Despite its pagan origins, if the Mystics and Magicians Cricket Club could be said to have, in the Judaeo-Christian tradition, a "spiritual home", then it is undoubtedly Exeter. The team's guru-cum-leader and many of its players were born or bred there, and it was the venue of its first eight matches. And as any Exonian will tell you, the patron saint of the city is Saint Sidwella, whose feast day is at the end of July. As is Saint Neot's -- the 27th and 31st respectively, to be precise. So how fitting to arrange encounter at a point between the two feast days, a fixture with the blessed team of Saint Neot Taverners.
The batting heroes for the Mystics were Fraser and Adi. Fraser's innings was a joy to watch, liberally splattering runs to all sides of the ground with his trademark gusto before bowled in the process of a big swing that would have brought up what seemed an inevitable 50: pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). Adi got his usual one decent score of the tour, unflustered by the messy run out of Sid at the other end for a promising 26.
Your correspondent, however, batted in the manner of Saint Pacificus in his latter 29 years, when he was deaf, blind, and consumed by visions and ecstasies. Early in his innings, he was deaf to an appeal for LBW, blind to the umpire's finger, evidently consumed in ecstasies and visions of his own. Taking pity, Umpire Sam Cook, Captain D. Brice and the saintly bolwer left him to it and did not enforce his departure. Oblivious to his dismissal, Shepherd produced a solitary run off a dropped catch at mid-on despite lasted fully 29 balls, though it might have felt to Mystic supporters like the sainted P's identical number of years spent in this state of grace. Bunt put everyone out of his or her misery by clean bowling him.
Other notable contributions from Cook senior (28) and Cook junior, who added a useful 17 before fishing at a wide delivery (no surprise here -- St Neot is the patron saint of fish) saw him caught well by Hayes. 172 had been set as the winning target.
Despite much of Saint Neot's own life being forgotten, it is through written records of it that historians learnt of the story of King Alfred's burning of the cakes (Alfred regularly consulted Saint Neot on spiritual matters). To this day, the avoidance of baking disasters is taken seriously here. Tea was substantial, delicious, and completely uncharred.
St Neot began their innings meaning business with J Kent and K Marks (who, if religiously inspired for his 39 was finding faith in his own batting ability more of a stimulant than an opiate) posting an opening partnership of 64.
This partnership looked key to the game, as St Neot didn't appear to have too much depth (or rather, height?) in the batting to come. Saint Neot himself was said to have stood four feet tall, so was aptly represented by the team's middle order -- a succession of young lads of around that height. This had the effect of reducing the boundaries and slowing the run rate.
If Sid were tempted to brood, uncharacteristically, over the run out, his pair of stumpings in the second innings would have been balm to his soul.
Meanwhile Chris Cook could count himself luckier than Saint Anthony, who is often represented as plagued by flying demons, whose torments he endured stoically, and who temptations he had the fortitude to resist. Cook Senior, on the other hand, was merely plagued by flying ants near the boundary. Rather than showing Anthony-like fortitude, he lapsed into the temptation of pulling rank on Cooks Middle and Junior, ordering them to swap fielding positions with him.
Your correspondent cannot for the life of him work out why St Neot fielded 12 batsmen, but if they will forgive his earlier sins (he knew not what he was doing), he will certainly forgive them that.
The opening pace of scoring, followed by a deceleration and the steady loss of wickets, looked like setting up a tense finish with all results possible. But with about five overs to go, the win slipped out of the reach of (the short arms of) Saint Neot. In the final overs, Cook senior set an aggressively close field as M. Bunt, with Moss and then Hayes, attempted to save the game. Ball after ball, block after block, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, the possibility of a Mystic win was finally buried. A heroic defensive performance from St Neot.
It was a decision of divine inspiration to opt for a declaration/time game rather than the overs format, creating a tense ending with a Mystic win looking probable in the last couple of overs, and still possible from the final ball. St Neot celebrated hanging on for the draw. Probably not quite in the category of St Neot's miracle of the ever replenishing fish in the well (the trick was to eat no more than one at a time, apparently), but not bad for mere mortals.