The Mandarins head into May undefeated after a narrow draw in Buckinghamshire against a strong Taplow side.
|New Season, New Kit.|
After two weeks of rain-affected cancellations, the season started in true Mandarins style with a guest player from the opposition, several semi-injured players and Jonathan Wilmot arriving just as the game started.
On a soft, green wicket and a verdant outfield, skipper Dan Forman elected to bowl first - a convenient choice as Taplow quite fancied a bat - and the Mandarins took to the field bedecked in vibrant new kit and more orange caps than most had ever seen gathered in one place before.
Unconventionally, Forman began the game with a team talk, partly to rouse energy among his team, partly to crowbar in a “no new caps although we’re all wearing new caps” pun.
Heard struck early, bowling opener Badman in the second over, before Eastaway dislodged Pulsford thanks to the quick reactions of Jackson at mid-wicket, taking a catch that he definitely looked totally in control of throughout.
Confidence was further bolstered as Somerville, playing against his home side, announced that Taplow’s two best batsmen were now in.
The pair proceeded to put on 48, with the Mandarins plugging away and Wilmot, liberated after his chairmanship, causing a minor diplomatic incident by insisting it doesn’t matter how far down the wicket you are, if you’re hit in front of the stumps, you’re out.
Mills, the Taplow number 3 and Wilmot’s antagonist, proceeded to put on 80 while the bowlers shared the wickets, Ramani and Stan Forman picking off one each and Dan Forman getting firefighter Mike, who scored 16 in what was then revealed to be his first game of cricket.
Dan picked up two more, but the standout performance came from guest Umair Malik, who bowled two overs for six runs and took two wickets in his first - and likely only - Mandarins appearance.
Taplow finished on 183-9 and, fortified by an excellent tea, the Mandarins sent Jules Lowin and Wilmot in to begin the chase.
It did not start well, with accurate bowling and a slow outfield meaning our heroes had amassed only 7 by the time Lowin was bowled in the fifth over - further cementing his “0 or 50” record with the archivist.
Scoring remained slow. Eastaway, promoted to 3, was run out by a direct hit for 1 (not running his bat in) and Malik, unable to repeat his performance with the ball, was run out for 14 (not running his bat in).
Wilmot, however, steadily accrued 21 despite barracking from the fielders and a strange incident where the ball hit his pads and rolled into the stumps, but failed to dislodge the bails. Taplow’s appeals were in vain.
A 13-year-old spinner in Bucks CCC kit by the name of Josh posed further problems for the Mandarins, felling first Wilmot and then Jackson with his revolutions.
A partnership of 31 between your correspondent and Stan Forman dragged the Mandarins into the 90s while a few more runs from Baker - subbing in for Heard - brought us to a more respectable 105.
Stan, at this point unaware that being 80 runs behind with around five overs to go might indicate it was time to go for a draw, kept swinging, narrowly avoiding being run out (not running his bat in) before eventually becoming young Josh’s third victim, top scoring with 26.
Cool heads prevailed. Dan Forman saw out the penultimate over before Rakesh Ramani negotiated the final six balls - beset by calls of “don’t run” from the boundary and the muttered prayers of the Mandarins that umpire Eastaway wouldn’t give a wide.
Whether this counts as a losing draw or a winning draw will be the subject of further debate, no doubt, but the season is finally underway and all eyes now turn to Dulwich for the promised clash with Millfields next Sunday.