‘Welcome to St Neot,’ the sign read. ‘Village of the year 2004.’ Very nice it was too, and the hosts on this cloudy Saturday afternoon were most accommodating by allowing us to win the toss and send them in to bat.
From the start it was one-way traffic, and for once everything went in our favour. John and Lawrence found some early swing before Dan pinned them down with a great exhibition of spin bowling. I watched on enviously as he looped the ball above the batsmen’s eyeline and bamboozled them by turning it off a good length.
It felt strange to be on the other side of a familiar scenario as St Neot’s fragile batting order offered very little resistance. I nipped in at the end with a wicket to finish things off, and before we knew it we were halfway to a rare victory.
Free from running around duties we filled up on assorted cakes – ginger, fruit and banana – feeling that surely this would be our day. The only thing stopping us was the threat of ex-hurricane Bertha arriving early, but the clouds lifted as our openers strode confidently to the middle.
They say small totals are the hardest to chase – one of those nonsensical cricketing cliches that crumbles under further examination. Our pursuit of 72 was not without its alarm bells, however.
Before the first ball had been bowled we were stumped by the newfangled scoring system, which required us to enter data into a machine which looked like a child’s version of a wireless internet router and see it appear five seconds later on an electronic board on the other side of the ground. Who says Cornwall is behind the times? All we need now is decent phone reception and we’ll be ready to join the 21st century.
Stand-in skipper Paul steered us most of the way to glory with a sensible knock, but one particularly undignified moment will linger in the memory. He spooned a simple chance up to short midwicket, who dropped it. Paul had already set off for a single, but non-striker Pat hadn’t moved. They were face to face when the ball came in to the wrong end. The bowler rolled it slowly down to the keeper, who lurched forward to gather. By this time Paul was haring back the other way. He collided with the stooping stumper and went, to use the common parlance, arse over tit. Watching from the comfort of the pavilion, his loyal teammates fell about laughing. “That was an eventful dot ball,” Chris said.
Dan and Lawrence administered the last rites, and then nobody was quite sure what to do. If the statistics are correct this was only our fourth victory of the season from 16 attempts, and our first in six weeks. For me personally it was the first time I had tasted victory in a weekend league match since I moved down to the South West. “This is uncharted territory,” said Paul. “What do we do? Do we celebrate?”
“Lap of honour?” said Bill. “Open top bus tour?”