Fear and Loathing in Dunsford

Mystics versus Erratics at Dunsford, 31st July 2010

Saturday was a difficult day on tour for me. Having played the day before at Lanhydrock and somewhat unwisely, also bowled, my body had now hoisted the white flag. The resulting decision to down a cocktail of pain killers when I awoke on Saturday may have, in hindsight, been a little unwise. My memories of that day have a dream-like, other-worldly aspect, as if I was viewing the events from afar, like some mystical couch potato half asleep in front of the TV. People may point at the dregs of the 20 litres of Old Rosie that I had drained on the Friday evening, or at the sleep deprivation of the previous six nights but I certainly believe that this mental vagueness was a result of my pharmacological experimentation. I know I was at Tor View Saturday morning but if you were to ask me any details I would simply offer you a shrug of my shoulders. I know Chirpy dropped me off at Bodmin station, as I do at least remember seeing him there but the train trip back to Exeter is a blank. Perhaps I was asleep for most of it? Someone gave me a lift out to Dunsford, I know not who, but I do remember Sam Cook was in the car and he was armed with cakes. We may have gone to the Royal Oak before the game, or maybe we did not? And then? And then I was at Dunsford's cricket ground dressed in whites and so too was Tom Hurles! This was turning into one very peculiar day.

Someone had made a correct call at the toss and had decided to bat or maybe to have a bowl, either way, I found myself umpiring at the bowlers end for the seventh ball of the game. Graham's dismissal passed me by. It was not lbw, so I at least was not culpable. I then stood in judgement on a gentle 2nd wicket stand between Jimbo and Duncan. I do not believe I was asked to adjudicate on an appeal or to signal much to the scorers which was fortunate as I was beginning to drift away on a warm afternoon in the soporific surrounds of the Teign valley. My attention was only engaged when Sam came on to bowl, the slip fielder was promptly retired with a damaged finger and Guy Clarke was reluctantly persuaded to replace his fallen colleague in the firing line. Jimbo, I think startled by this, or perhaps by the length of his innings that had now nurdled the partnership past fifty, suddenly had a rush of blood somewhere near the 20th over and offered dad a stumping. This brought Adi to the crease and relief for me in the form of a replacement umpire. A lay down and a bit of a snooze in the oppressive afternoon atmosphere would be just the ticket I thought. It was at this moment that Chris Healey informed me that I was to write the match report .........

I did take notes of the first innings from this point. I have them written down on a piece of blue paper, using an orange crayon that I had stolen from a small child, it is just that they just do not make a great deal of sense. I know Adi set off in buccaneering style but then Adi always does. Then he was back, sat in the changing room with me. Dan, competing with Bryan and Kev for the collection of the most Mystic air miles also came and went quickly, so ushering the arrival of Jimmy Ton.

With the second Jim-Dunc partnership of the innings settling things down I recall a stroll round the boundary accompanied by Tom and Hayder. A crash course of batting tuition ensued for young Mr Hurles who was padded up for his first ever knock in adult cricket. I explained the intricacies of the trigger movement and the importance of balance of stance, how this would help bring Tom's head in line with the ball and that the pace of the bowling would not be an issue because Sam had now taken a blow. Hayder however asked the more pertinent question "Tom, are you wearing a box?" With the answer in the negative a new tutorial took place, something along the lines of, "Stand well outside leg and swish at it!"

Our navigation of the boundary had brought our small group to the edge of the river and here we diverged. Duncan had determined that a gritty fifty was not for him and offered up a catch. Tom turned left to head for the middle, myself and Hayder turned right to go in search for the magical lady in the lake. We were to see neither "The Lady" or Tom's innings, as the time it took for me send a single skip stone down the river was the time it took Tom to offer a catch for Simon Orpen's third wicket of the game. Now, for the third time in the innings we had a Jim and a Chave in partnership at the middle. This time it was young Fraser who lent Jimmy Ton solid support as the score was moved on to 160 before the evil uncle Squire persuaded him to give Alan Peacock his second catch of the match and elicit a declaration from Jimbo. Time for tea.

The peculiar thing that struck me about tea was the sheer number of people at the ground. Were they all really here to watch the game? Were some just friends of friends who had come along for a natter on a lazy Saturday afternoon? Were some just strangers that happened across the game? Whatever the reason for their presence they seemed to melt away once the plates were cleared and the Erratic's innings got under way.

Guy Clarke made a positive start before psyching himself out. Andrew McRae was dispatched when the umpire succumbed to one of Graham's appeals and with Penny also going cheaply the M&M's were in the driving seat. This proved to be the last time we were behind the wheel for the rest of the afternoon.

Kev was given the unenviable task of bowling his first spell of the season at Sam, whose striking of the ball during the tour had been a blood-curdling sight. Chirpy was assigned t'other end and Tom Hurles found himself located at mid off, then at deepish mid off and before the end of the over at long off. Perhaps fortunately for Tom we then ran out of ground as another thumping shot from Sam just cleared Tom's outstretched arms. Tom enquired at the end of the over if his feeling of unease at fielding in Sam's line of fire was justified? I replied that if you are positioned at mid off to Sam in this form and do not feel scared then you must either be stupid or already dead.

Chirpy finally got Sam to misjudge one but by now Jonathan Kirby had got his eye in and while playing in a very different style to Sam, was proving equally effective in moving the score on. Jimmy Ton was brought in to the attack in the hope of carving through the middle order but the only carving in evidence was to the backward of point. A clearly frustrated and now tiring Mr Ton was informed by the skipper at the start of his fifth over "that if he wanted a rest he had to get Kirby out." Jonathan's stumps were promptly sent flying and Jimmy retired to have a graze in the outfield. This left the Erratics twenty shy of victory with five wickets in hand. Alan Peacock's solid defensive technique against Jimmy Ton had already indicated that he was not going to throw the game away so it seemed that some tempting flight and guile may encourage an error or two from the Erratic's remaining lower middle order. A worthy plan but Chris Squire was a man possessed and thumped the bulk of the remaining runs from a handful of deliveries with the winning, on driven, four being celebrated in a triumphant manner.

Events were now becoming a blur, cider and anti inflammatories had taken their toll and 30 overs in the field had now done for me. I trudged from the pitch where I was greeted by Hayder who implored me to venture round to the back of the pavilion. Here he pointed at a spear of green and red berries that belong to the cuckoo pint. "What's that?" he enquired. "Can I eat it?" he ventured ....... I recall a conversation back in the Oak after the presentation of the Chairman's Cup. Here Tom explained to Hayder the dangers of the native flora and fauna. Apparently camping in Dunsford was safe but you do need to take precautions. Always watch out for the wood ants, they are huge, and never leave your tent at night, the Dartmoor grey wolf is a vicious beastie .......

Sean Webb

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