Monday, 27 September 2021

Suffolk Tour 2021 – Extracts from the Tour Manager’s Diary

Sunday 8th August

First major tour snafu. Davidson junior has fractured fibula. Davidson senior and new tourer Benji also out of the tour. Losing one tenth of touring party this close to the start requires a little rejigging and replanning.

Tuesday 10th August

Subject the tour WhatsApp group to a barrage of admin-based messages. About halfway through a message from Lynsey comes in:

Lynsey - “What chance of us using the pool do you think?”

Me – “Never fear, the school-based non-organised sport message is on the list, just not sent yet, bear with!!!”

Lynsey – “I thought you were finished but I see it was more of a pause and regroup”

Cue pause for reflection on whether 12 consecutive lengthy and detailed WhatsApp messages is really the best way to convey information to a large group of people spending four days in Suffolk. Dismiss thought as I had clearly committed to moving away from email as the route to disseminate information, recalling Shakespeare as I so often do in times of strife - “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” I’d even got David Lowen onto WhatsApp for crying out loud! Immediately regret dismissing thought as multiple questions come in about various pieces of admin, all of which were covered in the 12 consecutive lengthy and detailed WhatsApp messages.

Wednesday 11th August

Second major tour snafu. Hockerill cannot raise a team for Sunday. Consider an SOS for a new game on Sunday but then reflect on multiple messages warning of various body parts that may or may not hold up over the four days in addition to the section of the touring party lost to a fractured fibula. Decide not to take the gamble.

Thursday 12th August

It is a rare treat to wake up on a Thursday, load up the car with beer and cricket gear and drive to Suffolk. Excitement levels increase as various giddy tourists chip in on the WhatsApp group. Excitement levels decrease as Raki texts to say that he has missed not one but two trains. Hawkins puts on a brave face and waits at Ipswich station for an hour with Baxter. I never did hear what they got up to. Meanwhile the usual suspects arrive on time and I join them at the Station for a pint and some lunch.

This is now the second time I’ve attempted an intra-Mandarins game on Tour. Give teams Ed Sheeran-song based names to try and draw on some of The HundredTM spirit. Falls somewhat flat; it appears that knowledge of Ed Sheeran songs amongst Mandarins is lower than I anticipated. 112 from the A[rvind] Team feels a par score though this innings also includes third major tour snafu of Healey’s calf giving way and ruling him out of the game and further cricket on the tour. Arvind and Raki bat nicely, wickets are shared around. In reply only Gemma hits her straps while others fall around her; Galway Girl fall short, all out for 96.

Lovely to see Alice Hurst make her full debut for the Mandarins. Also lovely to enjoy JP and Helen’s wedding anniversary with some fizz and far too-delicious cake (these may have been a contributory factor to a sluggish run chase).

Fourth and fifth major snafus follow in quick succession, however. Give myself a corneal abrasion removing a contact lens, ruling myself out of further cricket on the tour. Then arrive at the curry house to find them claiming they have no record of a booking for 20 people on a Thursday evening. “Truly, thou art damned like an ill-roasted egg, all on one side” I curse to myself. Luckily, they are prepared to move some tables (and customers sitting on those tables) around to accommodate us. General consensus is that the controversial move from the Prince of India has been a (qualified) success. Make note to reconfirm booking a third time for next year.

Friday 13th August

Much of this day was a blur for me (literally and metaphorically) but thankfully weather is set fair. Quilibets are the usual blend of youth and experience. Batting first they get to 191 with Gemma and Hurst the two bowlers in the wickets. Based on yesterday’s game the score feels challenging. And so it comes to pass, with only Manian in the top order looking at all fluent, though a thoroughly enjoyable last wicket stand between JP and Martin takes the Mandarins score beyond 100 and to something approaching respectability.

Evening meal goes without a hitch and is the usual wonderful fare at the Station. Truly a highlight of the year. The Chairman is missed but Dan and Arvind (with the first tour speech given by a Mandarindian) speak in his stead; Dan seems to be hell bent on breaking the world record for number of eye-based puns. Blinding efforts all round, indeed.

Photo: Andy Heard

Saturday 14th August

Receive message in morning from Nick, skipper of the Quilibets. He is a man of few words and the email contains nothing but a link to a twitter status of a team looking for a game on Sunday. The team describe themselves as “average to weak”. I can’t help but wondering if there is a subtext here. But no, surely not and of course Shakespeare rides to the rescue again – “It's not enough to speak, but to speak true” and I would expect nothing less from a Master at Framlingham College.

Sadly, however, my prophecies about the prospects of raising a team for Sunday are accurate and there is no prospect of taking up Nick’s suggestion. One excuse includes a wife who is now expecting a Mandarin home earlier on Sunday and would be “disappointed” not to see him until the evening. I can’t help but wondering if there is a subtext here. Further exploration indicates “disappointed” actually means “incandescent with rage”. Re-ponder Nick’s email and my approach of selectively finding Shakespeare quotes to support my point of view on a given topic.

Today’s match has age as its theme. A different opposition this year at the familiar Saturday territory of Worlingworth – Chris Watson has kindly arranged for a combined Norfolk and Suffolk over-70s team to play us. Pitch and outfield has got better still since we were last here two years ago and Lowen and Harry put on a fluent opening partnership of 100. Much speculation that the age difference of 58 (I think) years must be some sort of Mandarins record. (Incidentally later in the game we have Josie and David fielding at the same time, meaning an age gap on the field of 64 years – again, cue much speculation if this has ever been exceeded.) Alice Hurst anchors the rest of the innings and Mandarins declare on 168. In response, Somerville partners host Chris for an excellent 50 partnership for the second wicket but there is little resistance thereafter, with Dan bowling well for his 4 wickets.

Werewolf in the evening is a strangely enjoyable experience as I don’t get lynched immediately – sympathy everyone quickly regrets as I am a werewolf in both games and enjoy a particularly vengeful killing spree. This won’t be forgotten and normal service will resume next year.

Sunday 15th August

That Sunday feeling as we’re done for another year, and no game to extend the tour into the evening. “I have neither the scholar's melancholy, which is emulation; nor the musician's, which is fantastical; nor the courtier's, which is proud; nor the soldier's, which is ambitious; nor the lawyer's, which is politic; nor the lady's, which is nice; nor the lover's, which is all these: but it is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects, and indeed the sundry contemplation of my travels, in which my often rumination wraps me in a most humorous sadness.”

The Take on Season's Finale

On my train to Alton it seemed like rain was in the air and the last game of the Mandarin's season was likely to be truncated if not a total wash-out. But upon reaching the beautiful ground at Holt Lane, Bentworth we were welcomed with bacon sandwiches, tea and sunshine.  The Porters should be organising all our cricket matches if this is how they do it! This year's Rob Foot game would go on to be a classic!

Photo: Andy Heard

The toss was irrelevant as Jonathan Porter informed us that we would be batting first in a 35 over game. We opened with Tony Hawkhead (on strike) and Jeremy Jarvis. Unfortunately, it wasn't the best of starts with Jarvis clean bowled for a duck in the second over of the game. In walked Jules Lowin at 3 and made us wonder why he was going through a rigorous warm up routine of sprints before the start of the match when all he did for his first 20 runs was score boundaries. He displayed a batting master class tonking boundaries all around the ground and politely retired after his 50 keeping in mind the grand traditions of the sunday friendly fixtures that most other teams don't seem to care too much about especially when they play against us.

We lost wickets as Lowin set the scoreboard on fire - Hawkhead out caught tamely at mid wicket, Dan Forman clean bowled through the gate by an off-spinner ["For the record, it ripped past my outside edge not through the gate!" - Dan], Graeme Tunbridge caught at point, Rob Eastaway getting Baxtered by me - duly running him out after calling for a suicidal single to cover. I got out leg before the wicket after missing a straight one. Our score was now tottering at 6 for 95. Chris Healy delivered a second batting master class by racing to 64 of 41 balls stitching together a crucial partnership with Andy Heard who scored 15 bringing our final score to 177 of 35 overs. Both Jon Porter and Paul McIntyre batted after Healy's forced retirement post his 50 and Heard's wicket. Healy's knock was riddled with boundaries playing some immaculate drives and cuts.

Special mention for McIntyre's elegant cut past backward point for a boundary, a young left arm orthodox bowler who seemed to have all the craft required to be serious bowler and all the quick bowlers having tremendous control and beautiful, flowing actions. Really nice to see and play against some promising young talent.

We knew we had enough to defend this score. Eastaway and Heard opening the bowling for the Mandarins delivering a tight 9 over opening spell between them with 2 wickets and 31 runs. McIntyre was brought in as one change and was greeted for a 13 run opening over but he went on to bowl 4 maidens after that finishing with sensational figures of 5 overs 4 maidens 1 for 13. I was brought on from the other end to partner him for 4 overs and managed to give a boundary every over but also took a wicket. Special mention once again to McIntyre's vociferous leg before appeal which was fruitful.

As the game meandered with opposition sending some of their youngsters to get a hit - it looked like the Mandarins had the match firmly in their control. Tunbridge giving us a couple of crucial breakthroughs to keep the pressure up. Forman trying hard to get a wicket to top the wickets chart for the season which was now shared between himself and me. Healy and Porter slipping in a couple of overs each as well. It looked like the game was firmly in the bag until the Alton boys decided to go into T20 mode and set themselves up for a chase. Mr. Porter chose to attack and set an attacking field for a bowl-out of sorts between Forman and myself to see who can go past each other. I made the terrible mistake of getting one of the young left-handers out after Lowin duly stumped the batsman who left his crease trying to heave the ball straight down the ground.

With 1 over to go, Alton needed 16 to win of the last over. In walked a middle-aged, rotund batsman with a long handle - after the kid got a single of the first ball to give him the strike he dispatched Forman's second ball over cow corner into the bushes for a huge six, ran a 2 to deep midwicket, dispatched another ball wide of long on for flat six and ran the last one after pushing to mid-wicket. Handshakes all round, a terrific day of cricket was closed off at the Royal Oak with some local golden ale.

The conversation amongst the Mandarins was whether we could have won that if we really wanted to. But the question remains could Alton have also won it if they wanted to? Well, they did want it and they won!

Match Summary

  • Mandarins batting first scored 177 of 35 overs.
    • C. Healy: 65, J. Lowin: 50. S. Crook: 4 for 29 in 6 overs

  • Alton: 178 of 34.5 overs.
    • N Vincent: 32, R. Van Das Linde: 22. G. Tunbridge: 2 for 25 in 4 overs

Rakesh Ramani

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Rochester: Return of the Chairman

Kings’ School Rochester combines so many elements of what makes a perfect Mandarin fixture: a great venue easily accessible from the East Kent coast, nice opposition, a top tea, drinks at a classy venue afterwards and more often than not good weather. This year’s fixture didn’t disappoint.

It was great to have the Chairman back on his home ground for the first time since being carried off at Abinger Hammer. His physio had cleared him to keep wicket and bat but not apparently to run. The key question that was on everyone’s lips was whether we were due to play the school first team (who had outclassed us in 2020) or the traditional more-mixed Headmaster’s XI. Relief that is was the latter was, however, short lived. After Jonathan won or lost the toss (he wouldn’t say) we headed out to field. Burley opener “Jonesy” was familiar from previous years but whereas he had got out relatively cheaply in the past this time he started with a bang hitting anything full straight for four and anything shorter to the off side boundary. The other opener, George, fresh from four hundreds for the school first XI, started slightly slower but soon caught up. The ball headed to all parts at speed. Both the usually miserly Eastaway and Stan were taken off after just three overs. Rakesh, Martin and Heber Dad Jon McInerny were asked to bring about a measure of control. All bowled well (Rakesh for a most impressive 14 overs, just missing his first Mandarin’s century in the process) but with big hitting batsmen, short boundaries and a fast outfield there was little they could do. At drinks, the main discussion was when the openers should retire. This seemed to unsettle Jonesy who was bowled by Martin for 81 shortly afterwards. But George was by now hitting the ball further and further until he was retired when he reached his century. After that, things returned to a slightly more normal rhythm with the rate dropping to nearer seven an over. We fielded pretty well (especially Stan and Rakesh on the shorter boundary) though it felt a bit like being under fire in the trenches at times (I have the bruises to prove it). It was also one of those days when all the aerial miss-hits went into gaps rather than to hand.

The total at tea of 240 for 3 declared off 34 overs looked challenging, though we have chased this sort of score before at Rochester. So after a selection of high quality sandwiches, scones and cream, homemade cake etc etc. Jonathan and Tim kicked off our innings. It was a very steady start. Jonathan (who had kept wicket well as always) played some nice shots square of the wicket and ignored his physio to jog singles. The bowling was decent rather than terrifying but we weren’t hitting the boundaries as the School had done. Tim, so often a fast starter, perhaps weighed down by his tea was finding it harder than usual to pierce the field. We were soon slipping well behind the rate. But after the openers went, Chris H changed that. Batting beautifully with one glorious pick-up for 6 and a couple of the classiest of straight drives, he raced to 50 and the rate required had dropped back to around seven an over. But then disaster struck. It wasn’t quite clear from the boundary what Arvind was doing/calling but the upshot was that Chris gave himself run out while umpire Jonathan was still considering his decision.  After that it never looked as though we were going to challenge the Rochester total. Arvind hit some good blows for 29 but having slipped to seven down with ten over or so left, it was left to your correspondent to do his best “John Sibley” impression and with Rakesh to take us through to 154-7 and a losing draw. A not particularly satisfactory way to end a good day. But there were still drinks to enjoy in the delights of the garden at Rochester House and Headmaster Ben seemed very keen to welcome us back in 2022. Many thanks as always to him and to Jonathan.

John Hawkins

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Elstead: A Player Speaks

Mandarins vs Elstead, Monday, 30th August 2021

The traditional Bank Holiday fixture versus Elstead generated plenty of comment on the Mandarins WhatsApp complaining about Elstead’s selection policy, much of it from commentators who weren’t even playing. So in the interests of historical accuracy here is a belated match report. 

First, the team. We were delighted to see Chris McKeon back from his sojourn in Liverpool, and look forward to him playing regularly next season. We were also lucky to have a brace of Porters. Overall it looked a reasonable Mandarins team on paper (though everything is relative). 

Next the toss. Your correspondent (having been asked to captain at the last minute, not for the first time at this fixture) duly lost, but in my defence I did get agreement to a timed game. This was to prove important later. Elstead elected to bat, facing almost 11 Mandarins (Dr Mills was fashionably late – somebody had to be); Andy Heard and Jon Porter opened the bowling. Veterans of the Suffolk tour will be pleased to hear that Andy had remembered his boots (he may even remembered his towel, history does not relate). What he forgot was the club kit. Andy duly took the first wicket in a tidy spell, but Elstead steadily accumulated; Gemma Porter took over from her father and was denied a wicket when Chris Baker, catching the ball at the third attempt at long on, discovered to his chagrin that he had stepped over the line and it was six. In Chris’s defence there was a time when that catch would have counted. McIntyre also bowled tidily, whilst Elstead carried on at a steady rate, with first Lincoln then Ryman retiring on reaching fifty. Mills and Baxter also practised some leg-spin. But the star of the show was Rakesh; brought onto bowl criminally late he bowled 12 overs, 4 maidens, and took six for 27, comfortably the best Mandarins bowling of the season. In amongst his wickets was a fine stumping by Chris McKeon, who kept very well on his return to the Mandarins colours. Elstead’s final total was 233 off no fewer than 46 overs. This felt like quite a lot. 

Undaunted, Baxter and Brand opened the Mandarins response and put on 44 for the first wicket at around 3 an over (unfortunately not much more than half the required rate). Brand then skied a catch, whilst Baxter tried to run a sneaky bye and was run out. Mills, Arvind, Baker and McKeon fell cheaply. Gemma Porter impressed until she too was caught. By this time it was very clear that holding on for the draw was the only option. It was left to Jon Porter and Rakesh to see out the overs, as Elstead bowled every more quickly in a ploy to get more than 20 overs into the last hour. This they did, but to no avail. I of course had total confidence that the iron wall of McIntyre and Heard would prevail, should they be needed. But they weren’t and Mandarins finished at 95-7.

Match drawn. 

Tim Baxter

Room for Improvement at Ipsden as Reading University Staff Overpower Mandarins

Reading University Staff (251 a.o) beat Mandarins (96 a.o) by plenty.

Yesterday was the second time in two weeks that I've encountered the Reading University Staff team. Last time, a handy Whitchurch-on-Thames side - who've won about as many this year as Mandarins have lost - were comfortably defeated in a match that, incidentally, almost came to blows. So I wasn't that hopeful as I arrived at the pleasingly situated Ipsden ground, situated in the Chiltern Hills.

You can't tell from here, but despite its bucolic location and cosy pavilion, the pitch itself speaks of the farmland from which it had obviously once been hewn. One delivery might clang against your helmet, whilst the second will bruise your ankles. Though to be accurate, most of us weren't in for long enough to get a personal experience. Fielding in the deep was no easier, with unexpected undulations near the boundary allowing the ball rolling towards you to leap suddenly over your shoulder.

With 15-minutes to go, Reading had barely a handful of players on the ground; and fears of an administrative error ("they do know it's Saturday, right"?) were likely to be our best hope of some kind of victory. In the end, 13 players turned up, and the chosen format was the usual-for-these-parts of 35-overs a side. Reading went in to bat first.

The innings started aggressively, with boundaries - fours and sixes - being struck regularly. Yet the Mandarins supporters' hopes were raised by wickets falling at regular intervals. We had them five wickets down with only 73 runs on the board. Stan Forman and John Porter each collected three, with Harry and Dan chipping in one each. 

Notable dismissals included Paul McIntyre and Dan Forman both converging on the same skied catch, both shouting "MINE!" - let's face it, the shout is usually "YOURS!" - before Dan managed to collect the ball, shoving Paul out of the way. So many surprises in that incident. Later, in similar circumstances, JP and David Williams managed neither of them to get near the ball, thus demonstrating reversion-to-the-mean.

I should not forget to mention two run-outs in identical format - Stan Forman at point to David Williams as keeper - and to highlight that the three Formans were involved in 8 of the 10 dismissals. Yes, we did dismiss them all in the end, but not until the last over and not before they'd scored 251.

After a very good tea of barbecued meats, Harry and Drew went in to try and chase this mammoth score. Harry played with great confidence and was able to farm regular runs. However, his 33 proved to be more than half of the 65 runs scored off the bat. Nobody else reached double figures, and had it not been for 31 extras, the outcome for us would have been truly dismal.

It was good to see Ollie Gardiner make a cameo performance (his 6 was third top score), and I include this picture if only to prompt future readers to wonder what can possibly be going on here.

Andy Heard

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Oxford Mini-Tour Report

Fans of What is a Googly? by R Eastaway of TMS fame will recall the section on bizarre reasons play has stopped at cricket matches. To this must now be added the hiatus at Warborough on Saturday: "Mandarins keeper required to leave field to move his Volvo because it was getting in the way of the Morris dancers." Only in Midsommer.

Whilst this was my personal highlight moment, the whole tour was a rather splendid affair thanks to a) excellent weather; b) three excellent and convivial oppositions; c) three lovely venues, two of them new to the Mandarins d) three exciting games e) superb organisation, man/woman management and crisis management from John Hawkins and Dan Forman, particularly to pick the Sunday fixture out of the fire pit.

Friday: the Oxford Mini Tour begins in the shadow of the Oxford Mini factory. Despite its proximity, in fact you can't see the factory at all from the Horspath CC ground. Instead views of Shotover Hill and rolling Oxford countryside. Although we were on the 2nd square, it and it's outfield were better than anything else played on this year. Almost everyone was on time. But we were only 10 because of Tony's dodgy lentil soup. This hurt us in a very tight match where the extra fielder would almost certainly have made the difference. Far From The MCC CC won the toss and inserted us. Gloucestershire over 50s stalwart Pete Garratt guested in harness with Bob Tivey making his season debut. Both went early but Baker, Healey, Somerville and blast from the past Sam Keayes added a composite 96 for the third wicket as the retire at 30 rule kicked in. I retired myself at 25 not, as alleged in the FFTMCC scorebook, because I was knackered but because I had despaired of ever timing the ball and thought others might. I was wrong, the scoring rate actually declined towards the end. Drew made a huge hole in his bat smashing down his own wicket. Healey hit 6 of our 11 boundaries, and narrowly edged out Johnny Extras as top scorer. 133 off our 20 was above par for us in the format, but we felt a touch light for the conditions.

FFTMCC were touted as a batting team, and looked the part. But we plugged away tidily. Alice Hurst got us rolling by clutching a superb effort running back over her head at point, then bowled tidily too. Keayes was quick both sides of the wicket but threw in a surprise straight one as well for his second wicket. Confusion in Heard's final over. Good lbw appeal answered by the umpire raising his finger and saying sotto voce  " not out." All 13 players under the impression batsman given out. Umpire says no, that was his signal for going down leg. Mandarins run out the batsman who has wandered to mid wicket by this stage under the impression he is lbw. Umpire clarifies that batsman is definitely not lbw but is run out. Mandarins show magnanimity in withdrawing run out appeal. Umpire decides it was all so confusing that instead of dot ball (correct?) he calls dead ball and we have to bowl the ball again. One extra ball in the game. Cut to the chase. We chip away, they chip away, but gradually fall a little behind the rate. Needing 33 off 4, 17 off 2, 11 off the last, now 6 down. As the sun sets skipper Hawkins recalls Sam "the assassin" Keayes for the final over. Strong case for deep fly slip/long Stop??? Cap'n Hawkins is resolute - no. First ball hacked to deep fly slip for two. Third ball beamer fells batsman. A straight one gets Sam his third wicket.  A few more hacked here and there. Final ball and scores are level. Hacked aerially to vacant fly slip with all fielders tight. Great game.

Saturday: Idyllic Warborough. Ponies, designer Labradors, Morris dancers, manicured thatch, Breakspears and cricket on the green. Arvind has eaten the dodgy prawn this time, so thanks to Penny Price for making up the eleven for us. Erratics, hung over from their thrilling defeat chasing over 250 the day before and pitching camp at the Manor House at midnight, hit intense Mandarins near their best on a tricky slow surface. Eastaway, Fresh from TMS, is excellent, so too Stan Forman. Erratics 3 for 3, then 25 for 5 including key breakthrough as Fraser Chave lurches forward to Healey and Bob pulls off a record breaking second Oxfordshire tour stumping. Chris Cook leads a semi- recovery but Sam Cook, 96* from about 8 overs the previous day, is bowled by Healey for 5. Another key moment as Erratics subside to 88 for 8 before recovering to 130 for 9 off 44.

It is a modest target, but we have lost the habit of winning. Credit to Stan for keeping his head against steady bowling, when Baker and Mills lost theirs. His back foot force through the covers rated by umpire Healey as shot of the season. Stan stayed with cap'n Graeme for 49 runs before giving Chris Cook his only victim. Cook deserved better and figures of 1-51 belie just how often he beat the outside edge with cunning drift and movement. Martin Hurst delighted his fans by deciding that what genteel gentrified Warborough needed was a bit of agriculture. The trademark hoick  over mid wicket promised much but Martin became a victim of his own propaganda as he ran for a smear which the bowler had managed to stop. Mandarins were still nervy, with 39 needed at this point but Rob was resolute and Graeme increasingly assertive in taking us home by 6 wickets with 13 balls to spare. Graeme, for the second year running, spoils his record of scoring only one fifty each season. 60*, well played skipper.

Sunday: with Brill unable to get a side together, we were fortunate to be picked up by Harwell International CC at their superb facilities on the Science Campus. You could tell you were on a science campus because the scoreboard was made of magnetic paint and neodymium magnets. And sticky backed numbers from Homebase. The ground was enormous and the wicket looked immaculate. In the event it played quite slow, and serendipitously both sides proved closely matched in a tense 40 over game. We "arranged" to bat first. It was a slow start, Baxter and Somerville only getting 17 off 10. Acceleration followed, 53 off the next 10, but both were out, and Rakesh carried with them as collateral damage to Tim's sharp call, although, being Rakesh, he was only out by a whisker having said no twice and stopped, ultimately beaten only by a direct hit. We then decelerated against awkward loopy bowling. Graeme and Stan both got going again but couldn't continue and Harwell fielded to a high standard.  We only got 7 boundaries all told on the giant outfield. In the end it was only an adhesive and critical last wicket partnership of 17 off 6 overs by McIntyre 0* from 20 balls and Heard 14* that allowed us to use up the overs.

126 didn't look enough, but as on Saturday, Mandarins got off to a flier with both Heard and Stan starting with wicket maidens. Andy bowled through, adding two more wickets (3-18) and Rakesh was also tight and threatening picking up his 3-14. We also fielded well above par, highlight a Jules Lowin snatch at gully. Harwell looked dead for money at 63 for 8 off 27 overs. But we love this game for its swings of fortune. Mr Mistri batted at no 7 because he was "knackered" , to use the tour vernacular, after his 96* to win the league for Harwell the previous day. With his strike bowlers bowled out, cap'n Forman juggled the others as Mistri cut loose. 51 were added off the next 6.5 overs, although Tanner was run out "knackered" in the process. With Mistri blazing away to reach 61 and brilliantly manipulating the strike, it was Harwell's to win with 15 wanted off 6 overs. But Dan held his nerve and floated one up. Mistri got under the drive and all eyes were on McIntyre at semi long-off. Never in doubt as Paul made his second crucial contribution to victory. We won by 12 runs, but both sides celebrated a superb afternoon's cricket as Corrie Williams led us in an exhaustive post match analysis and awards ceremony. I honestly can't remember who won 'Dick of the Day' but they will know who they are.

Chris Baker

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