Mystics, the Movie

Mystics versus Lanhydrock at Lanhydrock House, 6th August 2003

We arrived before the camera crew. Unable to fill enough of a documentary on village cricket with the games of Clyst St George, this film crew had decided to see a Mystics game. They had already staged a small barbecue, where the producer, doubtless in search of a late Friday night slot, had tried (and failed) to get Annie to go in the swimming pool. But the Mystics are too big for television. They deserve a mixture of Ealing comedy and Powell and Pressburger with Kenneth Moore playing Deke.

The pitch at Lanhydrock was a cinematographer's delight; the bright white of the players contrasting with the deep green backdrop of mature trees. This was a ground made for Irving. He and Peter chased sticks, as they will do in Heaven.

I took up Lanhydrock's scorebook and sat next to Donna who had the Mystics'. That way, at least one of us would be paying attention enough to score properly, even if it was usually Donna.

Lanhydrock began with a few fiercesome slashes, then found themselves pinned down with three maidens in a row (a good way to get a reputation). During this time, Jim Myton went for a low one-handed catch and dropped it. But then the camera crew arrived. With this incentive, Big Jimmy caught the next, a high one with sufficient tension to create some drama for the camera.

Dumont came in and confused me by playing a forward defensive in the style of a right-handed Chris Healey. Rita, Kate and Lucy G, like three Henry Blofelds on a bad day, started discussing Adi's hair colour. There was a diving chance to keeper or slip and then Dumont started to get into the swing of things, first with a big six over mid off's head. "Treat him with the contempt he deserves!" cried Kate, forgetting whose side she was on. Then he hit a one bounce four, about which Kate said nothing, presumably having remembered whose side she was on. Instead Annie yelled "Get him off!" at the bowler. Meanwhile, Ern, forgetting his lines, dropped a dolly off Sparrow.

Meanwhile, the film crew had found much more interesting things to film than cricket, despite Dunc's dramatic dive to dismiss Sparrow. Fraser was unravelling a stream of computer paper. He wanted to see how long it was. (Presumably the producer thought this smacked of investigative journalism). Then Meg, having consulted her publicist, began a series of publicity-seeking moves. First she defecated on Jo while she was being asked leading questions about not really wanting to waste her days watching cricket. Jo however was very professional and disguised her discomfort, so Meg tried a different approach, staging a lone pitch invasion...and was instantly filmed.

It was at Falmouth that Jim encouraged Windy to "crochet that shawl of mystery" and Windy again took up the ball. Jim couldn't be said to have had his best tour as a fielder, however, it was rather unkind of his wife to say "Oh, Jim actually stopped a ball."

Duncan got Dumont to swing and miss, which was a relief because up until then, he'd largely been swinging and hitting. But Donna's husband stepped in and lobbed one down at an excited Dumont who hoiked it high into the deep blue sky. In the film version of this tour, all music on the soundtrack would stop at this point apart from one long, high note on a violin: Neil was underneath it. The ball reached its apogee. If this had been a spaghetti western, there would have been many close ups of people's eyes, narrowed in various forms of apprehension. There would be close ups of Neil's too. But would they be wide with fear or narrowed in a Man With No Name kind of cool menace? We must leave that to the interpretation of the actor who will play Neil. The ball started to drop. It plummeted in slow motion. It tumbled towards the waiting Neil, standing solid beneath it. It fell into his hands and his hands pulled it to his chest. We held our breath, waiting to see if it would pop out again, but it stayed. Neil turned to face the camera which was only a few yards away behind him and raised his arms in triumph. A huge cheer went up. In the film version, Neil, who would normally be played by Johnny Vegas would be played at this point by Russell Crowe. The cinema audience would be on their seats.

Neil had set a precedent in the field and suddenly everyone was performing for the camera. Peter, spurning the use of a stunt double, ran diagonally after a ball and toppled. "Oh what's he broken?" asked Kate wearily. He was up on his feet again almost immediately, searching for a car to crash and a window to dive through while enveloped in flames. Jim, having previously auditioned for one of the Elephant Man's hands following a minibus tussle with a wasp, tried a dramatic dive after a powerfully hit ball, but was concentrating too much on making sure his best side was facing the camera. "I can't believe Jim let that through," said Donna. "His hand must have gone down."

It was somewhere about this time that Lanhydrock departed from their advertised batting order and Donna and I started giving runs to imposters, so if any of the following is wrong Lanhydrock, blame your skipper. Wickets started to tumble. Dun Can bowled to "P Cann" and got him leg before. Jim then took "Caddy" caught by Windy. Chave bowled "Bray". "Ames" was cheered as he got off the mark in much the same way that Deke is cheered when batting and we suspected he was not one of their top scorers. Neil, buoyed up by his dramatic catch then bowled "Ames". "Libby" and "Carter", each barely taller than the stumps, formed a steady partnership. They played defensively to start with, observing the bowlers. Then "Carter" hit out to the boundary but seemed unwilling to run. "Don't just watch it!" yelled his team mates. After some good stroke play, Neil took another wicket. "How do you feel, Suzie?" we asked his presumably proud girlfriend. "A bit hungry," she said absently.

Adi and Mutton-chops Myton opened the Mystic batting. Adi looked at it for an over then hit out, surviving a near caught behind which went for four, but was then caught at mid off for 20. Birthday boy Myton, slower off the mark, eventually got one past the field for two. Ernie and Jim M seemed to become rather penned in, making a very occasional break out, but Jim went, bowled, but continued to take part by blowing bubbles on the boundary and letting them drift across the wicket. Ern tempted fate with a dropped catch and a mix up run out before fate gave in to temptation and he was bowled by Dumont. Quick Fire Squire got off the mark in typically aggressive style as he hauled the ball to the boundary for four, but then settled into the same routine of dot balls as his predecessors.

A woman came out of the pavilion holding a small jacket. "Is that one of your children's coats?" she asked.

"No, it's Chris Healey's," piped Windy.

Donna and I were relieved to see Peter man the scoreboard. When Peter is umpiring, he is a tyrant with the scorers to keep the scoreboard up to date and Kayla isn't always available to work it every ball. Someone mischievous dared to roar "Scoreboard!" at him, but not so loud that he would hear.

With the demise of Squire it was the turns of Big Cook and Dunc, who were both taking their time and showing the bowling a great deal of respect. In fact, Jim T tells me, after 28 overs, which was two thirds of the way through the innings, we were only half way to our target. Windy had armed himself with one of the cards to wave when a boundary was scored. He looked at his unwaved card wistfully. "These cards are going to last for ages."

Things were very slooow. A Libby seemed to be bowling from both ends at the same time. Dunc was removed and replaced by Chris Healey. And then it was all over rather suddenly. One moment, the runs per over had been creeping steadily higher, and the next, a single run was needed from the last over. Meanwhile, back on the other side of the boundary "The farmer wants a wife" rang out from the pavilion as Talia led the children in a dance. Chris didn't miss a beat as he came off, reaching for the fines book like a policeman reaches for his notebook.

Kevin Barron

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