Wednesday 9 August 2023

April in August at Reading

Reading University Academic Staff 157 (Ramani 3-38, Hurst 3-47) beat Mandarins 143 for 4 (Stancombe 44, Wilmot 38*, D Williams 33) by 14 runs.

How to explain this game to someone who was not there? Some of the facts are barely plausible. That our opening bat only scored 38 in 35 overs? That we only lost 4 wickets in the run chase up to 10 balls from the end and left the eccentric big hitting of Hurst and Heard on the bench? That the final over, with 18 wanted, was a maiden?

The answer, dear reader, was the pitch. I arrived to find Mandarin early birds scouring the Reading School groundsmans sheds (locked) for a roller to use on a wicket described by Captain Zac as sporty. Its hue of green was indistinguishable from the rest of the longish outfield. It gave to the touch. After Saturday's downpours there was more rain during the afternoon to freshen it up. Bounce both low and high, seam movement and spin excessive, generally very slow. Larger and larger divots taken out as the match progressed. A good old fashioned results wicket (which in the end would have produced a draw had we not being playing "Berkshire Standard" 35 overs.)

In the end the margins were quite narrow. For example, we might have won if we had not started with 9 and had to manage with 10 fielders for the rest of the innings. The usual couple of chances went down, although not too expensive. Some of the lbw shouts were very very close. Indeed. Says Raki. We reckoned par was 100 to 120, and they were 114 for 7 before Tamuur made a blistering and decisive contribution of 41 batting at No 8. Two bits of football on the fence might have saved 6 runs but both went for boundaries. And so on and so forth.

Still 157 was nearly 100 fewer than our last outing against Reading, so some cause for optimism at halfway. Bowling was better than some of the figures suggest. Although the wickets mainly went elsewhere, commendations for Zac giving away only 13 off his 7 overs, and JP making a welcome season debut, 2 for 17 off his 7. Raki's 3 takes him to 98 for the club. 

We made a poor start against Qasir, who got lots of seam movement to reduce us to 5 for 3 in the 6th over. After a patient rebuilding job, Zac opened up and emulated Timuur with 7 4s and a six. Had he lasted a couple more overs then we might have shaded it, but he holed out to long on in the 20th over and Mandarins still needed 92 off 15. Jonathan and David Williams (who has a  Mandarin son called Louis), not to be confused with Louis Williams Mark 2, playing today or Louis Davidson also playing today, did their best to close down the target, but the pitch now regularly confounded them. David could not time his cut shot, and Jonathan was very unfortunate that all of some booming drives went straight to extra cover instead of past him. Small margins. 

We needed 60 runs off 5, then a wayward 31st over yielded 18 which induced something I can only characterise as panic amongst the Reading ranks as they argued about tactics, muttered from the outfield and tinkered with their placements, eventually even dragging Richard Tranter (age 72, first game recorded v Mandarins 1978) out of his favoured slip position. A tight 32nd over was followed by 11 runs off the 33rd, the ask now 26 off 2. David fell to a grubber, and Raki injected his customary energy trying to run both the fading Jonathan's runs for him, but we needed 18 off the last. That it was a maiden (4 byes/leg byes) belies the amount of swishing which went on. Jonathan's attempted  charge down the wicket/reverse pull/pull (the pitch being so slow that he seemed able to play the shot both ways missing each time) whilst his arms and legs all went in different directions is something I shall probably have nightmares about in the close season.......

Anyway, a 90% improvement on the margin of defeat from 2 years ago, and great to defy the weather and sustain this historic fixture, one of only 3 surviving from the 1975 fixture card.

Chris B

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