Mystics on Toast

Mystics versus Pencarrow at Pencarrow House, 29th July 2013

As I lay slumbering in a hypnagogic state I explored and re-lived the experiences of Pencarrow Cricket Club, which were lingering somewhat stagnant at the forefront of my mind. When I attempted to picture the ground it occurred to me then that the blurred, semi-focused image before me (for which I assumed my dream-like condition was accountable) actually represented a vivid memory. I woke myself purposefully and engaged rational thought, I came to realise that this abstract effect was in fact entirely natural. You see, on each occasion that I had been present at Pencarrow CC for a cricket match, the rain was so very impressive that it obscured the pitch almost entirely.

I swung my legs over the bunk-bed and the high-pitched creaking I initiated was lost in the midst of my teammates' delicate nasal symphonies and the poly-rhythmical, percussive footsteps from overhead. As a giant I stepped amongst the shifting archipelago of mattresses, careful not to disturb the tranquil athletes harbored beneath me. I pulled back the curtain sheepishly to find dark and stormy clouds intermittently penetrated by blocks of hot light beneath them. Epic. The Cornish landscape has always given me an appetite and this morning I was ravenous so I took it upon myself to conceive and curate a suitable menu for the rising tourists:

Crispy grilled bacon
Roasted sausages with sage and rosemary (vegetarian option available)
Shaun's buttery scrambled egg mountain
Stewed fresh tomatoes with paprika, garlic and olive oil
Sauteed mushrooms with parsley and thyme
Harissa Spiced baked beans

We devoured the feast amongst flickering beams of sunlight briefly breaking through the blinds. The meal fortified within me a sudden urge to experience bat on ball. Stealthily wiping the remnants of my breakfast on the egg-yellow tour t-shirt I was wearing, I scrambled for the appropriate equipment and ran for the door for a pre-match knockabout. I stepped outside to find the sort of rain that makes your head hurt. I wasn't optimistic.

Hours later we entered Pencarrow CC to find the sun shining down with force. The distant fiery fields of barley swept to and fro like a glorious Celtic beard caught momentarily in the sunlight. I had to shake my head a number of times to dislodge unpleasant echoes of Sting's 90's ballad "Fields of gold". The grass looked lush and the square was clearly visible, the idea of rain became lost as we all basked on the perimeter of the pitch. The outfield was quick and the wicket freshly watered, cricket was a possibility once again.

We batted first and 'bald' duo approached the crease, on this occasion not two Cooks but two Chaves. I later found out that the surname was introduced into England following the Norman Conquest in 1066, Chaffe, and the variant spellings Chaff, Chave, Caff, and Cave, is a nickname surname for a bald-headed person. Deriving also from the Old French "chauf" and the Latin "calvus", meaning bald. The two of them batted together briefly until Fraser got a nasty skidding long hop and was bowled. Duncan looked lonely without Chave jnr and subsequently knocked up a dolly for the bowler. I must add that the prevailing wind at this point meant static umpires were leaning 20 degrees forward, backward and sideways in compensation for, and according to the direction of the air current. In fact most of the players too were askew, rhombused against the horizon.

Adi and Sid took to the crease holding their ground for a good few overs and kept the run rate well maintained. I stepped up and swung my bat around, topping up the scoreboard before a drinks break, some aggressive bowling by S. Richards and M. Williams then encouraged a sudden flurry of wickets. Fred then stormed to the crease heroically as the scoreboard displayed just 80 for 7. Just as the spectators discussed how pleasant it was to have Fred on tour again, I noticed his shape getting closer once more, bat in tow pursuing his ankles. A dark cloud momentarily eclipsed the sun as our batting side eroded at an alarming rate.

In desperation our Captain donned his trousers (the wrong way round) and met Matthew Cook in the middle, we could only assume that this was a genuine ploy to confuse the fielding team. They batted well together, establishing new foundations within our dwindling tail. Ernie picked up momentum but it all ended too quickly when he launched one in the direction of a fielder. In went another Sharland at no.11 (trousers the right way round this time). Fortunately Matt Cook had been punishing the ball from the other end and I suddenly felt for the ball as it oscillated between lost and found statuses. Graham and Matthew ended up two short of the last wicket partnership record and respectably we ended up with 175 runs at tea*.

Deceived by our gluttony we re-entered the field sun-kissed and in need of a siesta. Fred opened the bowling and, with style and accuracy, bowled very well indeed, incurring only 18 runs from 8 overs. In fact we were bowling very well in general, a wicket from Matt and a stumping from Sid Thomson left the batting side at 37 for two in the 12th over. A tight 6 overs and a wicket from Fraser Chave kept the run rate in check. The game at this stage looked close, although it felt as though we had the upper hand.

Graham Sharland came on to do some real damage, taking two wickets in his first two overs. The run rate at this stage was slowly creeping up on us and the game was becoming much closer than we'd anticipated. The Pencarrow tail-enders Jackson, Rowe and Charlie Ellis (much like in our own innings) were scoring well. Duncan Chave and our reverse-trousered captain fought valiantly but could not contain the potent Pencarrow firepower. In a nail-biting finish Pencarrow made the last runs with 10 balls remaining. The sun shone on as we meandered back to the pavilion. I was left deflated, yet in my exhaustion felt excited and eager for the next sunny fixture at Pencarrow Cricket Club.

*May I add that as always the tea was excellent, and good to feel we all deserved it this time round. The cakes, sandwiches and in particular, the semi-soft boiled eggs where executed to perfection.

Sam Cook

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