Mandarins CC v Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, Sunday 4 June 2023
This is one of those fixtures that many Mandarins look forward to all through winter, despite the travel times involved. Two Mandarins travelled from Kent to Oxfordshire, which seems to prove the point. Brightwell cricket dates back to 1858, started by an eager cleric desperate to find an alternative to Sunday drunken debauchery. There might have been a causal connection to the local pub, the Red Lion, a great village pub where, frankly, I’d like to spend more time on drinking and debauchery. The village itself is well known for its beauty and friendliness, which has no doubt been an incentive in the recent arrival of a Mr B Johnson and family. I am sure the Henley voters will all wish him well.
Brightwell cricket ground itself is bucolically beautiful, with tree lined, if ball unfriendly, boundaries and a nice pavilion. The Brightwellians themselves are a great bunch who play cricket as we like it. The Mandarins elected to bat first, a wise decision given that only eight of us were present at the 2pm start time. Only one of those missing was from Kent. I will leave you to guess which one. Also missing was Professor Heather, who lives closest.
Captain (aka Chairman) Hawkins elected to open with Healey, playing his first game of the season for us, and Tivey. Tivey departed after smashing a 4 and Hawkhead came in at 6-1. There was then a good partnership of 70 against some decent bowling, of which almost all the good came from Healey (but I will treasure my small part in it), before Hawkhead was out plumb LBW. Stancombe batted next, hit a quick 11 but then fell victim to a fine catch. Enter Murali, Raki’s Portugal based friend, keen to play some friendly timed cricket after an unbroken diet of T20 à la Portuguese. Sadly, Murali got a good one from R England, by then in the middle of an impressive spell of 15 overs.
Healey sailed serenely on, playing an array of excellent shots, keeping up a scoring rate of 5 an over. Next came Wilmot, fresh from a recent 50 and not so fresh after a 3.5 hour drive from Rochester. Jonathan played himself in, acting as a foil for Healey, who was by now playing commandingly. Chris reached a very fine 100 not long after and was promptly retired. Jonathan then upped his pace in concert with Forman (playing his 100th game for us), before the former was caught for a well made 35. Dan and Rob Eastaway kept up the momentum for a final score of 210-4 off 42 overs.
After a nice tea, supplied by the Red Lion, Brightwell began their chase, with Stancombe and Murali opening the bowling. Zac got a very early wicket with the score on 1 and Murali bowled with real pace and little luck, at least initially. With the score on 64, Raki took the 2nd wicket, which only he and the umpire seemed to think was out. But they were the only opinions that mattered. There was then a flurry of wickets shared between Raki and Murali (a just reward) and the score was suddenly 69-5, with a real sniff of victory. Special mention should be made of two exceptional catches, one at slip by Jonathan and another at short mid off by Raki, both off Murali.
Confidence was dented by R England, who’d already bowled 15 overs off the reel. It turned out he is a fine bat as well. Supported by “Hadders” Hadfield, the recovery began. A stand of 39 was finally broken by Heather, but the score was still in touch with the asking rate. The arrival of Mathews, another good bat, began to turn the match towards Brightwell as both he and England hit regular boundaries. Captain Hawkins did a good job in balancing the bowling to keep the game open, although this meant that not everyone got to bowl as much as they wanted. With the game in the balance, Raki and Murali returned. There were chances and near misses, and the scoring rate was slowed, but all results were possible at the start of the last over. In the end, Brightwell closed at 201-7, with Raki taking Mathews’ wicket with the last ball.
All in all, a great day, with wonderful weather and a fine match played in a great spirit, in which everyone played a part. If I had one wish, it would be be to start the game at 1pm next year to allow for more Red Lion time afterwards. Whatever the start time, I intend to be there.