Mystics versus Lanhydrock at Lanhydrock House, 30th July 2010
A quick note before I start: Upon learning of my role as scribe for the day, the estimable Mr Webb laid down the challenge of presenting the report in the form of a crossword puzzle. This task I have neither the patience nor wit to perform, though I have devised a handful of clues that I consider worthy of inclusion and you will find them distributed throughout the following paragraphs, starting with:
1. Knight (without much) loses his religion with Monstrous Gentleman, taking ecstasy to loud music in stately home (10) [SOLUTION]
And so to Lanhydrock, where the rain falls like rain and play continues regardless; but first to lunch and, in a bid to take my journalistic remit with a degree of seriousness, I invited myself onto the Captain's Table in the hope that the relaxed environs of the Crown would cause skipper for the day Chris Healey to forget the media intrusion and let slip something of the day's tactics to Hayder and Sean, the other members of our group. With regret, I must report that my efforts at ingratiation proved to be in vain; the only insight gleaned from the whole enterprise being the discovery that when a certain leg spinner of Iraqi extraction suffers food envy (Hayder's Fowey Crab being to his perception substandard) the process is both drawn out and exceedingly vocal. Indeed, his protestations proved protracted enough so as to not only prevent me turning the topic of conversation towards the days play, but also to preclude the possibility of any conversation beyond his soliloquy of culinary injustice.
My attempt at subterfuge being thus thwarted, I left the establishment with no more inkling of what the day held than when I had entered and so was in a bit of a funk as we boarded the car that would take us to the ground. My mood was improved no further when, after a brief debate as to the correct route to Lanhydrock, Sean announced "I know this is the right way because I once got my parents lost along this road" with a confidence that was probably meant to reassure but served only to alarm. Fortunately, there proved to be a perverse logic to his reasoning and we made it to the ground with time to spare and stepped out of the vehicle into glorious sunshine: a Lanhydrock miracle!
Before the game started I was taken by an urge to swing bat at ball in the minefield they call a net in those parts, a profitable session in which I avoided injury and confirmed an ability to turn a ball pitched on any given line and length into a wafted leg-side dolly (details of this curious phenomenon to be found in tomorrow's report.) This exuberance, coupled with poor timekeeping on my part, meant that I contrived to miss the first over of the day and it was as we were returning from the net that Umpire Jimmy Ton gave Sam LBW to Chapman, a decision which caused no end of bemusement in the people around me: "He hit the covers off that!" being Sean's response. Indeed, it transpired that the only individuals in the vicinity who didn't hear the contact between bat and ball were Umpire Jimmy and your cloth-eared correspondent; the Lanhydrock players, acting with true Corinthian spirit, inviting Sam back to his crease to continue. [2. Time out. I right great wrong: First referral shows evidence of a rash decision maker (4, 7)] [SOLUTION] That farce being sorted amicably, I settled into my place next to the scorers armed with only a pen, some paper and a dilettante's paucity of cricketing know-how with which to record the events of the day.
Mystics openers Sam and Ernie seemed to struggle in the early overs against what appeared to my untrained eye some very tidy stuff from Messrs Trethewey and Chapman, who reduced the scoring 6-0 off five. Inevitably enough, Sam soon tired of the cat-and-mouse nature of the game and started giving the ball a taste of his bat, scattering fielders with a series of powerful drives and scoring eighteen runs off two Chapman overs including four fours; testament to the brute force at his disposal. A boundary for Ernie regrettably proved the highlight of his day as he was cleaned bowled by Tom Trethewey not long afterwards for 7, a far cry from the tidy half-century of last year and leaving Mystics at 45-1 off 11.
Ernie's unfortunate demise did, however, allow Chris Squire to make a brief but diverting cameo. To summarise: Dropped on the second ball faced, he stole strike with the third before immediately relinquishing it with the fourth, thus allowing Sam to scoop a Jake Trethewey delivery into the hands of a gleeful Matt Middleton. Four dot balls to Chris Healey later and Chris Squire found himself back on strike and looking for runs. One Tom Trethewey delivery later and Chris Squire found himself back at the pavilion, his wicket demolished.
A few bones to be picked out of the carcass of that particular mess: Firstly, Sam's 29 came off 34 balls and featured some truly terrifying hitting, giving the Mystics innings as a whole some much needed momentum and recurring nightmares to a couple of the Lanhydrock fielders - most likely featuring Leather Death Spheres From Hell (the greatest Hammer Horror film never made.)
Secondly, the question posed by Sean "I wonder at what point they'll reappraise a 7- 2 Off-side field to Chris?" never got answered; there barely being time to appraise a 7-2 Off-side field, let alone reappraise it.
Thirdly, between them the Trethewey brothers took 3 wickets in 11 balls for just 2 runs at the time of Chris's wicket. The fact that those two runs were off the bat of the aforementioned Mr Squire should probably be ignored. That over, by the way, marked the end Tom Trethewey's impressive spell and he finished with figures of 2-13 off 7, which would have looked even better had it not been for 5 wides conceded in his last over.
A stand of 34 between Healey and Hayder under rapidly darkening skies moved things along, with the pair of them displaying an understanding that came as a great surprise to those of us who had witnessed their relentless bickering throughout the week. Indeed, such was the level of communication that they had run two on four separate occasions by the time Hayder found himself the filling in a Trethewey cricketing sandwich; Jake prompting the skied effort competently pouched by Tom.
With Mystics struggling a little, a partnership of Duncan and Chris (the top two run scorers in Mystics history) could surely be relied upon to steady the ship somewhat? Alas not: Dunc struggled to make runs on a ground that had been kind to him last year, whereas Chris picked his fielder from a slow full toss off Burke, having gotten himself nicely set on 27.
A three ball duck from Jimmy Ton (Burke again the benefactor) did little to improve matters in terms of putting numbers on the scoreboard but did bring Matt to the crease, whereupon Dunc found himself run out almost immediately in circumstances which escape me at this later date, but I'll assume a fair amount of chaos was involved. [3. Important and good man once aggravated the works of calamitous troupe (8, 4)] [SOLUTION] He departed for 5 off 30 balls and left Mystics 97 for 7 and in quite a bit of bother. Quite a lot of bother soon became a whole lot of bother as Sean became Burke's third victim; LBW this time without the edge that had saved Sam earlier in the innings. Given the ever worsening situation, Matt was left with no option other than to let loose in a bid to get as many runs on the board as possible. This he duly did leading, soon enough, to ... Peril!
Pulling over Square Leg for 6, Matt deposited the ball onto the pavilion roof beneath which sat a young lady, presumably there to watch her as-yet unknown beau in action but in fact more engrossed in her glossy magazine and the music from her headphones than the events on the field, little realising that her lack of attention was putting her in a danger most grave. Surely she had nothing fear with myself, Chris and Chirpy making up a trio of Chivalrous types in close proximity, ready to rush in and save the day? Regrettably, though I was itching to prove my mettle in such a situation, my journalistic oath of non-interference prohibited any Knight-in-White-Armour-like behaviour on my part. Chris, meanwhile, was too busy grinning evilly and finding the relevant page in the Fines Book to be of assistance. Chirpy was thus left, by default, the man to stand up and be counted and it was as this Chosen Man was pondering the relative merits of the palms-up and palms-down catching methods that the ball thudded onto the skull of the poor girl, who fortunately emerged from the ordeal relatively unscathed. [4. Drunkards about! Talk loudly - they don't hang on (13)] [SOLUTION]
This little drama, though engrossing and hilarious in turn, could not distract from the real entertainment of the day: The Sam Cook School of Half-Assed Umpiring. This entailed a Square Leg standing on top of the hill, practically in the pavilion, glaring down at the shambles below with an expression curiously both baleful and indifferent; like a third-rate Napoleon upon realising, after much consideration, that Waterloo probably wasn't worth the bother. At the bowler's end things weren't much better: any signal having to be explicitly requested by the scorers and given with a singular lack of enthusiasm when eventually forthcoming.
Amid this, the game went on and Jim Thomson, making his 100th Mystics appearance, did a sterling job (certainly much more competent than the ad hoc and half-hearted Guard of Honour provided by his team mates to mark the occasion) of shoring up his end, thus allowing Matt to score runs with a degree of ease and confidence that did much to belie the travails faced by previous bats. Indeed by the time Jim got out, comprehensively bowled by Hoskin, the pair of them had put on 45 runs, of which Jim had contributed 4, and brought Mystics up to a respectable 148-9. The landmark moment of the innings arrived when Sam, with no prompting whatsoever, signalled a wide! Matt's fifty, which soon followed, paled in comparison. Mystics finished with a score of 160-9 after 40 overs, something that would have been unlikely without the minor heroics of Sam and Matt - leaving the Lanhydrock players to curse the intervention of ... [5. "Disaster for recipe! Mother's shacked up in Newcastle with unknown company, right?" "Sure." (3, 4, 5)] [SOLUTION]
After a truly gargantuan tea, Lanhydrock began their innings well, Healey being hit back over his head for a Middleton boundary in his first over. An attempt to repeat the trick a few overs later proved foolhardy: the subsequent caught and bowled giving Jimmy Ton a wicket maiden, going some way towards redeeming his indifferent work with bat and white coat earlier in the day.
It was during the second wicket stand between Tom Trethewey and Will Hoskin that the weather, having alternated between sunshine and gloomy murk all afternoon settled upon the latter and the heavy clouds rolled in, bringing back awful memories of the deluge of the previous year. Not that the worsening conditions did anything to discourage the insect life; wasps in particular making their presence known, prompting Gemma to treat the spectators to what I can only describe as Bjorkesque displays of leaping-around-whilst-screaming- dementedly at the merest hint of Vespal intrusion. As this happened at regular intervals and proved quite distracting, even a model journalist such as I found it incredibly difficult to concentrate on the play, meaning my notes for the innings are quite sparse. I shall soldier on as well as I am able however, relying on sieve-like memory alone.
First bowling change and Chris Healey, in what I can only assume was the cricketing equivalent of, "You wouldn't hit a man with glasses, would you?" decided to give the Walking Wounded a go: Bringing on 'Tinfinger' Jim Thomson at one end and Lumbago Webb at the other. It was a tactic that paid minor dividends with Lanhydrock being restricted to 62-1 after 19 overs and things got better in the 20th with Jim trapping Hoskin LBW for 21 and breaking up a useful partnership of 45.
Jim's reward for this breakthrough was an opportunity to sling his hook as Chris, perhaps mindful that Trethewey was in a good position to emulate his unbeaten 64 of last year, decided to bring Hayder into play. Vindication for this change was almost instantaneous, a first-over wrong'un deceiving Test Match Tommy but not Safe Hands Peter who whipped off the bails with a tangible glee, leaving the batsman in nomans land; out for 39 and howling in anguish. [6. Batsman's out of his crease and out of ideas (7)] [SOLUTION]
Not that any of this mattered in the long run. A few overs after that dismissal Groundsman John decided that what the occasion required was a proper bout of fate-tempting, goading the climate to do its worst by firing up the barbeque, the lighting of which proved to be the straw that broke the meteorological camel's back and immediately brought on the rain that had been threatening for some time. This sent your (less than) hardy correspondent scurrying for the sanctuary of the pavilion and meant I missed the last action of the day.
You will no doubt recall that in a similar situation the previous year these two teams stuck it out to the bitter end, with Mystics claiming a victory both sodden and Pyrrhic. This year the Blitz spirit characterizing that game was wholly lacking and the teams, displaying an initiative that was depressingly absent last time around, used the break in play brought on by Hayder's second wicket (Lee Hunt LBW for 6 according to the scorebook - an event I was too busy fleeing the conditions to witness) as an opportunity to run for shelter, bringing the game to an abrupt halt with Lanhydrock 94-4.
It soon became clear that no more play would be taking place, a circumstance which gave Jim the chance to dig out his Big Boy's Book of Charts and Tables in a bid to divine the predicted score. [7. For result extrapolation, do them with wiles scrambled have zero value to begin with? (9-5, 6)] [SOLUTION] Whatever the merits of the system used, the result of his fevered consultation was a narrow Mystics victory by 7 runs. Though as conditions eased and we made our tentative way back outside to gorge on yet more food laid on by our generous hosts, had to be agreed that the real winner (for the third year running) was the weather. [8. Spooner's playing rugby willingly: "Curse this precipitation!" (7, 4)] [SOLUTION]
One last thing before I end my report. Among my less than comprehensive notes on the game is the rather cryptic entry: "Hayder: 'You're the angriest man in the world!'" and I have absolutely no idea why. If anybody can shed some light on this little mystery I would be truly grateful.