A Snake in the Grass

Mystics versus Halverstown at Old Kilcullen R.F.C., 1st September 1992

A fondly remembered, but cold morning whose determined wind saw off some half-hearted rain. The smell of a puppy whose droopy eyes, all too familiar, suggested another Guinness might see off the previous night's. In Moone came the Guinness, in a pub as snug as Duncan's tent in a storm. Then, fortified with soup and the promise of boiled bacon, cabbage-and floured potatoes, we chased our host, No 4 batsman Farmer Richard to the game. He raced the familiar roads to shake us up and took us further than expected to an accomplished rugby pitch of advertising hoardings. There were also spectators who grazed over the pitch, our largest and most attentive audience of the tour.

The wicket was marshy, but a mere puddle to the ponds we had visited. The club house was newly decorated, but not for us, as weren't the pool table and the apparently splendid bar. We did however get to fall over in the hopscotch tyres by the front door and to general relief, there were showers.

The showers, well used to uncaking mud and blood and ringing with songs and sorrows, went quite frigid on the dirty girls hardy enough to use them. Punishment for impudence? Well, the Halverstown left arm spinner and late arrival happened past the showers while hurrying out to field and, summoned to the yelps and splashing, beheld a most irrugby vision. He didn't stay long to look, but left the bar lost, sad, bewildered and supported by a friend.

We pallbearers filled the changing room with enough luggage for a long campaign, while our sleepless captain, whose strategies deserved one, secured the early victory with the coin. As the middle order and tail carped against the cold, the openers boasted "A hundred each of posh side reverse schwing sixes." Foolish words.

The lippiest of the pair negotiated the first over, divots flying in all directions. The second over delivered by a lock of a man, a second and third row on his own, did not abate the smuggery. The pair mimed surprise and "What could I have done with that one?" at each other. Now the lippy lad picked up a short ball and drooling, attempted to fulfil its boundary promise, away and fetch. The sheep drew an expectant breath and beckoned out of the deep grasses a belly up bubbler from our own ranks. The treacherous Python succumbed and with Mystical gymnastics, latched his butter claws to the ball and oh the pride, the smile. Deepest treachery. I was left, a lanky new boy, full of aimless fight to impress my ancestors, baited by the giggling sheep, rewarded with a top edge heave-ho, destined for Dublin which went, like Guinness, down the nearest throat. The big headed opening pair had gone for a well-deserved 11.

Now Sid, despite showing the patience lacking before, finally found the fifth column and the foul Python dispatched him for one. Borley and Miller rescued us from 24 for 3 with innings of Guts and Caution. The crowd cheered briefly for a flighty knock from the irrepressible Watts, a man who always nearly hit the ball...or is it nearly always hit the ball?

Price-Hughes tried to make friends and amends with a cowside innings. Later, despite dressing room protests, he was allowed sandwiches and someone spoke to him. Then in the evening of our innings, a magical moment as rare to us as breweries in Dublin. We beheld (Luke Chapter 10) a figure of Bradman gait and trouser, Huttonesque (mutton surely) cap and poise, a man graceful as Gower and as reliable as Devon himself. James 'No Bunny' Thomson. He performed a sweep shot that is forever England and set an example to his national side. Surely Thomson must get the call this summer and Atherton should do the decent thing in an adjacent room with a pistol? The occasion overcame Thomson however and he capitulated for an under-nourished six. Father Thomson should have been there to witness the said sweep shot but, but, well...well he met the Golden Duck as all must. Not a pretty sight.

Our chief Sharland (Hebrew for Promised Land) stepped into the innings at its death and had to unclench the fist of Dion. He had secured his first tour run and was not leaving his crease for fear of it being taken from him. So Sharland took the last over to himself and swung the first ball disdainfully away for six. He then smashed the last five balls around the square to take ten off the last over. We closed our innings a little apprehensively at 133 for 9.

The side to field after tea must bear in mind the size of the sandwiches and the volume of tea they drink, but we marched through as much as we could fit in and lolled two opening bowlers out. Barron's boots, genuine Armistice day boots, creaked under the terrific strain and he delivered an over of such variety a very wide barn door would have been a more appropriate target. T.Carberry, the opposition's blacksmith-natured opening batsman, found this to his liking and 133 ticked away like a formality. The old dog (who me?) fared no batter, after his first ball rattled against the sightscreen, he pretended it was just a stretching matter. Excuses were fairly thin by the time greed overcame T. Carberry and he was caught. He actually ran from the pitch. As no one was chasing him, I assume he had an engagement to go to, but perhaps Dion had had words. Halverstown's next man was the spectator from the showers who, obviously still distracted, was devoured by the Golden Duck. He had some success with the birds after all. The other opening batsman and Richard our host conferred, agreed that this was indeed a hattrick situation and survived. I was robbed. An even keel had been restored at 32 for 3. Barron's boots loosed, he zeroed in and resting captain James Thomson performed a diving outfield catch to rival John Dyson's catch of Derek Randall for those that remember and the Bolshoi for those that don't.

Sharland resisted a smile at 33 for 4. The next wicket was not the wisest, dear Dion Dublin hunter. Our host farmer Richard had warmed to the resting captain's spin only to receive a most accomplished outswinger which he chased into the easy gloves of Father Thomson keeping wicket. Both men, taking no prisoners or medals for diplomacy, celebrated.

Sid joined in, taking a catch off Jim's 'subtle' spin and taking a wicket himself thanks to an easily taken catch by Windy. The opposition then regained a little composure; Adrian Borley stand up and explain four overs for 31 runs. Our supporters huddled in the van or playing in the tyres or doing whatever it is they did to keep warm must have wondered what was going on. I can offer no explanation. Borley is a bowler of no fixed ability and should not be encouraged. Cruel words but fair. I notice, tacked onto the end of the bowling analysis, Slam Duncan Chave the terminally gashed, appears to have taken two wickets and together with Windy, whose inspiring gallop always suggested we would overcome and so we did. (No it's not the beer, that doesn't make sense). The Halverstown gallop pulled up 16 runs short. The captain insisted, with more confidence as the Guinness went down, that it was all part of the plan.

A wet and wondrous tour thank you all.

Paul O'Shea

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