Saturday, 25 June 2022

Twenty-20 Format to Our Liking Once Again


There has been some debate about whether the Mandarins should adopt more of the new England approach of unbridled positivity. Certainly Dan “Baz” Forman was seeking to channel that spirit with his team talk before our latest 20:20 game at Chiswick, addressing a surprisingly large number of Mandarins who had managed to negotiate travel problems to be there before 6pm. Only one was absent, of which more anon.

I am a bit hazy about who won the toss, or even if there was one. In any case Defra batted first. Joey Hale and Martin Hurst opened the bowling, and both caused problems. Martin got a ball to leap and George Warren behind the stumps took an excellent catch, and Martin followed this up by clean-bowling the next batsman. Joey dismissed the other opener, courtesy of an excellent catch by Matt Brown, keeping his cool to take a skied top edge. Forman then called upon the leg-spinning duo of Baker and Baxter. Defra’s Number 4 duly got to 25* courtesy of Baxter’s full tosses - in my defence it emerged that the pitch was set up for juniors and was only about 19 yards long. Thereafter wickets fell steadily, as Forman and Lowin made inroads.

Finally, our 11th man arrived – one Andy Heard, who had had a hellish journey, courtesy of GWR and TfL. There is an old adage that you should never upset a fast bowler, and it obviously applies to Andy as well, as he proceeded to bowl fast (well it was a very short pitch) and straight to take 3 wickets for 1 run, all bowled, the final wicket seeing the middle stump removed from the ground.

The target was only 100, but we take nothing for granted in the Mandarins. David Williams and George Warren opened; David proceeded to play extremely well off his legs, as befits a keen hockey player. There was a brief flurry of excitement on the boundary: had we ever had a significant batting partnership where one batter scored all his runs on the leg-side and the other on the off? The archivist complained that the available data could not resolve the issue and then David ruined the speculation with a cover-riven four. David duly retired on 25*.

George was well caught and bowled for 16 and there was a brief wobble with both Matt Brown and Jamie Brockbank being bowled cheaply (Jamie in particular can be excused, given sleepless nights with new daughter, for which many congratulations are in order). But this brought Joey Hale and Jules Lowin together who proceeded to take us to the target with seven overs to spare, Joey reaching 25 with the winning runs.  A very satisfying game against a good opposition and another cracking victory for Baz Forman, last seen heading to the bar to commiserate with the opposition.


Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Yes, It's Ask the Umpire Week

MANDARINS 116 all out. WEEKENDERS. 117 for 5.

Welcome to the latest episode of ‘Ask The Umpire’.  We’ve had three questions sent in this week, all from the same match in Dulwich.

  1. It is the fifth ball of the innings.  The opening bowler has so far sent down four harmless deliveries that are wide of off stump, but the next one is on a full length, keeps fairly low and strikes the batsman on the back pad roughly in line with middle stump.  How long can the umpire delay raising his finger, before the ball is deemed to be dead?

  2. The batsman scuffs a ball towards backward short leg and sets off for a single.  Sensing an opportunity for a run out, the keeper flings off his gloves so he can pick up the ball and hurl it at the stumps. However the right glove inadvertently lands on the ball and the batsmen complete the single.  What should the umpire signal?

  3. The batsman plays back to a ball that is on a good length, and somehow blocks the ball with some combination of bat, glove and pad (it’s hard to tell from the boundary, but something definitely looked and sounded a bit odd).  The bowler appeals and the umpire gives the batsman out lbw.  What happens next?

Answers at the end of this report.

Meanwhile, to the match itself.  Wilmot loses the toss and Mandarins are inserted, but would have batted anyway.  Wilmot is salivating at the chance to try out one of his “experiments”, in this case getting the same two Mandarins to open the batting AND the bowling.  The helmeted H.Forman and R.Eastaway go out to bat.  Two overs later the score is 0 for 2.  It’s an experiment that probably won’t be repeated.

In at number 3 is Rob Elias, one of a long line of Heber Dads who have now played for the Mandarins.  He is joined by Tunbridge and both look confident, but out of nowhere Tunbridge is defeated by a swinging yorker and is bowled for 6.  In walks Sam Brand, who usually opens the batting, but with two ducks to his name so far this season he’s been put in at number five.  His first ball is a swinging yorker that goes between bat and pad.  Make that three ducks in a row.  Sam and Arvind are thinking of setting up a support group.

Soon afterwards Chris McKeon is also cleaned bowled - but at least he smacked a boundary first. 25 for 5.  Enter Hawkins.  Some rebuilding of the innings begins, which has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the sharp and accurate opening bowlers have been taken off and replaced by some lobbed cannon fodder.  Still, you can only play with the cards you’ve been dealt.  An imperious innings of 42 by Elias finally comes to an end after the distraction of a drinks break, but Hawkins clings on like a limpet and the Mandarins claw their way to 116 all out.

Can 116 be defended? Eastaway and H.Forman keep things fairly tight, the ball regularly beating the bat, but alas missing the stumps. Only one wicket is taken in the first ten overs.  Forman D replaces Forman H, and the slower pace induces batsman Chagule to have a swing, and Tunbridge takes a fine catch at cow corner.  Alas after a flurry of long hops and full tosses in the next two overs, the Weekenders are up to 68.  Wickets are desperately needed.  On comes Baker.  Wilmot sends Elias to field at short mid wicket - left a bit…right a bit…yes, there. The ball is short, the left handed batsman’s eyes light up and he heaves across the line.  The fielders’ eyes have already panned across to the mid wicket boundary, but wait, somehow a diving Elias has leaped to his left and taken an absolute blinder of a one-handed catch.  Even the batsman applauds him.

Alas it’s too little too late, and although Stan and Dan Forman each nab a wicket, Weekenders get home comfortably with five wickets and 14 overs to spare.

Another friendly game against like-minded opponents, but our record at the lovely Trevor Bailey ground this season is grim: Played 2, Lost 2 (by a lot).


  1. About 30 seconds. To be fair, the umpire (Hawkins) had many factors to take into account:

    • He remembers that this bowler was pretty erratic last year and doesn’t tend to bowl straight balls.
    • the ball is moving a bit in the air and off the seam, so surely it must have been missing either leg or off stump,
    • the batsman is Harry Forman, and we need him to score some runs, and:
    • it’s only the fifth ball of the innings FFS - too early to raise the finger.  But overriding all of this was the fact that it is absolutely plumb.

  2. The umpire (Tunbridge) correctly applies Law ‘The fielder will be deemed to have fielded the ball illegally if, while the ball is in play he/she willfully discards a piece of clothing or any other object which subsequently makes contact with the ball.’  The umpire awards five (much needed) penalty runs to the batting team.  The batsman who completed the run, Hawkins, is awarded a single.  Pleas from Hawkins that the five bonus runs should also be credited to his personal tally are rightly ignored.

  3. The batsman (Hawkins again) stands with an aggrieved look, holding up his bat and pointing to the face of it. The umpire (Tunbridge again) correctly ignores the batsman’s complaint, and the batsman starts to walk off the pitch, still chuntering and doing Marcel Marceau impressions of a batsman who clearly nicked it.  Wishing to avoid a diplomatic incident with somebody who chose diplomacy as his career, the opposition graciously acknowledge that there probably had been an edge, and the batsman returns to the crease.

So how did you get on?  Three points and you are well on the way to becoming an ICC match referee.

Rob Eastaway


Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Red Kites Scent Blood at Brightwell



Mandarins 150 all out off 37.1 overs (Baxter 61) lost to Brightwell-cum-Sotwell 151 for 9 off 28.3 overs (Ramani 4 for 33) by one wicket.

After four consecutive failures to play the fixture over three years, we finally managed to get 11 cricketers to Brightwell almost on time, and amidst much muttering played a timed game. One of the BCS players put it succinctly at the start: "I didn't drive all the way from London for a boring draw." Pah! We did.

The Red Kite (Milvus Milvus) eats mainly carrion and worms, but is described by the RSPB as "opportunistic." The sight of a lot of old men dressed in white staggering erratically was clearly seen by the local population as an opportunity, and they swooped very low around us all afternoon.

Chairman Jonathan consulted all the players in the middle about whether to bat or bowl. Bowlers said bowl, batters said bat. He batted. The pitch played as it always has - very low at the Glendenning end, erratic bounce at the Forster end. Cricket is often called a sideways on game, but when Tim Baxter plays it can also sometimes be a horizontal one. Tim swung, missed and collapsed on numerous occasions, was hit on the helmet but declined the concussion test. We were deeply indebted to his effort on a day when scoring was never easy.  Next highest effort was Zac with 18. The limited over brigade seemed convinced that the Mandarins top order were making the draw inevitable by slow scoring but a slump from 81-3 to 130 for 8 meant that Jonathan never had to give consideration to his declaration.

Anticipation was intense as Arvind, batting no 7, made his way to the middle on a run of three golden ducks. In a replay of his previous dismissal he toppled forward and was stumped first ball. Umpire Jonathan, torn with compassion, briefly contemplated the largest diplomatic incident since body line, but eventually raised the finger in the face of pretty incontrovertible evidence. So Arvind's count rises to four........*

As usual when Brightwell batted the game started to look very different. The openers quickly moved to 80 before Nik Kulkarni shook off the rust of two years and made the break through. BCS moved on to 106 for one, then Rakesh brought a measure of control and pressure suddenly shifted. Four wickets fell for 6 runs, two each for Nik and Rakesh, and we had an opening. Then Nik bowled an over too many, hit straight for 20, and Brightwell back in the driving seat with only 19 needed. Then another twist as Brightwell showed Mandarinesque lack of application and lost another four for 14, Raki pressurising and Arvind, given the chance of redemption, rising to the challenge and getting a couple ( at least, in his view) to set up a thrilling finish as five were needed by the last wicket. More nervy shots, playing and missing, then a full toss smeared through mid wicket to secure the win. End of another dull timed game, with 13 overs to spare!

*Arvind's four golden ducks is undoubtedly a Mandarins record, although it will have to remain provisional in view of missing data. Only four other players (three of them active) have scored 3 consecutive zeros in the past 15 years, but few of these will have been golden. No one has got four in a row, let alone goldens. Rooting for you in the next innings, Arv!

Chris Baker

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Mandarins shock Charlatans (and themselves)

Having played in two games so far this season, both of them victories, I was not optimistic of a hat trick against the Charlatans at Charlton Park. There was much muttering amongst the Mandarins about the last time we had beaten them with general agreement that it was long before Boris, Brexit and Covid. Chatting to their opening bowler Bhuvi before the match, he bemoaned the fact that the Charlatans were getting older and he was the oldest of them all at 47. Needless to say half the Mandarins could beat that by ten years.

As South London park grounds go it was wasn’t an unattractive spot but there was a bitter wind blowing from the North ensuring it felt a bit more like Harrow in April than late May south of the river. The pitch looked firm but rough in places with a smaller crater just outside off-stump at one end. Jonathan bravely elected to bat first.

From the start it was clear that this was a pitch to bowl straight on with particularly low bounce at one end. But happily the Charlatans opening bowlers seemed incapable of doing this. After George missed a straight one, Chris H and Tim set about the attack in a fine stand of 87. Tim gradually played himself into form and Chris looked as classy as ever (the Charlatans rued dropping the one sharp chance he offered). After Tim’s pads fell LBW, Zac came to the wicket having been told by the captain to play himself in; an instruction he took to mean hit five fours and then get out. Jonathan and Chris kept the score ticking on at around 5 an over until Chris was given out to a ball that either rolled along the ground or bounced several times. Umpire Hurst claimed to have seen nothing but then he had missed a shoulder high beamer an over or two before. The bowlers were at last aiming at the stumps from time to time and the Mandarins soggy middle was exposed. To his surprise as much as to anyone else’s, the one Charlatan player in decidedly non-MCC approved clothing got three in a row on the stumps accounting for Chris M, Arvind (third golden duck in a row) and your correspondent (second golden duck in a row). After George had declared him the in-form batsman, Rob also went first ball (George had rather forgotten that Zac was still averaging over 100). There was some speculation about whether there was now a trophy for the most golden ducks in a season while the question was also asked if this was this the highest ever Mandarin score with three first-ballers? (Where was the statistician when you needed him? Sipping his third glass of Meursault in the Burgundy sun apparently.)

Anyway late runs from Rakesh and Jonathan and with Johnny E again just missing his 50, we got to 214 for 9 off our 40 with all nine wickets bowled or LBW (which suggests we might have been in trouble if the Charlatan bowling had been straighter). On this pitch, that looked a good total but there were plenty who had played this fixture before to warn of the power of the Charlatan batting line up given the short boundary and fast outfield.

The Charlatan opener started off with a couple of powerful cover drives for 4 (past/through the rather surprising choice of Martin as off-side sweeper) but from then on it was all Mandarins. The key was “Jimmy” Eastaway’s exceptional opening spell. Unlike most of the Charlatan bowlers he bowled straight, moving it in the air and hitting the off-stump crater. Before they knew it, the core of the Charlatans’ much vaunted batting line up was back in the hutch, three out to ducks, and Rob had four. At the other end Zac was under orders from the captain to also aim for the stumps but either he is his own man and impervious to instruction or as the well-coached cricketer that he is, he cannot resist the attraction of bowling short of a length in the corridor of uncertainty. The captain resorted to offering him a bottle of champagne if he bowled 6 balls in a row at the stumps but it was never in any doubt that his champagne could continue to mature gently in the cellars of Restoration House.

Change bowlers Rakesh and Martin had, however, got the memo and bowling straight and full they chipped away at the Charlatan batting helped by two top catches from George behind the stumps. With the end nigh, the Charlatans’ 13 year old opening bowler came out to bat. The umpire loudly pointed out his age and Martin slowed his pace down (something some of those present didn’t know he could do). But Rakesh had forgotten he wasn’t still playing league cricket and swiftly clattered his stumps. After a cameo from Arvind, Martin took the final wicket and the Charlatans were all out for 121 off 26 over.

So an impressive performance to mark (appropriately) what we learnt after the game was the Chairman’s birthday.

John Hawkins

Friday, 13 May 2022

Normal Service Resumed at Millfields

Millfields 234 for 5 off 40. 
Mandarins 166 for 8 off 40 (Stancombe 64*). 
Lost by 68 runs.

Blue sky, fresh sunshine, Spring trees at their peak, the South Circular, although within reach of a Millfields slogger - he actually hit it over the road -, strangely silenced as if in thrall to the spirit of nature: it was a near perfect day for cricket on a good track. The West Indians on the adjacent pitch clearly thought so too, and clones of Michael Holding and Viv Richards pummelled each other all afternoon. As I went to the gents at tea time they hit the ball onto the pavilion roof. As I came out of the gents they did it again. It was high quality stuff.

Our game was a bit less consistently spectacular, but lots of good cricket nonetheless, unfortunately most of it played by Millfields. That said Mandarins made a good start, Zac picking up a couple in his opening spell. It would have been better still had we taken the three chances offered by Tom Collis, none of them particularly taxing, but we let him score 40 odd before snaring him. It would have been better had Rob not tweaked the hamstring after three overs and had to retire. Fortunately Adam the GCSE troglodyte was on hand to do some subbing. Rob returned unable to bowl but picked up a surprisingly athletic catch at square leg to give Dan his only wicket. This was in the middle of the first Millfields acceleration after Hursty and Rakesh had tied them down tight - a combined 16 overs for 46, with Rob included, 19 for 54. Do the maths on the back of your envelope to work out what the rest went for. The short boundaries and fast outfield tested us, and whilst we bowled some good overs in the second half, and Healey got a couple of them out, the pendulum was definitely swinging to Millfields. Their second acceleration was more of a shock and awe blitzkrieg as the last two overs were blasted for 42.

Pensive described the Mood at tea. Skipper Graeme led from the front scoring 28 in the reply, but like the whole of the top order he lacked fluency. We took drinks at 62 for 3, still only 20 behind the Millfields score at the same stage. A good game to win from there to coin a phrase. Then Millfields brought on Cairan Cooper, their opening bowler who will be the fastest thing we see all season. Suddenly it looked like county cricket with the four slips 20 yards back. We fell away further, chances reduced by George "baxtering" Chris Healey. This followed closely on his "baxtering" of Baxter on Thursday, so those batting with Warren be warned, a new contender for the Robin Butler/Mike Richardson Trophy is emerging this season....

As we went to 81-7 the prospect of being close to the top ten heaviest defeats of all time was still in play, but having just avoided this statistical calamity when the 8th fell at 87, Cooper came off and Millfields withdrew their jackboot from our jugular. The beneficiaries were Zac and Rob, who played some pleasing shots, not merely to reduce the margin of defeat to respectability but to post a new Mandarin all time record of 79 for the 9th wicket, overtaking the 75 scored by JC Jarvis and JC Gray against Charlatans in 2008. Congratulations chaps, and in particular to Zac for his maiden club 50, a consolation prize for a day when we definitely came second.

Chris Baker

Sunday, 8 May 2022

Bad Day for the Bean Counters

Mandarins 134-3 beat HM Treasury & CO 97-5 Chiswick

Thursday 5th May (T20)

It was a bleak enough day already for the Treasury, before anyone even arrived at Chiswick. Interest rates were up, inflation was forecast to hit 10%, the economy to go into recession. At least, the HMT types might have thought on their train from Waterloo, we have a pleasant evening game against those friendly Mandarins to look forward to.


Well, a genuinely Mandarin side, if a little younger on average than some of our oppos might have become used to, had other ideas. It would not be spin worthy of Charlie Whelan to say that we battered them. And the seven former or serving civil servants among us may have taken a small dollop of satisfaction from this too. All of us who have ever had a funding request turned down, a slightly snooty response to go back and provide some more evidence on value for money, or a write-round that has been approved by every department bar the one at Horse Guards Parade, well, forgive of us if we enjoyed it a little bit more than we should.


Indeed, forgive us if those of us who have been on the other side of a Mandarins trouncing a few too many times, didn’t mind being the dominating force just for once. But it is okay to win a game once in a while, even to win well. And, well, if it happens to come against the all-powerful holders of the government purse strings (and don’t they like to let us know it), forgiveness is surely forthcoming.


It seems Rishi Sunak needs a have a few words with his troops about timekeeping too as, unlike Wilmot’s wonders, who, perhaps even more surprisingly, were all largely present and correct by the allotted start time once more, even on a weeknight. However Treasury tardiness (or perhaps Jacob Rees Mogg standing over them with a stopwatch) kept the oppo from arriving on time for a full T20, and the game was reduced to 18 overs-a-side instead.


It probably made little difference in the end, as it turned out to be a walk in St James’ Park. Baxter and Warren (28 retd not out) got us off to a fair flier, before Stancombe (25 not out retired from 15 balls) and debutant Joey Hayle (27 retd not out from an even fewer 11 balls) got the scoreboard going up even faster than the national debt in a lockdown. Matt Brown found some welcome form in accompaniment and Owen Jackson had the perfect platform to play some of his huge heaves across the line (one of which went faster than the RPI in recent weeks). Score predictions were revised more regularly than even the OBR could cope with (Ed: okay Dan, that'll do) and the final tally of 134-3 looked like it must have been double counted across at least two or three spending review periods.

Dare I say we even took the field a little confident that we might defend it? I would if even knew how to recognise such a feeling. So slip was withdrawn just after the first ball flew past him to third man for four, and just before both opening bowlers Heard and debutant number two Sushant Achawal (3-0-20-1) induced edges that would have been pouched by any Mandarin fielder (Webmaster: Hah, hah!), let alone the unrecognisably effective team of groundfielders we had out on this occasion.

But the run rate never threatened to get close to the eights and more that were quickly required, especially as Sushant and Jackson (3-0-24-1) removed the two useful openers rather than us seeing them retire with the potential to return. Stancombe (2-0-7-0) and Hayle (2-0-3-1) kept the scorecard in even firmer control than when JC Gray was in charge of it, just leaving time for Baker and your correspondent (3-0-14-2 if he says so himself, even if he does know when to bring himself on on these occasions), to offer some tempting flight to batters who desperately needed to go after it.

Value for money you say? I'll say it was.

*Author's note: The Treasury guys we play against and I have worked (and played) with are all thoroughly nice chaps. Honestly. Some of my best friends work for the Treasury. Any caricatures of snooty arrogance are entirely of the author's own making for the purposes of jazzing up a match report and bear no resemblance to any real life Treasury civil servants, dead or alive.

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Friendly cricketers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your wickets

Mandarins (132-4) beat Superstars (131 all out)

Dulwich Sports Ground

Sunday 1st May 2022

It wasn’t a thriller, of a standard to trouble the new England selectors (whoever they turn out to be), or even a classic example of the art of timed cricket. But the Mandarins and Superstars once again put on a May Day exhibition of the spirit of friendly cricket. But two sides who now know each other well, indeed who often now appear on each other’s team sheets, and who, it is fair to say, prioritise play fair over play well, were always likely to do that on a day designed to celebrate brotherhood and union, weren’t they?

Drop outs, no-shows, actions short of a strike, and never-knew-I-was-playing-in-the-first-place-guvs meant it was nine versus 10, a contrast from last year’s 12 against 12 (or was it?) extravaganza, excluding young Josie Eastaway’s energetic contribution at fine leg for a few overs. But a shortage of labour wasn’t going to spoil the party, even if it did rather spoil the Superstars’ efforts to set a competitive total to defend.

An arranged, barely even negotiated, toss saw Superstars inserted/opt to bat. Openers Gigg and Gaught-Allen struggled to get going on a slowish and noticeably slanted pitch (that otherwise generally played a bit better than it looked). And while Gigg (17) and Anand (14) chipped in a bit after seeing off a few overs of accurate Mandarins bowling from Eastaway (R) and Stancombe, Gaught-Allen really took his time, perhaps worried about the paucity of potential after him in the order were he to try to accelerate too soon, or perhaps just tied down by the Mandarins’ slower bowlers as well as their slightly less slow ones. He was best supported by Bishop (20) in a 50 partnership for the Superstars’ third wicket, but was still in no rush as Forman (D) and Duggan departed and the clock began to count down to what was expected to be a teatime declaration. Some wondered whether the bank holiday Monday might be needed to complete the innings, let alone the match, before eventually Paul brought up his personal 50, had a dart at a couple more (one more successfully than the other) to finish on a fine 55, and a clatter of four quick wickets saw the innings actually end just before the allotted time for tea.

All the while Ramani and Healey had been making the most of the lack of bowling restrictions and lack of Mandarins’ bowling options, in a mammoth combined 23-over effort from each end (which would surely have been in breach of some kind of European working time directive had such things still existed). Rakesh got all the rewards he deserved, dining on an outstanding 14.2-5-33-5, while Chris could count himself unlucky, with Baxter (4-0-8-2) also picking up a couple of cheap ones at the end.

Baxter (40) was also busy after tea, getting the Mandarins’ reply off to a rapid start, in another important partnership with Healey (30), after Baker was the early victim of the first all-Forman wicket of the season (caught Dan, bowled Stan on this occasion). Both punished anything a fraction short, including a huge Healey six into a neighbouring garden, and putting the Mandarins in a very dominant position. But everyone was aware of how uncomfortable the Mandarins are in such a situation, and the inevitable wobble did come, after Chris inexplicably hit a rare Anand full toss straight to Stan at mid-off and Tim was inexplicably caught Gaught-Allen at short mid-wicket (in fairness a great reaction grab by Paul that just stuck, on a day when, perhaps surprisingly, most if not all chances did for both sides). At that stage 50 tricky runs in darkening light were still required, even if overs were never going to be an issue, and Mandarin murmurings along the lines of ‘we have lost games from much better positions than this’ could be heard on both the boundary and around the country as the WhatsApp updates arrived.

But the orange-tinted pessimists failed to account for two factors: Firstly Superstars’ skipper Gigg’s commitment to the first principle of friendly cricket – that everyone shall be involved in the game, no matter the match situation, withdrawing Vijay despite figures of 3-1-3-1 that might just have made a finish of it had he continued or been combined with the almost equally economical Konrad. And secondly, young Zac Stancombe at five, who knows nothing (yet) of honourable Mandarins failure or such concepts as snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. He ignored the situation and just played the bowling he was delivered, treating it with the respect it deserved, which mostly meant down the ground for crisply struck boundaries. Accompanied by an unflappable Jarvis, he put the game to bed before it got too gloomy, with a sparkling 36*.

Those principles of friendly cricket continued off the field of course, as tables were shared between the teams at tea and after the game over a good few beers, with no one having to worry about work the next day thanks to the trade unions. On International Labour Day the bond of brotherhood between these two sides and the spirit of friendly cricket remained strong.

Dan Forman