Saturday, 24 April 2021

Mandarins vs Superstars - Streatham and Marlborough CC - Sunday 18 April

Cricket's not an impossible game to understand they said, there's no need to change the language or invent new, simpler forms of the game. It's not that hard to grasp that there's 11 players on each side but that you have to get 10 of them wicketed (or is it 'outed'? - ed) to win. Or that the first team batting get to bat for as long as they want to, or at least until their captain wants his tea (not an actual cup of tea, to be clear, or even a traditional cricket tea, because those aren't allowed any more, but something that looks and tastes a lot like a packed lunch). But the second team, after first batting for a defined amount of time, then gets a limited number of overs to score the runs to win, or not score the runs to draw, or not get all wicketed to lose. Even the European Super League could make a PR success of that.

So the captains of the Superstars and the Mandarins had a better idea: Let's invent a newer, more complicated version of the game they agreed. Complicated old cricket is for legacy fans. Super-complicated new cricket is what the fan-base of the future really wants, with additional regulations, even more quirky playing conditions, and sudden changes of the rules halfway through. It's not enough to confuse the fans, they thought. We need to confuse the players and officials too.

Hence we arrived at Streatham and Marlborough CC expecting to play a 12-a-side (but only 11 on the field at any one time), 11-wicket, declaration game, which actually was what we started. But we ended up with one team batting first only having 11 playing players but 12 potential players present (after one player never showed up at all, although they did have a scorer there, wearing whites, but not playing - unless he was needed to, which he wasn't).  While the other team, batting second, had 10 to start with (after two were quite late), later got up to 12 but ended up with 11 at the end (after one player who had showed up on time had to go home for his tea - which almost certainly wasn't a cup of tea or traditional cricket tea either).

So while the team fielding second, at first thought they had to take 11 wickets to win, they actually only needed 10, but didn't know this until they had already taken nine. So the taking of the 10th felt like a bit of an anti-climax, even though 10 is actually what everyone normally only ever need to win. 

Still with me? Come on, keep up, you can cope with concepts more challenging that counting down from 100 can't you?

What actually happened you ask? Well, both teams batted pretty well and steadily, and both innings were decorated by a fine half century, first from Graeme Tunbridge for the Mandarins and then by George Warren (sometimes a Mandarin) for the Superstars until your correspondent (sometimes a Superstar) got him out for the Mandarins. But whereas the Mandarins subsequently finished with a flurry - with Owen Jackson hitting the biggest six that your match reporter had ever seen at this ground, or at least that wasn't off his own bowling - the Superstars subsequently collapsed in a hurry. Three men called Forman took seven, including four in five overs (which were still six balls each) for one of them.  The Superstars' shots suggested they either had no interest in or had no knowledge of the draw. And the Mandarins had no idea how many outs was all out, or out out, or out2 as it might be rebranded (or how many wickets were needed to win in old money).

Who actually won? Well cricket was the real winner of course. How could a game so straightforward ever not be? Sunshine shone, friendships were reformed, and some tidy skills were on show considering none of us had had a net since Britain had left the European Union. But, as far as anyone could actually work out, technically the Mandarins did by 23 batting points, with 15 bowls to spare. Super complicated cricket. But still super fun.

Mandarins 191-6 dec (Tunbridge 74, Singh 3-33)

Superstars 168 all out(ish) (Warren 67, D Forman 4-34)

Dan Forman

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