It was a typical start. Your correspondent arrived 15 minutes before the scheduled start of 1.30 and was totally unsurprised that, despite being the team being beseeched to arrive at 1.00 so the game could start as promptly as possible, I was the first arrival. As such I assumed the role of captain, strode out for the toss at 1.29 with four additional members of the team in various states of undress (in the changing room, thankfully) and attempted to negotiate that we bat first in what was scheduled to be a 40 over game. Civil service negotiating courses not being what they used to be, I failed, despite my assertion that the traffic in the Blackwall Tunnel really was terrible and the snarl up on the North Circular would delay the rest of the team only further. But the opposition really wanted to bat first as well, ostensibly due to the hot weather but on discussion afterwards it was probably more to do with the fact that last year we politely declined to bowl on after they had bowled us out for under a hundred and knocked off the runs in no time. So we tossed and, first surprise, I won and duly elected to bat.
The batting order was almost entirely determined by the order of arrival of the team but, second surprise (I’m going to stop counting now; suffice to say there were lots), we had a ready-made Emmanuel College opening pair of Baxter and Lowen champing at the bit. Perhaps it was the sight of the padded-up number three batsman (yours truly, again) striding out to umpire at square leg that affected the mood of the opening pair, but it was clear that there was a sense of calm and clarity that is rarely associated with the Mandarins, particularly given that we were facing one of the quickest bowlers that we will see over the course of the season. “There’s something different about Tim today” I said to anyone that would listen; one wag suggested that the presence of a septuagenarian at the other end of a pitch meant that Tim’s preferred method of dismissal would have to be shelved.
Alas there was indeed a run out that split the opening pair but this was entirely (I think) David’s fault though he could reasonably have expected to take a single to the man on the boundary; the fact that he was quite so short of his ground showed quite how short the boundary was and quite what a good arm said opening bowler had. But this was after they had added 78 runs, doing the radical thing of keeping out the good balls and scoring off the bad ones and seeing off the opening bowlers. Baxter moved to his 50 soon after and Tunbridge and Warren came and went fairly quickly, both content to give the strike to Tim who was seeing the ball beautifully and picking up the pace but both falling trying to press things on. This only brought Wilmot to the wicket who scored a sparkling 48, taking a particular fancy to the returning opening quick who, getting carted around a bit, charged in faster only to see the ball return past him faster. Tim continued to press on and brought up a marvellous hundred, a rare sight in a Mandarins shirt and thoroughly deserved for a brilliantly judged innings. Tim and Jonathan eventually fell though this turned out to be a good thing as Inder came in and smashed a brutal 40 off only 16 balls, making the most of the short boundary and taking us to a very imposing score of 254-5 off our 40 overs.
North Enfield appeared undeterred and approached the chase by sending in two beefy opening bats with a single-minded approach – give it a biff. Stan Forman did a fine job opening the bowling, keeping things very tight and tidy (the scorer, who has seen a game or two there, remarked afterwards that Stan was the only bowler to really master the quite pronounced slope across the pitch which was some praise) which allowed Venky, bowling with skill and no little menace when he fancied, to account for both openers. Stan took a deserved wicket and McIntyre then came on and, as you do, opened with a double-wicket maiden. North Enfield were 34-5 and we were left speculating what the largest winning margin for the Mandarins was; it surely was under threat.
Rather than going for the jugular, the Mandarins eased off, and the North Enfield number 5 played a lovely innings of see-ball-hit-ball (though Stan was unlucky not to see him off several times) to score 113 not out of 80 balls. Thankfully Forman elder, Manian and Inder did the job with the other bastmen (none of whom scored more than 15) and North Enfield ended up on 205-9 off their 40 overs.
Truly a remarkable game and what a treat to be there to see Tim score the first hundred of his life; well overdue and may there be more to come for the Mandarins.
Mandarins XI: Lowen, Baxter, Tunbridge, Warren, Wilmot, Inder, Manian, Venky, Forman D, Forman S, McIntyre