An important Anitclimax

Mystics vs Methigion at Reen Manor Park, 30th July 2014

It was a lazy early afternoon for those of us left at Tor View, the fresh-air dodgers and stay-a-beds who had preferred a gentle day to the rigours of sitting on the beach at Perranporth and drinking in the Watering Hole. Neil and Suzie had opted for a different approach, setting off from Brighton at dawn in order to reach Perranporth in time for what Neil thought was a two-o'clock start. They were unfashionably early for that, but, given that the actual start time was quarter past six, they'd made it to Perranporth in plenty of time to drive back to Tor View, settle in and grab a few hours' catch-up sleep.

Meanwhile, Deke was looking at an online review of his book "Fiction and Narrative". "Unassailably sensible" was the reviewer's most memorable comment; though it was a barbed compliment, implying not only that Deke was right (of course he was) but also that his rightness was merely a statement of the bleeding obvious. Deke was unconcerned and decided to take this unassailable sensibleness into his captaincy that evening. Chris Healey was still hors de combat after damaging his knee at Grampound Road, and after Pete, Sean and Chris Ferro had headed back to Exeter, we had a bare 11 available. One thing about this tour: selection was easy, I just had to pick the 11 that were on tour and still able to stand up.

Most of the Mystics had drifted in from the beach, the pub or the chip shop before six. Tony had stuck to a sixty-percent-more-modest-than-last-year warm-up of two pints of Cornish Rattler and Neil and Suzie's return visit to the ground was only slightly late for the actual start. Mark Gripper said that Methigion were still waiting for their captain and the kit, and so there was a refreshing lack of hurry. In due course Deke, in blazer and tie, went out to toss with Methigion's stand-in captain. He lost and Methigion batted first - probably for the best as there were only seven or eight doctors around at that point.

It was a beautiful evening, still warm as play started, and Naomi and Joe made the most of the shade at the far side of the ground. Joe, it seems, has inherited his father's negative reaction to temperatures in double figures, and had struggled in the relative warmth of the 2014 tour. I'm confident that future tours will see a return to near-Arctic summer weather and Joe will be able to play a fuller part in the cricketing side of the tour.

Mark Gripper, in charge of the batting order in the captain's continued absence, and Rajiv opened the batting against Neil and Tony. There were fours a-plenty, and it looked for a while as if we might end up chasing about 250. Most of the runs came on the leg side, with Rajiv particularly harsh on anything too short or too full. I was about to suggest that four was too many fielders to have on the posh side when Rajiv middled a back-foot forcing shot straight at me at extra cover. I stopped the ball at the expense of another tour bruise and decided to keep my own counsel.

Neil had conceded 17 runs in his first two overs and, as he took the ball to start his third, the Methigion umpire (Rob Valentine, I seem to remember) asked him disbelievingly "are they giving you a third over?" The last of his three only had one boundary. Neil further redeemed himself in the field with some close ball control and what seemed to be a Cruyff step-over as he fielded one ball without actually touching it.

Fraser came on at 50 for none after six. Rajiv was competently stumped by Sid off the third ball of the over, out for a hard-hit 30 off 22 balls. Davies hit a four off Graham before being surprisingly caught in the deep off the first ball of Fraser's second over. Ern clearly thought that the ball didn't have enough impetus to reach him at the bottom of the long-on slope. His body language suggested that he had expected it to drop well in front of him and that he only caught it because no simpler, less energetic alternative was available to him.

The scoring rate dropped as Graham and Fraser bowled well to Mark Gripper and David Farrar. Eight an over became seven an over, which in turn became six an over; and the Mystics were on top. Chirpy fielded beautifully at the top of the slope furthest from the sea and from where Ernie took his catch. Ball after ball fizzed towards him, many bouncing awkwardly, but (one slight mistake aside) he scooped them all up cleanly and bowled them in flat to 'keeper or bowler. It was after this match that we had the discussion about the spectators determining the best ground fielder of the game and awarding that player six Managers League points. Chirpy would certainly have won the points that day. Fraser ran him close for a while, faster to the ball and with a more powerful throw, but he didn't match Chirpy's reliability and sureness of pick-up. In a 20-over match, the most important thing is to get the ball stopped and on the way back, whatever the throw is like.

Dunc and I came on as the Farrar-Gripper partnership decelerated. Gripper was caught at extra cover as he did his best to hit out. Dunc's catch was well-judged, and he was slightly off-balance as he took it. In the same over, Farrar also fell, stumped as he too lost balance for a moment. Neither of Sid's stumpings was particularly difficult, but both were calmly completed.

Rob Valentine was now joined by Andrew Edwards, and Ernie replaced Dunc at the sea end. Edwards hit a powerful straight swipe past me and - his only aberration - through Chirpy on the boundary. As the ball flew past me, though, I heard a strange yelp from Sid. It was only as the ball was being picked out of the long grass that I realised what the yelp had indicated: Edwards had stepped back so far to make room for the shot that he had trodden on his own stumps. My first ever hit-wicket dismissal, and Methigion were 111 for five in the 18th over. Hutton smashed his first ball for four and then Rob Valentine was palpably LBW in Ernie's next over. "If it hadn't been given, I'd probably have walked," was the batsman's cheerful parting shot.

Simon Gripper came in at eight and played a couple of lovely forward defensives before slicing a four. Three singles and a two in the last over took Methigion to 126 - about half the score they'd looked to be heading towards before the spinners came on and, as they say, took the pace off the ball. Though I'm not sure that Neil and Tony had provided much pace for us to take off. So much of cricket is played in the mind, and I wonder if Methigion were trapped by their knowledge of the T20 game at the top level into thinking that bowlers who shape as seamers are easier to score off than those who act like spinners. Taking the pace off the ball, then, is more about running in thoughtfully (as spinners do) rather than aggressively (as seamers do). Discuss.

Dunc and Fraser opened the Mystic batting. Their average partnership as they went out was just short of ten and they managed to increase that ... very slightly. The score had reached 12 when Fraser let a ball from Rajiv bowl him. It was almost as if he'd decided to be out that ball. The bowler did his part by bowling a rare straight ball, admittedly, but his felt like a bit part in the wicket.

Tony walked out at number three, determined to get back on to the Methigion horse that had bolted his hamstring the year before. He eased a single away behind square off his second ball and he was away. 13 for one after the second over. At the other end, David Farrar was bowling a good line, but over-pitched one to Tony and conceded a four. Rajiv bowled a maiden to Dunc and then the athletic-looking Arvind replaced Farrar. His bouncy run-up and jerky action generated some pace but not much accuracy: there were four wides in his two overs as well as a couple of loose balls that Dunc helped on their way for four. After his spell we were well on track at 43 for one off seven.

One of Arvind's fours went through Andrew Edwards down at long leg. Another two misfields followed, minor fumbles by Valentine in the covers and by the burly Rex at deep midwicket, and Robin van Lingen was chirping about getting his team group discounts at Specsavers. This is a man who takes friendly cricket seriously - an attitude to be applauded, as all too often I come across the Wadebridge approach that a game is either league or an uncontested joke match. The point of friendly cricket is to play to win, and play hard, but not to mind if you lose. Robin has that attitude in spades. While the game was on, he was keen, even desperate, for his team and himself to do well. It was us against them, no quarter offered. As soon as the last ball had been bowled and the winning run scored, he settled himself in the bar and chatted with everyone about everything.

Back to the game, and Tony and Dunc were compiling a match-winning partnership. It was the first time I'd seen Tony bat for more than a few balls, but here I was impressed as much by his approach as by his strokeplay. There's no Gower-like grace or KP flourish, but there's a solidity in his shot-making, in his running and calling and in his awareness of the match situation. This was second-fiddle batting par excellence. Dunc was the man who was going to win the game for us, and Tony decided that his job was to make Dunc's job as easy as possible. None of Methigion's seven bowlers was picked out for harsh treatment, but none was allowed to get away with a succession of cheap overs. After Mark Gripper had conceded only two runs in his first over, Dunc hit the first ball of his next for an effortless six (the only one of the match) over midwicket. They took no unnecessary risks, but made the most if any scoring opportunity that was offered.

Dunc and Tony's management of the target is clearly shown by the scoring-comparison graph: the Mystics' orange worm was below - but always in touch with - Methigion's blue one until the fourteenth over, the over where Dunc passed 50 (off 49 balls). The orange dot is Tony's dismissal, bowled by the last ball of Robin van Lingen's second over. From around the wicket, and not doing too much with the ball, Robin was never going to get any right-hander out LBW - at least, not while I was umpiring - but he bowled a tight line and this ball was just too straight for a tired Tony. He'd made an excellent 24 off 38 balls, and the match was all-but won when he trudged off.

It was all-but won, but there was still a bit of work for Chris Squire. He had to help a weak and weary Dunc over the finish line. 24 runs were needed off four overs. Ten off the seventeenth, including an smartly played single for Chris off his first ball, took us closer. Chris was facing, and he wumped van Lingen for a two through midwicket, missed one and then got a single. 11 needed with 15 balls left. Dunc and Chris traded singles from the rest of the over. This was proper match-closing batting, and continued into the next over. Five runs were taken without histrionics, and Dunc was facing the last over with three needed. It was almost an anti-climax when he eased the first ball for four behind point. Almost, but given that this was to be the only Mystics win of the tour, it was a fairly important anti-climax.

Deke's seven matches as Mystics captain have now resulted in six victories. That's what I call unassailably sensible. After the match, we all repaired to the bar. Perranporth is a great venue for this game, and club staff were friendly ... in spite of the attempt that Nasty Annie and Deke made to con the bar out of a fiver. It turned out that Will Howe, the GP that Chris Healey saw about his knee in Lostwithiel, was an occasional Methigion player. It's a small world when you're touring in Cornwall. The Mystics Twitter account tweeted our thanks to Will for at least getting Chris to the stage where he was prepared to risk umpiring, and Will replied with his best wishes.

As the sky darkened and the night fell, the two captains fell to discussing school sports in the Karoo region of South Africa. It's pleasing to think that maybe van Lingen and Matravers had been opposing captains once before, in another time and another hemisphere.

Jim Thomson

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