Superstars 132-8 beat Mandarins, 125-8, by 7 runs.
Another twenty20 fixture, in a south London park, without even access to a changing room let alone a pavilion? We’re not in Kansas anymore Mandarins. We were though off to see our own Wizard of Oz, the wonderful Jono Maher, back for the briefest of visits and kindly gracing us with his presence on the cricket field once more. But was the man who has now made more Mandarin comebacks than Judy Garland had marriages still all we had cracked him up to be in the wildest anticipations of our minds, or a mirage of our memories invested with superlative abilities that could never live up to expectations? (we will return to Oz later to find out).
Talking of mirages, we were on the backfoot from the start as Robin Pharoah failed to show (and so is cast as Professor Marvel, who offers his services but turns out not to be on your side at all). That made our lives slightly harder in the field, a situation only exacerbated by Arvind’s need to take a transatlantic phone call during the Superstars innings as well (sadly not to any Hollywood scriptwriters for the purposes of this match report). Luckily Hurst was on hand to propel his tornado-like deliveries in partnership with his trusty sidekick Heard (4-0-19-3), and they did their best to restrict the storm damage wrought by Superstars opener Spencer (26* off 12). If captain Forman only had a brain he may have kept this pair going but instead decided to bring himself on for an expensive spell in which he removed one enemy only to unleash the fury of Superstars numbers five Reeve (26* off 11) and six Plahe (27* off 15). At the other end Maher was not lacking heart as he pounded in off his long run between throwing himself around in the field (and executing one excellent run out). However he was lacking a little accuracy after six months without a game, and Baxter behind the stumps needed his full range of winged monkey-like moves to get to some of the wider efforts. As ever in cinema, extras played a part.
Direction was eventually provided by combinations of Venky (4-0-20-2), Baker and the returning Heard, with none short of the courage to bowl at the death as the Superstars sought to push on past 100 and set an imposing total somewhere way up high. But the later bowlers’ consistency and some munchkin-keen fielding kept the emerald city of victory in sight with a target of 133.
But like the plot of many a promising film, our reply swung this way and that, threatening an exciting conclusion before eventually losing its way. Mills was majestic, setting fire to the chase with a lightening-like 25 retired. A middle order partnership between Baker and Venky took us further down the yellow brick road. The hot air balloon of triumph was waiting to take off. It all seemed set for a spectacular finale in glorious technicolor. Optimistic voices were heard on the boundary as the much-heralded Maher made his way to the wicket.
However wicked wickets were falling as fast as a chandelier cut loose from the ceiling. Maher proved to be a mere human after all, unable to be the omnipotent power we had all hoped for and susceptible to the same fallibilities against the moving ball as us all. And, unlike Toto’s, our tail did not wag. We swung for high above the chimney tops but why oh why could we not reach the boundary? And so the dreams that we dared to failed to materialise. We ended up seven runs short. Seemingly close but in other respects another world away. And we woke the next day in our beds wondering if we really had seen Jono after all. Or was it all a dream?