After the shame of Constantine, came one of the most exciting triumphs in Heartaches’ long history – a three-wicket, last-ball thriller, featuring as hero and man of the moment, if not of the match, if not of the tour, if not of the season, Simon Buxton. Having alone been cruelly given his P45 for the first Cornwall encounter (which actually proved a good one to miss) he now returned not only to the line-up, but to glory and a legacy of lasting fame in the annals of red, pink and green. Few batsmen have scored 137 for Hearts and not been the number one topic of conversation at the end of the day, but such was Huge Wilson’s fate after a stupendous knock that had the crowd on their feet and the seagulls on song.
The selectors had more than one man to drop this time out as El Nig had flown in from Spain. Two men whose contribution to the previous match was modest to the point of negligibility, Shawn Horne and Anthony Deal were asked to take clubs rather than bats to Mullion - and Buxton of course eased back into the frame.
A first was created when the side travelled by boat to a fixture. The team, scorer and selectors (and two golfers) boarded the recently re-named Uska Dara (a little town in Turkey) in bright sunshine and pottered out to sea, turning right at the mouth of the Helford. The idea was to take in the beauty of the Lizard and other spectacular prominent coastline features en route to Mullion Cove. Unfortunately a thick fog descended as soon as the craft hit the ocean and there was nothing more exciting than a range of Frieda haircuts to look at during the hour afloat. At least all arrived safely and after wandering vaguely around the town and/or cove, most wound up at the ground on time, although the leader was a little sluggish in getting there and Rossmore had already lost the toss by the time he clocked in.
Mullion wanted to take first use of the mist from a batting perspective and openers Cuff and Hall came out to grope tentatively against Riley-Smith and Frieda. Both bowled with much of the same subtlety as displayed the day before although it took the former one over and an outbreak of wides to float his boat. In his third over he hit Cuff’s pad. Hearts’ favourite blow dryer at last received just payment (plus tip) for his perm probing and clipped two victims neatly during his nine overs, including Mullion legend Spike, who had already been sledging (and been sledged by) Graveney from the boundary before he even got in.
Huge put in a typically tight spell in which he gave nothing away, despite rumbles that he was bowling from the wrong end. Rossmore for once was a little more expensive and after five overs (and one wicket) he retired out of sight into the fog swirling around the deep mid-wicket area. The leader at last risked himself and in tandem with his brother bore the brunt of the final over surge from some annoyingly aggressive lower order characters. His spell was however graced with a wicket first ball courtesy of Sir Christopher holding on tight, and would have had two in the first two had his Bartship been able to repeat the feat. Still, Pearson was very lucky socially (if very unlucky from the sporting viewpoint) to have been caught Sir Christopher bowled Sir Timothy. The vice-captain was style and guile in clubs if not in spades and was unlucky that Lee got away with some manically risky hitting. Mullion called a halt at 225 for 6 and the Hearts were pointed in the direction of the cloud-bound pavilion by local guides who knew the area.
The Heartaches riposte began well with a half-century partnership between the new (we think) opening combo of Cobb and Flea. When 50 was reached, Nigel pushed his luck by demanding a round of applause from the hitherto indifferent crowd, particularly because his own contribution had only been 9. Inevitably he was clean bowled next ball. Torquers, so often the provider of a batting beanfeast on tour, fell almost immediately to a terrific catch by Lonsdale in the deep and when the fielder repeated this even more spectacularly to end Graveney’s interest in proceedings, Hearts were reeling, mainly to Charleston. However the fall of the first five batsmen proved to be slow, slow, quick, quick, slow as Rossdale came onto the floor to partner Wilson, already looking in total command, perhaps because his head was more often above cloud level than most of his more vertically challenged colleagues.
Dopers and Huge made all the right moves and impressed the audience with their footwork and co-ordination. From 64 for 3 they waltzed to 149 for 4, with Wilson leading, Fanshaw stepping lightly under his command. Their gavotte ended shortly after the arrival of Heartaches’ 14th tour member, Noel d’Abo, who immediately after a 300 mile drive took up umpirical duties, clearly dying to practice his interpretation of the LBW law. Dopers’ vital 26 had been a delicate minuet compared with Hugh’s pulsating mashed potato –would there be a remaining batsman ready to tango with the clearly century-bound hero? Already Wilson had shimmied past his career best of 67 and now had his sights on Whittome’s best of 99.
Next in was the leader who overheard a discussion between Kevins O’Kelly and Bosustow in which umpire Kev explained to Spike why he could never get an LBW decision bowling round the wicket the way he did. The leader was out LBW to Spike next over. He had at least helped Huge take the score on to 172. Enter Simon Buxton for what had to the his only innings of the tour. The first thing he did was pull a hamstring and send for a runner.
From this moment on events took place in such rapid and confusing succession that even this experienced reporter has trouble in recalling the order of things. Heartaches are never at their best with three batsmen out there, especially when the designated runner is a sexagenarian recently recovered from a hip replacement. Hot Rocks did his best however to respond to Buxton’s mélange of manic calls and insistence on running himself anyway. Meanwhile Wilson galloped past 100 (noticed by the crowd) and began to double his already superhuman efforts to wrest the match from Mullion’s control. Suddenly he was challenging for the highest Hearts innings of all time and his side looked certain winners with just 10 needed from the last three overs.
Hearts supporters at this stage were not too worried that Simon seemed to have connection difficulties with around 85% of his deliveries or that Dudley’s running bore minimal relation to calls or balls. The fact that two-thirds of the trio were fogbound both inside and out mattered zilch as long as Wilson kept pounding away. Unfortunately the superb fielding of Lonsdale struck again as Huge struck one of his mightiest blows to a boundary almost in the next postal district. Off the second ball of the 18th over of the last 20, what should have been his ninth six (to go with 15 fours) was thwarted by a sensational Lonsdale belt around the ropes, a sprint of some 35 yards, to hang onto a catch that not even veterans of nearly 450 Hearts games (i.e. T.Rice) could recall having been bettered. Charleston had struck again and PHL’EW had to be content with the sixth highest individual Hearts score of all time – 137. Team man that he is, this was of little concern to him.
Of greater import was the fact that only seven were needed from 16 balls for a remarkable victory. Wilson and Buxton’s batman had crossed (in fact they may have run three) so the crippled Simon had the next Charleston. Ignoring cries of “retire hurt” from tactless chums, he nudged a single and Pryke somehow made it safely to the other end. J.Concorde now took the floor and sneaked a two – just five wanted now from thirteen balls, at which point Noel d’Abo re-established his mark on the game by adjudging Frieda LBW, which didn’t half annoy the Hearts supporters with a good view through the mist on the square leg boundary. It looked as if Noel might have another 300 mile journey to make shortly after the final over.
Pryke now entered the fray as a batter in his own right, handing over running duties to Frieda. However he started his knock at the non-striker’s end, watching in agony as Spike began the 19th over to the hamstrung striker. Lunging nobly, Simon failed to strike far enough to change the score until the fifth ball, when he, or rather Frieda, and Pryke scampered a nifty single. There was no perceptible aristocratic reaction to the sixth ball.
So Buxton had the strike for the final over, against the bowler who had led Hearts a merry dance. The first three Charleston efforts beat bat and wicket, the fourth provided Simon’s runner with another trot to the other end, leaving Pryke three to get from two. He managed one off the fifth ball and Buxton was back in the saddle, limping, needing two, having not yet managed to score more than one run at a time. The draw looked certain.
Charleston bowled the final ball and Buxton pulled. An immaculate connection and the crimson rambler was scooting over the ropes by the pavilion! Noel d’Abo would be able to attend the dinner that night at the Shipwrights. The hero had cut it finer than a Frieda Mohican, but cometh the hour, cometh the goods. He returned to the pavilion to tumultuous applause and cries of “we always knew you’d do it!” in praise of a 7 not out that ranks with any other 7 not out ever made for the lads in red, pink and green.