Two lean figures emerged from the shadow of the pavilion into the bright sunshine and the searing heat of a Devon afternoon. One stood tall and unshaven in a broad-brimmed hat. Could it be The Man With No Name? He turned, disappearing for a moment as he went side on, then reappeared again. It was Sharland M. The other was Chave. He wrestled with sweaty batting gloves which were making the bat slip in his hands. He wet them with water to clean off the sweat and they became even slippier. He borrowed Fred's.
The game began and The Antiguan Pro swaggered out in shorts and a tee shirt to watch. He was tossing his car keys in one hand. "He didn't drop those. We're in trouble," said Donna. Then we realised he wasn't on the pitch: he wasn't even playing. But then we counted the South Devon fielders and there were only nine. The Pro reappeared in whites. He had arrived late merely so that he could make a grand entrance.
"Steady start skipper?" Sharland G asked Healey after 14 runs had come off the first three overs. It was certainly looking promising. Chave lost his leg stump in the ninth over to Scott's extravagant movement with the score on 35. The excitement continued as a bee interfered with Peter while he was umpiring. Sharland went next, caught at mid-wicket. He had been stroking the ball away gracefully and his 24 included five fours. "I'll go to sleep on that cover drive," said Peter, which would be a good trick.
The Pro took up the ball and young Cook M became worried because he was in next. But for now Healey was in and playing some lovely strokes, including an impressive hook before being caught brilliantly and low at gully. And there came a partnership of 60 by Cook & Son. Despite his fears, Matt was able to join his father in chipping The Pro behind the bat. "There's a lot of boundaries," I remarked. "No Kev," said some wag, "it's the same one. It goes all the way around."
Chris Cook continued his wonderful stroke play. "Isn't he a joy to watch?" mused an enraptured Rita. Someone started singing Cat Stevens' Father to Son. Rita complained that Healey and Chave had got themselves out. "Duncan the dozey git. We only put up with him for his batting."
A man was painting the barbecue. He leaned on his brush a moment and like an old sailor shifted his pipe so that it was more comfortable and began to regale us with tales of The Pro. "There was the time when he was bowling and he hit a batsman on the bottom lip. We asked him what he was aiming for. Apparently it was his top lip."
Meanwhile, Matt was taking lessons from his father and pushed a four of his own but soon after he mistimed and spooned the ball to mid-on. Wendon took up his bat and began to stroll apologetically into the arena. "Bryan, take some gloves with you mate," suggested his skipper.
Meanwhile, Cook C charged Botham-like down the wicket, swung, missed and there was an appeal for a stumping, but it wasn't given. From our perfect position on the boundary it looked pretty out but Chris stayed and was able to finish the match with an average of 210. Wendon, excited, rushed, mistimed and was caught and bowled. This made it 188 for 5 and Healey decided to declare. The barbecue painter reckoned we'd need 240 to stand any kind of chance of winning. "You see that clock up there? It's stopped. The Pro did that: hit a ball straight at it."
I took a supply of scones and sausage rolls with me into the scorebox to help me put on the weight I had lost in Asia. I was accompanied by Deke who thought he'd hide while he looked at his emails on his laptop. What are the Mystics coming to?
The Pro went when the score was only 2. He was caught over the top of Chris Cook's head (exactly where Healey had just placed that fielder), and was very annoyed. Needless to say, we weren't and neither was the clock, which had been hiding its face in its hands. Duke was caught and bowled by Ollie shortly after. Jim took the catch for the third wicket after some more inspired field placing. "You see those catches? Our skipper just placed those fielders there," we told the barbecue painter who was making cooing noises over a photograph of The Pro.
Wendon was too boring and was taken off after bowling four overs for two runs. Squire came on for some contrast. Dudbridge tried for a wicket. The ball went high in the air. All the slips, the keeper, mid on and the bee that had stung Peter ran towards it. Second slip, Cook C, called for it then stopped short. The ball fell quietly to earth, watched confused by everyone. There was some relief when Cook M took Sutcliffe's middle stump, but there followed a series of dropped catches and near run outs specially designed to distract Deke from his emails.
Scott began to get into some mighty hitting. Deke and I, ever the incisive commentators, were discussing a change of bowling. Sharland M came on and had Whittaker stumped. Healey caught and bowled Scott but not before he'd caused 42 runs worth of damage. Then Wendon retumed to the fray. Deke was encouraging. "Come on Bryan! Spin to win. Weave that web of mystery....and other bonkers Windyisms." And in partnership with Healey, he did. But Knowles decided the game was still wide open and he was going to close it up for South Devon. All he did however was to bring Wendon's bowling averages back to the level of mere mortals. However, he still managed to keep them three runs away from victory so that the game finished in an exciting and deserved draw.
Interestingly, and be sure to remember these for the next Mystic trivia competition, both sides used eight bowlers and our own Antiguan, Julie, discovered that The Pro knew her cousin.