The first game of the Cornwall tour was our only one against new opposition. An error on the map on the Saint Austell C.C. website was carried across to www.mysticscc.org, and a lot of us got lost on the way to the ground. Chris Cook and I took a Newton-Raphson approach to the problem, circling in on the ground in an ever-improving approximation to the correct route. We were the first to arrive, but none of the team was late for the 2:20 start, and few if any of the spectators missed more than the first couple of balls. The ground was worth the effort. It had a proper pavilion with a bar from which to watch the army of young men mowing the outfield and rolling the wicket. They were even tending the grass beyond the boundaries and were touching up the paint on some of the outbuildings. This, I told my pint, was the way to prepare for a touring side. Actually, I think what I said was "Stick that up your fat, Bannockburn arses, Saint Modans."
Ellison and Watson started well against the seam-up Cooks. I followed a few well-struck fours to the A391-side boundary. Watson, the younger of the openers, looked like a good player. He was very front-footed - a natural consequence of learning to bat on slow, low West Country wickets. Someone suggested that he might be vulnerable to well-directed, quick short-pitched bowling. Cook and Cook bowled on.
Big Cook bowled Ellison and then Windy replaced Sam at the industrial-estate end. Another wicket fell as Nick Matthews, the young leg spinner, was persuaded to lob a catch back to Windy. Persuaded is the right verb here, since there was no devilry in the delivery itself. It was through sheer force of personality that Windy got the young man to play the shot. I imagine his internal monologue to have been something along these lines: "Ah, here's another flighted one from that irritating bloke in the glasses ... best be careful ... not sure where it's going to pitch ... God, he's irritating ... play forward ... I mean, look at him, standing there, looking at me, waiting for me to make a mistake ... careful ... irritating ... careful ... irritating ... fuck, I've hit it straight back at him."
Anyway, he wandered off, slapping his pads with his bat, like an over-exuberant pantomime best boy. Windy had the first of his four wickets, and suddenly we were in amongst them. Dunc ran Watson out with fielding that was a lot sharper than the running between the wickets. A tumbling catch at cover, and Dunc was racking up the managers league points. After 28 overs, Saint Austell were in trouble at 104 for seven. It was time, Ernie realised, to bring me on. The eighth wicket partnership, already worth 25, put on another 47, and I retired to the short boundary, my job well done once more.
The architects of this 72-run partnership (if you discount the contributions of me, Stewart and Chirpy) were Alex Machin and a man the scorebook lists simply as Vian. A former Cornwall stalwart, Alex was the Saint Austell captain, and as jovial an opponent as you could hope to meet on a tour. He had to leave before the game, to attend a wine-tasting. Something in his appearance and his manner suggested that this would not be his first such event.
At the other end, Vian (Was that a surname or a forename? The romantic in me hopes that it was both, and that he was some sort of Romany cricketing minstrel.) batted with growing confidence. He had, he told me, retired from cricket ten years ago. His well-judged 27 showed that he had retired ten years too early.
After Vian had hit a return catch to Big Cook, a familiar shape limped out to the wicket as Saint Austell's number ten: Sid in shorts, but no box. He chipped a few singles and was involved, with Adi, Chris Healey, Big Cook and Alex Machin, in a run out, before cutting the last ball of the innings to Windy. Windy managed to make an easy catch look difficult, but held on to claim more managers league points, and to pat himself on the back for picking himself in his team.
160 to win at exactly four an over. With a short boundary on one side and track that was improving as it dried, it looked fairly straightforward. So it proved. Adi took a liking to Nick Matthews's leggies, and there were four fours and a six in his quick-fire 28. Duncan was slightly more circumspect, out in the 16th over, six short of the 46 he required to take him to 2000 Mystic runs.
At this stage, Graham was becalmed, but Sam Cook and byes kept the scoreboard ticking over. Sam was bowled with 35 still needed, and something happened to Graham. Maybe Jayne had glanced alluringly at him, or maybe he remembered that she'd be driving, and that the sooner he got the game over, the sooner he could start drinking. More likely, though, he just got hungry. Whatever, the cause, he was a man transformed, and his last 26 runs came off 13 balls. We romped to victory with more than ten overs to spare, and with Cook, Healey, Sharland and Miller not required.
The post-match drinking was a closer-run thing, but, with many of their team too young really to contribute, I think we just shaded it. Windy won the managers league. Bastard.
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