When you toss with the Devil, you best use a long coin

Mystics versus Pencarrow at Pencarrow House, 26th July 2021

Trent disgraced himself early in his Mystics debut. When Kieron Gill took his eye off his packed lunch for a second too long, Trent saw his opportunity and grabbed a half-finished Yorkie, downing it and the wrapper in about the time it takes for a Jofra Archer delivery to travel the 20 yards to the other end. The next day, it took a significantly more time and effort to get the wrapper out from the far end.

Another Mystics debutant was Matt Crawford (Tiger to any Archers listener), our 103rd player. His behaviour was mostly more seemly than Trent's. In fact, he had a bit of a belter, scoring 21 (across two innings) (it's complicated) and picking up four wickets and two catches.

The Pencarrow side looked quite a bit stronger than ours. I recognised Jake Rowe and learned that his brother Caleb was also playing. They play regularly at about ten levels up from most of the Mystics. Alongside them was Charlotte Phillips (Gloucestershire Women, player number 1148158 on Cricinfo) and Tom Clarke, who'd decided to play against the Mystics instead of for Cornwall under 14s. But the Pencarrow selection committee had also picked a few from the lower shelves of Carol's Countdown Collection. With careful and sensitive captaincy, this might just turn into a decent game.

Fraser won the toss and chose to bat. Duncan Chave and Mark Hailwood opened against Kieron Gill and Ben Sleeman. Ben, then Benji, made his first appearance against us at the age of seven, in 2016, when he was cleaned up fourth ball by eight-year-old bully, Matthew Borley. Now 12, he bowled at a decent pace with a nice action. The ball that he got Mark Hailwood with was a beauty, cutting back in from outside off stump, between the wandering bat and the stay-at-home pad, to hit middle. Gill, at 16 the senior bowler, also kept a tight line and we were 11 for one after they'd finished their opening stint of four overs each.

Cornwall's Clarke came on at the Wadebridge end and Gloucestershire's Phillips at the Pencarrow end. Clarke mostly bowled flighted, heavily overspun Chinamen from left-arm over, but he had a nasty variation of a flatter orthodox delivery that hurried on towards the slips. Phillips bowled really tight off spin, and Duncan and Sam Cook, who replaced Mark, were circumspect for a few overs. The fielding was really tight, with Jake Rowe the stand-out, but great support from the youngsters who flung themselves around and turned twos into ones and ones into dots. Sam had an early let-off when a late cut was almost spectacularly caught by Charlotte Phillips diving away to her left at backward point. Sam took two fours off one Clarke over and we were 40 for one off 13. Dunc was bowled by Phillips in the next over, and Ben Youngman joined Sam for the most substantial partnership of the innings. They added 45 in nine overs, with a good smattering of fours and some sensible-in-the-circumstances running.

Pete Bassett and Joe Wilson came into the attack: Basset a whirling dervish compared to Wilson's measured approach. Neither prevailed, and Pencarrow skipper, Danny Cock, turned to Kyle Frost and his own loopy off breaks. Frost hadn't bowled in a game before, but did well picking up the wickets of Youngman and Squire, both bowled heaving optimistically. Sam had gone too, caught by the skipper off Wilson, and we were 115 for five.

Two-T Matt joined one-T Mat for a 19-run partnership; but the returning Gill bowled Crawford for eight. Fraser and then Chris Healey perished for low scores, both trying to score quickly. Graham hit a four behind square on the leg side and then lost a bail or two to Tom Clarke. This all sounds as if the innings folded around us; but that would be to ignore the belligerent Ogley. Mat raced to 26 off ten balls. The two runs he scored off his ninth delivery was his first non-boundary scoring shot for the Mystics. In all he hit 14 fours to all parts of the ground. It was powerful hitting and his 63 was the main reason our score reached 192. He was out, our tenth wicket, to the second ball of the 39th over. That would normally be that, but the captains had agreed that both sides would bat out their 40 overs, whatever happened. It was one of those ideas that looks great when initially conceived but that can flounder in the face of events: sort of like Faust's agreement to the devil's offer of earthly pleasure in exchange for his immortal soul. I'm not saying that Danny Cock is the devil, you understand, but there was certainly a Faustian moment about 15 overs into the home team's innings when the realisation dawned on us that Pencarrow might overhaul our score quickly and carry on from there. 40 overs suddenly felt like a lot of cricket, an endless desert of cricket.

Matt Crawford was the Mystic who got a second knock. I spent most of our partnership worrying about how I would record Matt's second innings in the averages spreadsheet, especially if he got out for a second time. Fortunately, disaster was averted, and we compiled an unbroken partnership of 17, only one less than the highest ever Mystics 11th-wicket partnership.

Jake Rowe and Charlotte Phillips opened the batting for the hosts. They are partners in life as well as here, and showed their commitment to each other by using matching his'n'hers bats: same manufacturer but blue lettering for him and red for her. Ben started from the Wadebridge end with Marky Manbun at the other. They kept a lid on the scoring rate without really threatening. Phillips favoured the region between point and third man with dabs and cuts. Rowe favoured pretty much everywhere, and it certainly felt as if he had more to come. A deft reverse sweep off Mark was the stand-out of the shots at the start of his innings.

Phillips fell to a blinding slip catch, Duncan flinging himself up and back to his right to pluck a sharp chance out of the air. 38 for one off eight. This dismissal seemed to galvanise Jake Rowe. He was joined by Kyle Frost, a no-nonsense batterer, and 32 runs came from the next four overs. It was around now that the full-40-overs Doomsday Scenario really established itself in our thinking. I knew that Jake's brother Caleb was due in next and that he was another class player. If this run rate continued, we were looking at around 13 overs of pointless leather chasing. And, what, I wondered, if it increased. Jake took 20 off Fraser's third over, including the game's only six, and things began to look very bad. At some point - in fact at several points - in that over, it was decided that Jake should retire. He wandered off to be replaced by Caleb.

Frost survived a confident appeal for caught behind off Mat Ogley. Caleb Rowe belted a couple of fours and then top edged a caught and bowled back to Matt Crawford - the first of Matt's four wickets. Sam Cook came on and bowled Frost with a flatter ball reminiscent of an older Cook. 119 for four in the 22nd over. Danny Cock hit a couple of fours before lofting one of my loopers towards square leg where Matt Crawford ran in and made a nasty catch look horribly easy. 142 for five off 27. The Pencarrow opening bowlers, Sleeman and Gill, were batting now. Gill swung lustily at one and launched the ball vertically with barely a hint of the horizontal. Chris Healey, behind the stumps, was unsighted and the ball fell safely. Gill carried on swinging lustily - he played some lovely shots too - eventually perishing for 21 off 16: a third Crawford catch, this time off a returning Hailwood. 27 runs were now needed off the last six overs. A second successive Hailwood maiden meant that 24 were needed off four overs.

At this point, Mat Ogley's competitive nature got the better of him, and a single pushed past Marky Manbun led to a string of urgent shouts of "go, go" and "harder, harder". It would have made a decent soundtrack to a cheap porn film. Mark later said he would be hearing it in his dreams. If that's the case, then he has some pretty lurid dreams.

Three wickets fell in the 38th. First Sleeman hit a catch out to square leg where I returned the compliment and took a (much easier) catch off Matt Crawford's bowling. Bassett hit a single and then Clarke a four before hoisting one towards deep mid on where Graham took a good catch, stumbling over in the process and then launching the ball into the air in triumph. It's the furthest I've seen Graham throw a cricket ball since the 1980s. On the last ball of the over, Bassett's attempted heave only connected with thin air and he was bowled. Two overs left, 14 runs needed but only one wicket remaining ... at least that would be the case but for that Faustian pact. I glanced over at the pavilion to see who was padded up to come in as the keep-it-going-until-the-40th-over sub. Nobody was. Either devilish Danny Cock had another fiendish plan or he had utter faith in the skills of Simon Patterson and Joe Wilson to deal with the last 12 balls. Fraser bowled the 39th over, and Patterson hit a beautiful four and there were two leg byes. Off the last ball, Joe Wilson was run out trying to ensure that Patterson kept the strike. Pencarrow were all out ... or, at least, they were until the devil played his trump card. Jake Rowe strode out in black smart casuals and a helmet. No pads or gloves. The winning run was scored off the fifth ball of the final over.

I have two cricketo-philosophical problems here.
1. Since Pencarrow lost ten wickets, they surely can't be said to won by anything other than by no wickets. Can a team win by no wickets?
2. Why did we only bowl 39 overs and five balls? Why didn't we bowl that 240th ball of the innings? Surely that was the pact that we had made with Devilish Danny Cock.

But those were lost in the excellence of the day, the sunshine, the cricket, Matt Crawford's debut, the proper cricket tea and the Yorkie incident.

Jim Thomson

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