Grumpy squeezes a tight one


Mystics versus Falkland, Scroggie Park, 31st July 2001

Below the conical hill, beyond the pretty stone village and its thickset castle, draped over some rounded contours on the other side of some trees and a shallow river, lies the cricket ground of Falkland.

Due to a mixture of logistical error and too much enthusiasm, Falkland realised they had a 12 man team. Chris Squire had been looking forward to leaving the day's play to mere mortals, but rustled up some whites so that the Falkland skipper didn't have to disappoint someone. A comment was overheard from the Falkland changing room that we'd brought David Baddiel with us again. I have no idea what they were talking about, but when Ern rolled a short ball back onto his stumps on the third ball of the game, Windy remarked "Don't rub it in. I wouldn't dream of it."

Duncan was caught behind early and all the luck washed down to Adi's end where he was dropped twice. Mind you, he was playing and missing. We realised what was wrong when his father reappeared from a stroll into the village and Adi swung a powerful four to long off. He continued with shades of the Ultimate Destroyer as he flashed a few around grandly and played and missed outside off whenever his father was distracted. Rather unfairly, at one point he made Matt run three.

Back on the boundary, Deke enjoyed his chicken and haggis pie and there was the usual inciteful coverage of play. "We should get a digital TV channel and broadcast a commentary," I suggested. "Do you think anyone would watch it?" asked Windy. Well, Lucy could and thereby need never miss another game. Anyway, by this time we were 33 after 10 overs and there seemed to be far more than 12 Falklanders out there as they appeared wherever the ball was struck.

Adi heaved a big one over to long on. The gurus at the picnic table predicted a bouncer or a yorker next ball. Sure enough, it was a yorker and Adi came over to join us. He'd been hoping to see the Mystics to 16 overs and the half century, but it was not to be.

Chloe had some mud in the spout of her teapot. Jo tried to get it out for her. "I need a screw," she said. "I don't think that'll help," said Windy doubtfully.

Back on the pitch, Matt was having a horrible time as Chris H kept making him run, and run quickly at that. Exhausted, he was caught behind and came off for a lie down. Adam joined Chris awoke suddenly from his customary slumber as Chris belted one straight at him. Adam dropped to the ground much in the way a stone would. Shortly afterwards, point couched a low one and that was the end of the skipper.

Windy, leaving behind some strange clownish headgear that suited him entirely, watched some acrobatics behind him as first slip leapt up and caught a nick over the head of second slip. Fred went out and was back on the boundary a ball later. "Stupid game," he said.

Chris S marched onto the greensward, accompanied half way by his trusty four-legged squire Irving. It was a hattrick ball and even Chris was holding his breath, which can't have helped. The field crowded around him until he was barely visible: just a tuft of blond hair waving like a languid pennant in the breeze. Chris swung, Chris missed and someone appealed for the hell of it.

Adam, bolstered by Chris' presence, hit several that would have been sixes at Lords. Apparently. Here of course, they only went for two. "I don't think Chris will run three. His legs are going quickly but he's left his body behind," said Windy. As if in response, Chris struck a mighty four behind he didn't need to run for but was bowled shortly after.

For while, we were delighted to see from the scoreboard that the score had rocketed up to 206, which meant 100 off the 32nd over. This was fantastic news. Someone got up to change it and there were boos. However, while they were walking round, it went up to 209 and these turned to cheers, until it became 109 and was booed once more.

Adam, eager to really make it 209, hit big over the bowler's head. For two. About 25 people on the boundary chorused "That would have been a six a Lords." Adi borrowed Falkland's conch shell horn and managed a sound like a rutting stag. "Missing Talia?" asked Dunc.

Clem was out when he struck a ball towards the boundary and the fielder ran down the hill to get underneath it. Adam continued to hit out with better results. Jim cut an easy single to backward square but he wasn't counting on the demonic pick up and return that was a direct hit on the stumps from the fielder who had obviously sold his soul to Satan. In went Peter, escorted all the way by Irving. Peter played the same shot, attempted the same run to the same pick-up and return but lived to tell the tale because he is the patron saint of Mystic cricket. Adam responded with a couple of fours and reached his first Mystic 50 on his first Mystic tour.

Falkland's innings began with excitement as Windy's first ball was a full toss almost caught by a diving Adam at square leg. Soon after, Jim, at silly mid on, let the side down by letting through a four just because it nearly sliced him in half. After eight overs, Falkland's 1st XI openers Watson and Rowley had moved steadily to 26, helped by an 11 run over. Matt had first blood as he pouched an easy one. It was a good job it was obvious because the umpire was on his mobile phone at the time and wasn't watching the game at all. Despite this, the batsmen continued to get hold of the bowlers.

Meanwhile, behind the bowler's arm, the groundsman started to mow the grass. Someone went over and asked him not to mow because it distracted the batsman. By the next over, not wanting to distract the batsman with his mowing, he trimmed the hedge behind the bowler's arm instead. He was asked not to do this either. In subsequent overs, he tried painting the fence, rolling his cap, doing a sword dance, practising semaphore and miming eating an elephant, all of which, it turned out, still proved a distraction to the batsman.

After 27 overs, Falkland were 100 for 2 as they continued to find gaps in the 12 man field. There was no Mystic banter on the field, unless they were drowned out by the boundary-side creche that was forming around Jo. Even Windy was quiet. This was serious.

The slow bowlers changed that, taking a few rapid wickets, led by Jim aided by a catch from Ern. The Falkland dressing room put out the rumour that there wasn't much batting to come only this "not much batting" clattered two fours in one over from the great Chris H. The skipper wasn't happy and took himself off to give others a go.

There was a huge appeal for a stumped but the telecommunicative umpire was impassive. He'd noticed what no one else had done, that despite an energetic shout of his own, Peter had failed to remove the bails. The Mystic Moment judges made an emphatic note.

Windy was the replacement for the skipper and then the Jim and Ernie show struck again. Jim bowled a very tight seven over spell, looping the ball perfectly (to achieve 0-1, 0-2, 1-3, 1-5, 1-5, 2-9, 2-10). We clapped a lot. Any excuse to clap Jim really. He's such as splendid chap.

Windy got a stumping which included bails removal that was so clear even the square leg umpire appealed. That would help his Mystic Fantasy League points. Then he took a caught and bowled which meant even more points. We knew this was going to make him insufferable. We were caught in a dilemma: we didn't want Windy to win the day's fantasy league but it seemed to be that or lose the game. It was a difficult one. Then Jim took a catch for Windy and his laughter rang out to the boundary. We had our heads in our hands.

Ern replaced Jim. Deke was still on the commentary team. "The Mystics are moving like a well-oiled machine," he said. "I'm trying to think of what kind of machine," he added. "A pencil sharpener?" His critical mind homed in on Windy: "Windy's a clever old bowler. That was a hopeless ball."

As if in response, Clem replaced Windy, which pleased everyone, especially if he wasn't in a catching position and this gave our heroic skipper the opportunity to fly up like a rabbit off a trampoline and take a one handed catch behind Peter's head. 123 for 7. Soon after, Jim dived for the ball and scooped at it near the ground. A delighted Clem ran up but he was suffering from premature congratulation because Jim had dropped it.

It was 131 off 37 overs and things were tense. The Falklanders were cheering anything and rapidly becoming like Mystics supporters on tour. 135 off 38 overs: 20 needed off the last two. It could still go either way. Ernie took the ball. A single, then another. At least they were only singles. Then Clem caught Lindsay for three. Huge cheers resulted as Windy hadn't been involved. The next three deliveries were dot balls. Surely the Mystics had it in the bag now with 3 runs a ball required.

Matt took the ball for his first over of the game. The stronger batsman was facing. A dot. Looking good. A single got the new batsman on strike. 17 and 4 balls but then a four struck off a no-ball changed that to 12 off 4 balls and Matt was flagellating himself. Somewhere, a beetle coughed. Two byes ran past Peter on the next one. Matt bared his back and handed Peter the whip in apology and by the time the batsmen had run 3 off the fifth ball, he was handing it around the field so they could take turns at him. It's okay, we wanted to say, it's still 7 off 1, just don't be silly. They only managed another 3 and Grumps had led us to another close game. Clem rubbed it in by doing impossible things with elastic bands in front of the Falkland batsmen's very eyes.

Kevin Barron


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