Mystics versus Lanhydrock at Lanhydrock House, 2nd August 2013
A rain-wrecked game is a three-act play without its third act. This one had been set up perfectly only for a Cornish tempest to sink it. Not only did the weather kill the game but also the poor forecast put paid to Lanhydrock's plan to celebrate 150 years of the cricket club with a good crowd of current and former players. It was an honour, really, that Lanhydrock chose the game with us as their 150th-anniversary gala occasion: an honour but, given the damp history of this fixture, perhaps an optimistic decision.
Over the years, Lanhydrock has become my favourite of the Cornish fixtures. It's a beautiful ground, with a slope down from the pavilion that gives the spectator a great view. The flag pole now flutters proudly with a banner that reads "Lanhydrock C.C. 1863-2013", and there's a new fence, taller by about ten feet than the old netting, put up at considerable expense by the National Trust to protect the visitors' car park. The historic associations with the country house give a timeless feel to the games here, and the regular players, people we see every summer, have become friends. Dave Attfield, captain for the fourth time against us, explained in his generous post-match speech that this is a game that they always find it easy to get a team out for. And that's how it should be: the Mystics are a team that like to play against teams who like to play against them.
Dave's generosity was evident at the start of the match too, as he allowed the Mystics to bat first without the need for a toss. Adi, the Mystics captain, was happy with that, and sent Matt and Ernie in to start proceedings. The game began with a bang. Ben Attfield, newly beefed-up by the PE department at Truro College, fizzed a fast away-swinger past Matt's forward press; another good delivery and then, with the third, he gave Matt a bit too much room outside off stump. The sumptuous cover drive oozed with class. If someone had wandered past and just seen these three deliveries, they'd have gone away with completely the wrong idea about the Mystics.
At the other end, Ernie played out a maiden from John Harris. Ernie played out a few maidens, and generally scored a touch slower than Matt. In fact, he scored a lot slower, contributing five of the first 50 runs and 12 of the 100 partnership. Still, as he pointed out in an e-mail a few weeks later, "that long net in the middle at Lanhydrock paid off - I got 94 n.o. on Sunday." Matt passed his 50 off 55 balls, knocking Ben Attfield out of the attack and then putting Tom Trethewey's flat off breaks to the sword. A straight six off Tom Snowden cleared the new fence by some distance. I didn't hear the crash of glass, the smash of plastic or the clang of metal, but no doubt at least one car in the car park had been damaged. After all, Matt has form for this. And I remember Sam belting one into there that would also have cleared the new fence. Maybe the National Trust should get the Cooks to pay for a new extension.
Snowden had his revenge when Matt only achieved the vertical element of hitting the ball over the fence, the ball landing in John Harris's hand (rather to his and his team's surprise) only about ten yards behind the bowler. Matt now has 416 runs at Lanhydrock at an average of 83.20 - I suspect that Lanhydrock is his favourite Cornish fixture too. Ern was dismissed in the next over by a Trethewey double act - caught Tom, bowled Jack - and Adi came out to join Chris Ferro at 112 for two. Chris caressed an elegant four up the slope to the pavilion and ran busily between the wickets - too busily, perhaps, as Adi failed to make it to the non-striker's end for a sharp single, run out by a direct hit by the fielder running in from point.
Chris Healey walked out to the wicket and immediately looked in good touch. His second four took him past 2500 Mystic career runs, and a swivel-off-the-hips six almost cleared the National Trust extension, and had Matt purring with admiration: "I wish I could play that shot." The Chris-Chris partnership ended at 157 when Ferro allowed ball from young Flowerdew - who looked, as his name suggests, like one of Puck's elvish followers in A Midsummer Night's Dream - to disturb the bails.
Brian Barnicoat came on from the car-park end and, as umpire at that end, I almost found myself mired in controversy. Tom Trethewey told Brian to watch where he was landing in his follow-through. Apparently, this is a well-known problem. Brian Read and John Trethewey, the club groundstaff, told me that there's a line across the whole square, the Barnicoat Trench, where Brian has dug a hole with his right foot. And Tom was worried, with Barnicoat due to play in the first eleven the next day, that the first-team umpires might be watching his follow-through more closely than the ones that stand for the seconds. And, with Brian's first delivery, the right foot landed smack in front of middle stump, scratching up the wicket on the sort of length that a spinner might call "fullish". Helpfully (I thought), I pointed out to Brian where his foot had landed, and the fielding side immediately assumed that I was warning him for running into the danger area: harsh umpiring in a friendly. Brian had his revenge when he took a caught and bowled off one that popped off a length at Healey: his eighth wicket in his fifth game against us. Another who likes this fixture, no doubt.
Chris Trapmore trapped Fraser LBW for 11 (a 23-ball knock that included a well-struck four off Lee Hunt), and the innings wound up with the Mystics 196 for six. This was a good score, but, on probably the best wicket we batted on all week, not an unbeatable one. The tea, however, was unbeatable, with enough sandwiches, cakes, fruit and salad to feed all forty-odd of us.
The Trethewey brothers opened the Lanhydrock innings, with Tom more T20 Tommy than the old Test Match Tommy. Apparently he had work that evening and had to leave early. He perished for 18, but Jack and Lee Hunt prospered against some unimpressive Mystic bowling. The score had reached 76 for one at the and of the 14th over when the rains came. It poured and poured and, despite a couple of valiant-but-abortive efforts to clear the water, that was that. Cliff checked his Duckworth-Lewis app, and saw that the home team was 20 runs ahead, which felt about right. However, a glance at the rest of their batting order suggested that there might not have been all that much to come. And we had Cliff, who always takes wickets at Lanhydrock (ten of his 15 Mystics wickets have come here). It's never over, as they say, until the Beautiful Lady bowls.