Le Mythe d'Olivre


Mystics versus Wadhurst at Clyst Saint George, 28th July 1999

In 1942, the noted philosopher Albert Camus wrote Le Mythe de Sysiphe, in which he argued, by reference to the chap doomed to keep rolling a rock up a mountain (only for it to keep rolling back down), that the act, the struggle itself -- however futile -- was enough, and that man should be content with that. Had he seen the Wadhurst games, one suspects the Tippex might have got a bit of a hammering.

If this one just shaded the previous day's game -- which was an apology for a crap game of cricket -- it was only by virtue of being the genuine article. On that previous day, the rather less noted philosopher Derek Matravers had given his own unforgettable performance of Sisyphe from point, continually fetching the ball up the hill only to have it sent back past him into the middle distance. Derek had been crucified by Windy then, so captain Dunc sensibly put Windy at point now, and Derek himself was audibly hysterical on the boundary when an attempted Windy dive missed. However, within 10 overs Windy's reputation as the jammiest life form in the known cosmos was confirmed when a bloke with a van parked on the point boundary, and his two dogs leapt out and unbelievably began fetching the ball back. I have searched for a simile to describe how smug Windy looked; but trying to think of the smuggest character imaginable in the jammiest situation ever, I really can't improve on the above.

By this point the Dudbridge bros, who had bowled well with little luck, were tiring and so on came Ollie, splendidly taking up the challenge of playing without a jockstrap. Whether this helped his balls to swing more I couldn't say, but he certainly seemed to indulge in some prodigious polishing. He ended with two wickets and badly-stained trousers. Windy twirled up the hill, and eventually was also allowed to bowl, combining with your correspondent and some sharp glovework from Grandpa Thomson to reduce Wadhurst from 122-3 to 130-6.

Dunc now gamely opened things up (Wadhurst boys, you'll have to look that one up) by removing off spin from the attack in favour of Jim. Jim's bowling on tour seemed to have been infected by Donna's homeopathic obsession, in that the smaller the dose, the better you feel. Here he obviously thought the pitch too helpful to actually land the ball on, and the game was not so much opened up as rent asunder.

Spell of the day however came from Sid. Known for forthright views often held in the face of orthodoxy, he chose today to disprove the theory that the problem with English quick bowlers is that they play too much cricket. Tearing in for his first spell for 12 months, he bowled four balls and then collapsed with major spinal damage. He was carried off and deposited under a shady tree, his team mates resisting the temptation to leave him immobile in the sun to see if he really would melt. Luckily Simon Dudbridge MD tured up, and dispensed a cocktail of Diazepam, Volterol and Tylex. Sid is now fighting a losing battle against painkiller addiction at the Betty Ford Clinic.

Young Sam came on to sub and stopped a screamer that several Mystics would have waved past, but more big hits finally took the innings to 199-8. Depending on which tour sage you asked, this was either 60 too few on a lightning outfield, or 60 too many on a bowler's paradise.

Tea, lovingly prepared by several non-playing Mystics, was a huge, chaotic and seemingly self-replenishing affair, with new hidden supplies of fruit and scones being discovered as fast as people managed to eat the old ones. The Wadhurst boys were wide eyed with wonder at this, which made you think -- maybe Jesus' reputation (and hence the entire Christian church) began with nothing more than badly-organised catering at a fish supper.

The Mystic reply was opened by Dunc and Fred, Fred quickly being given out lbw by Jim. At least we think Jim gave him out, but as he was naked under the umpire's coat it's entirely possible that he just happened to be thinking about Donna. Anyway, Fred saw something pointing him back to the pavilion and off he went. Dunc and Jimmy D continued carefully against some pretty useful seam bowling, possibly because they knew sixes might end up being signalled by Jim.

When 20 overs was called, we were 68-2. 6.5 an over required. Maybe Wadhurst would open things up a teeny bit now...? Alas not. From here on wickets fell regularly, as vain attempts were made to speed up the run rate against goodish bowling. Dunc went for 51, and was followed quickly by Dan and then Windy, who was bowled through the gate, the ball comfortably evading a herd of cattle coming through in the opposite direction. Chirpy came in and immediately showed where the class in the family lay, making a stylish 16 as his brother departed. He and Peter saw off 7 of the last 10 overs, and the game briefly edged out of torpor as Peter and a mercifully properly-attired Jim kept out the last 3. Think about that for a minute -- Jim batting was probably the most exciting bit of the game.

So, you could say the Wadhurst fixture was a game of two halves; sadly both of them were shit. But whilst it might have ended 0-0, we comfortably won the barbecue shootout thanks to the combined genius of Kev, Chris and Deke, who actually lit it before attempting to char food on it. (A TV series clearly beckons: Kev travels the world throwing local animals onto a barbie, while Deke stands around discussing whether our sadness at the creatures' pain is real.)

The night ended with Ollie searching the entire outfield in pitch darkness for a Vortex ball which was actually in the changing room. A rather apt metaphor for the futility of our struggle for a decent game against Wadhurst. If only Camus had been there.

Chris Healey




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