Graces CC 83 (Ramani 5 for 9); Mandarins 70. Lost by 13 runs.
Old school timed cricket on a sticky dog. Could a spectator, jaded from the previous evening’s Eurovision marathon, ask for more? Graces CC, our new opponents, had never played a time game, and were seeking advice about how to. But the conditions meant that the finer points of the declaration were never put to the test. It was sunny and warm, but the Dulwich pitch was still very green, and whilst not a shocker, occasionally spat, then kept low and took prodigious spin. No one scored more than 20 all day. There was also a large swamp covered by a piece of matting at the top end near the bowler’s take off point, just to even the odds a little towards the batsmen.
Chairman John “The Hawk” Hawkins won the toss and decided to test his unknown opponents by inserting them. Rob Eastaway’s 400th recorded club appearance should have seen him pass Mike O’Shea for the most recorded wickets, but Tim Baxter, that taker of so many sensational catches in recent seasons, inexplicably missed a forward prod that ballooned very slowly past his head at silly mid off. That proved to be Rob’s only chance. So it was Heber loanee Johnny Hill who made the first breakthrough.
Graces progressed to 34 for 1 through a mixture of good defence and aggression. But the shrewd Introduction of Raki, cleverly side stepping the swamp, induced panic. In what seemed the blink of an eye Graces were 59 for 6 and Rakesh was removed from the attack by “the spirit of cricket” manifesting through captain Hawkins, with figures of 6-3-9-5. The plan backfired because his replacement, other Heber loanee Neil Smith, took a wicket in his first over, but then dropped two catches within 4 balls. Hill misfielded at mid off, chased back, and secured a run out with a long range direct hit. Graces subsided to Hurst and Baxter, 83 all out in 1 hour and 47 minutes (well it is a timed game).
They reckoned that was nowhere near enough, and as Tim and Sam Brand, playing with elegant nonchalance, moved us to 27, it seemed they were right. Sam in particular impressed with his forward stride, soft hands, and telling Baxter where to get off in response to the more ludicrous calls. But Tim fell sweeping, Matt Brown played over a full length, and Chris McKeon fell to catch of the day as deep mid on moved well to take a low chance. Fatally, just before tea, Sam tried one too many slog sweeps and skied it. We took tea at a nervous 40 for 4. Whatever Jessant Halai had for tea I want some. The third over after the resumption he delivered a triple wicket maiden, and with Jules falling in the next over we were 41 for 8 and in a different ball game altogether. Jessant, having got his 5-fer, was also immediately removed from the attack by “the spirit of cricket”. Rob eked a couple, but it was 48 for 9 when Neil joined the skipper with 18 overs to go. An umbrella field, and a furled one at that, gathered round the last pair. But it’s a funny game and they held on, dogged watchful defence, careful running, sustaining the required 2 per over and adding 22. Just when “the spirit of timed cricket” was musing whether it would allow all four results possible off the last over, and some spectators dared hope, Neil missed one, and we lost.
A good game in excellent spirit against well matched opponents whom we hope to see again. The collapse, 9 for 21 including 8 for 11, must be one of the worst of all time. I shall make it my winter’s work to find out……What I can tell you is that in 1,123 recorded matches on only four previous occasions have Mandarins failed to score a lower total to win, the last time being the trench warfare at Brightwell in 2013 (54 plays 71), and before that the notorious game at Theberton in 1987 (40 plays 43).