Mystics versus Erratics at Christow, 31st July 1999
15 years to the day after the first ever Mystics innings came the worst ever Mystics innings.
We had bowled and fielded pretty well to keep the Erratics to 165 for five at tea. In fact, it was more lunch than tea. Due to a double booking of the Christow Village Hall, we had to be out by six o'clock. On a sunny day (and this was the seventh successive of those) the ground in Christow, with its spectacular view across the Teign Valley, is a lovely place to watch a game of village cricket. The slope and the scars on the outfield caused by the building of the new village hall made it a less-than-perfect place to field. It might be argued that Matthew Cook's ushering of the ball to the boundary was a more sensible approach to fielding on the downhill side than Annie's Mystic-Moment-winning stop. Matthew's boyish grin retained its teeth, but Fraser nearly lost one of his two favourite places to eat out.
The Erratics' innings started slowly. A shortage of raw pace meant that I decided to open the bowling myself; and, however badly I bowled, I went for next to no runs. Fred at the other end was similarly economical.
Matthew came on to bowl the tenth over and Clem the eleventh. It was Clem who took the first wicket, and after 13 overs the score had lurched to 19 for one. Martin Weiler strolled down the short slope from the cover boundary, determined to kick a bit of life into the innings. He hit five fours in his 23 before becoming Clem's second victim. The score had reached 56. It would have saved a lot of running around if the Erratics had declared then. After all, they already had a winning total.
Instead Chris Cook came in. With first Nick Discombe and then Richard Hitchcock, he took the score to 148 before the two Martins (Windy and Ernie) combined to remove him. His batting average against the Mystics fell to 129.00, and Windy had reward for some good controlled bowling. At the other end, Graham Sharland bowled well, and Matthew Cook's second spell was better than his first. Matthew and Ollie were to be the mainstay of our attack through a long, hot tour.
The 47th over of the innings was the last, and 166 seemed a fair target. We had a lot of batting, I thought. Yes. Like a fly in a field of cows has a lot to eat - and it's all shit.
A good game of cricket is like a well-crafted two-act play and builds to an exciting climax. The entire (brief) second act of this game was, I'm afraid, like one of those blood-thirsty Shakespearean denouements "where a ghost and a prince meet, and everything ends in mincemeat." Possibly Laertes had poisoned the ball, or maybe the guts of our batting had been fed to us in a pie at tea. We'll never know.
Against bowling that was tight, but about as menacing as an episode of Crystal Tips and Alastair, we conspired to be dismissed for 53. Extras played well for its 14, and Annie was unbeaten at the end. The rest of us were bollocks; and not the dog's ones. Both openers spotted deliveries from Guy Clarke and John Pearson that were going wide and played them on to their own stumps. Ernie and Deke popped up catches.
First Fisher and then Kirby were brought on, and Clem knocked a simple catch up off Kirby's first ball. Fred patted a few balls back and then wandered down the wicket to a Fisher drifter. I suspect that the bowler's langorous approach and delivery hypnotised Fred. Anyway, he ran out of steam after his second step, and his shot had more sloth than slog about it. John Butler completed the stumping with unhurried ease. The effect was of watching a slow-motion replay.
52 for eight and we were in a bit of trouble. I joined Matthew and told him that we had to bring a degree of respectability to the score. Unfortunately I hadn't realised that I was facing a leg spinner bowling on a helpful slope. He wasn't Shane Warne, but then I'm not Mike Gatting.
Annie played out the rest of the 20th over, but Matthew had had enough. His shot was a death-or-ignominy forward prod. Another catch for the Erratics skipper, and at half past four the game was over. We'd lost by 112 runs.
Well, at least we got to start the party early.