Too little too late

Mystics versus Erratics at Gras Lawn, 7th July 1990

When I got to Exeter on the Wednesday, I was fairly confident of getting nine regular cricketers (Me, Sid, Stan, Windy, Duncan, Tony Jones, Martin Sharland and two lads from Sussex University, Andy Canterbury and Jim Ellis) plus a couple of bodies. Eventually Tony Jones, a Merseysider with a llama fixation, confirmed as did Andy and Jim. On Saturday morning, the phone, which had been struggling, finally gave up the ghost. I'd had time to get through to Windy, just in time to confirm what I'd told him two weeks before (and six weeks before that), and that he was OK for that afternoon. "You're joking", he said. Apparently he'd thought it wasn't for another fortnight or so, and had made other arrangements for the day, i.e. playing for Ottery in the league. I politely suggested he bought a diary. Down to eight cricketers plus bodies, and my previously invincible batting line up began to look a touch shaky - it was Dunc's first game back after breaking his cheek bone, he also had back problems; Sid tends to get too nervous to bat in these matches; Stan has been mysteriously unable to really get going so far; and Martin Sharland is unpredictable. I knew that Jim and Andy were capable of getting runs, but I didn't feel any longer that we were almost bound to get a good score. Still, it was a potentially good attack. Andy Canterbury in particular is a fine seam bowler.

Matt Redmond, another Merseysider from Tuebingen was one of my three bodies, and Annie and Charlie became the other two at the last moment. The planned two o'clock start was, of course, not achieved. We started at about twenty past, Richard Hitchcock having won the toss, and (curse and blast him) put us in. Jim Ellis said he didn't mind opening and so he and Dunc started us off. Dunc looked good from the beginning, taking ten off John Butler's first over. Butler opened the bowling as Berry and Rudlin arrived late. In Chris Cook's third over, I gave Jim Ellis out lbw. It hit him on the front pad, but he was only pushing half forward (I thought) and the front-foot rule is a figment of village cricketers' imaginations. I may have been a bit harsh, but Jim was fine about it. Martin Sharland looked briefly dreadful, then Stan and Dunc took us to 93 before Stan played over a straight one from Berry. Dunc was going well, despite the fact that every shot off the back foot was extremely painful. Sid, wittering in a far from encouraging way, slunk out to join him and soon slunk back having unaccountably missed a straight one. I think he decided to give up cricket, at least for the season.

Tony Jones and I had a brief flurry at the end, and we scraped to 150 with a four byes which got credited to Annie through some friendly scoring. She and Charlie survived for two overs, which didn't amuse Rudlin very much. The score we got was about the lowest I'd have considered defensible on another very flat but slow Gras Lawn wicket. Tony Jones off the long run was erratic, but occasionally mystic and magical. Hitchcock had got into a state at the start of their innings because we couldn't find the crappy old ball that was being used as the match ball (it turned up in the upstairs dressing room) and so we had to use a different, equally crappy one. Possibly I had been expected to provide one - not a thing I had promised or even offered to do - and Richard was annoyed that I hadn't. Who knows what goes under the Brylcream. Despite that, he and Ian Powell put together an opening partnership of 77 before Richard was run out through some smart fielding by Andy Canterbury.

In fact the whole team fielded quite well. Annie did a great job. Duncan took a fine slip catch to get rid of Alan Robertshaw. In strode Chris Cook, who, without looking quite so perfect as usual, still seemed to be in control. A mix up caused Ian Powell to be run out by yards despite my dropping the return. My bowling was uneventful, although I turned one or two enough to take Richard's edge. To one ball of mine, he played a quite remarkable shot, rotating through 90 degrees until he was facing me, and then playing a ball from outside off stump to square leg with what, in his position, was, I suppose, a straight drive off the back foot. All that for no runs.

I brought Andy Canterbury back at the river end, and put Stan on at the other end, partly, I admit, to stop him from sulking (he'd taken to fielding fine leg and long off with minimal consultation). For whatever reason it was done, it was a good idea. When he came on, the Erratics were about 100 for three, but his eighth ball was too straight for Chris Cook and, glancing at the Erratics batsmen to come, I saw we were in with a chance. Five overs to go, and the score was 108 for four. It could have gone either way. As it was, Andy took two wickets in his next over and then Stan got another in his next. Two overs left, two wickets to fall, but Butler and Berry survived.

Funny, the two really good games in this series have been the draws. It now stands at two-all, with two draws. Had Windy been able to play, we'd have been too strong, and Annie probably wouldn't have played, which would have been a shame since she did a fine job and had a fine time.

Jim Thomson (edited from a letter)

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