Mystics versus Erratics at Gras Lawn, 23rd July 1994
"I lost the toss, boys, and we're in the field," I said. Not a short-cut to popularity on a raostingly hot afternoon. Not that anyone said anything to my face. In fact, none of the team spoke to me again until after tea. Odd that.
Out to open the Erratics innings went Ian Powell and John Pearson, chalk and cheese: Powell needing to be prised from the crease like an oyster from its shell; Pearson accepting dismissal with a cheerful "it had to happen sooner or later" shrug. Well, by the eighth over Pearson had shrugged and Powell had been prised - bowled and smartly caught respectively. This brought Chris Cook to the crease. He watched a wide ball pass, pushed one back and then belted the next one for four. "He looks in good nick," Windy muttered, and he was right. The pre-match plan of delaying Sumo's introduction until Cook's appearance worked ... for Chris. He simply tore Matt's bowling apart. When the applause rang out for Chris's half century, some wag asked if it was just his fifty or his fifty off Sumo. "Same thing," sighed Matt and walked wearily back to his mark.
Relief, however, wasn't far away. A combination of Windy's tight bowling, Duncan's fine fielding and some Erratic calling left Cook stranded in run-out city. He was out for 68 leaving the Erratics 116 for five in the 24th over.
Now that the ball wasn't being hit quite so hard, our fielding improved dramatically - "Jonty" Matravers was particularly outstanding in the gully. Yellow-and-orange caps bobbed up and down as Mystic fielders chased everything and hurled in the ball with fresh vigour. The bowling swapped aound at bewildering speed. "Just as I get used to a bowler, you take him off," complained Steve Berry. The most successful of these quick-change artists was Graham Sharland, with two wickets. He bowled John Somers off pad and maybe a bit of bat - a dismissal Graham missed being too busy appealling for the LBW. His face suggested that the breaking the wicket was small compensation for the rejection of his LBW appeal. Two overs and three impressive wides later, he sent down a monster full toss to Jem Southam. Now, Jem is a tall man, but even he did well to reach this one, inventing a shot that was a sort of upside-down version of the stroke of a gondolier. Sadly his ingenuity had scant reward as the ball lobbed gently back to the bowler. 151 for seven in the 36th over. A battling innings from captain Steve Berry took the Erratics to 177 at tea.
The Erratics score was a decent one, but it should, I thought, be within reach for a good Mystics batting side. My confidence was short-lived, however, as 40 for one became 65 for six in the face of some good bowling by Cook and Fisher and some excellent Erratics catching. Only Duncan stayed at the crease for long and even he was unable to master Stephen Fisher's guileful slow swingers, frequently playing and missing around off stump.
A sixth-wicket partnership between Windy and Matt briefly threatened to turn the tide. For a while it seemed they might be equal to the tough asking rate of nine and half an over. Fisher suddenly became expensive as the big Yorkshire fast bowler took a liking to him, plundering 30 runs from his last two overs. 72 were needed from 36 balls. Improbable, but not yet impossible.
The introduction of Peter Thomson to the attack put an end to any wild Mystic dreams. A few tight overs from him and from Cook, and the dismissal of both established batsmen, left us 131 for eight with two overs left. Survival was now our sole ambition.
I was at the wicket with Deke, whose six previous Mystic innings had yielded a total of three runs and no not outs. My batting form was much the same, and there was only Kev to come.
Deke pushed a single and I glanced a four. Seven balls to go and two wickets in hand: surely now we were safe. Maybe I relaxed too soon or maybe the gods of cricket demanded a bit more excitement, but anyway, I played down one line and Chris Cook bowled down another. 136 for nine, and only Dr Matravers and piece of wood four and a quarter inches wide stood between us and defeat. However, not only did he survive that final over, but he also took four solid runs from it and walked off rather surprised at the excited jubilation that greeted him. He had always been confident that the match was safe in his gloved hands. "What are all these people on about?" he wondered. "Oh, good. There is some cake left over from tea."