Mystics versus Erratics at Dunsford, 4th August 2012
This game, I'm embarrassed to admit, is too like a family party for comfort. You know what I mean. There we all are, whiling away the time, when somebody (Great Aunt Jean, probably) suggests that we play a game. So we have to pick teams, and I find myself lined up with one son-in-law against the other son-in-law, two sons and two grandsons, whilst a daughter-in-law keeps the score, two daughters make tea in the kitchen, the matriarch frowns out from an armchair and three granddaughters take the dog for a walk. It's Thomas Minton's willow pattern, infused with the spirit of cricket.
On a cloudless day like this one, the Dunsford ground is where you'd go to sip a slow sarsaparilla, sway through sunbeams and make a languid baby. But no! The destination of the Chairman's Cup is at stake. Suhaib (2 for 5 in 7 overs) and Gareth Oughton open the Erratics attack: "probably the best the Mystics have faced on this tour", says Sean Webb later. Too good for the Chairman, certainly, and it needed some spirited batting from a brace of Chaves to lift the score to 21.
They were looking so impregnable that Sam Cook, due in next, set off with Gemma on a leisurely walk round the boundary, and they were by the river when Dominic Prosser straightened one off the seam to bowl Fraser. You could almost hear the fanfare as Sam the Marauder lumbered to the crease, leaving Gemma to complete the circuit alone. As things turned out, though, he was back in the pavilion before her, thus proving that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points. Tom Hurles followed with one of his better noughts, and the Mystics were 34 for 4 after 17 overs. It was the partnership between Duncan Chave and Sid Thomson that saw them through to the drinks break, after which Gareth Oughton's improbably elongated right arm at extra cover accounted for Sid. But the Erratics were on the back foot now. J-C and Duncan did a bit of flaying, and it needed a direct hit from Phil Power, the sheer speed around the field of Ed Keedwell and the characteristic inscrutability of Chris Squire's flight - he would be fined for bowling his nephew (who might have returned the compliment during his two beguiling overs) - to keep the Mystics short of 150 at tea.
I can't remember tea, except for the look of sheer hatred on Simon Orpen's face when I asked him to start the umpiring and Sean Webb's equally sheer unbelief when I told him he was number three. There was, it has to be confessed, an aura of fragility about the Erratics batting. We don't look quite the same when Chris Ferro and Matt Cook are missing. But Suhaib's nought was even better than Tom's, and Phil Power and Sean Webb didn't surrender easily. Fraser Chave's nonchalant catching of Sean when he was looking straight into the sun was a highlight, one he later matched by snaffling a firmly hit cut to dismiss Ed Keedwell. The star turn was J-C (2 for 4 in 6 overs) and the arch tormentor was Jim Thomson. Jonathan Kirby, for example, scorched him for lofted boundaries in one over, and in the next was hypnotised by four balls and bowled by the fifth; and Dominic Prosser, having raced to 20, allowed himself to be clean bowled by a ball so slow that it had no right to break the bail it nuzzled. I could tell I was going to have to bat even before Gareth Oughton - the English edition of Varun - strode to the wicket. Bang goes a four, up goes a catch, and Gareth greets me as we pass with a cheery, "There was a terrible inevitability about that". It was Simon Orpen, curbing his suicidal impulse, who saw the Erratics through to the draw which signified our retention of the Chairman's Cup.