Wednesday, 11 September 2019

On Rob Foot, some words by his sister and our friend, Helen

Dear Mandarins,

Today would have been Rob’s 50th birthday. There are things that I would like to say at Bentworth in a week or so, but might struggle, so am going to try to put it in writing now.

Had he still been with us, I’ve no idea where Rob would have been living nor what he would have been doing – but I’m as certain as I can be that a game of cricket would have featured somewhere as part of his celebrations. It is completely fitting therefore that we have the Mandarins v Alton game to look forward to in 10 days time.

17 years ago we drove away from Rob’s last game – Rob and me (pregnant with Gem) in the front, Jon, Kath and James in the back. Nobody spoke for a long time, then Billy Bragg’s New England came on the CD, Rob and I wound the windows down and sang very loudly. When the song finished, Rob’s words were... “God, I’m going to miss that lot.”

And the feeling’s completely mutual, I know. And nothing will change that. There is a big Rob-shaped hole.

James and Gemma don’t actually know what they’re missing out on – but I’d put money on the fact that Rob would have taken great delight in trying to score runs against Gemma, and would be desperate to get her out – but take huge pride in the fact that she was a National Cricket Champion. And I’d guess that he’d have done at least one triathlon, just to say that he had, have travelled from wherever he was to watch James represent GB in Switzerland last week. He’d also be trying to beat James’ Parkrun PB!!

But each of you, by being your normal, everyday, amazing selves, have managed to fill a small part of the hole Rob has left, and have shown James and Gem why the Mandarins were such a big part of Rob’s life, and continue to be important to all of us... You have all watched the children grow, taken an interest and shared in their successes. You have done this with no whistles and bells, perhaps without even realising what a difference you have made. You have done it just because you are lovely, kind and generous friends who were not only there for us 17 years ago, but have stayed with us ever since.

So thank you – and if over the course of the next day or so, you want to play New England very loudly, and sing along, you won’t be on your own (I’ll have it on repeat!!).

Helen x

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Shocking Comeback to Overcome SMCC

The Art of c(r)aptaincy by Mike Brearley Dan Forman

Streatham and Marlborough Sunday 2nd XI 189 all out
Mandarins 190-7, win by 3 wickets

Sunday 11 August 2019

Prove your credentials

Modest as he may be, it had been drawn to your correspondent’s attention (albeit by himself) that he had won three games out of three as Mandarins captain this season (albeit having had a 100% losing record in every other game he had skippered in previous years). So I was challenged by my ever-supportive teammates to put this record to the test once more and take the reins for the second Ashes test at Lord’s this week our game against the SMCC Sunday 2nd XI.

...Is made much easier when you only have 10  Mandarins available and two of them are your own kids. No knife-edged decisions about whether to go with that second spinner or the extra batting here. Just pick who you’ve got and see who else you can find on Facebook. Ed Smith wouldn’t need his Cambridge education or six-figure salary for that. Forman, Forman, Forman, Tunbridge, Baker, Manian, Wilmot, Mckeon and Plahe it is, with local ringer Andrew Ryan helpfully answering the call to make up the numbers.

Communication, communication, communication
What do you mean that that’s still only 10? That couldn’t have happened under my watch. Early, regular and consistent communication with your team is absolutely central to my captaincy philosophy. It’s simply not possible that I might have omitted to confirm with Sam Cook that he was selected and was still desperately trying to get hold of him from the field as the first innings got underway.

Win the toss and read the pitch 
Captaincy is 90% luck and 10% skill but don’t try it without that 10%, said Richie Benaud. I would add that it is also not worth trying it without the 90% bit either. So winning the toss was a bonus, as was the fact that the oppo helpfully had 12 players and were happy to lend one (debutant Alex Proctor who later became the latest Mandarin to take a wicket with his first ever ball for the club) to take us back to 11 (even more useful to have a full complement in the field when you choose to bowl first on a green and damp-looking surface that turns out to actually play quite well).

Justify your own place
It’s all very well being the shrewdest mind since Keith Fletcher last set foot on a cricket field or the most innovative tactician since bodyline, but what do you actually contribute in runs or wickets? Just about enough to justify selection in a team of nine in my case. One wicket for 31 runs from eight overs was the very definition of respectable without being spectacular and marginally kept the wolves of my teammates from the door of demanding I be dropped.

Invest in youth
Other than the most effective field settings since Michael Vaughan placed Gary Pratt at extra cover, the main thing I bring to the party is two sons who can run, bowl and catch. Harry (8-1-31-4 and more of whom later) had their 1 and 3 batsmen within a couple of overs, while Stan got rid of their best bat for 70, sprinting in from long on and diving forwards just as the game was starting to get away from us, for the first of three excellent catches.

Take the tough decisions
While one would never want to induce the kind of meltdown that a certain skipper prompted from another member of his slow bowlers’ union at Mickleham last month, sometimes you have to put friendships aside in the interests of the team and make the big calls, even when Chris Baker has just bowled a wicket maiden but you have also already promised Arvind the next over from that end. It is in the swirling cauldron of such pressure that captaincy reputations are won or lost, literally placed in the hands of a man who you thought was about to bowl his new brand of off-spin with the wind in his favour but… turns out to have reverted to his old seam-up style which you didn’t think was what you were bringing on at all. Obviously I knew what I was doing all along though as Arvind then produced a very tidy three-wicket spell, Harry came back for a couple more to mop up the tail and what had threatened to be a 200+ chase off our 40 overs became a still tricky but much more manageable target of 190.

Man(ian) management
Motivating his star all-rounder was probably Mike Brearly’s greatest gift to English cricket and mine to the Mandarins turns out to be the same. It seems that the key to unlocking the secrets of Arvind’s success is ripping into him on the field for failing to walk in, keeping his hands in his pockets and dropping the simplest of dolly catches. It is true the words ‘f***ing’ and ‘disgrace’ may have passed my lips but that was purely for the purpose of firing him up and giving him a point to prove. The idea that I in any way lost my composure throughout any of this is a scurrilous rumour being put about by Graeme’s friends in the press who think he would do a better job as captain than me because he went to the right kind of school.

Sit back, enjoy the show and give the appearance of being relaxed…
...even as your carefully constructed (‘sort it out among yourselves while I enjoy more of this delicious chicken at tea’) top order fails to fire. Fear not, as I have artfully placed some more power in the lower middle order (‘oh that didn’t last very long, I haven’t even started, let alone finished, my beer and now I’ve got to pad up’). Solution: put an immense amount of faith in a 14-year-old to stay with Arvind for most of the 100 runs still required rather than leaving that beer undrunk and taking the responsibility to do the job yourself with only three wickets in hand. 

And after a while the appearance of being relaxed became actually being relaxed, so much so that number 11 Stan took his pads off with a few overs to go (I wish I’d thought of that way of showing confidence in my batsmen from the boundary, the talented bloody youngster will make a better captain than me too at this rate). Arvind was chanceless and utterly in the zone for his unbeaten 53, working the singles while waiting for the bad ball to put away. Harry was equally majestic for his 45*, with shots all around the ground, including his signature back over the bowler’s head drive and one shuffle down the crease and cream through the covers for three that was so good that Jonathan delayed his departure for dinner for to see more. Both made their Mandarins top scores but the match situation and the style of it made it a partnership that mere statistics could never do justice to, turning the seemingly impossible into a cake-walk to the target with nine balls to spare.

Celebrate success
Which left just enough time to laud our heroes and enjoy our success in the bar (an important part of any winning team culture in case anyone has read this far and is still actually after any captaincy advice). And as if this whole expertly conceived plan wasn’t already perfect enough, it then started to bucket with rain. As I was saying, don’t try doing it without the 90% luck.

Dan Forman

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Try Again Next Year


Mickleham win by 5 wickets.

After poor weather on the Saturday and a dodgy forecast for Sunday it was with some relief that the Mandarins turned up in Mickleham to find a ground bathed in sunshine. And a fine afternoon it proved. After the usual debate over who should captain Paul McIntyre  agreed to take on this onerous responsibility, knowing that even  if he lacked decent batting and bowling, he would never be short of advice.
Having won the toss, the Mandarins batted first, with Baxter and Somerville  opening. Mickleham’s bowlers found plenty of bounce which did for Drew and then Chris Baker, before Tunbridge and Baxter steadied the innings and accumulated against the change bowlers with a stand of 66. After Graeme missed a straight one Arvind came in and moved the score along nicely. (I should add that we are reliably informed by Arvind that these match reports have at least one keen reader in cricket-made India. So I am pleased to report that Arvind scored 12 and fielded well.)  Baxter reached his fifty before also  missing a straight one  from Gary Plahe, whom Dan Forman, for reasons best known to himself, had kindly lent to the opposition.  Wickets fell quickly as the Mandarins edged towards respectability; our self-appointed running coach Chris “that’s a single, run” Baker  helpfully provided encouragement from  the boundary, whilst Wilmot shepherded the tail. In the end the Mandarins reached 158 -8 off 35 overs; having successfully defended a similar score in 2018 the Mandarins took tea with a certain amount of sadly misplaced  confidence.  
Tea as ever at Mickleham was excellent, and it is quite possible that Heard and Hurst had overindulged in that department as neither was at their best in their opening spells. McIntyre made an inspired bowling change by bringing on Somerville, who proceeded to take 2 wickets in 2 balls, and a rather less inspired change by bringing on Baxter, whose second over went for rather a lot, as Mickleham’s excellent Number 4 Henry Smith hit the ball all over the ground. McIntyre brought back a level of control, as did Forman, and McKeon almost pulled off a fine stumping, but Smith accumulated relentlessly, eventually falling for 98, lbw to Heard, when victory was in sight. Mickleham finally won by five wickets with lots of overs to spare.  In a good fielding display special mention goes to Tunbridge, ever active on the boundary.
We then retired to the Running Horses pub for the traditional post-match awards ceremony – for those who have never played this fixture, this involves five players holding up a ski, to which are attached shot glasses, and consuming Malibu. I wouldn’t particularly recommend it, but apparently it is a thing in this part of Surrey.
And so the day passed, another enjoyable fixture against fine opposition. Roll on next year.
Tim Baxter

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Mandarins Win Again in Shorter Form

Superstars 108-8
Mandarins 109-3
Abbey Rec Thursday 18 July

Trust us to finally get good at T20 cricket just as it is going out of fashion. With interest in 50-over ODIs revived by a moderately eventful game at Lord's, test cricket about to steal the spotlight with the renewal of a rivalry even older than some of our players, and all Mandarins eagerly anticipating the start of the Hundred next year, it seems the charms of 120-balls a-side may have had their day.

But as the Blast kicked off across town on Thursday and MCC members grumbled about there not being enough superovers or cricket bat guitars for their liking, the Mandarins turned in a better late than never performance to secure a comprehensive win over the Superstars, a first victory in the two years of this format having returned to our fixture list. 

This win didn't even require any Stokes deflection-like luck or Roy DRS review twists of fate. We simply did the unusual thing and bowled, fielded and batted quite well. Asked to field first, Hurst (2-9) fizzed away at one end while Heard (4-1-17-4) probed at the other. Debutant Carnell (1-23) did not disgrace himself with his first bowl outside of a back garden for at least three years. Tunbridge and Baxter did disgrace themselves with dolly drop catches (both being two of our normally more reliable fielders) but made up for it with decent overs and otherwise our fieldwork held up well, the highlight being Cook's catch off a steepler at cow corner. Superstars skipper Gigg was also good enough to walk after being given not out caught behind by deubtant 'keeper Teifion Nangle off fellow captain Forman (D) (3-1-11-1).

Restricting the Superstars to 108-8 felt like we were well in the game, and so it proved despite the early loss of Brand for a duck. Third debutant Andy Ryan (8) helped see off the more dangerous new ball bowling before Baxter (27 retired), Mills (24) and Tunbridge (26 retired accelerated nicely) and Cook (11*) finished things off with a couple of big hits, with seven wickets and more than a couple of overs to spare.

Following us also winning a white ball tournament in North West London in July (no not the world cup, but the much more prestigious charity six-a-side), it seems we are finally finding a bit of form in the shorter forms of the game. Our South London Satsumas rebrand for the Hundred may not be such a joke after all.

Dan Forman

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Too Few Runs at the Bank

Mandarins 149; Bank of England XI 152-2. Mandarins lost by 8 wickets.

Wednesday, 3 July, 2 30 pm

Bank of England sports centre, Roehampton

Our What’s App group has been reminiscing about our heaviest defeats. On the face of it, the
scorecard for this match doesn’t suggest this was among them – scoring 149 isn’t too bad,
surely, and perhaps the bowlers were unlucky? The match reporter will no doubt find some
‘positives to take away.’ Well, he’ll find one or two. But the reality is that we were

The Bank put us in, concerned that their bowling line-up would be unable to stem a
Mandarins run chase. But, though this was a time game beloved of so many Mandarins, too
many of our early batters played as if it were a T20. Davidson and Baker steadied the ship
and played some good strokes across the billiard table that is the outfield on the Bank’s senior
ground – a straight drive from Davidson (his first for 30 years, he revealed in a post-match
interview) was memorable. But he was bowled by a good ‘un. Baker was then caught at the
second attempt, his attempt: having been dropped lofting a drive to mid-off, he was caught
next ball, lofting to extra cover.

Jon Porter, Heard and McIntyre revived us from 87 for 8 against the second-string (no, this is
an honest report, third-string) bowlers, as the Bank allowed us to eke out a score that would
give their batsmen some decent time in the middle.

A magnificent cream tea followed. Heard was seen tucking in with a vengeance. But his
opening spell, probing and accurate, showed no ill effects (though one unkind soul suggested
afterwards that his failure to take a wicket, despite bowling so well, was surely a cause of our
defeat). Stan Forman, too, caused the Bank openers some problems. But, though McIntyre
broke the opening stand, there was little for the Mandarins to cheer – until the other Bank
opener retired on reaching 50. This brought in their reputed best batter. But we never got to
see how good he was. Gemma Porter produced the champagne moment of the day, surprising
him first ball with a fast yorker.

The Bank reached their target in a canter, with more than six of the last 20 overs to spare.
But, if you’re going to be well and truly stuffed, there may be no more soothing environment
than the Bank’s lovely grounds, on a warm summer’s evening. This might have been be our
last visit, as the place is up for sale (could this have happened under Mervyn King?). If so, it
will surely trigger another bout of fond reminiscing on What’s App.

Many thanks to Arvind for organising the team.

Mandarins XI: Baker, Baxter, Davidson, Forman S, Hawkhead, Heard, Mills, McIntyre,
Porter G, Porter J, Tunbridge (cap).

Paul McIntyre

Monday, 1 July 2019

Mandarins Run-chase Falls Just Short at North Enfield

North Enfield (224 for 7) Beat Mandarins (217 All Out) by 7 runs

North Enfield’s ground looked a perfect midsummer’s picture on Sunday, the ancient oak just inside the top boundary particularly majestic.  Ten Mandarins took the field at 1.30 despite the usual delays on the M25.  They included two players making their second appearance for us - James Hewlett, who debuted at HMT earlier this month, and Chris Morgan, who last played for us on tour 28 years ago.  The eleventh man, who appeared at 2.30, shall remain nameless: regular readers will correctly guess his identity. 

North Enfield batted first.  Hurst was as threatening as ever on a slightly faster pitch than we’ve seen before at this venue.  Somerville gave a very passable impersonation of a regular opening bowler at the other end.  The North Enfield openers steadily accumulated 71 before Cooke, these days an off-spinner, took a catch off perhaps the worst ball he bowled, provoking a characteristic Mandarins discussion of the correct interpretation of the no ball law as it relates to high full tosses. 

At one point the opposition, powered by an impressive 92 from Jones, representing the middle of three generations of Joneses on the field, looked likely to get close to 250 from their 40 overs.  But Captain Baxter used his somewhat limited bowling options well, both he and Baker taking wickets.  Two wickets from a returning Hurst (8 overs, 2 maidens, 2 for 20 – curiously enough the only bowling analysis recorded in the score book) slowed the rate in the last few overs.  224 looked very challenging, but with an exploitable slope down to the bottom boundary, just about within the bounds of possibility
Opening the batting, Baxter scored freely off Miss Jones, representing the junior generation of the family, but Devenport at the other end proved trickier, some combination of guile, flight and no obvious lateral deviation removing Hewlett, Somerville and Wilmot in quick succession; at one point he had three maidens, two wickets for no runs.  To complete the top-order rout, Baxter then decided to call a quick single from the non-striker’s end as Davidson nudged one gently to mid-wicket, perhaps reasoning that his partner would be safe unless the fielder managed a direct hit.  Result: direct hit: out.

But it’s never over till it’s over.  Cooke and Warren put on 112 for the sixth wicket through a combination of faster running than any seen from the Mandarins in many a year, fine stroke play and some lusty hitting, including three sixes from Cooke.  North Enfield eventually brought on Sanders, by some way the fastest bowler of the day.  He made short work of Baker and Hurst, the latter bowled second ball after having backed so far to leg the previous delivery that what would have been a wide had he stayed put instead passed runlessly between bat and pad.  David Williams skillfully kept the momentum going almost to the end, with ten off the penultimate over, until, with two balls to go, Morgan fell to another fast straight one from Sanders.
So no Mandarins should-have-been-a-draw conversations this time.  The result properly reflected the balance of an excellent, genuinely exciting game, played in the best of spirits throughout.      
Nick Davidson

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Limited Overs, Limited Excitement, Limited Spirit, but Unlimited Curry

Sunday 24 June was not a day for classic limited overs cricket matches in London. At Lord's Pakistan batted their way to a par score first innings with some steady accumulation at the top and some late hitting at the end, but all the while with enough wickets falling to keep the total just about in check. South Africa then put up a respectable if insufficient effort in chasing it, with several batters getting a start but none going on to a big score. Eventually nine wickets fell as the run rate escalated and the chase became less competitive. The game technically went the distance but, with several men now posted on the boundary, the contest had ended quite a few overs previously.

Meanwhile at the real home of cricket south of the river - where the only egg and bacon is to be found inside our bellies rather than out and the actuality of the spirit of cricket is tested in ways the other MCC's laws could never completely define ...

Streatham and Marlborough Sunday first XI batted their way to a par score first innings with some steady accumulation at the top and some late hitting at the end, but all the while with enough wickets falling to keep the total just about in check. The Mandarins then put up a respectable if insufficient effort in chasing it, with several batters getting a start but none going on to a big score. Eventually nine wickets fell as the run rate escalated and the chase became less competitive. The game technically went the distance but, with several men now posted on the boundary, the contest had ended quite a few overs previously.

Naturally, we all said it for him before Eastaway had a chance: 'If this had been a time game these would be exciting overs now' etc.* 

[What's that you say Ed? You want actual match details/highlights/gossip/notable incidents for the archive rather than just this poor attempt at humour? Oh go on then]...

Match details/highlights:

SMCC 174-5 from 40 overs. Eastaway 8-1-20-2. Forman (D) 8-0-54-2. But McIntyre the pick with 8-2-17-1 - now there's a man who knows and loves the modern formats.

Mandarins 144-9. Warren 25* the stand out. Healey being caught for 21, followed by Eastaway bowled next ball and Forman run out without facing three balls later pretty much ended it as a contest, although McIntyre then dug in for the 'Mandarins draw'.

Gossip/notable incidents:
The drop count was less embarrassing than usual, although Manian almost added the best one of the year yet, trying three or four times to get rid of it with a juggling act more suited to Zippo's Circus up the road in Peckham Rye, before eventually deciding to let it settle in his hands.

Warren took a stumping standing up to Eastaway (perhaps a sign of George's skill or Rob's, er, reliance on guile as much as pace these days). One of their bats played a cut so late and so far outside leg stump that he actually placed it not just behind square but behind the stumps (perhaps a sign of his skill or your correspondent's non-existent guile or pace).

Healey chuntering about fielders chuntering and bowlers not quite respecting the umpires or spirit of Sunday cricket enough for his liking.

Lowen chuntering about Pharoah running him out.

Tunbridge chuntering about excessive numbers of fielders on the boundary.
(I do love a bit of passive aggressive pretending we're all getting along just fine on a Sunday).

But what our hosts perhaps lacked a touch in grace on the field they more than made up for it off it, with a lavish and delicious tea, a jug of ale sent to our changing room and a spectacular chicken curry that had been brewing all afternoon on the boundary served at no charge. Those of us who stayed late enough to enjoy double helpings decided that the spirit of the game was alive and well in south London after all, whatever the format.

*(Now a one-day timed game world cup would be an interesting concept. If only we knew a mathematician-cricket fan with an obsessive interest in declaration formats who could devise a scoring system for it...)

Dan Forman