It began under grey skies, with a mixture of fear, trepidation and concern about the strength of the opposition. But as the minibus doors shut and the task force began its momentous journey, the sun squinted through the clouds and spirits were raised. Driving into Falkland for the first time provoked gasps of wonder at the beauty of the place. An old village with fascinating buildings everywhere and history on every street corner, the tour party naturally spent the lunch-hour camped inside a pub. Here we met a young chap who turned out to be an ex-player, and promised us that the locals wouldn't be taking it seriously - they'd "all be pissed and up for a laugh."
Our hearts lightened, we found the ground in the middle of a huge country estate. It was a vision of loveliness, with towering hills on one side and expansive vistas on the other. "Can't think why we dropped Dunfermline" came the call. The oppo were all ready, bar the captain, and seemed young, tall and worryingly sober. Here was a hint of a track suit, there an echo of antipodean - the omens needed very little deciphering.
However Duncan was captain, and promptly agreed to an overs match.
The Mystics took the field gingerly (despite the absence of Kev), and in strode the Falkland openers. The synchronised Telly-Tubby "uh-oh" on Fred's first delivery was intended as a joke, but couldn't have been more appropriate, as first a batsman's helmet, and then any remotely loose delivery, were despatched to the boundary. Bryan came on and bowled what for me was the spell of the tour, albeit for no reward, and was joined by Windy who also did well, eventually bowling the talented Trewartha as he advanced. Heads stayed up, but hangovers and stiffness took their toll and the standard of fielding dipped, as the top order 1st XI players showed their class. Jim came on and had his first ball hit for a huge six (the editor interrupts here to point out that, huge as it may have been, this six was a top-edged prod compared to the one off Graham that flew over midwicket and landed in the North Sea) by the Aussie pro, Gavin Maslen, who only slowed down when he reached 90, suggesting he might be on some kind of incentive scheme. (Perhaps in the future we can offer oppo pros £5 for every 10 runs, and they'll stop murdering us all the time.) Fred took an extraordinary catch to remove Watson, but, despite some good nagging away Graham (a recently acquired skill), the onslaught continued to 263-4.
There were no recriminations at tea, just careful analysis as to how best to chase such a huge score. On the positive side, it was a superb wicket; a good outfield; and anyone down the hill at long on or long off would be fielding by semaphore. However Mystic batting line-ups are not usually noted for their depth - risks would have to be calculated. A strategy was formed.
Five overs later, with two front line batsmen clean bowled and another on his way to hospital, a strategy was discarded. Ernie, sporting his splendid Jason Gillespie beard, overstretched the likeness and missed a straight one; Adi essayed a marvellously inventive late cut off leg stump to the quickie; and poor Windy, who'd decided not to bother with a helmet, promptly top-edged a pull into his cheek. It was now, ironically, time to try and save face.
To the oppo skipper's great credit, ten bowlers were used, though as they could all bowl a bit and the field kept retreating at the mere rumour of a possible boundary, Duncan and your correspondent were never able to approach the asking rate. It can't have been too much fun for the fielders either, with the batsmen unable to take any chances, but fortunately the game-as-spectacle was rescued, not for the first time, by the Mystics' Knowledgeable Supporters. Sensing that irony was our last trump card, they began to cheer wildly anything that made it off the square. Some of the Falkland boys seemed a bit bemused - surely they were winning? - but shot after shot was greeted with rapturous applause, and a carnival atmosphere quickly formed.
Perhaps in an equally ironic response, the pro brought himself on to bowl, and soon removed your correspondent, overwhelmed by the unreality and opting to reverse sweep. The highlights then came thick and fast: Windy, who'd survived two journeys in Deke's car without a blindfold, resumed his knock, sensibly wearing a helmet to protect the close fielders from the grotesque sight of his swollen face; Dunc hit Maslen for a towering six over the pavilion to ecstatic approval; Dan nurdled some outrageous lobs around for a courageous 5; and Fred hit the last three balls for six. In total anyway. We finished on 195-7, a long way off perhaps, but at least we didn't come third.
It mightn't have been the perfect match, but then blind dates seldom are. These things take time, as the noted philosopher and aesthete Stephen Morrissey once said (look him up, Derek). I'm sure next time we'll find a bit more common ground and come to appreciate each others finer features.
Talking of which - better keep the helmet on, Windy.
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