Saturday, 24 October 2020

John Hawkins Reports on the Season's Finale

I was lured into playing the Rob Foot memorial game against Alton at Bentworth CC on the basis of decidedly misleading advertising. But I was pleased that I was. It was a beautiful day that marked the end of summer (as Great Tew had so often in the past) at a lovely ground against pleasant opposition. Good memories of a warm September day, red kites circling overhead and a great selection of Wendy’s home-made jams will help get us through the six months of gloom ahead. (Many thanks JP). 

It was disappointing to find on arrival that Gemma Porter had injured her back, no doubt out of the sympathy to the various Mandarins old enough to be her grandfather who were carrying similar injuries. But it was great to have James Porter out of retirement as cover for the more crocked members of the team. The first competition was to work out who was the most crocked Mandarin and would enjoy the match from under the trees while James ran around. David Williams won narrowly (“Saturday hockey injury”).

If you check back on the group WhatsApp you will see that that normally most straight and decent of Mandarins, Jonathan Porter shamelessly plugged the fixture on the basis that we would encounter nothing like the league playing Holland brothers who wreaked such havoc at Elstead, rather just the much more gentle mature players that make up the Alton 4th XI. That initially looked to be true. The openers were decent players but of Mandarin vintage. JP expertly permed his 9 bowlers and wickets fell periodically with the exception of the youthful number 4 who was clearly not a 4th XI player. He scored an excellent 49 and made a slightly dodgy pitch look easy as Alton accelerated. Mandarin sledging proved ineffective: after he performed a perfect reverse sweep he was challenged to try a ramp which also then went flying towards the boundary. Mandarin bowling was decent with JP taking 2 for 11 and Paul 2 for 12. Chris Baker’s variations ,including one outstanding googly yielded 3 for 27.  And the catching was even better: two excellent takes by Healey at cow-corner and two snatches close in by James Porter. But best of all was Dan nonchalantly taking a catch at mid-on despite the every energetic Rakesh calling and jumping right in front of him (clearly overestimating his height and/or high jump skills). The Alton total of 142 off the allocated 35 overs felt about 10-20 too much given the pitch.

Chris Baker and Harry went out to open and made an excellent start. Another young “definitely not a 4th XI player” was bowling at considerable speed appearing at times to be targeting the Baker head (“he’s probably never bowled at someone not wearing a helmet before” was Jon’s excuse). Chris channeled his inner David Steel and stood firm for 13. Harry batted as well as he had bowled for 34. But the Alton change bowling was tight and we fell steadily behind the rate. Chris Healey and a crocked Jonathan (who had kept wicked exceptionally well despite being unable to move more than a yard in any direction) realised they had to take on the weaker bowlers before the openers returned but couldn’t quite get enough balls away (though one exquisite  drive from Jonathan that beat long-off will stick in the memory). The openers duly returned and 18 was required off the last over. Only now did the captain put himself on for an over of very gentle spin (to that point his approach had been more that of a man captaining a crucial league match rather than a gentle Sunday game). A few lusty blows left us 8 short on 134 for 7 and Jonathan now genuinely crippled.

So a near perfect way to end a fantastic shortened season. It was the first time I had been able to attend a Rob Foot match and it was great to remember Rob with Wendy and Mike. Rob started playing for the Mandarins at a time in the 90s when the house style could sometimes be rather Treasury cautious with a draw at any cost mentality. That was not Rob’s way on the pitch or in the pub. His fast bowling and big hitting helped change the team’s ethos for the better. He was great fun and we benefited so much from having him among us. Sadly it wasn’t for nearly long enough.

John Hawkins

Saturday, 10 October 2020

County of Dreaming Spires (and spiralling dreams)

Mandarins in Oxfordshire 4-6 September 2020

Covid may have caused the sad absence of our annual trip to Suffolk (the first time this had failed to happen since Britain joined the EU, let alone left it), but it was not to stop the Mandarins touring at all. So off to Oxfordshire it was, with a bit of fixtures secretary skullduggery and serendipity (like the sausage factory it sometimes better not to know how it is done but just to enjoy the product) combining to form a trio of very attractive fixtures in the county that educated so many of the country's finest minds (as well as a fair few Mandarins) and has hosted so many of the great touring teams of yesteryear (and this year the Mandarins too etc). [enough of the cheap gags, just proceed with a factual description of the games please Dan - Ed, MA Hons (Oxon)].

Friday night saw us in Appleton for a twenty 20 against the very obliging Far From The MCC CC. The equally obliging local Plough Inn was the perfect spot for a pre-tour meet up (and a post match meal) and we were pleased to find several of the oppo already there and already at least a drink or two to the good. FFTMCC proved to be just as sociable on the pitch as well as off it, rightly prizing the game far higher than the result.


Batting first we were treated to a sparkling Tunbridge 50 (retd) and hard hitting cameo from Healey (29), described by the highly observant FFTMCC match reporter as a "short bespectacled fellow of advancing years", who nonetheless defied their rabbit-like expectations and took us to a competitive looking 152. In the field we were treated to a rare but welcome appearance from Nick Kulkarni (4-1-19-1) who showed few signs of rustiness with ball. Jon Porter was also a welcome and high energy addition in the field, especially as were down to 10 due to Heard's crocked back and the non-appearance of David Williams' non-existent son "Nick" who match manager Arvind had also put on the teamsheet. But it mattered little as we bowled tidily at the top and your correspondent and skipper (4-29) cleaned up a tail looking to hit out as they fell further behind the rate, ending on 126-9.

Saturday? Well Saturday was one of the great days of Mandarins cricket in this or any other year. A long-awaited and much anticipated game at Warborough CC against the legendary Erratics of Exeter, a club with which we share friends, occasional players and most importantly a common outlook on friendly cricket and how it should be played and enjoyed.

A thorough, and thoroughly entertaining, match report by Jim (who has worn the colours of both clubs with distinction) can be found on the Erratics' own website here:

But let it be said that 24 players (from 13 years to age to three score and ten) were involved in a game in which all four results were possible going into the final over, on a ground so idyllic it is used by multiple TV dramas in answer to the location director's call to 'find me the stereotypical English village cricket green', and in the very best of spirits. There was father against son (in the form of Chris facing up to Sam Cook), and father conspiring against son (in the form of Rob dropping a dolly catch off the bowling of Adam Eastaway) as the Erratics ground their way to a hard-fought 128. There was a declaration on a hat-trick ball, and then a flying start from Baxter and Williams in reply. But naturally there was also a middle order collapse, a slowing of the rate and tension-ratcheting build-up to that final over finale. 


The result? Not that it really matters, Eastaway R atoned for his earlier errors (the redemption arc being a screenwriter's favourite of course) with a composed 27* and a cover-driven 4 to finish the job. Technically a win by two wickets for the Mandarins, but a triumph for friendly cricket was the bigger picture result. Inevitably Warborough also had the perfect pub garden, local ale and fine food over which to linger and over-analyse the events of the day. It all felt like the start of a fine tradition and plans are already afoot to make it so.

As for Sunday, well that was the latest instalment of one of our most traditional games, and despite three days on the road and two nights on the beer we were up for the cup at Brill on the hill once more, and in front of a sizeable crowd to boot. It is always a pleasure to play on the beautiful brow where Ox meets Bucks, even if it has also started to feel like a place where the Mandarins always meet a somewhat stronger side than our capabilities can match. It was indeed a pleasure to see Hawkhead strike a fine 43, as well as Baxter using the tour to bat his way back into form for a 55. It was also a great pleasure to see irregulars Richardson, Sommerville and Tivey, even if they had less fruitful days with the bat than they would have preferred. A late flurry from Ramani and your correspondent (once he had been helpfully disabused of the notion that it was a timed game by chairman/umpire/captain Wilmot) took us to 167 off our 40, which felt a little light if still in 'in the game if we bowl well and take our catches' territory.

And the thing is that we didn't bowl badly. In fact I don't think I have ever seen Heard (8-4-28-2) bowl better of faster (which can't only be down to the drugs he was taking for his back). But we didn't take our catches and we came up against a Brill batsman in number 4 Parke who played quite possibly the best innings that Wilmot and many other experienced Mandarins in attendance had ever seen played against the club. His 82 was not just brutal but devastatingly controlled and constructed, picking gaps in the field and pinging quicker bowlers back over their heads for four at will. It took Brill to the total and the trophy in just the 27th over, which at least allowed a bit more time for the long drive back after the post-match ceremonials had been done. 

And as we did so we reflected on a weekend that perhaps encapsulated our season as a whole: an up then perhaps inevitable downswing in results, but also a sense of salvaging something wonderful from the wreckage of the year. In the county of dreaming spires, three days of good cricket and great company that was more than any of us could have dared dream of in the spring.

Dan Forman

Sunday, 27 September 2020

MANDARINS CRICKET CLUB 2020 SUMMARY

Played 13, Won 6, Lost 6, Drew 1  Win percentage 50% (2018 34.2%) Most successful year since 2015. Mandarins went to Brill on 6 September 6-1 up and on track for the first winning season since 2012, but  wilted to loose the last 5 games and finish 6-6.

Heaviest Victories

By 3 wickets vs Foxbury Exiles, by 25 runs vs FFTMCC (Oxford tour T20)

Narrowest Victories

By 2 wickets vs Superstars and Erratics, by 13 runs vs Streatham  & Marlborough

Heaviest Defeats

By 6 wickets vs Brill, by 156 runs vs Elstead (5th heaviest runs defeat of all time.)

Narrowest Defeats

By 3 runs vs Streatham & Marlborough midweek.

Highest score for: 224 vs SMCC Midweek. Highest score against 227 for 6 vs SMCC Midweek

Lowest score for: 57 all out vs Elstead. Lowest score against 128 for 9 dec, Erratics (FFTMCC 126 for 9, T20)

Mandarins scored 6 50s and no centuries. Graeme Tunbridge spoiled his pattern of exactly one 50 every season, by scoring two.

Mills 57*vs Foxbury

H Forman 57 vs SMCC Midweek

Baker 55 vs Heber

Tunbridge 55 vs SMCC

Baxter 55 vs Brill

Tunbridge 52* vs FFTMCC

Best bowling was Chris Healey, 6.4-1-15-4 vs Erratics.  

Notable events: This was the season of Covid-19, with recreational cricket banned until 11 July. 39 players turned out for the Mandarins (2019,53) of whom 13 appeared just once. Mandarins took 42 catches and stumpings. A rough tally showed the number dropped was only around half that of chances held, a very considerable improvement on the 2019 ratio. Worst collapse was against SMCC Midweek from 188-2 to 224 all out, including 6 for 8, 216-4 to 224 all out, chasing 227.  Against Heber the top 6 batsmen in the order were right handers, and the bottom 5 left handers –thanks to Paul Mills for spotting that trivia.

Best Partnerships for each wicket

1st    53 vs Kings School Rochester (Baxter/H Forman)

2nd 96 vs Brill (Baxter/Hawkhead) 

3rd 72 vs SMCC Midweek (H Forman/Lowin)

4th 37 vs SMCC (Wilmot/Taylor)

5th 64 vs Heber (Baker/Pharoah)

6th 78 vs Foxbury (Baker/Mills) . 

7th 33 vs Superstars (Ramani/H Forman)

8th 37* vs Brill (Ramani/D Forman) 

9th 15 vs SMCC (Tunbridge/Hawkins)

10th 54 vs SMCC (Tunbridge/Manian) – provisional club record for 10th wicket, overtaking the 51 made by Denis Parsons and Paul McIntyre at Berkeley Taverners in 1980, which had stood for 40 years and 35 days.

Other 50 partnerships:

70 (3rd) vs Hockerill (Healey/Somerville)

56 (2nd) vs SMCC Midweek (Haider/H Forman)

50 (5th) vs Superstars (Tunbridge/Manian)

BATTING AVERAGES (Exceptionally, Venky, given truncated season qualification is 2 rather than the usual 3 completed innings)

        Played Innings N.O. Runs Highest Average     100/50

H Forman 5         5         0         151         57         30.20 -/1

Tunbridge 9         9         1         214         55         26.75 -/2

Hawkhead 2         2         0         48         43         24.00

Healey 7         7         2         113         42         22.60

Ramani 11         11         4         145         27*         20.72

Mills 4         4         1         62         57*         20.66 -/1

Eastaway 6         4         2         41         27*         20.50

Baker 6         6         0         97         55         16.17 -/1

Taylor 2         2         0         32         27         16.00

Williams         3         2         0         31         25         15.50

Baxter 9         9         0         138         55         15.33 -/1

Somerville 3         3         0         42         35         14.00

Manian 6         6         1         66         25         13.20

Wilmot 8         8         2         72         23*         12.00

Heard 3         2         0         22         22         11.00

Lowin 4         4         0         43         32         10.75

Brand 3         3         0         22         15         7.33

D Forman 9         7         3         28         16*         7.00

Brockbank 4         4         0         23         12         6.75

Tivey 3         3         0         18         13         6.00

S  Forman 6         6         0         28         16*         4.66

Hawkins         5         5         0         9         6         1.80

C McKeon 2         2         0         2         2         1.00

Also batted, appeared more than once, in order of appearance

McIntyre 7-4-3-10-8*-10.00; A Eastaway 2-1-0-0-0-0.00; Jon Porter 2-1-1-10-10*-&&&

One appearance: Pharoah, 41; Snowden,1; Lowen,1; Hurst,2; Richardson, 0; Kulkarni DNB; Cook 0; F Chave 0; Conway 17; Faizan Haider 49; Smith 3; Lloyd 1; James Porter 0.

BOWLING AVERAGES (Bowled more than once)

        Overs Maidens Runs Wickets Av         Econ Strike

Healey 36.2 6         136             14 9.71 3.74 15.57

Jon Porter 8         1         31             3         10.33 3.75 16.00

Mills 10         0         49             4         12.25 4.90 15.00

S Forman 50         11         149             10 14.90 2.98 30.00

Baker 10         0         80             5         16.00 8.00 12.00

Ramani 68         14         241             15 16.07 3.54 27.20

McIntyre 38         2         195             10 19.50 5.13 22.80

D Forman 57.1 3         316             15 21.07 5.53 22.87

Baxter 28     0         154             6         25.66 5.50 28.00

H Forman 22         2         105             4         26.25 4.77 33.00

Manian 9         1         27             1         27.00 3.00 54.00

Eastaway 44         11         139             5         27.80 3.15 52.80

Heard 24         5         100             2         50.00 4.17 72.00

Tunbridge 13         1         69             1         69.00 5.38 78.00

Also bowled once: Pharoah 6-1-28-0; Kulkarni 4-1-19-1; Hurst 7-2-10-0; Snowden 6-1-24-1; Lowin 2-0-20-0; Cook 5-0-20-0; F Chave 6-0-42-2; Somerville 1-0-9-0; A Eastaway 3-0-7-0; Lloyd 8-0-26-1; Faizan Haider 2-0-14-0; Smith 2-0-22-0; James Porter 3-0-20-0.

Mandarins took 38 catches and 4 stumpings: Tunbridge 6; Wilmot 3+2; D Forman, Ramani 5;  Healey, Baxter 4;  C Mckeon, Brand, James Porter 2, Williams 2 stumpings, Baker, Brockbank, Mills, S Forman, Jon Porter,1. 

Chris Baker