Mandarins 155 all out off 39.5 overs ( Baker 55, Pharoah 41, Rakesh 27, Eastaway 4-13) drew with Heber 154 for 9 off 39 (Mills 3-13, Healey 2-22).
Three months late but the 2020 season got off to a scintillating start in glorious weather at the superb Dulwich College setting. We all signed the COVID-19 register, applied the sanitizer, and gave each other the Wuhan elbow. Much discussion of transmission via pads and how to sanitise a pad, especially the Velcro bit. Arvind fell off his bike and was a late withdrawal, but we managed to be 11 thanks to SMCC Colt Ben Snowden stepping into the breach.
Chairman-supremo Jonathan was nearly on time, so vicar-General Healey won the toss and batted. Early progress was slow on a slow wicket against the admirable Phil Borthwick and the miserly Eastaway. The latter took the first four, Mills unlucky to middle it to mid wicket, Baxter definitely / marginally / debatably LBW (delete as applicable), Tunbridge and McKeon falling to the out-swinger to close catches the Mandarins would not have taken. 32 for 4, innings in the balance against a Heber attack and fielding looking anything but 9 months rusty. Eastaway comes off. Robin starts middling it, Baker muddles it using a broken bat that has spent the last 25 years in a shed ( but I did smack Eastaway back over his head, verrrry satisfying.....).
A 64 run partnership for the 5th wicket ends with an egregious failure of social distancing by Heber as Robin hit the ball straight into the air and bowler Rob Elias gouges out the eyes of Keeper Jules in a shuddering collision mid pitch. The catch is, amazingly, held, Jules has running repairs and continues. Robin's momentum is continued by débutante Rakesh Ramani. Delicate declaration decision for Chairman-now Captain in Chief Wilmot avoided by a sudden late order subsidence. We reckon it is a par score.
Paul Mills challenges the archivist. When is the last time the top 6 in the batting have been right handed and the last 5 left handed? I won't bother to check, I'll stick my neck out and say it is a first.
Robin is quick but wicket less, Ben much quicker. Healey in swing mode is niggardly and makes the two early breakthroughs. Jules looks briefly as if he will win it in boundaries and is agonisingly dropped by McKeon at mid wicket as the ball bobbles off every conceivable part of his anatomy. But shortly he repeats the shot off Ben and Baker clings on. McIntrye lures oppo. skipper, Olly, but Dan and Ed Faulkner progress steadily to 107 for 4. 49 needed of 12 overs, advantage Heber. But, having taken a number of outrageous singles to creaky Mandarins, Dan takes on Ben who is far too quick for him. The run out is followed by another wicket for the tidy Rakesh,and it is 107 for 6, advantage Mandarins.
I have had occasion before to remark on the sang-froid, hidden depths and impenetrable sense of destiny exuded by Puppet-master Wilmot. He now plays his master ploy: a double leg spin finish, Mills and Baxter. And the final 8 overs unfold like a script. 39 needed, 4 wickets. Mills temps, Ed swings, Graeme makes good ground at deep mid-wicket. OUT. Johnny Hill and Johnny P keep swinging. 142 for 7, 14 needed off 3. Hill swings, Jonathan utters a cry of surprise as he realises he may have misjudged at deep mid- wicket, he back peddles, he clings on above his head. Extraordinary. 9 needed off 2. Wilmot's next ploy: Baxter is axed, Healey returns. One run is conceded off the penultimate over. 8 needed to win off the last bowled by the nerveless Mills. Single off the first, Eastaway facing. A glorious extra cover drive for 4. Three needed off 4. Dot. One. OUT. A second catch for Jonathan. Final ball, two needed, all four results possible. Mills bowls a wide one . Very wide. Not actually a wide, you understand, it being a timed game.... Umpire Nick Davidson remains imperturbable in the face of suggestions... It is a wonderful, wacky, wizardly finish. Draw. Worth the wait.Chris Baker