A bit of a Fowey Pas

Mystics versus Fowey at Fowey Community College, 2nd August 2007

On a beautiful blue-sky afternoon, Sean and I strolled around Gribbin Head towards Fowey. At Marazion Cove, four red-sailed dinghies pushed off and, as their sails filled, scudded happily out across the impossibly perfect sea. The same off-shore wind propelled a stately four-master south-west towards The Lizard. The last hour of the walk had a majesty, a life-affirming, timeless serenity ... and it left us emotionally ill-prepared for the forty overs that were to follow.

We arrived at the Community College to find that Cliff had lost the toss. Richie Crapp, a centurion against us in 2006, chose to bat. Both of the home side's openers were left-handed - the burly 'keeper J. "Linda" Snell and fixture secretary Mark Bennetts - which was enough to confuse our attack: Sam aimed his first three deliveries at long leg and JC decided to take a lie-down on the neighbouring plastic wicket for a while.

It was slightly undignified, and there were no dissenters when, at 44-0 off eight overs, Cliff pulled off both seamers and replaced them with Chrises. Healey came on from the pavilion end, leaving Cook with the sun in his face and the short boundary behind him. Healey spun one past Linda's outside edge and my dad completed a smart stumping. By the end of the twelfth over, Bennetts father and son had been bowlled (sic), and the home team were rocking at 52-3.

Like all great captains of cricket friendlies, Cliff knows when it's time to open a game up. He brought me on from Chris Healey's end. New-to-the-crease Tom Crapp struggled with a few dambuster deliveries before walloping a full toss for four. At the other end, Graham's single-bouncers were more in Crapp's arc - though one six might have been a catch to long on if Big Cook hadn't lost it in the sun. C. "Gladys" Knight perished when he wandered half-heartedly down the track at me and was easily stumped. It was all very super slo-mo, and I was too embarrassed to celebrate.

Cliff himself came on, and he and Graham closed out the innings. There were some doom-mongers on the field who thought that at 76-4 off 17, Fowey already have too many. They would have done things differently, keeping one or other Chris on, bringing back JC or selecting a completely different side and having a go-to bowler like Webb, Weatherhead or Waqar Younis to spear in yorkers for the last few overs.

While some of these may be good points, a truer, more holistic reading of the game will show that Cliff was right. Mystics matches should never be considered in isolation - not only is each an organ in the tour body, but also one of a series of matches. In 2006 we had beaten Fowey; on the day before this game, we had over-estimated Bugle and ended up with egg on our faces. It was perhaps time to loosen our grip, and few captaincy hands are more flaccid than Cliff's.

And anyway, as it turned out, those last three overs went for a mere 46, the home team finishing on a slightly over-par 122-4. Now the pessimists were in their element. They pointed to the low sun shining in the batsmen's faces, at the sticky track and how athletic the young Foweyans looked. "Six an over," they all said, "is going to take some getting out there." One look at our batting order, however, should have settled the argument. The top five had over 6000 Mystics runs between them: the two Cooks closing in on 1000 at one and two; the duckless non pareil Chave at three; Healeys at four and five and another Cook at six. 123 should be a mere bagatelle.

Sadly for Cliff, for the Mystics and the philosophies of cricket and bagatelle, the doom-mongers were proved right. A lively opening stand of 28 was ended when Richie Crapp swung one on to Matt's front pad. Chris Healey stuck his finger up and then trotted off to put his pads on. Dunc contributed nothing to a stand of 18 and trudged off bowled (or perhaps bowlled) for his first blob in yellow and orange. Another decent partnership followed, and at 70-2, we were ahead on the Duckworth-Lewis. Chirpy's well-judged 10 was ended by a catch at midwicket; Chris Healey got a leading edge to his first ball and it ballooned up into the covers; suddenly we were relying on Cook and son again. Sam hit a sumptuous drive over mid off and then tried to play the medium-pacers by backing away to leg. It was no surprise on a plasticine pitch when a shortish ball kept low and Sam had no middle stump (a minor problem compared to his later discovery that he also had no passport). Another one kept low, this time from Ollie Mitchell, and Big was also bowled: 78-6 at the start of the 16th over. 45 needed then, off 29 balls. Unfortunately, the remainder of our batting was a p short of Crapp. Cliff and Graham's seventh-wicket partnership meandered along at just over a run a ball, and we lost by 14 runs.

A wise man once said that friendly captaincy is a tricky thing. He was half right: it can be a bugger during the game, but in the clubhouse over the last bottle of Doom Bar it can seem childishly simple. Suddenly everyone is Mike Brearley and knows exactly where the on-field captain went so badly wrong. However, at the risk of this turning into a Rush tribute act (and nobody wants that), I'm going to stand up for Cliff. With two notable exceptions, he got everything right ... or nearly right ... or not completely wrong. The two exceptions: (i) not checking where we were playing before starting his captaincy thank-yous; (ii) wearing one of my Auntie Jean's blouses.

And, from Cliff's error-laden speech, things actually went downhill. The bar ran out of proper beer; most attempts to get post-match food failed; Matt walked back from The Crown in his bare feet with only the dim glow from the moon and half a billion termites to light his way; and - several ciders later on that night - Jimmy "Isaac" Ton got shafted by a can of air freshener.

Jim Thomson

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