SCOOBY DOO AND THE MYSTERY OF THE DESERTED CRICKET GROUND

On Wednesday evening, whilst strolling along the River Tone, not far from the centre of Taunton, I was approached by a shabbily-dressed and ill-shaven fellow who was out walking his dog, the breed of which, if I am not much mistaken, was a Great Dane. The callow youth proffered me a sheaf of papers which, he said, was an accurate account of how he and his friends solved what he called ‘their latest mystery’. He urged me to share it widely so that, as he put it, ‘all those who care about county cricket might know the truth’. He told me it was entitled ‘Scooby Doo and the Mystery of the Deserted Cricket Ground’ though, as we parted company, I swear his canine companion countered this suggestion by turning to him and intoning the words ‘Scooby Dooby Doo and the High Performance Review’. The hound then giggled in a most peculiar fashion. Today, as cricket resumes after a short break, it seems only right that I now make public the document which these last few days I have kept to myself. Make of it what you will.

*****

‘Here we are gang!’ announced Fred excitedly as he turned off the Priory Bridge Road and parked the Mystery Mobile in what he was surprised to find was an empty car park. It was a hot sunny afternoon in August and Fred was excited to be back at his most favourite place in all the world. ‘Those were the Sir Vivian Richard’s gates that we just drove through’, he continued ‘and this is the home of Somerset County Cricket Club. We should be just in time for the evening session!’

‘It looks like we might be the only ones here’, said Daphne, as she stepped out of the vehicle and made her way over to the edge of the playing area. Standing there, she looked around her and saw that the ground was completely deserted, save for a ginger cat that was sat on the boundary edge away to her right. Fred, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby joined Daphne and together they watched as the cat started to slowly make its way towards them, it’s tail flicking back and forth in a way that seemed to suggest that the feline creature was being deeply troubled by something.

Soon the cat reached the place where the gang was standing and surprised them a little by introducing himself.

‘Hello there, my name’s Brian. It’s good of you to come’

‘Jinkies!’ exclaimed Velma, ‘A talking cat!’

‘Indeed it is’, said Fred, ‘and though that is something many people would pay good money to see, what I was hoping to watch today was a session of county cricket!’

‘Sad to say, there’s not a lot of that goes on here anymore.’ said Brian. ‘A fearsome monster has cast its evil spell over this and many other cricket grounds in the country, such that hardly any games are now played. Not in August at least. School children used to spend their summers here watching their heroes. But they don’t come any longer. And one can hardly blame them, especially with Stumpy behaving the way he has of late.’

‘Who’s Stumpy?’, asked Shaggy.

‘Stumpy is the the club mascot. He was always so loved by the fans here at Somerset but recently he’s been scaring people away with his constant talk of reforming county cricket and reducing the number of championship games that are played. It’s almost as if he wants to bring about the end of county cricket as we know it. Something very strange is going on.’

‘It sounds like we’ve stumbled upon a mystery’, said Fred. ‘Time for us to split up and look for clues! Velma, Shaggy and Scooby, you head towards the Marcus Trescothick Pavilion. Daphne and I will go in the opposite direction and see if we we can find out anything in the Lord Ian Botham stand.

*****

Velma, Shaggy and Scooby started making their way around the perimeter of the playing area and before long found themselves in the walkway beneath the ground’s newest pavilion. Shaggy noticed a door on his left across which was written ‘The Straggler’s Bar’.

‘Hey Scoob’, he said, ‘Fancy looking for something to eat?’

Scooby, by way of endorsing the suggestion, laughed in that way that he does, a way far too difficult to convey in words. Together they pushed the door open and entered the eatery, closely followed by Velma. Shaggy and Scooby made their way to the kitchen and proceeded to construct the largest sandwich imaginable packed full of any and every filling they could find. Velma, however, had stumbled on the steps of the bar and was now scrabbling around on her hands and knees, searching for her glasses that had slipped to the floor as she had fallen.

Temporarily blind, she cried out to Shaggy and Scooby for help, who, emerging from the kitchen, could see immediately the terrifying maroon coloured beast that Velma, despite it standing right in front of her, could not.

‘Zoinks’, said Shaggy, dropping his sandwich, ‘It’s a w-w-w-wyvern!’

‘Or possibly a dr-dr-dr-dragon’, countered Scooby in that strange accent of his that is also difficult to convey in print, and all the more so when his mouth is full with, not only his own culinary creation but also the one recently discarded by Shaggy.

‘This is no time to debate the anatomical details that determine a creature’s nomenclature’, shouted Velma who, having found her glasses, was now speeding past Shaggy and Scooby. ‘Just run!’

Shaggy and Scooby’s legs began to move at speed but it was several seconds before they themselves actually started towards the exit. Fortunately for them, the mythical-like creature had only just poured itself a pint of Thatchers at the bar and, for all its malevolent intent, was loath to give up the apple-based beverage in order to pursue a couple of frightened teenagers and their oversized dog. The trio , therefore, were able to make good their escape.

*****

Meanwhile, over the other side of the ground, Fred and Daphne were making their way along the path that runs beneath the Lord Ian Botham stand. As they walked past the firmly closed shutters of the various food and drink outlets, the air temperature around them grew strangely cold. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a strange ethereal voice could be heard and the words ‘The Royal London One Day Cup will be played in April’ echoed down the passageway, followed immediately by an evil laugh that lingered long in the air.

‘Jeepers Fred. What was that?’ whispered Daphne.

‘I don’t know’, Fred replied, ‘but I don’t like it. Let’s keep moving’.

Soon they emerged back out into the daylight. The sun was now beginning to go down and the floodlights cast long eerie shadows that stretched across the centre of the pitch. Fred looked behind him at the uncovered stand that backed on to the river.

‘There’s something odd about this area. Something peculiar that I can’t quite put my finger on’ he said, beginning to climb the steps past the rows of plastic seating as he did so. Reaching the top, he finally realised what was different. A new sign had been placed across the back of the stand announcing that it was now named after James Hildreth.

‘Well there’s no mystery as to why they’ve done that!’ thought Fred, his face breaking out into a broad smile as he began to describe to Daphne all that had been achieved by the recently retired Somerset legend.

*****

Exhausted by their flight from the Stragglers Bar, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby were resting awhile on the benches that were positioned on the part of the ground known as Gimblett Hill. But no sooner had their jangling nerves begun to calm down, they were thrown once more into a fright by the same disembodied voice that Fred and Daphne had heard earlier.

‘The Hundred will be with you for ever’ the voice seemed to sneer. Terrified by the very thought of an eternity of franchise cricket, Scooby jumped into the arms of Shaggy and the two trembled there together like two animated characters in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon of the late 1960s and 1970s.

‘Stop it you two’, remonstrated Velma, ‘We haven’t got time for this. We need to find who, or what, is behind these ghostly goings on if we’re ever going to solve this mystery. Follow me’.

Velma continued making her way around the ground and having lowered Scooby to the floor, Shaggy followed on behind with him. Approaching the Somerset stand, they saw Fred and Daphne heading towards them from the opposite direction. Meeting in the middle, they all heard it at the same time – a strange moaning, together with the sound of something crashing about between the top two rows of seats. Together they ran up the steps and saw that it was a bound and gagged Stumpy that was making all the noise.

‘Who did this too you?’ asked Velma, undoing the ropes with which Stumpy had been tied.

Stumpy made a series of arm movements, by which he attempted to make clear he didn’t know, but his ambiguous gesticulations were interrupted by Shaggy who was drawing everyone’s attention to the scoreboards that had now burst into life and were portraying an enormous image of someone who looked a lot like Somerset’s much loved mascot, but for the fact that this Stumpy was one whose face had eyes that seemed to burn with murderous intent.

‘Comply with my reforms or face an exodus of all your greatest players.’ Once more the vengeful voice rung out around the ground only now, from the pictures being displayed on the big screens, it was evident it was the evil Stumpy who was uttering them.

‘If this is the real Stumpy’, said Shaggy, indicating the beaten and bruised individual who was now sitting on one of the green seats in the back row of the Somerset Stand, ‘who is that?’.

As the gang looked at the screens, they realised that the pictures were being filmed from the middle of the playing area, and so they turned their heads towards the square in the centre of the pitch. Sure enough, there was the maleficent Stumpy-lookalike speaking into a microphone that enabled his words to resonate across the ground via the club’s PA system.

‘I’ve got a plan’, announced Fred suddenly. ‘And it’s going to require you, Scooby, to jump over the boundary boards and run up close to the fiend that’s there spitting out all those heinous suggestions’

Scooby vocalised something that sounded like ‘What? Me?’ but managed to do so in a way that conveyed both his absolute opposition to Fred’s suggestion and his utter incredulity that he should even have considered asking him to act in such a way. Unsurprised by his response, Fred then employed a form of persuasion that had never yet failed to motivate Scooby to do what naturally he would not.

‘What if I were to offer you a Scooby snack?’ he enquired, holding out one of the juicy tasty treats that he knew Scooby could not resist.

Moments later, Scooby was on the pitch and bounding towards the fearful doppelgänger that continued to spout its horrifying threats to bring an end to county cricket. As soon as it saw Scooby, it began to chase after him, but Scooby managed to stay just out of reach. Around the boundary perimeter they raced, until suddenly the evil Stumpy fell, mimicking the one he was seeking to impersonate by tripping over a guy rope that was supporting the cricket net poles.

Soon the other members of the gang made their way out to where the creature lay writhing on the ground. There, they were joined by the real Stumpy who was now much recovered, and Brian who had been following all that had been going on via the live stream that he’d been watching from the safety of his purpose-built residence outside the Andy Caddick Pavillion.

Fred bent down and grabbed one of the ears of what was now clearly a costume made in the likeness of Stumpy. With one almighty tug, the head came clean off revealing a bald-headed man wearing a bright red jacket.

‘It’s Sir Andrew Strauss’, cried everyone in shocked unison, as they recognised the former England captain who had lately been leading the ECB’s so-called high performance review.

‘Indeed it is!’, confirmed the man who, prior to the test series against India in 2011, had, ironically, for the want of enough championship cricket, graced the very ground on which he now lay, guested as an opening batsman for Somerset in an early season match against that years tourists. ‘For months I’ve been trying to destroy the infrastructure of county cricket with a series of recommendations that would lead to the complete demise of the domestic game. And I would have got away with it too, if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids’.

The police were called and Strauss was duly handed over to an Officer Dibble who was in the country on short term loan from the NYPD. The local constabulary had been forced to sign him on a temporary basis as many of its own officers were away, working with franchise police forces such as the Metropolitan Megacops, the Birmingham Bobbies and the Thames Valley Peelers. Due to an administrative error, when Dibble eventually returned to the Hoagy Alley area of Manhattan, Strauss went with him and he was last seen attempting to reform the operations of a gang of stray cats.

*****

A week or so later, with the proposals that had been recommended by the ECB now abandoned, there was a large crowd at the County Ground in Taunton as captain Tom Abell led his Somerset side out for a game against Northamptonshire. The spectators were made up of men, women, boys and girls as well as a good number of dogs! Stumpy was back where he belonged, applauding the players as they took the field, and the members of Mystery Incorporated were enjoying some hospitality laid on by the club in gratitude for how they had managed to foil the plans of those who had no respect for the traditional roots of cricket’s long history.

Sir Peter Wanless, the president of Somerset CCC, gave a short speech at a gathering that was arranged during the tea interval. He particularly thanked Scooby Doo for his services to county cricket and presented him with a specially prepared multilayer sandwich containing all the fillings that the Great Dane loved most.

Scooby took it in his paws and, sliding it into his mouth, did as as all good dogs do, swallowed it down in a single gulp. Then, smiling contentedly, he responded to the President’s kind words in the only way he knew how: with a hearty rendition of his trademark ‘Scooby Dooby Doo’, and yet another of his characteristic laughs. Together they served to reassure those gathered that all was once again well in the world of county cricket.

THE END


Other cricket related posts

To read ‘Brian and Stumpy visit The Repair Shop’, click here

To read ‘A Tale of Two Tons’, click here

To read ‘A Somerset Cricket Players Emporium’, click here

To read ‘A Cricket Taunt’, click here

To read ‘A Song for Brian’, click here

To read ‘A Cricket Tea Kind of a Day’, click here

To read ‘Life in the slow lane’, click here

To read ‘If Only’, click here

To read ‘I’ve got a little CRICKET list’, click here

To read ‘How Covid-19 stole the the cricket season’, click here

To read ‘Eve of the RLODC limericks’ click here

To read ‘It’s coming home…’, click here

To read ‘A Song for Ben Green’, click here

To read ‘Enough Said…’, the last section of which is cricket related, click here

A Jack Leach Trilogy:

To read ‘For when we can’t see why’, click here

To read ‘WWJD – What would Jack Do?’, click here

To read ‘On Playing a Blinder’, click here

To read ‘Coping with Disappointment’, click here

And to finish – a couple with a theological flavour

To read ‘Somerset CCC – Good for the soul’, click here

To read ‘Longing for the pavilion whilst enjoying a good innings’, click here

And to read ‘A GP Called Paddington’ and find links to other medically related stories, click here

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