Mandarins 208-6, drew with Peper Harow 181-8Confusion over start times. McIntyre in the changing rooms speculating whether the weather required two jumpers or three. A time game. Playing at a cricket club dating to the 18th century. The Mandarins’ skipper being subjected to a cross-examination on his decision-making before the game had even started. All of these hallmarks of a day of proper cricket for the Mandarins at Peper Harow.
That decision was electing to bat – it’s only going to get gloomier and colder reasoned captain Baker; Healey countered by suggesting that such weather probably wasn’t going to suit the Mandarins terribly well in the field. Undeterred by dressing room squabbles, Tunbridge and Pharoah strode out and set about putting 50-odd on for the first wicket with the latter going about proving his point that his technique was better suited to orthodox opening batsman than lower order biffer by getting off the mark with a six. Tunbridge and Chave departed in fairly quick order, leaving Manian to join Pharoah who then proceeded to put on another 50 partnership before Pharoah departed having made a fine 73 (which, for the record had plenty of patience and guile alongside the lusty blows). Manian made an excellent 45, keeping the tempo up in the middle order with lots of singles and a few sumptuous shots including a flick over square leg that had the crowd purring. Baker, Healey and Heard all got in the runs as well to take the Mandarins beyond 200, leading the skipper to decide to declare before the allotted time for tea, reasoning that a typical Peper Harow wicket had seen 120 be a competitive score in the past.
Heard, who in contrast to McIntyre was sporting only two thirds of a jumper (it shrunk in the wash again over the winter, apparently), opened down the slope with a hostile spell of bowling and got a deserved wicket aided by Healey, who decided to debunk the accepted wisdom that a Mandarins slip cordon is only for show, with an excellent catch flying off an edge. Despite good spells from Hurst and debutant Thornton, Peper Harow put on over a hundred for the second wicket giving those who felt that the declaration was overly-generous (this was not a typical Peper Harow wicket) plenty of opportunity to chunter. It was McIntyre that broke the partnership in the seventh over a spell that got better as it went on, leaving it to Healey to induce a middle order collapse by taking four wickets with a spell inswinging yorkers that were unplayable at times. Thornton capped his debut with a very sharp catch at gully, though it wasn’t easy to judge if he was more surprised than the collective Mandarins. Despite the collapse Peper Harow were still in the game as long as Bradley was at the crease though the returning Hurst took the key wicket and one other to set up a tense finish. Half chances came and went in the final couple of overs but in the end the draw was undoubtedly a fair result.
Over a beer at the end there was much agreement – that it really is a privilege to play at this ground, that we really should play more time games and, you know what, the skipper actually got it spot on.