The Bowler's Borley the Batsman's Benji

Mystics versus Pencarrow at Pencarrow House, 25th July 2016

Matt, captain on a day of many shades of grey, agreed to a 40-over game with loose fringes. The rules on overs-per-bowler, players-per-side, even fielders-per-fielding-position, were open to interpretation. However, I'm pretty sure that the orange coat that Matt wore to umpire fell outside of any agreed playing conditions. Orange may be the new black, it may even be one of the club colours, but translucent CSI is a bad look in any colour, especially with ruched shoulders and a drawstring waist.

On his 18th birthday, and with his new sonic screwdriver tucked safely into the back pocket of his cricket trousers, Fraser faced the first ball. Sean was at the other end muttering and grumbling about having to open the batting in swing-friendly conditions. Again. Will Lutey and Dan Mills were the first two of ten bowlers used by Pencarrow. Mills in particular was unlucky, beating the bat a number of times.

In the end it was the gentler swing of Wagstaffe that did for Sean, caught behind propping forward at one that moved away. Krups, on debut, was next in. And next out, LBW to the hard-working Mills. From the boundary it did look as if it might have been going over the stumps. But Matt's definitely not a bowler's friend of an umpire, and anyway, from the centre of a field of radiant orange, perspective can be altered.

Fraser was next out, his birthday generosity extending a long way outside off stump as he looped the last ball of Paul Dawkins's first over to extra cover. "I didn't want it to be called a wide", he explained. Behind the stumps, Caleb Rowe explained to the slips and the new batsman that he'd have played that ball by walking across and hitting it straighter. The other 20 players would almost certainly have played it by not playing it at all. Ah, the impetuousness of youth.

The new batsman was Chris Squire. Sean, was now umpiring, and he saw the first (and only) ball of Chris's innings unfold in that strange slow motion we get when terrible events happen: car crashes, broken limbs, straight deliveries to batsmen with a mid-wicket penchant. Chris's only movements were to bend his legs so that his pads effectively covered all three stumps and to swish his bat across the flight of the ball. There was one of those appeals that's more a statement than a question, and Sean had only one choice. "I just want to be able to play a defensive", Chris moaned when he made it back to the pavilion.

Another Chris, Ferro, walked out to join Adi. The combine harvester, which had been doing what harvesters do in the further reaches of the fields around the boundary, moved in closer - perhaps the driver wanted to watch Chris bat - and the engine noise increased several decibels. It was this noise that did for Ferro as his attempt to turn down a second with a crescendo of "no, No, NO", so audible from the pavilion, rattled around the inside of Adi's helmet and morphed into "run, Run, RUN". With inevitable consequences. Suddenly it was 27 for five, and Matt's plan of batting himself at number 11 was looking over-generous.

The next partnership set a club record for the sixth wicket, 120, and was the substance of our innings. Adi hit a four, perhaps a little streakily, to get himself going. This wasn't Adi's most fluent innings, but by heck it was a valuable one. There were nine fours and, thanks to an overambitious piece of fielding, a five in his 55. At the other end, Dunc started very circumspectly. He saw off the father-and-son Dowrick partnership (one for sixteen off six overs between them) and helped bring up the fifty (in the 20th over) off Richard Sargent. He took 30 balls to score his first eight runs; and then, with eight more fours and a six, only another 33 balls to score his next 54. Windy Windmill ("every team needs a Windy", we were told) (by Windy) (our Windy) and Oli Sleeman bore the brunt of Dunc's initial acceleration. Will Lutey, in his first game as captain, brought himself back into the attack to break the partnership. Two expensive overs called that decision into question, and the Mystics were looking well set at 147 for five with seven overs to go. Could we, perhaps, get to 200?

Two balls later that guess was being revised rapidly downwards, and Lutey was being acclaimed as a Brearleyesque genius. First Dunc hit one high into the air, and Richard Sargent, running round from cover, took a resoundingly competent catch. Next Adi was bowled playing a loose shot.

Caleb Rowe swapped out the keeping pads to take on his more accustomed role, and was comfortably the fastest bowler on either side that day. Ern got a good one that nipped back and kept, perhaps, a bit low. Chris Healey's call of "two" to Will Wind-up Wagstaffe, Pencarrow's most enthusiastic fielder, was an ambitious one. At least three yards too ambitious. Matt hit another steepler to Richard Sargent, this time at deep mid off, and we were all out for 163 with ten balls left of our 40 overs.

For the second half of our innings, and during Dunc and Adi's switch up through the gears, Benji Sleeman, aged seven, fielded next to his dad, Oli. He stopped four or five and ran away from one. I think most of us would be happy with that ratio.

Another great tea was served up. By the time I got round to taking this picture, the Mystic locusts had stripped a lot of it away. The interval was also a chance to have a chat to the opposition captain and to confirm that he didn't mind Matthew Borley fielding for a bit next to his own dad. Will, of course, was happy with the idea. This is a team that really understand how to play tour games: welcoming, flexible and competitive without acrimony.

Healey and Cook opened the attack for the Mystics against Dan Mills and Will Lutey. Mills was run out in the second over trying to steal a single behind square on the off side. Unfortunately for him, Chris Ferro was at backward point: the pick up was clean and the throw straight at the stumps. Windy Windmill slapped a four off a long hop from Matt and then had his stumps rearranged by one that fizzed through a fair bit quicker.

Two down for four after six overs became three down for eight when Will Lutey was bowled as an ungainly shot opened up a gap somewhere between bat, pad and other pad. Ten minutes later Nick Dowrick was bowled by Fraser's third ball and Pencarrow were 16 for four. Oli Sleeman joined Richard Sargent. Sleeman looked a fine player and he contributed all but one of the batting runs to a partnership of 28; but he became Fraser's second wicket when Matt Cook ran back from mid off to pouch one of those catches that's hard enough even for a good fielder, but easy enough that you look a clown if you drop it.

Paul Hawkins was next in, and returned Fraser's earlier favour to his own bowling by slapping a wide long hop straight to Chris Healey. Another promising partnership ensued. Sargent, who had taken 36 balls to get past 2, hit a four and started to accelerate. At the other end, Caleb Rowe played some powerful straight shots, demonstrating along the way, how he would have played the ball that got Fraser out, using quick feet to get to the pitch of the slower bowlers. Sean and Adi were expensive, 41 coming off their four overs. In the end, it was a straight one from Tony that did for Rowe.

91 for seven became 101 for eight off (28 overs) when Wagstaffe failed to get bat on the second ball he faced from Chris Ferro, and it was down to the young Dowricks, Sam and Tom. Sargent marched on, and there suddenly seemed again to be an outside chance that Pencarrow might get to the target - the runs-v-overs calculations looked to be in their favour - but Sam fell to Ernie and then Tom was run out courtesy of another fine pick-up and throw from Chris Ferro.

132 all out, and the warm-up was over. Now for the main event. Matthew Borley had fielded next to his dad for some of the innings. Not yet nine, it looked to me that Matthew had one of the better throwing arms on the team. And now it was time for him to bowl against an eager Benji Sleeman, who had been padded up for quite a while - probably since tea time. Next to me, Windy (our Windy) was complaining that Matthew was too young to bowl from the full 22 yards. "The umpires should do something. Adi should do something." And then we watched as, with a run up reminiscent of Michael Holding, the future of Mystic cricket glided up to the wicket and bowled four balls on a perfect length. The fourth of these sent Benji's middle stump cartwheeling down to fine leg. Well, it clean bowled him anyway, and one of the bails made it to first slip. But if you scale everything up and multiply by an appropriate factor, that stump bloody well cartwheeled. For the first time since 2005, the surname Borley was to end up at the top of the tour bowling averages.

A lovely game came to an entirely appropriate conclusion. My dad got a bit misty-eyed about the perfection of the whole afternoon, and the way that our hosts had handled every aspect of the game. To me, it was just one of those days that makes the Mystics tour the thing of beauty that it is.

Jim Thomson

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