Away v Mandarins CC – won by 13 runs

Ground details – Dulwich Sports Ground, Turney Road, SE21 7JH

Here’s the match report courtesy of Leo;

Sunday saw us have a rare fixture south of the river – against new opponents – the Mandarins. A club of civil servants founded by Lord Butler of Brockwell – who served as Private Secretary to five Prime Ministers. He has described the club as the one thing he did in government that is still going strong. Given the chaos in 2023 Britain that’s not hard to believe. Or maybe that’s the government and not the civil service.

Even more rarely it was to be a timed match – which had many of us scratching our heads as to what that meant – not having played once for many years. Racking my brain, the most recent one was against Porto whilst on tour – when Scott scored a magnificent 100 and lunch was 3 courses, lasted an hour with about half a bottle of port before we continued. To be honest there was a fair bit of grumbling about the format – fearing a dull and boring game. Little did we know….

Stuart lost the toss, and we were put into bat, something we would have chosen to do ourselves. Michael and Glenn strode out (huge shout out to Glenn for travelling over 2hrs 30 minutes to turn out for us) and were soon to discover that the pitch had a few gremlins and the bowling was tight.  Many of the wily Mandarins had been playing this game for many a year. The batters advanced cautiously – but Glenn was soon caught pulling for 4 – which brought Jesant to the wicket – who thought attack was the best form of defence. After some crisp pulls and drives he was caught off a top edge for 20 from Ramani – a dangerous looking off spinner who had been brought on first change. Graces were 34 for 2. Leo was next up – and followed Jesant’s example – trying to hit out – and after a few blows straight was out for 17 to Ramani aiming another one someone between long on and long off. At the other end Michael had accumulated quietly !!! – before falling to one that turned sharply through the gate – Ramani again – for 9.  Leo’s words to Stuart as they crossed was ‘do not do what I just did.’ Little did Stuart listen as he was out second ball – holing out to longish on. Graces were now reeling – and Ramani struck again the very next over bowling Mahender for 4. 59-6. A timed match! It was more like a T10. The Manadarins generously took Ramani off – with startling figures of 5 for 9. But the replacements weren’t too bad either – with Hirst firing down his leggies – something he has been doing for many a year. Scott was now steadying the ship – and scoring freely. At the other end Hiten hadn’t troubled the scorer – but Kash showed intent – before being run out for 3. Scott was then well caught for 20. We were down to our last pair – Martin – making his batting debut – looked solid – before offering a catch to one that popped up. Leaving Jonners 0 not out. We were 83 all out.

There was some discussion about tea – but we were too early – so the Mandarins openers took to the field. It was clearly a turning pitch, so we opened with Jesant and Mahender – both twirling away. The openers progressed solidly – and shoulders started to slump before Jesant had Baxter LBW (27-1). Brown followed suit soon after – bowled Jesant – 37-2. And then McKeon was expertly caught at long on by Scott off Mahender – 38-3 – before the dangerous looking opener Brand skied a top edge – expertly caught by Jesant off Mahender – 39-4. Tea was then taken – the first provided tea for a very long time and there was a hint of optimism around the table. Michael demonstrated that his expert cricket commentary extended to key phrases in Hindi – which had many Graces in stitches.

We took to the field feeling positive – but knowing there was at least one key batter to get out – Ramani could bat and bowl apparently. Jesant’s first over after tea was one of the finest displays of spin bowling since Warne in 1993 or Jim Laker in 1956 (I can’t remember that obviously – the wonders of Google). The first ball saw Hurst bowled for 0. In came Ramani and the tension upped a notch. He did that expert batsman thing where they count the fielders with little nods of the head. Second ball – expertly clipped off the pads. He could bat. Third ball was Jesant’s arm ball – straighter, quicker – and it slammed into Ramani’s pads. The field erupted in unison – howzat ! Ramani’s head bowed, shoulders slumped, and even before the umpire had raised his finger he started to walk. Not sure I have seen many batters walk for an LBW. We had our batter – the tide was turning rainbow. The incoming batter Hill strode out – and asked the non-striker if it was turning much. Inexplicably he said ‘no, not much’ – I am not sure what he has imbibed for tea. Ball 4 – play / miss. Ball 5 – was Gatting – but in reverse – an offie to a left hander – pitched outside leg and took top of off. Hill was bemused – glared at the non-striker and wandered off. Ball 6 – dot ball. A triple wicket maiden and Mandarins were getting squashed at 41-8.

As gracious as the Mandarins, Stuart took the spinners off – bringing on the pace pair of Hiten and Kash. Friendly cricket is about participation and not just the result. Hiten soon had Lowin cleaned bowled – and it was 45-9 after 19 overs. And so it was the the last pair – who showed more obduracy and straight batting then probably all the preceding 20 batters. And the total started to nudge up. And up. And up. Always by 1 or 2 an over – against some accurate bowling – but steadily up and up – until we said ’20 overs countdown starts now!’. All 3 results now seemed possible – and the tension started to hang heavy in the hair – 15 overs to go, 10 overs to go, 9, 8, 7 – and then finally – with the Mandarins on 70 – Smith swung across the line – the ball arced to mid-wicket – and we all breathed a sigh of relief that Stuart was there. We had won! An incredible game. Some erratic batting, some fine bowling and fielding and a great stint of keeping from Michael standing up to all the bowling. And a huge amount of fun ! Timed cricket – who knew !

Next week we return to league action and the wilds of north London.