from the midday sun under his sombrero. Deke had arrived resplendent in his M&M blazer but what was this? No tie? Aye, it was that warm! The Mystics rummaged through their kit bags to check for what had been left in the wrong county or purloined by Windy while Peter popped in to the "away" changing room to request a mobile land line phone?? Skips declared, "It's more Teign Valley than Teign Valley!" before heading off to make the toss, which he duly lost and the Erratics decided they would have a bat in order to make first use of the shade provided by the club pavilion.

The Mystics took to the field and J-C tore in to bowl a tight first over, Ernie followed this up with a somewhat more sedately paced second one. Seven overs in and J-C drew first blood, getting Davies to tickle one on the way through to Sid, 16-1. Next ball up and JC sees the new batsmen edge to the slips only to watch the chance go down. All this excitement was obviously too much for the Erratics and they took the view that patience should be the name of the game, Turner and McRae taking the score to 39 through the next ten overs.

A double change in the bowling had our skipper twirling away with Chirpy at t'other end. Chirps struck quickly to dismiss McRae but a solid third wicket stand, powered primarily by some lusty hitting from Jonathan Kirby, moved the score on to 75-2. With the Erratics going well, Jimbo was starting to look for alternative bowling options. In my expert opinion the pitch had clearly become a shirtfront but the skipper's instinct told him to bowl one more over and Bingo! Kirby Snr chips a simple chance to midwicket for Jim's 98th Mystic scalp. I wondered if this would this be the day of the century as Kirby junior arrived in the middle. First ball and an extravagant shot from young scamp see the bails dislodged. A slow disconsolate trudge back to the pavilion and the young man conveys his views to Jimbo "Well my Dad always said that you are the bane of his life. Now it appears that you are mine too!" Ninety nine Mystical wickets, and what is a skipper to do? Have a blow is the obvious answer.

Chris came on to see if he could improve on his "for fer" from earlier in the tour and a compelling LBW shout has the Erratics slipping to 104-6. Yet another bowling change sees both Adi and Duncan thrown into the attack. It had obviously been a long drive for Adi as his shoulders were none too loose but Duncan snaffled the dangerous Turner for 40 and the Erratics were teetering at 117-6. Time now, for Fraser Chave to enter the fray. I felt this was an excellent move by the skipper, especially as he was in my fantasy team. A good tight first over from the young Mystic prompted the skipper to bring himself back on and with no beating around the bush Keedwell skies one four balls into the over. JC calmly pouches the catch and Jimbo brings up his century at his hometown club. After much Chumleigh Warner style handshaking it was back to the business of putting the Erratics innings to bed. I was hoping to see a return on my million pound managerial outlay and half way through Fraser's next over it was there. A prod forward from Pearson sees a straight forward chance going to mid off, but................................................. Duncan! Noooooo! How could you???

With no time for Duncan to make an amends Jim and Sid combined to wrap up the innings with Peter refusing to come out to face at the prospect of being scalp 102.

A splendid Tea was served in three courses, and this allowed the Mystics to strategise for their batting response. Sid pointed out that the modest target combined with the hot weather and a week of tour cricket should indicate that sharp singles were fairly low on our agenda. Adi took this to heart and spent the first two overs clumping the ball to the boundary before edging McRae to slip. J-C, now joined by Sid, set about building a solid 2nd wicket partnership. Ten overs and forty one runs to the good JC creams the ball to Jonathan Kirby who was standing at point, well more kneeling at point really. Now for those in the know, Jonathan Kirby fielding on his knees does not equate to an easy single but JC being oblivious to this screams "YESSSS". Sid, now wondering why he bothered to give a tactical briefing during tea, sets off on a fool's errand. If we had the benefit of a slow-mo replay from square leg, like you get at the test match, the action would have gone as follows. Kirby gathers ball cleanly while on knees, still on knees Kirby performs a neat underarm throw at the stumps. Ball hits stumps. Bails hit ground. Ball rolls out of frame. Sid enters frame, stage left, full stretch and airborne. Still airborne, Sid performs graceful barrel roll while passing the stumps. Sid exits frame, stage right, sliding on backside. Mystics 41-2!

Batting at four Deke makes a quick cameo appearance before a somewhat remorseful JC is joined by Chirpy. A rollicking 4th wicket stand of 71 sees JC record his first ever half century before being stumped off Turner for 51. Turner then has Chirpy LBW in the same over for 25 and Davies follows up in the next over with two more wickets. 114-3 has become 115-7 in the space of ten balls and the collywobbles have well and truly set in. Fortunately for the Mystics Ernie and Duncan were now out in the middle and able to steady the rocking boat. Three more overs and the Mystics sailed serenely past the target of 125 to claim the Chairman's Cup for an 8th time. A post match debriefing at the Royal Oak saw some real ales sunk and fines paid before the majority of the team set off on a magical mystery tour to find a BBQ hosted at Jo and Ernie's. Following carefully placed road signs, chalked runes on the tarmac and avoiding deceiving signs to a wedding we managed to find the Sharland estate. I had to admire the setting, a lovely old farm house heads a long winding valley garden which I truly believe could accommodate a cricket ground. If you think that is cider induced crazy talk then you have obviously never played at Babbacombe or Cheriton Fitzpaine! A fine feast was washed down with some apple based refreshment and accompanied by Duncan explaining how it was possible to make Tofu taste of something. After some sing-songs by the light of a roaring bonfire it was time to head home. Jo suggested a cunning short cut that the she had nicknamed the Monte Carlo rally. Maybe we should have paid a little more attention to that name? With Duncan leading the expedition in pitch darkness, we forded a stream and then set off up a 1 in 10 hill that rapidly became a 1 in 5 then a 1 in 2 dirt covered zig-zagging track! The Chave mobile had enough welly to negotiate this and disappeared into the Devon night but the more modestly powered cars of Deke and Angeline were trapped. Five minutes of pushing and grunting in an attempt to extract the cars from the muddy roadside gully achieved little. Duncan suddenly reappeared out of the inky blackness to say that once we negotiate this semi vertical hairpin it was much easier going. His offer of his rally driving skills (where was big Cook when you need him?) was immediately accepted and the superhuman effort of five people pushing while enveloped in a cloud of grit and burnt tire smoke succeeded in moving the lead car absolutely nowhere. This all seemed a bit too much like hard work to me so I came up with the cunning ruse of heading off up the hill to let Annie know that Duncan was in the process of thrashing a gear box and clutch. Easy option, hill, Teign Valley, what was I thinking? One cardiac arrest later I find Annie at the summit, now accompanied by a bemused looking, jet setting, Chris Healey. Half way through trying to explain what was happening, between gulps of much needed oxygen, Duncan sidles past hardly breaking sweat "they've turned round and are going to head back to Dunsford". "Ohhh Bugger!" I thought.

Sean Webb

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