One Wheel on my Wagon

Mystics versus Lanhydrock at Lanhydrock House, 4th August 2006

After the previous year's humiliation on this green and pleasant ground, it was a relatively powerful Mystics side that drifted in from nearby pubs. Adam was here and Big Cook was back from his mid-tour break. Cliff's proven 100% wicket-taking record might prove at least as vital as his claimed 98% catching record; and the batting order looked strong on paper. Though anyone seeing our desultory warm-up might have said that we looked strong as paper.

Steve Berry won the toss and sent Chris Healey and Pete out to open the batting. Truscott spilled the simple chance that Pete offered, and the partnership prospered, putting on a fairly brisk 45. The young Lanhydrock seamers bowled well, and Pete's luck did not last. Matt came in and was immediately dropped at cover. Putting that moment behind him (shades of England's Cook), he was quickly into his stride. Shots all around the wicket allowed him to dominate the next 15 or 20 overs. Chris proceeded calmly to his only 50 of the tour, and then got out. For once, I think, this was not deliberate. He still had some runs to score when he chipped one to mid on.

Lanhydrock rang the changes, giving four overs to each of eight bowlers. There was a brief father-son partnership, and then Adam joined Matt at the crease. They were particularly severe on Nathan Libby (Andy's younger brother), taking 30 off his last eight deliveries. Adam's 36 was an increasingly brutal affair, and he and Matt put on 80 in 100 balls. Sam and Cliff biffed a couple, and Matt finished with a flurry. His 117 contained 23 fours and a six. It was a more more cultured innings than the previous day's assault on the short boundary. If Adi had drawn a wagon wheel of this one, at least the spokes might have had a chance of keeping the wheel circular.

267 for five represented a new highest score for the Mystics, and we enjoyed the second best tea of the tour with a quiet confidence. Still, we had seen Lanhydrock bat before and, though Andy Libby and Dave Hollyoak weren't around, we didn't know what they might have in reserve. Sellotaped to the pavillion door was a piece of paper showing some alarmingly high batting averages; and one of the names matched the name written at number three in the scorebook.

The impression that we were playing for Broadclyst Saint George was reinforced by the sight of Pete and Adam opening the bowling (in fact, of the eight bowlers used, only me and Graham don't play regularly for a team with clyst in its name). No offence to Sam and Charlie, but this was a serious seam attack. I say serious, but Pete's Harmisonian failure to hit the cut strip with his first delivery and his Panesarian effort at the simple return catch that Truscott popped up to him were more Big Top than Big League. Pete was made to pay as the Lanhydrock opener unorthodoxly, and with a safety-last approach, took four boundaries from his next over.

Carter, the younger opener, was caught behind, and in came Smart, he of the stellar average. Truscott played around a straight one from Pete; and bowler became fielder as he comfortably pouched a catch in the deep in Graham's first over.

Sparrow joined Smart, scoring sixty at six an over off Sean and Sharland. The sibilance was ended by a good outfield catch by Big Cook. Lanhydrock, with four wickets down, were still in the game. But they couldn't afford to dawdle.

Steve Berry, sensing the seriousness of the moment, brought on Cliff Rush to lighten the mood. Would it be Wednesday's wicket machine? or the hapless 23-off-an-over loser of Lanhydrock 2004? The pulled six off the fifth ball of his first over suggested the latter; but Yates tried the shot again and hit a catch to deep square that not even I could misjudge. A straight ball in his next over and Cliff had two for 12.

Lanhydrock were now up against it: with four wickets in hand, they needed 132 off 16 overs. Charlie Ellis strode out to join Smart, his long surf-boy hair tied up in a natty Norah Batty hankie. Charlie had bowled well, and now showed that he was a decent striker of a cricket ball. Small wonder, then, that Lanhydrock are trying to pinch him from Pencarrow Cricket Club.

Smart passed 50 and, with Charlie Ellis starting to hit fours, it looked like Lanhydrock were back in it. 12 came off Graham's last over and nine off Sam's first. But another guileless straight ball from Cliff effectively sealed things, bowling Smart for 63. I came on and did rather too good a job of giving the young lads a few quick runs at the end. Big Cook from the other end wrapped things up, having Ellis stumped by about five yards and Libby caught at cover. We had won by 51 runs and the bar was open.

It was an excellent post-match, enjoyed by both teams. Small children ran around and parents beamed. Chris Healey's fines were, of course, excellent. Steve Cavendish, Lanhydrock's generous captain, stood around discussing NHS woes with Chris Squire, and Brian Read took the opportunity to spend another few hours rolling, mowing and preening the square. Deke and Adi had arrived, which improved the tour in at least two ways. Not only are they great tourists, but also - and before reading this clause, remember that it refers to one man who has been described as a Nietzschean Clark Kent and another who has more metal in his shoulder than Steve Austin - but also they would improve the average atheleticism and agility in an ageing and rapidly stiffening squad.

As the sun set, people headed off to get some food. Deke and I found ourselves at a little Thai place in Bodmin, eating tofu and drinking jasmine tea. You have to be comfortable with your masculinity to carry that off.

Jim Thomson

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