The side assembled by the selectors for the 2006 Cornish tour could certainly be described as experienced. The committee refused to pander to youth. Nobody under 40 made the cut and very few under 50 were signed up for what was expected to be a fairly gruelling campaign in view of the fact that there was, for the first time, to be no rest day. This was of course not bad Heartaches planning but a result of Mullion switching dates at the last minute when they unexpectedly reached a local final and thus could not entertain Hearts on the Saturday of the tour. Constantine, originally booked for Tuesday the 12th, happily changed their invitation to Heartaches to Saturday, and Mullion, unable to field a side on Tuesday, moved to Sunday, the date originally set aside for golf, nets, boat-trips, quiet reflection etc. Consequently, as the team assembled at Rice Towers for the traditional tour-launching supper, on Friday rather than the usual Thursday because the Riverside could only house spare Hearts from Friday onwards, very few present had a clue where or when they were playing whom. Nonetheless the entire operation over the next hectic three days ran like a dream despite a pretty horrendous batting display in the opening fixture (Constantine, as you would have gathered if you were paying attention).
(Has there ever been a more boring start to a tour report? Get on with it – Ed.)
Hearts drove to Brill for the first match against Constantine in delightful weather, the sun having powerfully broken through the sea fog of the early morning. However a strong breeze, almost qualifying as a fully-fledged wind, added an autumnal briskness to proceedings, whipping seductively around Clava Rectan thighs and torsos as the leader lost the toss and as the chosen XI (from XII, Simon Buxton was ruthlessly dropped) took the field.
The one area in which the selectors felt they might have got it wrong for Cornwall 2006 was the bowling. Pace like fire and the stamina of a Bactrian camel were not attributes that sprang to the mind of anyone unlucky enough to have been in the visitors’ dressing room before the match. However the five veterans chosen to share the attack did a magnificent job in holding down a strong local line-up to 144, despite the fact that half the batsmen got off to a good start.
Johnny Concorde a.k.a. John Frieda, still with god-like status in the Heartaches Record Books (see Williamstrip 1989) may not have repeated his peerless analysis of that day, nor, er, even taken a wicket, but he sent down six extremely accurate overs on his 2006 début, which kept two class batters well under control. At the other end, none other than TSMSRS settled in quickly for a lengthy spell uncluttered by wides, no balls or excess verbals. It was Torquers who struck first, persuading no less an arbiter than Kevin O’Kelly to raise one of his healthiest digits when Churcher stepped in front. Had one of the leading Hearts catchers of all time not fluffed a sitter to take what would have been his 100th catch, Torquers would have had a second scalp (and a third if Chris Read had been keeping wicket).
When the wiles of the vice-captain and later Rossdale replaced the noble opening pair, the Constantine stars were still unable to break away. Helped by one or two more grassings, most batsmen eased past 20, but a stunning catch at extra by TG (his 102nd) did for Gay and when Jo nailed Angove with a beauty the home side were not quite living up to their Brill billing, although 102 for 3 was not a bad platform.
Then Rossdale joined the party, thanks to Torquers not returning the favour of a dropped catch. He bowled ‘em and caught ‘em too, making no mistake for his 100th second time around. Despite being struck for two massive sixes off the first two balls of his ninth over by skipper Mark Lowe, he wound up with an amazing 5 for 30 (and Lowe’s wicket, caught and bowled, just two balls after the second huge six). It was another triumph for the irrepressible Dopers whose powers in the second half of his fifth decade show no signs of waning.
Huge Wilson got in a short spell at the end of proceedings which was staggeringly successful (2 for 4 in 4 overs) exposing noisy and tactless comments by certain senior professionals that he was bowling from the wrong end as the ill-informed balderdash they were. Heartaches marched off the field with springs in their steps at 4.10pm, to be greeted, strangely, by lunch, rather than tea. None could recall the last time Hearts bowlers had not given away a single wide or no-ball all innings.
The one area in which the selectors felt they might have got it right for Cornwall 2006 was the batting. Yet a mere hour and 25 minutes after Jonty (sporting a new-look convict crop) and Sumo set off on the road to 145, the match was over. Heartaches had just limped over the 50 mark, and only one man reached double figures. Constantine had a pretty nippy bowler in young Parkinson, well supported by at least three other unfairly decent operators, and they ravaged the Hearts upper, middle and lower order with scant respect for age or experience.
The leader might have made a mistake in giving the home side a Reader ball, apparently banned from Cornish leagues as it does too much even if untampered with. Parkinson got it to move sideways and most of the key batters got one peach too many. The one man who, on the day, might have given as good as he got, Torquil, fell over right in the middle of a run and sat stranded in despair as the ball was leisurely returned to the end that meant he was doomed. He gave the impression that he would have preferred Graveney to have paid for his lack of studs.
When the leader joined Rossdale at 27 for 5 Heartaches were not favourites. Backs to the wall tactics were discussed (“let’s get to 50 and take it from there”) but Parkinson inconsiderately removed both Fanshaw and Sir Christopher next over. Mark Rowe then considerately rested Parky but the replacements weren’t bad either. Frieda succumbed to Bawden (the Rice brothers’ mother’s family name – do they have Cornish blood?) and Anthony Deal never quite got to grips with anything sent to him. When the Rice bros came together for the final wicket, the score was still only a feeble 39 and the final total still in line to become the fourth worst Hearts total of all time. Aided by the introduction of an eleven-year-old bowler, which only the younger Rice used ruthlessly to improve his career average, the score did at least lurch past 50. However they didn’t take it far from there.
That night at the Tresanton dinner, complex plans for the forthcoming visit to Mullion were explained by the leader to the assembly, Graveney taking longer than most to understand them.