Nothing like a Good Soak after a Long Day in the Field

Mystics versus Lanhydrock at Lanhydrock House, 31st July 2009

As the Mystics age, so the smell of the changing room after a match changes; where in younger days it might have reeked of eau de cologne, these days it tends towards a different odour: sweat-soaked neoprene supports. And after the match at Lanhydrock this year, damp (mostly from rain-soaked players, fortunately, though that too will doubtless change in time). It was overwhelmingly moist in there - the game was, not to put too fine a point on it, ruined by rain. Fittingly, the match report has recently been ruined by water too, several splashes having turned my detailed felt tip notes into ugly purple splotches (it's Cliff's shirt all over again). Many details are therefore missing. If you're the type who remembers exactly what happened in every cricket match they ever played in - please, please don't ever sit next to me in the pub. I can't remember what I had to drink last night.

Anyway. The Mystics batted first in the usual 40-overs deal. However, there were to be no first-ball dismissals. I've no idea where this edict came from but it was warmly welcomed by the frail Mystic line up, who responded with their own edict: in that case, we'll draw lots for the first-ball shots everyone must play. And so, a list was hurriedly drawn up:

With hindsight, we should have included "Duck". But the idea was simple - give everyone something absurd to attempt whatever the delivery, to keep the crowd entertained. (The IPL should seriously adopt this. For the first ball, every batsman should have to play a proper cricket shot, if any of them can remember what one is).

Dunc got us off to an excellent start with impressive distance on the charge and slog. Well, on the charge, anyway. He was at least halfway down the track when he missed it. But it was his partner Ern who produced shot of the day, indeed shot of the tour in many people's eyes, with a perfectly executed Dilshan to the long leg boundary.

Progress then became rather serene. Rogers and P. Trethewey (who'd both played against us for Pencarrow and were clearly trying to pad their stats) were replaced by the semi-pro pace of Matt Yates and the amateur mezzo-soprano of Susan Boyle. (It says here.) But apart from fielder Lee Hunt gleefully chasing one boundary into the trees and not returning until the pressure on his bladder had been relieved, not much happened. The main entertainment came from Pete Weatherhead, whose comedy umpiring style varied from Billy Bowden to Larry Grayson. The camp flouncing was especially amusing. (Although the Larry Grayson bits were quite good too.)

The crowd's only other diversion came from watching Chirps wandering around trying to master the reverse sweep by repeating the shape over and over again for about an hour. It was like a Tai Chi master having a mental breakdown. Interestingly, Dunc then unleashed a couple of reverses of his own, coming dangerously close to upstaging other members of the cast. (Talking of which ... professional actors. Bit suspect in my view; all bonhomie and creativity and team spirit, but unlike in a good cricket team the egotistical side seems not suppressed but merely deferred to a later date. Deep down, they're five years old and stamping their feet at some other kid's birthday party because goddamit they're special. Well, they're sort of right.) Sorry, where was I? At some point in his innings of 71 Dunc became the first Mystic to reach 2500 runs, something that shamefully was not applauded by the Mystics Knowledgable Supporters, but had to be pointed out by the batsman himself. Ernie also began expanding his range and passed 50, and when the partnership was broken it had amassed 130 runs, the second highest Mystic opening of all time. Well played, sirs.

Sean's first-ball sweep was textbook; his second ball stumping comicbook. Matt Cook drawing a cowshot as his first ball however was well beyond irony and firmly into post-structuralism (note to farmers - that doesn't mean fence building). Fortunately he missed, although two later cowsixes took us past 150. (I think the cowsix deserves its own umpire signal. I suggest a miniature version of the proper six signal, with index fingers pointing up from the head like horns. Mooing optional.)

After 1734 airshot rehearsals, Chirpy's rendition of the reverse sweep unsurprisingly missed. Fortunately Cliff's Extravagant Leave made up for it, with bails and stumps flying everywhere. An upsetting sight for most people but Cliff is by now fairly desensitised to it, and went on to make a fine 10. I'm afraid that water has rendered the rest of the innings a bit unreadable, but we squeaked to 200 off the 40.

Observed fact from the tea interval: knowing that for once he wasn't opening the bowling, Pete W's tea consisted of 3 chocolate biscuits, 2 jammy biscuits, 2 bits of cake, a Penguin, and a chocolate miniroll, with a cheese roll thrown in presumably as one of his 5 a day. When he ate the cheese roll he actually managed to pass 1000 total calories for the tea interval, something that shamefully was not applauded by the Mystics Knowledgeable Supporters.

The Lanhydrock reply began even more serenely than the Mystic innings. At 53-3 off 20 there was clearly the need for some action, and brothers Jake and "Test Match Tommy" Trethewy, sons of Sheila and John (tea lady and groundsman) got things going with a fine 40 partnership. A 70's disco then struck up in the pavilion, somewhat disconcertingly (Triin and Greta were largely to blame, it seems. They'd found a copy of Now That's What I Call Justifiable Homicide 12). Jake departed to Sean's second ball, skipper Matt watching one shot then moving a fielder to wide extra where the catch came next delivery. It's not easy being a genius. Probably why Matt usually avoids it.

Matt Yates came in and hit several high-class shots before slapping one straight back into Cliff's groin area, where for some strange reason it stuck. I always wondered why he never showers with the rest of us. Shortly afterwards a rather large shower hit him anyway and by 33 overs it was absolutely hosing down. It was clear that we should be going off. However it was also clear that Lanhydrock were in no position to win, and they were too generous of spirit to leave and effectively call it a draw. Nobly, they decided to stay on and come second, even though every person on the park was desperate to get into the dry. (No-one was more desperate than Brian Read, who had turned up to umpire and was quite rightly seething. One batsman's extended guard taking was met with a monumentally terse "COME ON BOY. WE'RE GETTING FUCKING WET HERE.") Triin and Greta tried Billy Don't Be A Hero but even that wasn't enough to persuade us off the pitch.

So the last half hour was spent in a strange old position. No-one wanted to stay out, yet collectively we lacked the imagination or initiative to come off. We were a bunch of sad, soggy white figures in a field, utterly stupefied. It was like an episode of One Man And His Dog. If Peter Thomson had whistled Irving on to the outfield we would probably have shuffled nervously together and zigzagged off into the bar, with Pete closing the door behind us for maximum points. (As if Pete would be on the outside...) But there was to be no relief. A few cheap Chirpy wickets gave us hope of wrapping it up, but it went all the way to the bitter end as a no.11 called Beer delayed us getting any by surviving the last four balls.

And so we eventually wound up wringing ourselves out in the unbearably ripe atmosphere of the dressing room. If Jancis Robinson had walked in I suspect her nose would have exploded. It was full-bodied and powerfully fruity in there. Even if there wasn't much in the way of length.

Chris Healey

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