Sunday, 20 June 2021

The old and the new? Mandarins 183-7 drew with Weekenders 110-9

Much for the traditionalists to enjoy in Sunday’s game against new oppo ‘the weekenders’. A timed game – none of this newfangled limited overs stuff – with the oppo last pair bravely batting out the last 11 balls to secure a draw.  A Mandarins collapse for the ages, from 61-1 to 68-5, just as our first three of Baxter, Tunbridge and Wilmott had seen the high-quality openers off and the more variable (polite) first changer had come on. The opposition opener walking for a caught behind despite being given not out by his teammate umpiring. The Mandarins using 5 spinners (or six if you count Arvind’s second spell). Baxter’s pads coming close to securing an offside boundary. A Manian wicket from a ‘pie’ which would have graced many a former match (it didn’t quite bounce twice before sneaking under the bat, Arv, honest). And conspicuous politeness from both sides over an allegedly 21 yard pitch (don't they do chains any more?) - might this have explained the beamers, see below .  

That said, a real feeling of transition/passing the baton, exemplified by the 44 years age difference between our two opening bowlers: Hurst and Harry. Is this a Mandarins record? And which one was bowling faster? 

So, to the new: the collapse was followed by a distinctly untraditional recovery, Harry scoring 62 ably supported by Hawkins (once again attracting beamers like bees to a honey pot and displaying a Butleresque late cut as his sole scoring shot) and Manian, the latter timing the ball as well as this correspondent has ever seen him. The weather, a symptom of climate change - with the G7 discussions on the subject given an immediacy which if not planned was nonetheless timely. A one hour early tea to watch the footie (what is the world coming to). Mandarins 6s by 3 different batsmen. And a full-ish and frankish exchange of views between the skipper and the oppo, when one of our bowlers, inspired by the opposition’s first change (who was removed for bowling 3 beamers), unleashed a series of (admittedly distinctly unthreatening) beamers himself.

Harry’s 62, 2 catches (yes, he dropped one off me, but it was a rubbish ball and who’s counting anyway) and highly economical onefer apart, all contributed and no-one stood out. 2 wickets a piece for Hurst, Rakesh and Dan. Batting contributions as mentioned above. Good catches also from Wilmot and Rakesh. A much improved ground fielding display from recent games with some fine keeping on a variable bounce and two paced pitch. Noble attempts at hard chances which would have won the game by several Mandarins.

A fixture we will definitely look to keep, but lets play through the footie next time.

Martin Hurst 

New Fixture at Taplow - Report

 After a couple of cancelled matches, June finally brought good weather and a new Mandarins fixture against Taplow Cricket Club in Buckinghamshire. This was the third attempt to fulfill the fixture; COVID and the Cricket World Cup intervening in the previous two years. With the promise of the seasons first outdoor tea, an intrepid Mandarins team trekked outside of the M25.

Match manager Somerville committed the first 'grave social blunder' of the day by turning up in the colours of the opposition; his split loyalties evident as Taplow Director of Cricket (with subtext that he is still waiting for a Mandarin cap after 8 years play). Having won the toss, and seen the scratch team Taplow had assembled from all quarters of the shire, Mandarins duly chose to bowl.

Heard was immediately in the action with his third ball: bowling Taplow's professional footballer (name and team withheld so his manager doesn't find out he was playing cricket). Despite steady bowling at both ends by Heard and Eastaway, Taplow steadily built their innings. It took an inspired one-handed catch in the slips by Hawkins, off the bowling of Ramani, to break the partnership. Ramani quickly nabbed his 2nd wicket and by the time Hurst had bamboozled the batsmen with his wrong-un, Taplow were teetering on 139 for 4. Unfortunately, what followed was an exhibition in boundary hitting as over 100 runs were plundered off the Mandarin bowlers. Final score 245 for 4 off 38 overs with three batsmen scoring 50's.

Following a splendid tea, the Mandarins set about their innings with gusto. After Somerville departed cheaply there were murmurings that the Mandarins were playing against 12 men. As penance, the match manager positioned himself by the bar to take the drinks orders of thirsty batsmen at the fall of each wicket. Wilmot and Baxter kept the bar quiet as they steadily accumulated runs over the next 15 overs. Wendelborn's debut as the Mandarins overseas player at number 4 was eventful; a rumour that he was a member of the touring NZ party was quickly dispelled but he scored a lusty 18 runs in true Mandarins fashion. After Manian was bowled by a mystery leg-spinner - the mystery being how many balls would land on the strip - the Mandarins inning was steadied by an excellent half-century partnership by Ramani and Hawkins. The introduction of Taplow's opening batsmen to bowl innocuous tweakers heralded a Mandarinesque collapse as Barton struck 4 times for 5 runs scored. Despite the determined defense of McIntyre, the team fell 7 overs shy of the 48 over target to save the match. Final score 139 out. Highest scorer was extras with 43.

Our thanks to Taplow for their generous bowling, their kind hospitality and playing a timed match in the true spirit of village cricket. PS. I promise to influence the batting line-up in Mandarins favour next year.

Drew Somerville

Monday, 17 May 2021

Mandarins v Millfields, 9th May 2021

It was a beautiful afternoon in Lewisham, and Hilly Fields Park certainly had its charms: a cafe with excellent fare, and an incline up one side of the ground on which a number of locals lazed watching the cricket. It had its challenges too: a tricky pitch, and toilets home to more genetic mutations than the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The game was shaped by a bold gamble. Taking the blithe counsel of a SPAD who hadn't even looked at the pitch (sorry about that chaps), Jonathan agreed to see what would happen if we batted first. Unfortunately, this pitch had had lunchtime rain, and was still pretty sticky, though drying in the sun. A stone cold Field First Pitch in fact. If anyone needs an experienced hand in an Advisory role I'm currently looking for a position.

Our opponents were the splendid Millfields club, who bring a friendly spirit to the game as well as several players who are a bit tasty. One such is Cian Cooper, who not content with averaging 127 with the bat last year is also liable to run in and bowl sharply with the new ball, as he did here. This was a major challenge for Sam Brand and Tim Baxter, who both played extremely well to put on 35, Each was at one point nearly decapitated by a fast lifter, but the gentler off tweaks of Tom Gardiner at the other end were every bit as tricky, stopping and turning or skidding on, and it was he who accounted for both.

Jamie Brockbank dug in well for a hard-fought 19, but we slid away alarmingly. To go from 65-2 to 93-9 may sound like a calamity but in truth it was more a reversion to the mean; the bowling was decent and the ball beat the bat fairly regularly. And the odd long hop turned out to be equally dangerous, holding in the pitch and accounting for several dismissals. Shaz Ahmed bowled especially well for his two wickets, Mark Cooper's leggies being a little unlucky to get no reward. For us Rakesh Ramani looked high class until missing a flamboyant drive; Chris Baker and Dan Forman stuck 30 on for the last wicket with few alarms, and both played very nicely. But you couldn't help but feel that the wicket was starting to behave itself, and that 123 was looking quite a few short.

There had been one self-inflicted wound. Matt Brown reprised his Highgate Shuffle, the hit-ball-to-short-fielder-call-yes-get-sent-back-by-disbelieving-partner-get-run-out-by-yards-by-disbelieving-fielder routine. There's a bright side to this though - although retired from coaching, this morning I was providing emergency cover at my old league club, and (I'm not making this up) was asked to teach a bunch of nine-year-olds how to run between the wickets and call. Matt's cautionary tale struck fear into their tiny hearts. (Well, I did jazz it up a bit; it ended with depression, alcoholism and self-harm. Sorry Matt. For a good cause though.)

We bowled OK in reply, and the wicket still offered a bit of variation and plenty of spin. But a low target means you can just focus on keeping out the good balls, so even Rakhi's terrific spell caused little alarm, as Tom Collis made a superb 50, intelligently and ruthlessly putting away half volleys and short balls when they eventually came along (Hooper's 34 was similarly efficient). Dan Forman fished with some success down the hill, accounting for all three wickets to fall, and we got to witness another screamer of a catch from Tim Baxter, thrusting one arm over his head like a schoolboy swot who knows the answer, and pulling down a smashed cover drive from Collis.

But the scorecard suggests we came 3rd, and even if it took 33 overs, we kinda did. Millfields had a bit too much for us, and our chance to make up for that was tossed away, thanks to some special advice.

Chris Healey

Thursday, 6 May 2021


Near Arkley, semi-rural  green belt just south of the M25.  Convenient for players living in Archway or Amersham, less so for denizens of the seven other tube stations beginning with ‘A’, of SE22, or of Rochester.  A vast expanse of playing fields – long boundaries, and nothing to stop the ball going for a throw-in several soccer pitches away.

The burning questions of the day were clear.  Would Somerset win at Taunton?  Who was H?  Who was the geriatric relic who now reappeared from series long ago, having associated with Holmes, Hadley, Ho’Shea, Hawkhead,  Hurst et al?  Would this be his last match?  Or was another series in prospect?  
At first glance, H was obviously Highgate, who looked and played like an OCG [organised cricket group].  Mandarins looked like - well, the Mandarins, and were a man short to boot.  The Taverners very decently lent us a sub throughout their innings; and their opening pair were too polite to decline much early generosity, with the bowling being of variable length and several chances forgone.

After not many overs, the Taverners had passed 100 without loss, and Mandarins needed divine assistance.  It came in the form of hail and rain.  After a break, fortunes improved: Wilmot juggled a depleted attack, miserly swing from Healey, wickets for Tunbridge and Eastaway, and a first ever victim for Brown’s leg-spin.  Bowlers were supported by some impressive pouching in the deep,  topped by the catch of the season at short mid-wicket – fast, low, on a downward trajectory from the bat, Mother of God, who else but Healey?

249 to win.  Useful contributions from Taylor, Tunbridge, and Lowin.  A dominant half-century from – yes, of course, it was so obvious!  Bowling, fielding or batting, H had been Healey all along.  Mandarins challenged for a while before succumbing in some early evening sunshine.  Taverners winners by 60-70 runs.  And deservedly?  Definately.

And the mystery had been solved.  Or had it? Was Healey really H?  The last wicket stand endured a pulled hamstring.  Was that indeed the end?  Or is H actually Hamstring?  If so, might that possibility leave open the prospect of another series ?

Mike Richardson

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Mandarins vs Hornsey

It is always a pleasure to visit a new Mandarins match venue and this one had been built up beforehand by match supremo Paul McIntyre, who told us that a first class fixture had once been played at Hornsey Cricket Club. This triggered a lively WhatsApp debate as to whether this was a first for the Mandarins, which as ever was settled conclusively by the Archivist. In the event, once I had actually found the ground, having visited Crouch End CC first,  it did not disappoint. Closer inspection revealed an interesting Lords-like slope – and a spectator later told me that Middlesex 2nds use the ground for precisely that reason. 

Onto the game. It was always going to be a struggle to get 11 Mandarins to North London for a 12.30 start, especially as a number of us do not venture north of the river lightly. In the absence of our esteemed Chairman, senior pros debated and agreed it would be better to field first, to check out our new opposition. Which we duly did. Stan Forman started off for the Mandarins and quickly picked up a wicket as the Hornsey captain, eyes lighting up at a shortish wide delivery aimed it to the right of your correspondent, who dived and somewhat to the surprise of everyone emerged with the ball clasped in his right hand. There then followed a period of accumulation, with Allen the Hornsey No 1 leading the way; he eventually put together a well-made 81, which was the bedrock of the Hornsey innings. Spin (to be honest we did not have much else once Arvind and Stan had opened the bowling) proved reasonably  effective and Hornsey never took the game away from us. Rakesh bowled with great guile to take 4-47; Forman senior got the dangerous No 5 who had slogged his way to 25 very quickly, whilst McIntyre and Baxter took two wickets each). Hornsey were bowled out with the last ball of 40 overs for 187 – a good score but surely not beyond the realms of possibility? The early season catching form was generally upheld, whilst the Chairman took a very neat stumping. 

The Mandarins made a steady reply. After Jamie Brocklebank and Arvind had both departed bowled (Arvind particularly unlucky to play on), Baxter and Williams progressed from 35 to 74-2 off 20. Alas by this time Hornsey had deployed two very useful spin bowlers, one of whom was allegedly 13. Cue a mini collapse as first Baxter departed lbw playing across the line for 27, to be quickly followed by debutant Matt Brown, Rakesh and Baker. By the time Williams fell for 24 the Mandarins were 87-7. There followed a stylish innings from our Chairman, who unleashed at least one classic Wilmot cover drive, reaching 19. The final total was 118 all out. Not an untypical Mandarins batting display alas, with early promise not delivering. But a good day was had by one and all against sporting opposition. Definitely one to make the trek up north for.

Tim Baxter

Saturday, 24 April 2021

Mandarins vs Superstars - Streatham and Marlborough CC - Sunday 18 April

Cricket's not an impossible game to understand they said, there's no need to change the language or invent new, simpler forms of the game. It's not that hard to grasp that there's 11 players on each side but that you have to get 10 of them wicketed (or is it 'outed'? - ed) to win. Or that the first team batting get to bat for as long as they want to, or at least until their captain wants his tea (not an actual cup of tea, to be clear, or even a traditional cricket tea, because those aren't allowed any more, but something that looks and tastes a lot like a packed lunch). But the second team, after first batting for a defined amount of time, then gets a limited number of overs to score the runs to win, or not score the runs to draw, or not get all wicketed to lose. Even the European Super League could make a PR success of that.

So the captains of the Superstars and the Mandarins had a better idea: Let's invent a newer, more complicated version of the game they agreed. Complicated old cricket is for legacy fans. Super-complicated new cricket is what the fan-base of the future really wants, with additional regulations, even more quirky playing conditions, and sudden changes of the rules halfway through. It's not enough to confuse the fans, they thought. We need to confuse the players and officials too.

Hence we arrived at Streatham and Marlborough CC expecting to play a 12-a-side (but only 11 on the field at any one time), 11-wicket, declaration game, which actually was what we started. But we ended up with one team batting first only having 11 playing players but 12 potential players present (after one player never showed up at all, although they did have a scorer there, wearing whites, but not playing - unless he was needed to, which he wasn't).  While the other team, batting second, had 10 to start with (after two were quite late), later got up to 12 but ended up with 11 at the end (after one player who had showed up on time had to go home for his tea - which almost certainly wasn't a cup of tea or traditional cricket tea either).

So while the team fielding second, at first thought they had to take 11 wickets to win, they actually only needed 10, but didn't know this until they had already taken nine. So the taking of the 10th felt like a bit of an anti-climax, even though 10 is actually what everyone normally only ever need to win. 

Still with me? Come on, keep up, you can cope with concepts more challenging that counting down from 100 can't you?

What actually happened you ask? Well, both teams batted pretty well and steadily, and both innings were decorated by a fine half century, first from Graeme Tunbridge for the Mandarins and then by George Warren (sometimes a Mandarin) for the Superstars until your correspondent (sometimes a Superstar) got him out for the Mandarins. But whereas the Mandarins subsequently finished with a flurry - with Owen Jackson hitting the biggest six that your match reporter had ever seen at this ground, or at least that wasn't off his own bowling - the Superstars subsequently collapsed in a hurry. Three men called Forman took seven, including four in five overs (which were still six balls each) for one of them.  The Superstars' shots suggested they either had no interest in or had no knowledge of the draw. And the Mandarins had no idea how many outs was all out, or out out, or out2 as it might be rebranded (or how many wickets were needed to win in old money).

Who actually won? Well cricket was the real winner of course. How could a game so straightforward ever not be? Sunshine shone, friendships were reformed, and some tidy skills were on show considering none of us had had a net since Britain had left the European Union. But, as far as anyone could actually work out, technically the Mandarins did by 23 batting points, with 15 bowls to spare. Super complicated cricket. But still super fun.

Mandarins 191-6 dec (Tunbridge 74, Singh 3-33)

Superstars 168 all out(ish) (Warren 67, D Forman 4-34)

Dan Forman

Saturday, 17 April 2021

Season Opener 2021

PH 157 for 8 off 35 overs (2 each for Porter, Baker, McIntyre). Mandarins 137 all out off 33.1 (Healey 30, Williams 27). Lost by 20 runs.

Well, first things first. As I arrived at the ground (air temperature 8 degrees C) Peper Harow were having delivered all their old scorebooks back to 1945. I am hoping we can liaise to recover records for the epic Mandarins appearances there in the 1960 s and 1970s, and shed some light on that shadowy era of mythical heroes.

Anyway, to the present, putting aside all the pre-match hype about the weather, niggles, work "issues", who was and wasn't up for it, the eleven who did turn up actually experienced some decent conditions. It only snowed with a vengeance twice, but not enough to stop play, and only three Mandarins followed the chairman's advice/ dispensation to wear woolly hats like the professionals. Williams's sporting of short sleeves was, however, brief. For the record this was the earliest ever Mandarins game, beating by 6 days the 17 April 1999 fixture.

To be Mandarins Chairman requires a certain presence. Jonathan's response to the mixed weather was to sport a long over coat and silk scarf which many present found reminiscent of that character in the film Withnail And I. The scarf spoke to a fighter ace (JP:"He's just parked his spitfire in the next field."). The strangely elongated woolly hat was straight out of Dr Suess. I have no idea if he won the toss, but we fielded. And pretty well. Except Graeme who kept diving over the ball at cover to stake an early claim for the Mike Pattison Award for 2021. No, actually he fielded very well, as does anyone who takes a catch off me.

Porter made the two early breakthroughs, Healey was threatening but unlucky. McIntyre and Somerville chipped away in the middle overs, and Baker and Tunbridge kept a lid on things as the snow fell. They offered five chances and we took five catches, and missed none, so there is a gauntlet thrown down to all who follow this season. The 34th over was influential and went for 19 (all I am saying after the recent correspondence on the subject is that it wasn't me). So 157 looked a decent knock on a typical early season green wicket.

On paper we batted pretty deep. Unfortunately not just on paper but in reality, they bowled pretty deep. The innings had four phases: the foundation phase. Laid by the watchful Dan Taylor and David Williams after Matt Conway had gone early trying an ambitious pull shot. 37 for one off 11.The hari-kiri phase: Dan will have to explain why he thought there was a run to short extra cover off a wide. Graeme attempted a second off a fine snick and "I am not as fit as I thought I was". Meanwhile, Drew fell off the pavilion steps and turned his ankle, taking a key batter ( new terminology please) out of the equation. 60 for 4 off 16.

The pressing for victory phase: Lusty blows at last from Jules Lowin, Healey and Wilmot, although the latter slowed up by a back injury sustained in a collision with the "batter" whilst keeping wicket. 122 for 5 off 28. 36 needed off 7, five wickets in hand.

You know how this always ends. The final phase, the "death bowling" phase. Messrs Ganzi and Dar were awkward and straight. Five wickets for 17, all clean bowled, and Baker unable to stay with the brave Somerville batting with Paul as runner at number eleven. Still, the consensus was that it was well worth the trip, a close game played in good spirit by all.

Chris Baker (I think the video credit goes to the opposition?)