A WG Grace Moment

Mystics versus Erratics at Lustleigh, 3rd August 2019

I had not been to Lustleigh before. This, it turned out, marked me out as unusual as many of those present were not only returning visitors, but, it seemed has spent childhoods camping in adjacent fields. Amongst those visitors were several Erratics emeriti – a Berry, some Hitchcocks, several Parkers, and other distinguished guests. One, Mark Searle, even donned his whites to play.

It is a beautiful ground, with a decent pub, serving decent beer and food, a few yards from the gate. As Peter O'Toole has writ, quoted in the Cricket Club booklet, "It is hard to know what more a cricketer could want from this delightful ground". What we wanted was a good, evenly matched game resulting in the return of the Chairman's Cup to its rightful home. We got the first of these; the second will have to wait for another year.

The Mystics batted first against a familiar bowler. On this occasion, Ben proved erratic by both name and nature, and he quickly took himself off to be replaced by Mark and Callum who kept a line and length consistent enough to satisfy Geoffrey Boycott. Chris H. had some early escapes (dropped both by Siva and a man known only as "the great Waldrino"), but he and Duncan started to build a solid partnership until the latter was dismissed with a rather good catch somewhere behind the wicket. Matt continued where Duncan had left off, with some fairly lusty hitting. Things were looking good, Matt surviving a puzzling but enthusiastic appeal from Waldrino for a tap to short leg.

Chris's half century came up. Never one to hog the limelight, he had to hit in the air a few times before he found a fielder. Shortly after that Mark took a good catch on the boundary to dismiss Matt, Chris Squire was caught hooking into the deep, and Sam was caught on the boundary – again by Mark. Fraser was run out after Sid hit it, Waldrino parried it, and Siva picked it up and got a direct hit. Mark Searle rather surprised the crowd with a couple of overs of spin.

As argument raged in the Mystics dressing room as to whether Sean or Jim should be No. 11, Pete was upping the scoring rate. Sean's argument as to why he was not the ideal choice was premised on the fact that he could neither swing the bat nor run, nor, indeed, attain verticality for any extended period of time. This limited his use as a run-getter. The argument for the contrary position was that the chance to complete that aggregate Mystics century should not be lightly tossed aside. The argument, as it turned out, proved academic as Pete and Sid saw us to a decent total of 208.

There was a great deal of lovely tea. A great deal. It was much appreciated by the great crowd at the ground, with more to spare.

Ernie, who has not had a very good tour with the bat, had Siva playing on to claim the first Erratics wicket. Pete, who had rather a good spell, bowled a lovely ball to claim Hoops. Ben, after some flamboyant swiping of the ball, was well-caught at mid-off by Matt. By this time, Chris Cook had been bought to the wicket and a curious incident occurred. Chris H., bowling, appealed for LBW and the umpire raised his finger. However, Chris C, having what some might describe as a "WG Grace moment", stuck to the crease and, after a pause just long enough for an Angel to pass (flying slowly), the appeal was withdrawn. This proved good for the game, as he set about the Mystics bowling with heart, getting his 50 with runs hit off Matt. At the other end, Ben was batting well and progress towards the Mystics total was steady. Then Ben was caught on the boundary by Sam. Chris C. continued, Chris H. having put down a very difficult chance in the deep. Finally, it was Sam who held onto a chance, again on the boundary, depriving his pater of his century by two runs. This must have upset him dreadfully.

It had been a splendid spell of play. The Erratics were trying to keep up the run-rate, the Mystics trying to save every run. The duel between Chris H. and Chris C. was a joy to watch. However, after Ben and Chris, the wickets fell at fairly regular intervals. The Erratics chased until the chase was futile, and with three overs to go, and eight wickets down, they hunkered down for a well-deserved draw.

The cup went back to the President of the Erratics. The Secretary, grateful for a game that exemplified all that he liked about cricket, gave an emotional speech. Fines were paid, thanks were given, and we retired to The Cleave (a cliff or cleft – "a large geological feature from which the pub derives its name").

Derek Matravers

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