The Apotheosis of the Cake Lady

Mystics vs Saint Neot Taverners at Saint Neot, 3rd August 2017

Rejoice, The London Inn was open again. That and The Crown in Lanlivery are the two tour-defining pubs. We’ve drunk in other pubs, of course we have, but none of them has managed to knit themselves into the tapestry of our Cornish boozing. After the build-up I’ve given the Saint Neot pub, then, it feels a bit anticlimactic to explain that the cricket team no longer drink there after the game. It’s not that there’s bad blood between pub and club ... just not much in the way of good blood. A conscious uncoupling has taken place and The Village Club is once again the post-match venue. The Village Club also do the sandwiches for the tea. Nice arrangement.

Up at the ground, Saint Neot were one short. Graham and I did a race for the bottom to see which of us would fill that gap. He won (or lost), and became a Taverner while I stayed Mystic. Sam, our captain, called correctly at the toss and we were batting on a gloomy-looking day.

Duncan and Sid were the openers, and Sid survived an early scare, nicking Jamie Bunny through to in-development ’keeper Martin Budge only for the ball to be palmed to the turf. It was a shame, really, as Budge did a pretty good job through the afternoon, this one blemish aside. In spite of a couple of well-hit fours, though, Sid didn’t manage to cash in on his luck, falling in the fifth over to a smart slip catch by Graham Sharland. The last seven words of that sentence are ones that the reader should linger over. It really was a proper slip catch that fizzed through and was insouciantly pouched.

Chris Squire came in, surviving his own early scare - this time an LBW appeal that was turned down and would probably have been umpire’s call on review, just clipping the outside of leg stump - and then building probably the most fluent Mystic innings of the afternoon. He scored the bulk of his runs through the leg side, of course he did, but he put the loose balls away really well. Frankly, Chris dominated the partnership of 41 with Duncan, who was happy to play an elegant second fiddle and to ease his way into the 20s off 40-odd balls before popping a gentle six about 20 yards into the field behind deep square leg. Chris essayed a couple of shots on to the posh side, but without success. In fact, he almost popped up a catch to cover. Once he struck a ball so straight that it was stopped by the bowler’s-end stumps. "That was my cut shot," he admitted to the umpire a few balls later.

Mark Bunt came into the attack, bowling a yard or two quicker at Duncan than at Chris. His third over, a wicket maiden, included a ball that hit Chris’s middle stump while the batsman essayed a shot through midwicket. Big Cook strode out awkwardly to the middle, carrying a back injury. He batted within himself, his partnership with Dunc only serving to emphasise the relative fluidity of Chris Squire’s innings. There were boundaries, but they came in clumps, and the running between the wickets displayed little or no urgency. There were four strange overs from Shamsul, a man who runs in like a bowler before stopping at the crease and unambiguously chucking it. Apparently Saint Neot have tried coaching him out of this, but to no avail. He likes to have a go with the ball, though, and Sam had been happy to agree to let him.

Duncan was well caught by Graham Kent on the deep-square-leg boundary. The Mystics chair, Deke, strode out to face the bowling of Gary Rogers, the Saint Neot chair. He lifted his third ball over the bowler and gently into the hands of Jack Kent at mid orff. Skipper Sammy and his dad then hurried us into tea, taking 67 off the last seven overs, making the day’s only scores over 40 and beating their previous Mystics father-and-son partnership record (65 at Methigion in 2013) on the way. 172 looked a decent score, no more, as the home team had a number of batsmen who’d taken runs off us in the past.

Alongside the Village Club sandwiches were Cake Lady cakes. We had some bunting that Tess and her art crew had painted as a welcome: this, it seems, will definitely be her Mystics swan song. Her like will not be there again. It was a well-stuffed touring team that made its slow way out to field.

Graham Kent pulled a short ball from Sean to the midwicket wall and then drove at one in the corridor, smartly grabbed by Sid, and the batsman walked. It was one of those caught-behinds where the flurry of bat, air, ground, pad and ball can sometimes create enough doubt in the umpire’s mind and lead to an incorrect not out. Jack Kent was bowled by one that kept low; but he should know the track well enough not to be playing back to a good length. As soon as he was out, and having noticed that Liam Jones, first-team opener had arrived, Jack asked us if we’d mind them adding an extra batsman. Mark Hayes, in at four, was bowled by his third ball: a fizzer from perhaps our quickest slow bowler, Sean. Enter Graham Sharland.

Joe bowled the sixth over and his first ball was, well, just a bit too straight for Matthew Glencross. Nine for four. In his second over, Graham was so LBW that I think he walked. Either that or he turned his back on the umpire, like the deserter facing the firing squad who asks for a blindfold, so as not to see the inevitable skyward-pointing finger. 14 for five, and our decent score was looking moutainous.

Shamsul and Jones then established a partnership, with Liam Jones the chief aggressor, at least initially. He made room and hit my first ball for a powerful four wide of extra cover. After that, he seemed to lose his timing and his confidence, only hitting one more four, and that off a horrible leg-side full toss. Shamsul belted a four off me too, generally aiming behind square on the leg side. The partnership meandered along at about four an over before Shamsul became another one to be undone by the low bounce. His was a curious dismissal: trying to play forward defensively to a fairly innocuous straight delivery, he rather planted his bat in one place and his pad in another, one each side of where the ball was actually going. His attempt to correct the stroke involved a curious bend - his knees echoing the arm in his bowling action? - leaving the bat to come down at an angle that would probably have covered a normal (non-Cornish) bounce but was trigonometrically inadequate for this delivery.

The two JWH Thomsons had weathered the storm and were removed from the attack. The first ball of Fraser’s second over whipped through Liam Jones, bowling him neck and crop, and Mark Bunt was left with the tail. Martin Budge, the tyro ’keeper, played some solid shots through the leg side but looked vulnerable to anything to the off side of middle stump.

Chris Squire bowled an over before Sam brought Sean on, allegedly to "speed things up". Has Sam never seen Sean cook? or bowl? or walk? or do pretty much anything other than drink? Mark Bunt responded to the change by recovering the aggressive streak - maybe not quite back to the "giving the Mystics supporters in the pavilion a right peppering" Bunt of 2014, but bullish. There was one sumptuous off drive off Sean: four all along the ground

At one point there was a suggestion that Mark had been caught behind off bat, pad, thigh and a tiny bit of the middle of the bat. Anyway Sid pulled off a really good catch, running around from behind the stumps and scooping up the ball before it hit the ground. "Great catch, Siddley" was Chris Healey’s comment, but our generally muted celebration ended up creating a situation where we couldn’t really move into a proper appeal. Mark clearly didn’t think he’d hit it and, with the absence of any proper appeal, the game drifted on. From the score’s chair, Donna remarked that the low-key response of the Mystics in the field that day often made it difficult to see when wickets had fallen. We were probably focussed on digesting cake.

Eventually, with his score on 36, Mark top edged one from Fraser and was caught on the run by Duncan. Chris Healey then bowled Martin Budge, who played all around one and lost both bails as the ball thudded low into the stumps. Stephen Hayes followed similarly and quickly and ten wickets were down. There was time for an 11th, with Gary Rogers, the club Chairman, comfortably caught by Chris Healey at mid on. Fraser had a third wicket and victory had been achieved by 65 runs.

Jim Thomson

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