The Crapshooters' Ballet


Mystics versus Grampound Road at Grampound Road, 29th July 2012

The morning of the match, Jim considers his options, and posts the team list on the wall: some strong players, some "kinda", some kinder not to. A "mixed inability" team. "The A-Team!" cries one hopeful Mystic. "Yeah," says another Mystic, "it makes you say "Eh?'..."

I arrive at the ground a little late and enter the changing room to find Sean lying on the far bench. He tells me he has just heard through the wall, from the Grampound Road changing room, the words, "watch out for their leggie." I wonder what the home team have heard through the walls over the years? But kudos to them for confusing the opposition by shouting ludicrous statements.

We take the field. I count the Mystic players, as I always do- often it's 9 or 10, occasionally 12, but hey, someone ought to check- and I'm pleased to see ten other Mystics on the field, then surprised as my senescent brain registers "By the way, they're all wearing Mystics caps." And so they are- not a white floppy between them! And then I had that moment like in Guys and Dolls, where Sky Masterson puts his hand up to cover Nathan Detroit's throat and says "I bet you can't tell me what colour necktie you are wearing, Nathan". And I reach up and there it is- yes!- all eleven of us are wearing Mystics caps. Perhaps a new tradition for the start of the tour?The morning of the match, Jim considers his options, and posts the team list on the wall: some strong players, some "kinda", some kinder not to. A "mixed inability" team. "The A-Team!" cries one hopeful Mystic. "Yeah," says another Mystic, "it makes you say "Eh?'..."

Pete and Jimmy Ton open the bowling, the latter finding Hosking's leading edge, bringing the precocious Orpe to the wicket. Inserting Sean brings instant gratification, as it always does, Dunstan going courtesy of sharp work from Sid. May has only one setting for every shot, and that's Eleven. (Yes, YOU go up to TEN. But HE goes up to ELEVEN.) The young Orpe survives what Sid calls the biggest edge he's ever seen not given. (Sid, of course, could not have been behind the sticks during Ernie's innings at Falmouth in 2003.) "Can't even sledge him" says Grumpy. But fortunately Orpe repeats the edge a couple of balls later. We hear he was denying having hit either of them to his team, but under grilling from us later he confesses he had hit one. And then changes his story again to "I wasn't out"- he'll go far in life. Politics, I reckon. First Prime Minister of Cornwall?

Grumpy comes on, and Sean cleans up Mingo through the gate, and then a partnership begins. And then May cuts loose a bit. And then he starts scoring exclusively with fours. And then with fours from every ball. A shout from the Mystic circus across the boundary: "Ambulance is here for your figures, Jimmy!"

And it's all getting contagious as McGrath catches the disease. Even Evenin' comes down with it too, a rapturous mass hysteria, Evenin' wavin' and kickin' a succession of potentially fieldable balls over the boundary for more runs, more runs, more runs!

Grumpy, who'd replaced Jimmy Ton, tries some internecine chirping to soften the carnage: "That was what they call a dot ball, Jim," and Jimmy Ton replies "At least only ONE of them was thrashing ME around." Chatting up the Square Leg Umpire I find that May scored a double ton in a recent 40-over, possibly for Cornwall Under-18s, if I can read my riting wright. And here he completes his century, reverse sweeping Pete as his celebratory shot, and retires. Sid calculates that in the last twelve overs the ball has got through to his gloves on three occasions only.

A frustrated Pete shows no mercy to a small, hesitant Dunstan Jnr (for shame, Pete!) Meanwhile, though, McGrath brings up his own century with a six that nestles on the roof of the nets, in a 6-ball over from Ern that goes for 32. So, swings and roundabouts...

With two juniors at the crease, Chris S appears for the final over, and claims a hard earned wicket. "I'd have ripped the heart out of their batting," he exclaims, not unreasonably. If we had brought Chris on early, you might have questioned the captaincy, but not the Mysticicity.

254 is a serious total. We console ourselves with the fact that, even though we're unlikely to make it, both the oppo and the kids in the playground have expressed their liking for our caps. But it's clearly a team thing: mine attracted pan-European ridicule when I wore it skiing (once only, obviously)- nickhealey.com/SkiMystic.jpg- my, what a lot of new words I learned. But if the Mystics know one thing it's the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, and we look like a team today. Albeit in a hole.

Ernie and Dunc open cautiously, with Dunc deadbatting slow spin that May would've loved, and barely surviving Maris banging it in hard from a great height.

"Nasty Annie," or as she had recently become known, "Annie Horribilis", pipes up: "Ernie can't see past his helmet." "That's a hell of a boast" says Chris S. (There can't be any truth in Annie's contention, of course, as no man in such circumstances would feel the need to be married.) The boundaries begin from both batsmen, until Dunc chips out to extra cover. "As far as games of cricket go, this is a good one"- this is High Praise Indeed from Becky, 2012 vintage. There is progress! Hope!

Sid had been hesitant about playing high up the order- "The last time I tried to "have a go' I scored about 17 off 60"- but sets about befriending the boundary with considerable regularity. Chris S covers for Sid with an eight-ball innings of one run (but a very classy looking single). And then begins the Matt show. As he takes the field Dunc advises him, "You'd better start thinking about hitting youngsters all over the place"- parents, eh?- but there's really no need: Matt sets about the task with the same gay abandon as last year. And when Ern is finally out I get to enjoy the Matt show from the opposite crease (apart from the one thwack Matt didn't quite get underneath, which very nearly carried out a gender reassignment, cheers thanks.)

With Pete assisting Matt more ably than I ever could, we need 25 off 2, a tricky situation. Pete hits a six, the fielder signals "six", and Sid, umpiring, signals "four". Peter T immediately stages the unlikeliest pitch invasion in sporting history, storming forwards to command Sid to seek the proper call, which he dutifully does. But all to no avail: still 15 needed off the last, and we keep finding the boundary fielders. Needing 13 off three balls, Pete fails to reach the first of them, but Duncan, in the coat, decides Pete's arms are surely long enough to reach anything, and declines the option of a wide. We fall a handful short, and Grampound Road win a lovely game.



Nick Healey


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