Captain Cook sails into uncharted Territory

Mystics versus Saint Neot at Saint Neot, 4th August 2005

A million (well, a few hundred) miles away at Edgbaston, England and Cook the Elder were thanking their lucky stars that Glenn McGrath had stepped up to the ball rather than up to the plate, and that Ponting had put England in: the English batsmen were duly tucking in.

That morning, in the shadow of the Eden Project, Cook the Younger and the lucky stars of another touring party had very much stepped up to the plate and dutifully tucked in, this particular plate being piled high with a calculated diet of bacon, eggs, sausage, mushroom, fried bread, the previous evening's cold curry and other items carefully selected with the demands of the 'modern' tour in mind.

With his father out of the frame, Cook the Younger knew that as captain for the day, he had the chance to come out of the shadow of his compulsively competitive creator and earn his stripes as a senior Mystic. The rest of us merely looked forward to the opportunity to get a bat, or a bowl, or perhaps watch someone other than the ever-more-balding one accumulate some runs.

Up on the moor's edge, above the village of St Neot, the captains agreed that the visitors should bat, which given that Flintoff and Pietersen were making steady progress on the TV in the pavilion, seemed like a jolly good plan to me. When Cook arrived at the crease at 11 for 2, in the 5th over, with myself and Rush already banished to the dressing room, the plan looked less clever. Whilst G Sharland played circumspectly, struggling to make an impression against responsible bowling, Cook was straight into his stride, taking 2 from the first ball he faced.

For the next hour we saw a tale of two batsmen: one stubbornly resisting the St Neot attack without happening upon the flow of runs that such patience deserved; the other setting about a casual-looking but deliberate and risk-free accumulation of runs. After a relaxed helping of cuts and drives, executed with elegance and with time to spare, Cook reached 50 with his 9th four, just prior to the drinks break, whilst Sharland's supporting act provided mid-wicket encouragement and eager running.

When Sharland finally succumbed for 28, he had batted for an hour and a half, contributed to a partnership of 116, and helped put the Mystics back into a position where they had some match-winning options. Cook's thoughts meanwhile turned to his first Mystic hundred, and his measured acceleration saw the ball more than once deposited over the midwicket boundary wall. No single St Neot bowler gave Cook the opportunity to come by easy runs, and while Bunt was clearly the pick of the bowlers with 2 for 20, Brice was just as frugal, and 5 of the seven used got just reward for their toil. Cook's 18th boundary signalled a sumptuous century and rapturous applause, and it would have been easy to be unsettled by the churn of faces at the other end as Squire, Matravers, Miller and Cook the Youngest came and went without troubling the remote-controlled scoreboard greatly. But a flurry of Cook boundaries saw the Mystics reach 200 in the last over of the innings.

During 2005 I witnessed three batsmen make a hundred: 149 by a certain J. Kallis took over a day in January and contained only a handful of boundaries; M. Trescothick at Headingley managed 104 off 134 balls, but both paled in significance against Cook's voyage of discovery, which took him to 130 not out in 118 minutes and contained 21 fours and 2 sixes.

After a brief respite to catch up with Ashes events, Cook was out in the field ensuring his work with the bat would get its just reward. The intriguing opening partnership of Cook the Youngest and Miller with the ball looked rather taken aback by the swift start made by Brice, but once he had been removed by Miller in the 4th over there was some brief respite as Searle set about building a proper foundation for St Neot. G. Sharland found it as hard to concede runs as he did to score them, and together with first change partner Webb they applied enough pressure to keep St Neot batsmen just behind the required rate. Rowe the keeper, and Yeo, fell in quick succession, but Kent provided some stability, allowing the hosts to get to 100 in the 23rd over and scent the possibility of victory. Webb, however, ended the last 4 of his 8 over spell with 3 maidens for 4 runs and crucially the wicket of Searle, who had just completed an admirable 50 in as many minutes.

Importantly, Cook had yet more interesting bowling combinations to offer, and the introduction of Healey and Squire in tandem was a dish too spicy for Cornish palettes, as they shared 5 wickets and most of the tail between them. Healey accounted for Kent and Strand who both moved into the twenties but could not capitalise. It just remained for me to be given the honour of bowling out the match (a tour-average-topping spell as it happens, though I'm not in it for the glory!), and with a little under 3 overs remaining the St Neot innings ended on 165.

All of which left plenty of time for Matt Cook to borrow enough funds from his fellow tourists to pay for the customary centenary jugs of ale down at the village pub, a gesture handsomely accepted by our cordial hosts who, if they were smarting from a defeat at the hands of Captain Cook, did their best to hide it. The Mystic entourage were left wondering that if Cook is this good with hair, how much better would he become as he loses it? A question that we may not have to wait too long to find the answer to.

Adrian Borley

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