Matravers, Mystic Man of ffrench-Constant Sorrow


Mystics vs Methigion at Reen Manor Park, 27th July 2016

A year on from the "Miracle of the Sun", in which a fortuitous and timely cloud allowed the Mystics to squeak a famous victory, for most of the day it appeared the most likely equivalent solar miracle would be the damn thing coming out from behind the all-pervading grey for even the briefest instant.

The afternoon passed at Tor View in a languid torpor, during which the most animated discussion was around who would take on wicket-keeping duties for the evening's game. Jim's suggestion that it might be the best thing if Ernie took on the obligation was met with a simple yet devastatingly dismissive "In what possible world is that the best thing?" from the man himself, meaning the onus fell eventually to Sean. The downbeat mood was not improved upon hearing the news that, because Perranporth were playing in the Andrew Cup Final that evening, the "best pavilion in the world" (© Various Mystics) would not be open for our visit. At least they had the decency to win the match.

The drive to Perranporth was in no way encouraging, as rain spat against the windscreen and Oasis appeared on the radio, but upon arrival the weather had become, if not splendid, at least bearable for the purposes of sitting at the beachside pub, where the game of punching the round yellow duck Eliza had placed in her hood, in the pretence that the puncher was in fact inflicting damage on Eliza herself, became surprisingly popular.

On to the ground, where we were met by Graham and Ellie, freshly arrived on tour. The game began and Methigion, batting first, oozed confidence as exemplified by their scorer marvelling at how close together Donna was making the marks for each batsman's record: "We don't usually need to worry about saving space", he lamented. The positive attitude was continued as Marshall, batting two and freshly caught by Jim for three runs (Methigion 10-1), approached said scorer and expressed concern that he wasn't padded up. The scorer, Whiteley, was batting at six.

The loss of this first wicket also allowed the Methigion Number three to show what he had to offer, and most impressive it was too: Dashing, elegant, oozing absolute class tempered with a little of the exotic, ffrench-Constant is truly one of the great surnames in Mystics opposition history. The batting wasn't bad, either: A largely chanceless innings (other than an unbelievably sharp catch by Jim at Square Leg off a no-ball) that ended by retirement on 33. A stand of 53 with Van Lingen for the second wicket was ended when Jim, shortly after having his moment of glory snatched from him by the Grumpire, threw down Van Lingen's stumps similarly sharply for 26, leaving Methigion on 63-2.

And that, unfortunately, was about as good as it got for the fielding side: Graham's first over was that of a man who'd heard about the absolute tonking the bowlers had taken at Boconnoc the day before and thought "I'll have some of that!". It took nine balls and went for 17 runs, most of them off the agricultural bat of Blake, on his way to another retirement total of 32. Still, as Mummity Pie used to say when I was a nipper: "A batsman built like a Prop-Forward, wearing an England Rugby shirt and tweed cap, is only ever going to approach the game one way. Even if he is a doctor." I always wondered what she was on about, and now I know. On the subject of strange sayings, an overheard conversation beginning with the words "I thought I'd circumcised everybody in Cornwall ..." is always a worry, regardless of context. While this conversation was happening, and I was fervently wishing it wasn't happening, the 20 overs were up and Methigion were 117-2, a not unreachable total for a Mystics team firing on all cylinders.

As the Mystics innings was about to start, the clouds had all-but dispersed and the Sun was, once again, reaching eye-level for the batsman. Deke, captain for the day, took a couple of practice shots: "Just seeing what it's like batting into the sun," he announced. "Probably no more or less difficult than not" was his considered verdict, before ambling off to politely enquire the batting order of Dunc.

The start to the innings was less than auspicious: Windy, by his own admission batting around a straight one, was bowled for 6 by Methigion Captain Farrar, leaving Mystics 24-1 off five overs. A second wicket partnership between Ernie and Fraser was ended when Fraser was caught at Point by Edwards off the Dashing Surname for 16. He did have the consolation of a drive for four a couple of balls earlier being judged shot of the day by all who saw it.

Not so fortunate Chris Squire: out first ball for the second innings in a row, LBW for the second innings in a row, triggered by Sean for the second innings in a row. A word needs to be said here for his admirable restraint when, having trudged unhappily from the pitch, he was presented with the toy fowl mentioned earlier: big and round and unfortunately gold-tinged given the circumstances, by consoling daughter Greta and asked "Would you like to hold the duck?", he managed a polite "No thank you, Lovey, I would not like to hold the duck," with not an adjective to be heard, or hint of invective to be found, or hurling of bat to be observed.

Mystics at this point were 57-3, which soon became 57-4 when Jim, not content with having a hand in both Methigion wickets, caught Ernie off Edwards as a sub fielder. Ernie's 23 was hard earned and his dismissal left Mystics in a spot of trouble, which became a lot of trouble when Dunc was bowled by ffrench-Constant for 1 not long after. The bowler finished with figures of 3 wickets for 8 runs off his four overs and was very much the pick of the bowlers, in addition to being pick of the batsmen and pick of the surnames. It was around this time that one of the Methigion players had to leave for reasons of "being on call at the hospital for the next 24 hours", or something unimportant like that, so required a second substitute, with Fraser duly obliging/jumping ship (delete as appropriate). The match appeared a forgone conclusion: forget Miracles of the Sun, by this time the question was "Is it cowardly to pray for a Miracle of the Rain?".

However, Mystics dug deep and though wickets fell at a steady rate, runs were also scored and the Methigion lead eaten into little by little, and they found themselves in the position of needing a mere 36 runs off the final over for the unlikeliest of victories, with Graham and Sean at the crease, batting eight and nine respectively. Fortunately for Methigion, captain Farrar recognised the knife-edge nature of the match and, exhorting his team to keep Sean's shot from the 4th ball of the over to a single (bearing in mind the batsmen had at this point reduced the required runs to 34 with 3 balls remaining), enabled them to creep over the line with the Mystics stranded on 85 runs. Graham being bowled by Edwards off the last ball of the match pretty much summing up his, and the rest of the Mystic side's (Jim excepted), day.



Tom Hurles




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