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

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