Saturday, 24 July 2021

Son shines in the sun

Mandarins (123-7) beat Superstars (122 all out) by three wickets

Hot. The Mandarins won against the Superstars. But the main thing to note is that it was hot. Incredibly hot.

There must have been something in the air because Superstars skipper Gigg won the toss. And it was already a bit warm just doing that. Not warm for England or the time of year or even for cricket. But properly, properly hot.

Gigg elected to bat, because it was hot, and definitely a day to bat first and go back and sit in the shade for a while. The pitch was also already very dry and dusty. Because, it really should be said, it was hot.

But the Mandarins had an unusually strong fielding side out. Which was good. Because it was unusually hot. And the Mandarins made some early breakthroughs with Forman (S) effecting a fine run out of Gaught, running to his left, picking up with his right and throwing down the stumps in one movement. In the heat. Eastaway was miserly, not wanting to waste any deliveries in what was always going to have to be a short spell. Because it was hot. And Jackson was fast and threatening. You could even say hot.

It was a day for using many bowlers, because it was hot. And the change bowlers immediately chipped in too. Forman (S) picked up Patwal and Anand for not many, both caught Brockbank at square leg. Ramani got Goel and Forman (H) got Superstars debutant Browne cheaply. Maybe they just didn’t fancy hanging around for too long. Because it was hot. At the other end Warren had dug in for 38 but didn’t look like he was enjoying it very much either. Because, in case you haven’t guessed it, the temperature was well above the seasonal average.

Gigg arrived like a cat on a something tin roof, trying his best to run either himself or George out, before he tired of running in the heat and settled in for a few boundaries and a useful 22. Forman (H) eventually had Warren caught and Forman (D) his rival captain Gigg behind the wicket to Lowin. Baxter and Healey also picked up a wicket each as the workload was shared around and the mercury rose ever higher.

Singh led a wagging of the tail with a dangerous 20 before Stan nicked him off to everyone’s relief (because nobody wanted to stay out there for any more overs) and to complete a fine three-fer in 7.3 overs and 33 degrees. 122 all out felt about a par score on a slow and uneven pitch, even if the atmospherics were anything but par.

A supplied tea was very welcome after the many months without them, but drinks and respite were even more welcome because, did I mention it was hot? Perhaps I did, so I’ll just move on to describing the events of the second innings. But just remember one thing: it was hot.

Harry decided to go hard or go home, which was a good idea in the circumstances. He hit one hard. But then he went home, missing a straight one from Konrad. At the other end Singh put himself in man of the match contention with an epic 13 overs and three wickets. I really want to mention a crucial context for this mammoth effort but have promised not to. So I’ll just say it was an extraordinary physical performance in the conditions. Which were tough. And oppressive. And challenging. Really quite difficult to bowl 13 overs in. Definitely not easy.

At 21-3 the Mandarins were feeling a bit feint and wobbling unsteadily on their feet. But Tunbridge and Healey provided the middle order equivalent of air conditioning, Graeme a calming influence and Chris throwing his bat around like a ceiling fan but chipping in a useful 21. However Duggan's off breaks then put the, err, heat back on, as he picked up Healey and Lowin and then Singh turned it up a notch with a C&B off Forman (D) while the flames of Goel's leggies and Anand's darts licked at the Mandarins wickets but didn't quite catch fire. 

But Ramani at eight was a cold iced drink of an innings, finishing 30 not out. Tunbridge's fan eventually overheated and broke down in the face of the returning Konrad for 38, an innings worth a lot more on any other, colder, day. But Forman son number one Stan was the coolest man in South East London as he saw it over the line with a breezy 9 not out, just as it looked like it might get spicy. 

Another good, close game between these teams, played in good spirit, at a nice ground and in the best traditions of timed and friendly cricket, with all four results possible going into the last few overs. It was just a bit hot.

PS There is a whole 10-part Netflix documentary to be made about the events of the last over with the scores level. Memory suggests there were four dropped catches. Or maybe it was just a fever dream.

Dan Forman

Maybe the Mandebees

Streatham and Marlborough Midweek XI (171-8) beat the Mandarins (153 all out) by 18 runs

A very much hybrid Mandarins-Heber side (Mandeber? The Handarins? The Mandebees?) took to the field to face a strong but friendly Streatham and Marlborough Midweek XI. Seven of us had donned the whites of Heber at various points down the years and two more had attended the school itself. Whereas five of us were Mandarins debutants. Nonetheless it was under the guise of the Mandarins that we played and, perhaps inevitably, finished a spirited but close second place.

Captain Forman (D) lost the toss but would have fielded anyway, knowing more about his bowling resources than batting. And his bowlers did not let him down. Eastaway (8-2-11-0) was utterly miserly and Forman (H) almost equally tight and very threatening at the other end, finishing with 7-1-25-2. Newcomer Zac Stancombe acquitted himself excellently with speed and good hands in the field and a lively 5-0-13-1. Jay Reeve and Phil Borthwick also picked up a wicket apiece on debut, with Phil also grabbing a steepling catch.

At drinks Streatham only had around 40 runs on the board but a second half acceleration saw them take tea on 171, with Mateem (42) and Satish (22 not out) chancing their arm to give the elder Formen a bit of tap towards the end. And while we were suffering a little bit of an identity crisis, near misses against them both that proved to be ultimately costly were proof that we were definitely still a Mandarins side.

In reply we were a bit of a one-man team once Tunbridge had been given out LBW early on (not a little unluckily as it looked from the scorer's table), but what a one-man team it was. Jules Lowin, having already shown his skill behind the wicket to stump danger man Ettinger for 38, then showed it in front of the wicket too, playing his finest Mandarin innings by a distance with a hard-hit and career-high 50 that gave us a sniff of a win. Olly Wood and Sam Henley got starts but fell victim to a fine 4-7 spell from SMCC's Taz Taper. Eastaway (10) and Stancombe (23) looked like they might get us close but fell victim to young off spinner Dan Hanna (a nephew of Tim Baxter's best man it turns out, which really should qualify him to play for us) taking two in two balls. Forman D saw off the hat-trick ball but then fell victim to a diving slip catch/rash shot outside of off stump, leaving Stan stranded, 21 balls unbowled and all of us wondering if maybe we might just have got there if we had batted the 40 overs.

Maybe we would, maybe we wouldn't. Maybe we were Mandarins, maybe we were Heber. Maybe the 20 Mateem hit after we dropped him was the difference, maybe Streatham were just a little bit better than us. But the sun shone, good cricket was played, a couple of cold beers were sunk and everyone on both teams had a better Wednesday afternoon than they would have done in front of a computer screen on yet another Teams call. Maybe the Mandebees Midweek XI should become a thing.

Dan Forman

Heber Nomads Match Report

HEBER NOMADS         151 All out
MANDARINS                  98 All out

The aim of Mandarins cricket is to have a competitive game in which everyone gets to participate.  That, at least, is what the captain (me) decided, and might help explain why the afternoon unfolded as it did.

On a pitch still a little damp from a morning shower, and with more showers threatened, Heber Dads won the toss and decided to bat, but soon found themselves 8 for 3 after five overs, with the ball swinging like a banana, Eastaway on a hat-trick and McInerney bowling tightly at the other end.  McIntyre had already taken a spectacular one handed catch diving forward at mid on.  Would this game make it to 20 overs?  That looked unlikely, especially as Martin Hurst was still to bowl.

The captain took himself off after four overs, and brought on Manian (who’d only just found the ground after a frustrating 30 minute search for the gate).  Arvind began with a full toss and long hop, both dispatched for boundaries, and then another short ball that was top-edged to cover and comfortably caught by Sam Brand.  18 for 4.

If this game was going to make it past 3 o’clock Heber needed to dig in, and with Rob Elias batting carefully and hitting the bad balls for four, they began to build some sort of respectability.  It was roughly 60 for 6 (the scorebook does not show the fall of wickets) when Jules Lowin came in to join Elias, and now felt like an appropriate time to bring Hurst into the attack.  Martin bowled well, but the batsmen kept him out, and Elias cruised to 50 before Hurst bowled him round his legs.  Baker took a wicket at the other end, but Jules had got his eye in and started launching boundaries.  At 130 for 8 it was time to close things down and the openers returned, but Heber managed to scramble themselves to a total of 151.

Was 151 a competitive score? Heber didn’t think so – but the mood among Mandarins was that maybe it was a bit above par.  Which probably means it was about right.  

However, Mandarins suffered an immediate setback when Warren was clean bowled by a low full toss off the first delivery of the innings.  McInerney hit his first ball for six, but was caught and bowled a couple of overs later. Then Mills and Brand continued the attack and at 61 for 2, we were ahead of the rate and on course for victory.  But the slow-ish pitch made it hard to play along the ground, and both Brand and Mills fell to good catches.  Soon it was 68 for 5. 

Hawkins batted doggedly but boundaries dried up and even singles were hard to come by.  The required run rate went up from 4 to more than 6.  Hurst was sent in to slog us to victory but instead hit a high full toss (too high?) to mid on.  At 98 for 9, McIntyre joined Eastaway.  Victory was still theoretically possible and there were six or seven overs left.  We agreed to play the bowling on its merits.  A lobby leg break from Hill looked like it deserved to be smashed through mid wicket, but the batsman was through the stroke several minutes before the ball arrived and the sound of broken wicket confirmed the match was over.

Disappointing, because this was a match Mandarins expected to win, but on the bright side, Heber Nomads were in a great mood and are already looking forward to next year’s game.  And despite the gloomy forecasts, it didn’t rain.

Rob Eastaway 

Monday, 12 July 2021

Abinger Hammered (well at least just beaten in a tight game)

As the Mandarins’ Golden Generation (boasting 2,726 caps between them) gathered at a rather damp Abinger Hammer on the edge of the North Downs for our first ever match against the village, talk turned to trips out of London during the last century to various beautiful grounds in picturesque villages; the sort of matches that used to dominate the fixture list before the emergence of the Dulwich factor. It was swiftly agreed that Abinger Hammer was one of the most attractive grounds we had ever visited surrounded as it is by trees on one side, the winding River Tillingbourne on another and a hilly field to a third (complete apparently with a “Beware of the Bull” sign). The opposition turned out to be welcoming and very much Mandarin in spirit, happy to play a declaration game and with an age range of at least 50 years between the youngest and oldest players.

Abinger Hammer batted first. Both openers were very much of Mandarin vintage. They started slowly against tight bowling from Rob and Martin. (Andy who had been slated to open the bowling was delayed by domestic duties/traffic on the M4/M25). By the time Rob picked up the first wicket, they had advanced slowly to 27 off 13 overs. That brought Josh, the beefy, young number 3 to the wicket who was less inclined to defend. It was a particular challenge for our most capped player, Paul McIntyre asked by his captain to bowl at the end with a very short straight boundary. During his swift knock, Josh hit the ball over the River (more of a brook really despite its name) happily missing the children enjoying a birthday picnic there and then into the field at the other end (Chris H bravely scaling the locked gate to retrieve it: no bull was spotted leading some to speculate that the sign was intended by the farmer to keep visiting ramblers at bay). Chris H was then brought on to try to bring back a measure of control, which he duly did removing the big-hitter and taking two other wickets. Paul Mills chipped in with two more and Chris B ran out the other batsman to fall (at the drinks break he had been heard telling his partner that there were quick singles to be had to several of our fielders including “the one with the beard”; how wrong he turned out to be).  Our opening bowler arrived but bumped into Abinger’s number 6, Charlie, who claimed to “have done his glutes” so stuck mostly to boundaries taking them to 179 for 6 and a tea time declaration. A final mention should be made of Jonathan’s excellent keeping.

The advice from the opposition at tea was to wear a helmet as  “one of our bowlers is quite fast”. It turned out to big-hitter Josh who certainly wasn’t slow. Bowling off the oddest of stuttering run-ups he hurled it down at Tim and Chris B. Most dangerous, however, was his beamer. Tim was struck on the hand by one early on. Chris B unluckily got a ball that rolled back off his bat onto the stumps. But Tim was off and running dominating a partnership of 36 with Jonathan before our Chairman tore a calf muscle when taking off for a run. That brought Paul Mills to the wicket for his first knock of the season and he was in fine form. After Tim went for 36, soon followed by Rob, we found ourselves needing just over 100 off the last 20 overs, a challenge we have so often failed. By now Josh had been removed from the attack having bowled another hairy beamer and was keeping wicket. No one else was quite as terrifying and with Paul hitting the ball with real power we were soon ahead of the run-rate. He dominated a 34 run partnership with your correspondent and when he fell, Chris H took over. He was in excellent touch as he took the team to the brink of victory ably supported by Martin in a partnership of 32. Just to add a little excitement Chris was caught round the corner for 36 glancing a long-hop with the scores level (having not realised the fielder was there and not wanting to belt it and so making the opposition fielders go all the way to the long boundary to collect the ball). But Martin hit the winning run and we were home for 7 down with nine balls to spare. So who needs a youth policy when the Mandarins have such experience to draw on? (Well we do even if we can turn out a pretty decent over 60s team).

Afterwards we enjoyed a good chat and a drink with the opposition at the ground. They declared Paul Mills man of the match and both sides agreed it had been an excellent game (married only by Jonathan’s injury) played in the right spirit and our respective fixtures secretaries should be asked to ensure a rematch in 2022. What no one on either side knew was how this fixture had come to be arranged in the first place. Some wizardry by Dan?

John Hawkins

Sunday, 4 July 2021

Math Report: North Enfield

North Enfield 212 for 3 off 30 overs, Mandarins 76 all out. Lost by 136 runs

It is difficult to put much gloss on this one. Only seven Mandarins could be persuaded to  play at this attractive ground with good transport links and against very friendly and welcoming oppo. It is not the first time we have struggled to get a team out and We should really make a greater effort to field a strong team here. The positive from this was that four youthful North Enfield players got a game for us, and were great ambassadors for a club with a healthy colts set up and lots of family involvement. They had over thirty players available to play, and somewhere a North Enfield Sunday 2nds was in action at the same time as this game.

A dire weather forecast was countered by the decision to play a shortened game of 30/30, which, as it happened, probably help limit the extent of our defeat.

It was the Guest players Tom Munt and Cameron Kennedy who spared the Mandarins new ball blushes with good tight and slightly unlucky spells. Although Cameron got a bit of stick on this second spell, altogether the Guest players bowled 15 overs for 73. It follows that the Mandarin bowlers had 15 overs for 139, although nobody bowled poorly. The executioner was K Jones, who came into the game averaging over 300 and scored 119 not out. His eight big sixes resulted in numerous lost balls deep in the brambles at square leg. The two Pearsons, F. and A. missed out, aggregating just 8 and falling to Munt and Healey respectively (great C&b skipper), But we were then punished by D Saunders, usually a fast bowling nemesis, but today a slogger of the old school who hacked and smeared his way to 64 via a very difficult overhead chance to Baxter and an easier one off Arvind before Paul snared him.

Facing seven an over and deprived of a relaxing tea in order to beat the weather we never got the start, built the platform or pressed the accelerator. The bowling was decent but unthreatening and we just pressed self-destruct in the face of the run rate and tight fielding. They hit loose balls for six, we bunted them for one. All told we hit fewer fours than Jones hit sixes. Completing a red-letter day for the Jones family, Josh dismissed all four of his N Enfield chums for 5 runs on his way to a career first 5- fer, and our heaviest defeat of the season.

At least the rain held off, and cricket, if not the Mandarins, was the winner.

Chris Baker

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