Lanhydrockin' with the Rhythm of the Rain

Mystics versus Lanhydrock at Lanhydrock House, 1st August 2008

On Thursday night, after a week of rain, there is a consensus at Tor View: "it'll never be on, no way, Lanhydrock always try amazingly hard, but it just cannot be playable". JimT duly selects his eleven: it features Deke and myself, which would strike fear into the hearts of any team, especially us.

On Friday morning, though, Jim remembers just how amazingly hard Lanhydrock try, and duly re-selects the team: Deke and myself and Duncan are gone - the shame, Duncan! - replaced by Adi, Jimmy Ton and Sean. Then later, concerned at the damage this has done to his bowling attack, a phone call to AAA Grimsby Roofing proves fruitless, but he does uncover a French civil servant with a British passport and a mid-afternoon train ticket to London, and JC now makes the 11 a 12, as a non-batting bowler.

Arriving at the ground, for a 2:30 start, we find Lanhydrock ready and waiting. Really, really, ready and waiting - they were expecting the game to start at 2pm.

And they're keeping busy by doing their stretches. Most of us manage to avert our eyes from the sight of the skin-tight multi-colour lycra undergarments on show, but Peter Thomson is caught unawares, and it affects his vision so much that he decides he'd better umpire instead, causing Jim to re-elevate Duncan to the team, with Ernie assuming the gloves. Sensing that there could be an all-time Mystics selection record in the offing, Jim then deselects Jimmy Ton on account of a pre-existing mudslide injury, shrinking the Mystics from 12 to 11. His mind addled by the increasing frenzy of selection Jim then selects himself to field for Lanhydrock, and then sends me off back to Tor View to fetch the match ball that he's managed to leave behind, and announces, I'm told, even as I handbrake-turn my way out of the ground, that since I have just departed with JC's kit in the back of my car, Jim is now selecting himself to go out and field for the Mystics as well.

Ball retrieved, Chris Healey, skippering, invites Pete Weatherhead to open, allowing him to showcase a new slow four-step run up, created so that his hair holds its shape better. His first ball, needless to say, is overpitched, but hits the pads in front. Unsportingly there's a huge shout from the Mystics, but umpire Jackson, Lanhydrock's skipper, correctly applies the little known rule of friendlies that you can't be out LBW on the first ball of the innings.

There follows the slow resettling of fielders' arms, spectators' chairs and the bowler's hair, and all is calm again for the second ball.

The third ball, though, brings the Mystic Moment: a run out, from a hit straight to Adi at a shortish cover, which the batsman decides not unreasonably constitutes an easy single. Adi forgets age and infirmity, and runs the non-striker out by about two yards. The recipient of Adi's unexpected athleticism, Butler, is another from the Lanhydrock production line of dangerous-looking long-haired youngsters. It was he who had provided the multi-colour lycra display, so it wasn't an entirely fruitless day for him. And hey, it's a 20:20 so you gotta go for it.

Adi is wearing a six-inch-long orange-and-yellow tie, by the way, causing just as much aesthetic distress as the lycra, in far more economical fashion.

Next over the other Lanhydrock opener, Taylor, has an ambitious swing to leg on JC's second ball and is hit on the pad. The umpire raises the finger, an umpire who I recall as looking remarkably like Jim, who last time I checked was already taking the field for both teams.

"Someone needs to do the scoreboard", shouts the other umpire, who now looks curiously like Peter Thomson. All the scoreboard has on it is a single "0", which I think is remarkably tactful - nought for two, it's just like watching England.

New batsman Truscott takes the same big stride down the wicket to each of the next four very different balls from JC [how's that for tact?] The fourth flies wide of Chris Squire at cover, and Lanhydrock are on the board. In Pete's next over, though, Truscott skies a hoick to leg, and he departs after keeper and first slip dance a ballet of politeness -- "no, after you, I insist". Tactful and well-mannered lot, the Mystics, for which we'd all blame Derek, were we not too well-mannered to.

A wicket maiden: one for three off three. And finally Lanhydrock's plan is laid bare: it was all a way to hasten Al Sparrow's arrival at the crease. (Er maybe he can just open, next time?) I watch from the sidelines as the fielders, to a man, take several paces backwards.

After a few sighters, Sparrow conks one over the top for two. And on comes Sean Webb, who had a fab duel with Mr Sparrow last year. As I wrote in last year's report. [And what a great report that was, by the way. You will take these comments out, won't you, Ed?] [who's Ed? (the editor)]

We place a man at deep square, but there is nobody else on the boundary yet. Alex cracks Sean past Sam's despairing "dive" - "fall"? "wave"? "lean"? - but the Pavilion Slope stops it anyway. JC shows Sam how it's done, athletically stopping certain fours to his left and right in successive balls from Sean. But lest he get cocky, Cavendish comes down the pitch to JC and offers a difficult caught and bowled, which he cannot hang on to. And then cracks the next ball for the first four.

Chris Healey hits the stumps from backward square, and almost runs out Sparrow. Two balls later he produces an almost-identical close call for Cavendish. ("Triple-chin Cavvy" the Lanhydrock boys are singing. Or "Dribble-chin"? What can it all mean?)

Sam is again defeated in the field, but the Pavilion Slope pulls off another comedy stop, three inches shy of the boundary. [If fielding substitutes were allowed, it would be tempting to sub Sam by a shallow mound of earth.]

Pete tries a run out, but his attempted shy at the stumps comes out all wrong and goes vertically upwards. Our fielding, as with all our cricket, is invariably at either extreme.

A straight four from Al. He is fair prancing down the wicket, and Sean and JC are trying to drop it short. We now have two guys on the straight boundary for Al vs JC; Charlie is one of them, and some flapping from him assists another straight four.

The field goes back again, Al goes deep off Sean, and Matt Cook misjudges it horribly, ending several yards inside it. He usually gobbles those, straight down his throat. This one doesn't even go in and out.

The Mystics need a Magician -- so on comes Charlie. One over and twenty runs later, they still need one. (Let's just say it's a good job I brought the entire box of balls from Tor View.)

More luck from Sean's end, the long end, though: there is an easy two towards a deep Matt on the mid-on boundary, but when Lanhydrock try it for the second ball in a row, Matt perks up, swoops in like a pelican recovering from an unexpected dose of temazepam, and runs out Cavendish, who like everyone else on the park is struggling to keep up with Al Sparrow.

Later the same over the new batsman, Jackson, the Lanhydrock Captain, swings to leg and it stays a bit low, and he's given out by Peter Thomson, although the look on Mr Jackson's face as he leaves the field suggests there may have been room for negotiation. Was Peter's eyesight still disorientated by the lycra? Or was his keen mind still thinking back to the first ball of the innings? Or was it perhaps, as a nearby fielder suggests later, as plumb as a big lump of lead hanging right in front of middle stump? The joy of cricket is that all such interpretations can be given equal room in the bar afterwards.

In Charlie's next over, the straight four continues to deliver, and short of mid-on and mid-off standing five yards apart, it looks like it will continue to do so.

But Sparrow's next hoick to off falls just short of Matt Cook, this time through no fault of Matt's, and Sparrow, for all his skills, looks likely to hole out. What luck there has been has gone his way so far.

There are now five people on the boundary, in a ninety degree angle from forward square leg to straight mid-off. Charlie, as if not trusting the Mystic fielding for some reason, tries the old double-bouncer, which certainly restricts the number of runs achievable.

Chris Healey replaces Sean, and Ern misses a tight stumping chance. 90-5 with 7 to go.

Matt comes on, and the first ball of the over is crashed through gully - the irony! - for two. But it ends with just six from the over. You hope for more.

Adi doesn't assist Chris's figures with some Sam-like diving. Just how many metal plates does he have in his torso? (Still bendier than me though.)

Matt spoils a great over by dropping one half-way down the pitch, which Alex deposits out of the ground over mid-off. Pete fields the next Alex thwack with his groin, but is avenged as Al finally dances, hoicks and misses, bowled by Pete for 67.

It's been another joy-inducing exhibition for all of us the far side of the boundary. The heavens cry at Al's departure: with three overs to go we have the first rain of the day, just a few seconds, just a taster, before the sun comes out again.

Matt has Harris caught at deep square by Pete. Young Trethewy has a game old go at Pete and loses his middle stump.

Another Harris is run out by at least half the length of the pitch, after one of the most ambitious calls you will ever see, from Mr Bird. Mr Harris stays out there so that Mr Bird, the last batsman, can have a partner. There is some debate about whether the batsmen crossed in the first place, making it hard to tell who is in and who is out. Lanhydrock loudly encourage Mr Harris to try to run out Mr Bird in revenge. And finally Bird's goose is cooked, as another ambitious two turns into one and a half.

129 was the final score. (Overheard at one point in the innings, a father-son moment: one young Lanhydrock batsman being told "no, you can't go out without a helmet, not without parental permission - and I'm not giving it to you". To which our young hero not unreasonably replied "I'll phone mum!" Of course, his dad was forgetting to factor in today's opposition. And the young man was forgetting to factor in the lifetime's ribbing the phrase will surely and unfairly attract. There are two 'Harris'es in the team so it may have been them, but then again, this is Cornwall.)

And the rain obligingly only tips down between the two innings. Or so it seems... after stopping for exactly one ball of the Mystics innings, it starts tipping down again.

JC and Sam are the unlucky openers, dodging the showers.

It stops raining as quickly as it started. Sam survives an inside edge that loiters close to his leg stump, and an inside edge over the infield. JC survives off the fielder's fingertips, and the fielder is Jim Thomson, one of the many Jim Thomsons taking part today.

At the start of the third over, the run rate improves remarkably, as Sam hits an overpitched ball over mid-off for six, and smacks the next, almost identical ball, landing a foot inside the boundary. As with the Lanhydrock innings, mid-on and mid-off head back to the boundary. JC joins the fun in the same over, cracking one over midwicket for four.

By the fourth over clouds now cover the sky and the rain reappears, harder. JC tries to help one round the corner and top-edges it, the keeper only able to reach it with glovetips. Another close call.

JC flicks an ankle-high ball behind square, but the Lanhydrock Twelfth Man, the Pavilion Slope, yet again gathers it up. Can there be a more famous slope in all of cricket?

Rain. Torrential rain. A Cornish lady, Carol, hearing me use the word "torrential", advises me that the latest deluge is not in fact "torrential", as "it's not bouncing off the flagstones". It is, she corrects me, "soft rain". Like eskimos with their twenty words for snow, the Cornish have twenty ways to tell you that you ain't from round here.

JC has clearly had enough of being dropped, and maybe feels the need for a shower proper before his mid-afternoon lift to the train station, and starts prancing Sparrow-like down the pitch. Alas the Gods have allocated JC a charmed life, and when he smacks a catch to backward square the fielder drops it over his head. It looks like we may have to take the shower gel out to the square for him, but finally the skippers decide on a break for rain, which lets JC call it quits and catch his train.

We restart, Ern replacing JC, although it seems no-one has told Lanhydrock, and they don't notice the difference for some time. (As to whether Ern or JC feel slighted in any way, you'll have to ask them. I have this problem myself, at least with people who haven't seen me bat yet.)

Sam tries to smack the first ball over mid-off and is dropped. It is a wet ball and all these drops are understandable. Perhaps this explains why the recent arrival of fielders at long-on and long-off does not alter Sam's shot selection one bit. Or perhaps there's a simpler explanation. Much, much simpler.

One over after the restart it is tipping down again, but again I'm informed that I mustn't say "torrential". The rain eases, each batsman deposits a full toss over square for four, the rain returns again. But Sam has now decided to take matters into his own hands. He gets one just short of a length and hits it over square for four. He then gets one just full of a length, and hits it over square for four. Having hit 13 off this over, the Mystics 50-1 and motoring, Lanhydrock suggest it's time to call it a draw. (And very wisely too, as Sam went on to hit a 140 later in August, I believe.)

Peter Thomson recalls that after the abandonment, just as we were all leaving, Brian Read accosted him with the suggestion that we start at 11am next year. Peter, not unreasonably, asks if this is "in the spirit of the alleged 'Irish' notice: 'If the weather is bad in the afternoon, the parade will take place in the morning'." But Brian is surely not unreasonable that the Lanhydrock microclimate with its soft, torrential rain, demands creative scheduling. We learned that today, for sure. We also learned that slapping people's nipples with a plastic sword is remarkably painful. And we learned, in the cause of scientific research, that you can't eat five Ferrero Rochers in a minute, but if you're going to try, one at a time is the way forward.

Many thanks to Jim, JimmyT, ChrisH, PeterT and Pete for adding their own choice recollections into the making of this report. And to Derek too, whose one-sentence email on the matter was alas found languishing in my "spam" folder (everyone's a critic). The spam-filter's report showed that it had decided simply that the six words "memories", "incident", "overweight", "mother", "derek" and "helmet", in his one-sentence email, together suggested that it was spam. I'd suggest instead that we get Derek drunk and make him tell us the full story.

Nick Healey

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