Driven to Distraction

Mystics versus Pencarrow at Pencarrow House, 28th July 2014

As Pencarrow Day [TM] began with the traditional morning of heavy, 45-degree showers, we noticed Pencarrow tweet: "Anyone fancy a game?" Which didn't sound auspicious, but on arrival we discovered why: due to some misunderstanding on the organisational front, Pencarrow had only had a week to organise the fixture. (The real Pencarrow, that is, not an expired, ghostly online presence that Jim had been communicating with - still on the ouija board, Jim, no internet connection at work?) So: "Chapeau, nos amis!" We doff our orange and yellows to you, and offer huge thanks to Jake Rowe, his mum, and everyone else concerned, for pulling it out of the fire, and finding a friend or three to fulfil.

And what a lovely day for it: the Pencarrow microclimate, perhaps misdirected by Jim, had failed to appear for the second year in a row. The outfield looked as super-fast as the greens at Augusta; the batsmen smelled boundaries. Chris Healey (9 million) would have loved it, but he'd totalled himself for the tour the day before and was tragically unavailable. Entering the ground today he totalled his car too, having taken on the legendary Pencarrow gateway in a frankly insouciant manner. It was standout work from the car drivers, all told: Pete, flustered by his own late arrival, screeched up to the Pav to chuck his kitbag out, then got back in the car to go park it and, er, drove over his kitbag. No major damage: bat dented; pride too, perhaps.

We noticed that Pencarrow had commissioned an eight-foot high curtain of corn around the ground this year, which would make searching for sixes entertaining.

Chris Ferro arrived on tour! I turned around in the changing room and there he was, saying "Hi Chirpy" - "Oh hi JC!" I replied. What happened to that Club Rule against identical twins? (Olga and Tomity Pie seem to have got the message.)

I stepped on Scooby's paw. He bit me on the wrist. Fair enough, but if he ever steps on my foot, he's in for a surprise.

Tony arrived on tour! We sent him straight out to umpire, and sent Ern out to play for Pencarrow.

The first over was entertaining, Dunc timing the pacey Caleb Rowe for a couple of gentle pushes of his three pound bat, both for fours through the covers. (Three pound in weight, I mean, though come to think of it.)

John Key quickly despatched Graham via the slips, which left us with two tall, laconic, identically-dressed Chaves stroking it timingly to the boundary. One of them stroked three fours off successive Caleb Rowe balls, but his next was edged to Jake Rowe, and when our man came off and removed the helmet, it turned out to be the Duncan.

It was a day for not being completely sure who your teammate was.

The cocks were in full voice behind the pavilion as Bradley Agar and Mike Hamilton came on. Fraser, marooned one short of his PB of yesterday, suddenly raced past it with three quick fours. JC, I mean Chris Ferro, joined the four frenzy. The hundred came up in 16.

There was only one thing for it: Pencarrow asked one of their strangers to bowl, and in their confusion they chose Ern, who did though, it should be said, keep it pretty tight; and immediately an edge came from Chris F, but straight through the second slip area, where Ern himself had been standing. Ern looked confused as to how his plan for the world's first "caught and bowled in the slips" had failed.

The Pencarrow cricketers were proving as tenacious as the Pencarrow wasps. Fraser was out, to Ern's bowling, "caught at long off for the fourth time in a row," he announced with peculiar pride as he returned.

Derek had been scheduled to go on as a replacement fielder at 4pm, but at some point between 2pm and 4pm Pencarrow sub-subbed him with a white-haired lady. They knew what they were doing - she was damned good.

ChrisS walloped one over the offside field for 4. My own brief time at the wicket was surely explained as I returned across the boundary line and Pete retrieved his bat from me, which I'd inadvertently taken to the wicket. Hey, it has an orange handle like mine! (That's how you tell, isn't it?) But I hadn't noticed. And Pete's rubbish bat having been damaged by a car earlier, well, that may explain my performance. (Also, I'm not saying I know nothing at all about cricket, but getting ready in the changing room I did attempt for some considerable time to put my thighpad on my back leg. #NotMakingThisUp)

Windy fell to his second consecutive "caught and bowled by a youngster". "It's the teacher in me," he said, "I want them all to do well."

It was a Timed Game and Jim decided we'd take tea early and have a bowl. The Mystics were enlisted to open packets, and my, how soon tea came, moments later, score at 226. Given the short notice of the match itself it was no surprise that tea appealed to our baser instincts: we all (especially the kids) enjoyed our Five-A-Day in the cakes/crisps foodgroup. Lovely.

Windy, well-fed and with the gloves, asked Tony, opening the bowling, whether he bowled spin or seam. "I can't remember" replied Tony. But for someone who later said that, truthfully, he couldn't remember the last time he bowled, he was impressive, cleaning up Mike Hamilton through the gate.

Tony and Jim were tight, except for that one loose ball each over, despatched across the baize by Rick Hamilton and Jake Rowe.

Sean, first ball, dropped a tough caught-and-bowleb of Rowe, and it proved to be expensive.

Dunc and Graham converged on a slowing ball in the field and expertly crossed over it at the same time, each continuing their trajectory having left the ball for each other. "Well done the Red Arrows" said Windy.

Rowe hit a huge six into the corn curtain. "We'll just get the maize in" was heard. Two replacement balls appeared from different sources. "Bowl 'em both!" said Windy. "I've never gone for 12" replied Sean. (He might've. Anyone might've.)

I have a theory that in the field, if you're wearing a wide-brim hat and reflective spex, and (ideally) you stretch your arms out wide a bit on occasion, well then, you get treated as if you must be a "real" cricketer: five or six times the batsmen rolled it to me and ignored an obvious quick single - conceivably a two, if they'd seen me run (or throw) (conceivably a three, if they'd seen both) but as soon as they rolled the same one to Graham, off they went. (Reflectaspex, dude!)

Off Sean, Hamilton nearly decapitated Rowe. It was the only danger Rowe had been in for a long time. 84-1, but then Pete caught-and-bowled Hamilton, a brilliant, committed chase-down of a flick-up that fell maybe 2 or 3 yards in front of the batsman, as slips and Windy waited for each other to do something. (Caught and bowled in the slips? Not far off.)

Rowe reached 50 and started belting everything, including one straight to Tony, who had destroyed half his right hand fielding an early run out attempt, and his fabulous catch here destroyed the other half. With Lomas and Emily Key at the wicket an extraordinary sequence of missed catches, stumpings and runouts followed. Eventually Lomas despaired and chipped one to Pete which he simply couldn't miss. The misses continued though - we even managed to take back a comedy LBW decision, the umpire having one of those moments where they're the only person on the ground, and possibly the planet, who didn't register the ball come flying off the wooden thing, with a satisfyingly thwacky wooden sound.

Bradley set about owning the run chase on his own with a 16-ball 24, at the expense of Graham and myself, and assisted by Windy's second missed stumping, but ending comically as he missed a straight long-hop. Still 70-odd short with 9 to go, the innings ticked over but wouldn't threaten again, despite the Mystics managing to squeeze a 21st over into the final hour - which was just long enough for John Key to try and (inevitably) fail to outshine his more illustrious sister, who'd fallen earlier after a resolute 20. (I was told she'd said that Windy's banter helped her concentrate - I'll never understand women.)

It had been a day of remarkable family duets, and remarkable guest performances. And remarkable missed chances too: Pencarrow's chase had more near misses in an innings than I've ever seen, and that was just Windy. But we sure finagled a fun game. It's amazing what you can do with a ouija board.

Nick Healey

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