Grey skies, dim cold night
One hundred and ten, to win
Close valiant try
(Compiled by the team’s resident poet – see above – in haiku form in a desperate attempt to win an end of season trophy)
Grey skies, dim cold night
One hundred and ten, to win
Close valiant try
(Compiled by the team’s resident poet – see above – in haiku form in a desperate attempt to win an end of season trophy)
In an effort to encourage more people to contribute to the match reports our estimable Despot Gareth has offered automatic selection for the next game and continually told people the reports don’t have to be long (although maybe longer than Coxy’s famous report of a game versus Architects from a few years back which simply read “Awful” and when pressed by Gareth to expand managed “F**king awfull”!).
However this has failed to reap any dividends and Club Treasurer, the aforementioned Coxy quickly ruled out the suggestion of free match subs for any match reporter, so your correspondent is going to try another ploy suggested by one or two veteran lards and produce a template for match reports so you can then fill in the essential info and then add as little or as much as you like. Don’t worry Mr Green, this is not compulsory just an aide to those that might need it!
Date: Wednesday 14th June 2023
Weather: Warm and Sunny
Mallards – Tom Browne, Mark Butcher, Dave Cox, Si Holland, Liaquat Latif, Colin McCaffery, Pradeep Nair and 4 of Pradeep’s mates – Akhil Krishnan, Sreekarthick Krishnan Pillai, Ajoy Prakash and Sajeev Sajan – welcome aboard fellas!
Stamfordham – Usual mix of keen young bucks with a smattering of wiser heads
Toss won by: Stamfordham
First Innings: Stamfordham chose to bat first and made the pitch look like a belter with their first 3 batters all retiring in the 30s despite the best bowling efforts of Tom, Karthick, Coxy, Akhill and Sajeev. First wicket fell with over 100 on the board to a great catch on the long on boundary by Tom off the bowling of Liaquat, followed soon after by an almost identical catch by Tom this time off the bowling of Si Holland who closed out the bowling with Ajoy from the other end who took the final wicket to fall with a smart caught and bowled off the last ball of the innings to leave Stamfordham on an impressive 165 for 3 off 20
Second Innings: Somewhat unsurprisingly (to regular readers at least) the pitch didn’t appear to be so good when it was Mallards turn to bad but despite loosing newbie Akhill from the last ball of the first over Pradeep (assisted by Stig and a generous smattering of extras) managed to just about keep up with the required run rate for the first quarter of the innings (41 for 1 off 5) However the runs then dried up somewhat and Stig fell in the 8th trying to up the rate and Karthick followed soon after. Pradeep kept going to retire and Coxy and Liaquat closed out the innings on what I will generously (to who?!) describe as a wearing pitch without losing any more wickets but also without threatening to get close to the target finishing 50 runs short.
Notable Bowling: Ajoy’s spell of 1 for 11 off 3 and a great spell from Si
Notable Fielding: Tom’s 2 catches in the deep, and Colin chasing balls on the boundary despite pulling/tweaking something or other!
Notable Batting: Pradeep’s 31 retired and Coxy’s 33 not out (reached off the last ball of the innings) which included a massive 6 over long off (I think!)
Friendly Fire Contenders: The usual collection of misfields from several ‘Lards but nothing out of the ordinary!
To sum up: Despite the result still an enjoyable night’s cricket in a lovely part of the world against a good set of lads and 4 new names to add to the illustrious roll call of ‘lards, just hope I spelt them right!
The storm clouds which had hung all day over the ground at Riding Mill eventually parted and thus the scene was set for a bright evening’s contest between two evenly matched teams. And then the news percolated through to the Mallards dressing room that their opponents were one short: Durham staff’s key all-rounder and esteemed captain announced he was too ill to play.
‘Bad luck, old boy!’ ‘Shame!’ came the response as the Mallards cried genuine crocodile tears – much as the England team had done when Glenn McGrath twisted an ankle and was ruled out of the second Ashes test in 2005.
So, with only ten men, Durham elected to bat. Opener Guy Paxman was kept quiet at first by a fierce Mallards attack (!) but not so his partner Vinay who opted to smack two boundaries off Standring before mistiming the next to cover where he was duly caught. Durham’s third man Root (yes, a relation) came out next and was initially subdued, no doubt unwilling to take risks against your geriatric opening bowler, but he had the affrontery to make up for this slow start by carving a six and a four off your correspondent’s next over. Root however was given his come-uppance by being yorked by Standring and so Durham’s Rory MG came to the crease to face the next onslaught. With Dave Cox, evidently on loan from the Kiwi first eleven, now bowling cruise missiles, Rory could get nothing away at first. Another slow start. Would this continue? Yes – Paxman’s normally impenetrable forward defence was breached by Standring – who capped an excellent performance with 3 wickets off 4 for 20
Next in line stood Patrick Card, Durham’s number 5, who rapidly took stock of the situation and, waiting his chance for a wayward delivery from Tom Edge, hoisted a mighty six into the nearby field, then a four, then another six before getting caught attempting yet another launch above mid-wicket. Tom also suffered a boundary or two off Rory, who had survived numerous missiles, but he bowled Durham’s next man, Duffy, which meant that Germany’s finest batsman/keeper Eckart was next to come to the crease.
Hereafter the story gets interesting. The Mallards brought their secret weapon into the attack: the looping lollops of Lee Latif. Eckart was bowled by one ball that refused to bounce; Nigel Metcalfe, Durham’s other greying legend, replaced him and was promptly stumped attempting to hit another looper that was reluctant to come on to the bat. Two down and now only two to go.
Last man-but-one Mike Costello ambled into the fray. He gained a couple of singles before Rory retired on a maximum and so Durham captain Ian Boothroyd next took strike. Facing him at the other end was one-time captain of the Mallards, bamboozling bowler and actual staff member of Durham, the estimable Ian Stone. Rolling back the years, some bewitching left-arm deliveries brought hesitation and then a stunning, hand-stinging catch. Tremendous: a handsome caught-and-bowled of Ian off Ian.
Unfortunately, with only ten batsmen, this brought Durham retiree Rory to face the last balls of Ian’s and the Mallard’s, last over. The final ball of the innings was launched into orbit over the next-door field. Durham finished with 127 for 8.
In reply, Stig and Dave Cox opened the batting for the Mallards, with Vinay and Ian B bowling for Durham. Runs came steadily at first with both openers collecting runs in ones, twos and fours. No wickets fell until the bowling changed – Stig hoisting a catch off Paxman and then Nigel M came on to wreak chaos as Durham employed their own secret weapon. First batsman Gurr and then his replacement Jones were completely undone by the Metcalfe magic.
The Mallards captain Buckley took up his bat next to steady the proceedings and between him and Dave Cox the scoreboard advanced, despite some vicious (and sometimes erratic) deliveries from Rory, until our antipodean all-rounder retired with a boundary and 33.
Davies-Warner replaced Dave Cox and looked solid enough until Durham’s Costello removed his off-stump bails with his first ball. Standring came forth next and quickly set about scoring boundaries off all and sundry before Buckley retired on 30 and then, with Mallards closing in with 108 and two overs to go, Durham brought back their opening bowlers.
Standring battled on manfully – edging one quickie off Vinay which nearly broke Nigel’s fingers – but he was then caught out by Rory with one hoist too many. And so to a memorable Mallardian image: Lee Latif walking out showing utter distain for the opposition by wearing only one pad and a determined expression. Regrettably Lee faced only one ball since Ian B demolished the tail in his last over with two wickets bowled with his trade-mark questionable deliveries – much to disgruntlement of the Mallards and your correspondent who had done nothing but watch the collapse whilst umpiring. In twenty overs, Mallards finished on 118 for 10.
Close, but eventually just short of victory. Some excellent performances, especially by the younger and more athletic contingent with the bat and in the field, but the Mallards must wait a little longer for success.
Dearest cousin Eglantine,
Forgive me, my dear. It has been some two years since my last monograph [Mallards v Riding Mill CC, 30 June 2021].
Taking the overland route to fulfil my commitment to visit the British garrison in Kirkuk (my, how I enjoy giving their gun barrels a damned good polishing) I found myself unavoidably detained by some pesky Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries in the Crimea. Tiring of their ludicrous politico-economic theories, furry hats and silly dancing, I eventually effected my own escape by lacing my captor’s stroganoff with a suitable dose of laudanum tincture. I must remember to write to the current Prime Minister, Mr Disraeli, to enquire why Her Majesty’s government did not send a gunboat to secure my freedom: Pax Britannica, it would seem, does not extend to my vital work servicing the needs of the troops across the British Empire.
My journey by steamship to London (after stopping off to inspect the tools of a company of Royal Engineers on Kefalonia and to quickly rub down the lances of some Hussars in Gibraltar) was somewhat uneventful. It was with some relief, then, that my return to my country estate at Broomhaugh Towers, Riding Mill, was followed in short order by an invitation from my sometime companion Professor Ian ‘The Flashing Blade’ Stone (about whom I shall disclose more later) to observe the strapping gentleman of Mallards CC in their fixture against Benwell & Walbottle CC.
Oh Eglantine! One cannot resist an opportunity to take a firm grip on the Professor’s tumescent blade! That, and the chance to observe the Mallards and their fine collection of balls (see pic above) meant that I made my way to Broomhaugh, home of Riding Mill CC, with haste. After summoning a man to find and erect a deck chair for my use (Stone, 2019), I settled in to observe the spectacle. Cognisant as I am of the ease with which Mallards are distracted, I decided to watch from a discrete distance; the bushes at the Jon Rob benches end providing suitable cover.
I was in time to observe the magnificent Mr Edge and Mr Standring open the bowling for Mallards. Sterling effort and, much to my excitement, a deal of sweat and grunting saw each rewarded with a wicket, Mr Standring removing Ridley for 14 and Mr Edge accounting for Woodman for 16. Benwell & Walbottle were 41-2 after 7.3 overs. My, how my tora-loorals were heaving at the sight of those thrusting young bowlers!
The redoubtable Mr Latif (who ended his spell with superb figures of 3-0-7-1) joined the fray and saw off new batsmen Lees, a wondrous caught and bowled reminding me of the time I entertained a section of Household Cavalry in their barracks at Horse Guards, Westminster. A skilful grip, a subtle wrist and variations in rhythm and speed meant that every one of those strapping cavalrymen were ‘through with their shot’ rather too early, much like Mr Latif’s victim.
The magnificent Mr Malik despatched White for 13. Mr Holland’s wily right-arm darts then despatched Bateman for 1. Meanwhile, Robbie had accumulated a well-crafted 32; Benwell & Walbottle were 96-5 after 16.1 overs. I must invite Mr Malik and Mr Holland to join me for dinner at Broomhaugh Towers: I would very much like to review their respective actions and, perhaps, show them my gigglemug.
Mr Holland then removed Waddell for 7 to leave Benwell & Walbottle on 113-6 after 18.2 overs, stumped with considerable aplomb by the ever-reliable Mr Buckley. My, Eglantine, the very thought of Mr Buckley’s stump sent my lally-gag all a-flutter. It seems that the scorer was similarly distracted, failing to record Clelland’s score upon his removal by the marvellous Mr Malik with Benwell & Walbottle on 121-7 after 19.4 overs. Perhaps he, too, was flustered by the way that Mr Butcher swooped to take a wondrous catch. How he moved with speed, poise and grace, much like the time I took only 20 minutes to service the gunnery of a company of Royal Marines in the Aden Colony. Mr Butcher’s athleticism set my niminy all apiminy, I can tell you.
Benwell & Walbottle closed their 20-over innings on 122-7. Mention must be made of the left-arm wrist-spin offered by Professor Ian ‘The Flashing Blade’ Stone (3-0-16-0), studious umpiring by the ever-delectable totalitarian, Dr Despot, and excellent work in the field by Mr Gurr and Mr McCaffery.
My location in the long grass at the Jon Rob benches end had, by this point, attracted some attention. After a quick rustle in the bushes with [Note: name redacted on advice from Latif Solicitors] I settled in to watch Mallards’ reply, ably led by Mr Gurr and Mr Malik. The former wafted his blade with considerable finesse, reminding me somewhat of how I grasped the weaponry proffered by a battalion of the Tyneside Scottish during their tour of duty in Bombay. Mr Malik was first to fall (caught) to Waddell for 1 and was soon followed by Mr Gurr, caught for 9 off the bowling of Clelland.
Mallards score of 16-2 off 2.1 overs became 21-3 off 3.4 overs, Dr Green falling (bowled) to Waddell. I was strangely unmoved by Dr Green, somehow feeling that ‘entertaining’ him would somehow approximate to a form of reflexive onanism. My state of excitement returned when Mr McCaffery arrived, only to subside again when the energetic Mallard was despatched (bowled) by Waddell for 2.
Noting my intention to ask Mr McCaffery if he needs me to take a firm hold of his bat handle, I observed that Mr Butcher had steadily accumulated a magnificent score with splendid support by Mr Standring and Mr Buckley. The former was bowled by Robbie for 5 and the latter went after scoring a smart 19, bowled by Ridley. Mallards had accumulated 62-5 from 9.5 overs.
Mr Butcher scored steadily, his rate slowly increasing as he offered several lusty thrusts, much like the time I put the whole regiment of Durham Light Infantry ‘through their paces’ in their barracks at Gilesgate. Mr Butcher retired on 30 and was replaced by Mr Holland, who fell to Robbie after receiving a ball that not so much kept low as went subterranean. Mallards were 82-7 from 15.2 overs. Mr Edge added a gritty 5 before falling (bowled) to Robbie.
Mallards were now 94-8 from 18.1 overs. How the ever-energetic Professor flashed his tumescent blade as he sought to bat his team to the target! Waddell accounted for Mr Latif, who added a well-crafted 11, and Mr Butcher returned to the crease after frantically re-donning his cricketing attire after somehow failing to remember that he was ‘not out’ on retiring. Perhaps he was flustered after I encountered him behind the scoreboard on the containers boundary. My word, Eglantine! His masterful ball-work needs to be recorded! Let me tell you that he told me that [Note: redacted on advice from Latif Solicitors]. Sadly, his vigorous efforts behind the scoreboard meant that he seemed somewhat tired on his return to the middle: Mallards closed their 20 over innings on 114-9. A magnificent effort from all concerned, not least Mr Butcher and my beloved ‘Flashing Blade’.
I would have liked to give each Mallard a good rub-down in their changing room, but word had by now reached me that Royal Navy battleship had arrived at Tyne Dock. Anxious as I was to ensure that the ship’s company were offered a suitable start to their shore leave, I quietly left my position in the bushes and made the steam engine from Riding Mill station. Pausing only to polish the driver’s funnel, I reflected on another wondrous evening at Broomhaugh.
Farewell for now, my dear Eglantine.
Florence Leglance (Ms)
Mallards turned up to Broomhaugh on a pleasant (very) late Spring evening to face a hastily pulled together Riding Mill team following the late withdrawal by originally intended opponents Corbridge.
Despite the short notice the Mill were able to field a strong side with their first team opening pair of Watson and Fletcher starting proceedings with the bat after Tom Browne took advantage of a lack of any of Mallards regular Captains to win the toss and, unsurprisingly, as a firm member of the bowlers’ union, choosing to bowl first.
Browne turned to fellow members of the Tom Tom Club (one for you fans of obscure 80’s bands!) Holland and Edge to open the bowling. Young Holland making his first appearance of the season due to GCSE commitments, clearly relished the opportunity and bowled at a good pace although took a little time to get his line right and had keeper McCaffery leaping about behind the stumps!
Edge took the first wicket, bowling Fletcher in his second over and finished with 1 for 16 off his 3 overs while Holland finished his 3 with 0 – 15. New recruit SIraj and not so new recruit Bell took over the bowling duties with the latter accounting for J Bell (no relation) thanks to a great low diving catch from Tom Holland.
J Bennett(Snr) came to the crease and together with Watson (fresh from a century at the weekend) upped the run rate with Watson retiring on 31. This brought Master J Bennett (jnr) to the crease, young Joah at the tender age of 10 playing just his 4th ever game of cricket and his first for the senior team. Having survived his Dad’s attempt to run him out Joah played some nice shots and ran hard to help his Dad’s score as well as his own before falling for a very creditable 7 being caught by the dastardly Kiwi Gurr off Si Holland who had taken over from Siraj.
Holland followed this by bowing Nitsch and completing a double wicket maiden to start his spell. He also picked up the wicket of Aly Hall, stumped(eventually!) by McCaffery to finish with 3 for 20 while Gurr fresh from crushing the dreams of a 10 year old, clean bowled Greenwood and Mallinson to finish with 2 for 20 off his 3 overs. In between this Bennett snr retired on 33 or 34 depending on which score book you read. Browne and Nair finished off the bowling with one tidy over each while Marks hit some nice 4s to finish on 18 not out to take the Mill to an impressive 154. A tall order for Mallards to chase but over 30 runs less that the target we were set the week before!
Nair and Sai opened the batting for Mallards, Sai fresh from being loaned to the opposition a couple of weeks ago (making a strong bid for the Friendly Fire award with 30 retired). Fortunately his form continued and together with Pradeep they kept close to the run rate reaching 55 off 8 overs without loss. Sai retired on 31 in the 10th followed by Pradeep for 30 in the 12th over. Butcher was the first wicket to fall in the 13th over for just 5. Holland jnr and Gurr did their best to keep the run rate up with Gurr hitting a couple of great 6s but both fell to the bowling of Bennett snr for 11 and 16 respectively. Bennett picked up a further 2 wickets in his second over accounting for Browne and McCaffery leaving Bell and Holland snr to close out the innings including facing Bennett jnr who closed the bowling for the Mill with a very respectable over. Mallards closed on 124 for 5, 31 runs shy of the target.
Mallards search for a first win of the season continues but nevertheless I think I speak for everyone in saying everyone enjoyed a great evening’s cricket which was rounded off with cap presentations for both the youngest and oldest players on show with young Joah being presented with his baggy blue Riding Mill cap and Pete Nitsch receiving his Centurion cap for having played over 100 games for the Mallards (despite playing for the Mill tonight!). Here’s hoping young Joah is also still playing and enjoying cricket in another 70 (ish) years (sorry Pete!). Thanks very much to the Mill for pulling together a team at such short notice and being great hosts as always.
An overcast May evening saw Mallards at Greenside for the first Davipart fixture of the season. In typical Mallards fashion the team was fairly fluid, changing up to about 90 minutes prior to the start, and a strong side eventually assembled and after losing the toss, would bowl first.
Davipart were into their business from the off, with 21 coming from the first two overs as the new ball sped over a quick outfield. Seasoned campaigners Cleaver and Browne plugged away gamely but were unable to create any early chances. 42/0 after 6 and a double change saw Bell and Malik try their hands.
Runs continued to come in a steady but not unmanageable manner but the breakthrough still proved elusive. A steady string of batsmen began to reach the pre-agreed 25 and retire (five of the top six were to retire by the end). After 12, the score had progressed to 94 without loss. The run rate was beginning to climb and it continued to do so as Stone and Cox both went for in excess of ten an over from their two-over spells.
The breakthrough finally came in the 16th over, with Cox taking advantage of yet another retirement, bowling Rawley for a first ball duck. 153/1, and if nothing else we had avoided the ignominy of 20 wicketless overs.
It was Ankush and Edge to close the innings out, with the latter finding good swing and picking up two more wickets, both bowled. Impressively, with the danger of conceding 200 for the first time a real possibility, Edge’s final over saw just one run off the bat and the second of his wickets – restricting (if that’s the right word) the score to 187/3.
There was only one thing for it – get out there and show some intent. Ankush was intent personified, reaching retirement in just 10 balls as we were briefly on the required rate, indeed we were 7 runs ahead of Davipart at the four over mark.
It all got a bit Mallardsy for a while, with Nair given LBW for 5 (Umpire Taylor also showing plenty of intent), and McCaffery out for a couple soon after. Malik and Cox looked to steady the ship, but still scoring at a decent rate before Cox was out LBW for 12 with more than 100 still required. Continuing the positive approachh, Edge and Bell went down swinging, without really getting in.
Browne started to find the middle of the bat and swung at everything, sparking a lower order fightback. Useful contributions from numbers 8 to 11 helped keep the score ticking, of particular note was the 20-run last wicket partnership between Stone and Taylor before we finished on 137/8 after our 20. A bit of a hammering, but a decent effort with the bat in the face of a big target. Special thanks to the injured Stig for turning up as 12th man and scoring the whole match; anything to get out of umpiring, eh?
Driving down the A69, the clouds over the Tyne Valley were low and grey, covering the tops of the hills like some sort of Alpine snowstorm. The low clouds didn’t firm up the confidence but to Riding Mill we went. On arrival, the wicket was greener than a snooker table but in the process of being cut. There was about 30mins to go still until the scheduled start time. There’d already been some doubt that the game against KSOB would be on due to several days of rain and drizzle, but some great work by Riding Mill and their groundsman, meant that the game was on and the start time of 6pm was met with KSOB batting first following skipper Buxom’s winning of the toss.
With the ground smelling like a local league football pitch on a late November Sunday morning, the sky greyer than the skin of John Major and temperatures at a level at which you’d be scared to put the heating from the fear you’d bankrupt yourself, the game got underway. 18 overs a side, maximum 4 overs per bowler, retire at 30.
KSOB opened the batting with Coyne and Moir, with skipper Buckley predicting (correctly as it turned out) that Coyne would get the runs required to retire. Mallards opened with P Bell from the Sheep Field End with young Tedge from the Tree End. Bell coming down the hill in rather slippery conditions took an over to get into his stride with 10 coming off his first, but only a further 7 coming off his next two, going for only 17 runs off his 3 overs. Mr Edge was a bit tighter going for only 3 runs off his first over but also claiming the wicket of Moir, who’d scored just 4 runs, caught behind by Buckley from a top edge hoik that went so high in the air it came down with snow on it. Tedge’s next two overs went for ten more runs meaning young Tom finished with 1-13 off 3 overs. Great efforts from both opening bowlers, as well as in the field from everyone, taking into account the slippy outfield.
Bell and Edge (great firm of solicitors btw, highly recommended) were replaced by Malik and Kumar (Hamid and Ankush to you and me) who continued to keep the bowling tight – Malik finishing with 0-20 off his 3 overs and Kumar finishing with 1-12 off his 3, with the wicket of N Garg being caught by TEdge for just 20 off the last ball of his second over. KSOB were now 62-2 off their first 12 overs. Good tight bowling and fantastic efforts in the field keeping the score low, as was the difficulty of batting on the wicket due to limited bounce and pace coming on to the bat.
The last 2 bowlers were P Nair and L Latif, bringing in a subtle change of pace to the previous four bowlers. This helped slow the scoring down considerably with Nair finishing on 2-4 off his 3 overs having taken the wickets of Molangri, who was bowled after scoring just 1 run, with a peach of a delivery that clipped the off stump and L Craddock for just 4, who was caught sharply by Kumar low down to his left. Latif finished on 2-8 off his 3 overs, taking the wickets of M Menton, who scored just two, caught by Malik at mid-off, and the wicket of L Naylor who was stumped by ‘keeper Buckley for just 1.
The last 6 overs of KSOB added just 13 runs to their total and they finished on 75-6 off 18 overs. A great effort all round, from both teams to be fair.
Required run rate of just 4.2 per over needed to get to the 76 runs to win the game. This wicket wasn’t going to make that overly easy though.
Mallards opened their reply with Kent and Kumar opening the batting. KSOB opened with Craddock from the tree end and he couldn’t quite find his rhythm, with a total of 8 runs coming from the over through a combination of extras and a boundary to Kent. L Naylor opened from the Sheep Field End and was somewhat tighter, as he conceded just 8 runs in total off his three overs. Apparently, he got a wicket as well, but that doesn’t seem to be in the scorebook!
Craddock was taken off after his first over (presumably to go and find the remaining material to finish off the length of his trousers – they were practically shorts!) and was replaced by Garg at the Tree End. He kept the bowling fairly tight in his 4-over spell, finishing with 1-12 as he took the wicket of Kumar, who’d scored 7. He could’ve gone for more runs if umpire Buckley had picked up on the no-balls he was delivering on several occasions.
After 6 overs, Mallards were 25-0 so were pretty much on track for the required run rate.
Naylor was replaced at the Sheep Field End by K Menton who very kindly took his gloves off to bowl. It seemed to work for him as in his 2nd over he took the wickets of Kent and R Wilson (who’d replaced Kumar), both of whom were caught and bowled for 17 and 0 respectively. Looks like Wilson Snr is keen to keep the duck trophy on his mantelpiece in 2024 too! K Menton finished with 2-4 from his four overs, so kept it tight somewhat.
Mallards were now 38-3 after 12 overs. The required run rate had crept up but we were still within striking distance with 6 overs remaining. We needed a fraction more than a run a ball to win.
The new batters were Nair and Butcher, who found it difficult to get the ball away off the bowling of K Menton and N Garg. The bowlers kept it tight and with the lack of pace and bounce from the wicket, chances of scoring were becoming increasingly hard to come by. Eventually Garg and K Menton were replaced by Molangiri and M Menton at their respective ends, with M Menton getting success in his 2nd over by claiming the wickets of Butcher for just 5, clean bowling him with a wickedly deceptive delivery behind the batsman’s legs (we’ll ignore the Rocky Horror jump to the right by the batsman) and the wicket of Butcher’s replacement, Si Holland, for a 2-ball duck as he was caught and bowled off a leading edge, trying to take the game to the opposition. Right idea, unfortunate with the timing of the bounce off the pitch.
Malik joined Nair in the middle and between them tried to up the run rate, Nair eventually being run out to a fine accurate throw from their fielder (Naylor) trying to get back for the 2nd. Skipper Buckley went in at number 8, knowing that it was all or nothing when he got to face. After being nearly run out on a quick single call from Malik, when Buckley eventually got on strike, it turned out to be nothing as he went for a heave so agricultural that the NFU would’ve been impressed with it, and got an inside edge on to his stumps first ball.
P Bell came in next and managed to get a couple of singles, one of which gave the strike back to Malik who hit a rather huge six back over the head of Molangiri and into the trees. This gave some hope but KSOB were too far in front now. Bell was bowled by the returning Naylor (think I’ve found out where that came from in the scorebook now – it’s Lisle!!) and TEdge went in to help finish off the Mallardian innings, with Mallards falling 9 runs short of victory.
Still, an enjoyable game played in the right spirit and the fact that we got to play at all was the real winner.
The first game of the 2023 season was held in jeopardy by the insistently rainy weather in the days and weeks leading up to the fixture. Surprisingly though, the conditions were set fair, with little to no wind and the occasional glimpse of sun, although quite fresh.
Skipper McCaffery took to the field and duly lost the toss only to be put into field by Genetics. It was agreed that the overs would be limited to 18 each way, batsmen would retire on 25, and everyone (more or less) would bowl 2 overs.
In due course the Genetics openers Sanderson and Hamid meandered unhurriedly onto the field of play and the bowling was opened from the tree end by the venerable Tony Cleaver with customary aplomb: a neat over which gave away just three singles. According to his ineffable plan, the skipper – presumably feeling charitable to the visiting batsmen, threw the ball to Holland to continue the bowling. After gifting Sanderson 50% of his retirement total with three deliveries, Holland regained some control over himself for the final three: 16 for none after the first two overs. Cleaver continued tidily but also came a cropper of Sanderson who got one away for six. Holland completed his spell surrendering four more runs, and the visitors were on 28 for no loss off the first bowling pair.
Next up was Tom Edge or Tedge to baffle with his in-swingers. After a few deliveries he found his length and gave little away, but Genetics’ number one managed to find a final single to retire (confusingly) on 26 to be replaced by Bell. Browne took the ball at the other end and took aim, hitting the target on his fifth delivery to dispatch Bell for 1, removing his middle stump and taking the first Mallards pole of the season. Bell was replaced by R Wilson, and Tedge continued with real intent, getting his reward by taking Hamid’s wicket, caught superbly by Cox. Hamid was replaced by RJ and Browne continued from the Jon Rob end. Another laser guided missile from Browne left Wilson’s stumps in splinters, figuratively speaking. Off he trudged with his one run in the bag to be replaced by Jonny Bennett.
From this point on, this over took a surreal turn. The next ball saw an optimistic call for a run which left RJ with a lot of ground to make up, but Stig was alert at the batsman’s end and threw down the wicket with RJ a yard short of his ground. Off he trooped not having faced a ball when out of nowhere came a call for his to return. “He’s travelled a long way!”, “He didn’t face a ball!” was the cry, and RJ was somewhat bafflingly granted clemency. Looking as confused as the fieldsmen, he resumed his position at the crease. The very next ball he was struck on the foot in front of his stumps and up went the cry for leg-before. The batsman began another long trudge to the pavilion, not realising that, despite testimony from eyewitnesses of the extreme plumminess of the impact, the umpire’s call was not-out so the trudged back once again. It only remained to be seen what the impact would be of the generous, sporting, Mallardian spirit which allowed RJ to remain in the middle.
The scoreboard spoke of 41 for 3 after 8 overs following fine spells from the two Toms. The next pair took over with Stig bowling from the tree end. A tidy start bowling at the apparently indestructible RJ brought another moment of excitement when Kent swiftly removed the bails while he was out of his ground. Had the visiting team furnished the field of play with a square leg umpire, the batsman would surely have been walking back to the clubhouse (again). But the appeal was unheeded, and RJ remained, possibly to consider what mode of dismissal he would like to try for next…
It is perhaps inevitable that at this stage the unmoveable RJ suddenly found his hitting arc and developed a taste for Stig’s line of attack, hitting him for two sixes, while the fielding side looked on ruefully. Cox took over at the other end and gave little away, conceding a miserly two runs. Stig finished his spell and again came up against a phoenix-like RJ who lofted another six into the trees. Cox was once again difficult to get away, but RJ managed one final boundary four to retire on 26 and leave the field of play completely on his third attempt. The score was now 74 for 3 off 12.
Aruna took RJ’s place, and the next bowling pair was Dev and Pradeep. Dev started nicely and forced Bennett to chip to mid-wicket which was skilfully caught close to the ground by Cox. Both umpires concurred on the cleanliness of the catch (second umpire duties had been assumed by the estimable Micky Collins at this point), as were the celebrating fielding side, although the retreating batsman appeared less convinced. Only two runs conceded off this over, and Goulding replaced Bennett.
Pradeep made a perfect start, bowling Goulding with his second ball. On came Liaquat as replacement, but runs were hard to come by and Pradeep was 1 for 3 off his first over. Dev continued, finishing on 10 for his one wicket, and Pradeep returned for his second over only to repeat his earlier heroics by bowling Liaquat who was going for an ambitious looking shot, only to be done for by the lack of bounce in the early season pitch. G Wilson replaced Liaquat and Genetics were 89 for 5 after 16 overs.
Unconventionally, the skipper opted to bowl his two overs from opposite ends and was very neat in his execution from the field end, going for only three. He fared less well out of the trees as Aruna and G Wilson sought to shore up their score by hitting 11 off their last over. Genetics finished on 103 for 6 off their 18 overs. Would the 26 runs arising from the Mallards’ gentlemanly, or arguably quixotic sportsmanship have a significant impact on the result?
Messrs Kent and Nair strode out to the middle to open the batting for Mallards, contemplating the less than a run-a-ball target they had been set. Kent took strike against the youthful Laverick for the first over, and in looking to be positive, went for the shot but didn’t find the middle of the bat and was caught by Wilson (G) from the first ball. A chastening start, but with the steady bat of Wood to take over, there remained cause for hope.
Pradeep and Trev batted solidly running singles and byes, to keep the scoreboard moving whilst Laverick and Latif bowled economically. In Laverick’s second over Wood scooped a shot up to Wilson (R) at mid-off, and took off in search of a quick single, (correctly) assuming the catch would not be taken cleanly, but not reckoning on the quick fielding of Hamid to pick up the spilled catch and hit the stumps side on with Trev still some way from making his ground. Dev replaced Trev, and the Mallards were 11 for 2 after three overs. Liaquat’s second over was parsimonious with 2 runs yielded, but no further wickets. 13 for 2 off the last pair, and plenty still to do with the required rate now 6.5 per over.
Bell and Wilson (G) took over the bowling and the extant batsmen, Dev and Pradeep started about their work taking 6 and 10 runs off the fifth and sixth overs respectively. Bell tightened up his line for the seventh giving away just 2 runs, but Wilson lost his rhythm, bowling some loose beamers and going for 14 off his second. All of which was welcome news for flag-waving Mallards fans with the score now 45 for 2 after the eighth over, the required rate now a hair under 6.
The next bowling pair of Hamid and RJ took over, but Dev immediately cashed in, smashing Hamid for six off his second ball, to take his score to 29 and enforced retirement, to the resounding applause of his team-mates in the pavilion. Tedge was the next man in, and was immediately busy, knocking singles and building a partnership with the immoveable Pradeep. RJ was difficult to get away, with just a single off his first over, but solid batting and running kept the scoreboard ticking almost to the end of this pairs’ allotted overs, when on the penultimate ball of the twelfth, Pradeep was dismissed. His mode of dismissal will alas never be known, for the scorer this was evidently more information than he was prepared to divulge, so let’s just assume it was a marginal call, and could have gone either way. Well batted Pradeep, a valuable 15 runs which contributed to Mallards being 62 for 3 after 12 overs, but the required rate now exactly 7.
Aruna and Goulding took over the bowling and Cox replaced the outgoing Pradeep. The first ball out of Aruna’s hand barrelled into Tedge’s wicket, sending him back for a respectable 5. Note that this wicket was assigned to RJ in the book (perhaps in another fit of generosity towards this player from the gentleman Mallards), but since he wasn’t bowling at the time, this feels like a leap of imagination… McCaffery took over from Edge to see out the remainder of Aruna’s over with Cox by knocking around singles and continuing in this spirit through Goulding’s over. With the score at 72 for 4 after 14 overs, and the RRR now 7.5, a touch of the long-handle seemed necessary if the target of 104 was to be reached.
To many watching, the 15th over looked like a potential opportunity for this as R Wilson was thrown the ball and Cox took the strike, aiming a beautifully balletic shot at the first delivery. Whilst the shot, had it connected with the ball would undoubtedly have confounded the field, instead the ball struck the stumps scarcely higher than if it had been rolled underarm. Cox was replaced by Stig, who after notching up a single run was cruelly run out with the skipper’s shout of “2 runs there, DEFINITELY!” still echoing around the ground. Stig was replaced by Holland who after negotiating 2 deliveries managed to get the faintest of edges followed by the lowest of catches by the keeper. Holland was replaced by Browne. Three wickets off this over was not the outcome many would have predicted, but being predictable is not in the Mallard’s vocabulary, as this match proved beyond any reasonable doubt.
Jonny Bennett took over the bowling and despite picking up a couple of quick singles in partnership with the skipper, Browne was finally out caught by Latif. One slight complication of Browne’s dismissal was that his replacement, Tony Cleaver, was umpiring at the bowler’s end at the time. A futile attempt at a quick-change performance was abandoned and instead Dev returned to the field to continue his innings.
Aruna and Goulding resumed their spells and despite a valiant attempt by Dev and McCaffery to make up the run deficit, eventually fell short by 12 runs, with Dev caught Bennett, bowled Goulding on the final ball of the innings. 92 for 9.
Now, any readers of a cynical inclination might point out that the deficit of 11 runs is somewhat smaller than the 26 runs apparently gifted to Genetics by Mallards in what will hitherto be known as the RJ Incident ®. It will doubtless be argued as to which was the greater act of self-immolation; the reprieve(s) of RJ, or the miracle-spell of Mallardian double agent Rob Wilson which fatally wounded any remaining hopes in the 15th over.
All of which would be to miss the far more important point, which was that the game was on, the ground was in good nick, the wind was light, and the sun shone (a bit). None of the many incidents could possibly detract from a fresh and fragrant evening at the Mill, sport played in the best traditions of sportsmanship, and the warm banter and welcoming smiles of the genial Riding Mill hosts.
Overall, a strangely ambiguous result: a points-defeat, but a moral victory; and the spectre of a Sliding Doors style alternate reality in which Mallards eased to victory in the 16th over. A highly memorable start to the 2023 season. May cricket never be boring…
Do not go gentle into that good night, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Thomas, D. (1947). Do not go gentle into that good night. The Poems of Dylan Thomas. London, UK; New Directions Publishing.
4 August 2022, somewhere in the Formosa Strait…
The forces of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (the armed wing of the Communist Party of China) are bringing the joys of Marxist-Leninist-Socialism to the world. Dongfeng (a licensed copy of the Soviet R-2) ballistic missiles, YJ8 anti-ship rockets (like the French Exocet, but not as good) and naval gunnery (Type 79A 100mm, a Soviet-era cannon) are amongst the weapons being fired by 14 warships and 66 aircraft ‘conducting exercises’ in the seas around Taiwan (a functioning multi-party democracy whose citizens enjoy full civil and political rights).
HMS Prince of Wales (a Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier and part of the UK Carrier Strike Group) is protecting the free world by keeping an eye on what the damned Chi-Commies are up to. The crew has been at action stations for several hours. Commanding Officer Captain Richard Hewitt OBE is holding an executive officer group meeting on the ship’s bridge.
Commanding Officer: Gentlemen, the situation is serious. Sonar has detected two Chinese submarines off the port side; naval gunnery has ‘bracketed’ the ship four times in the past hour; our F35-B Lightning II aircraft (US-made 5th generation multirole fighters), whilst impressive, have been swamped by the sheer number of overflights by Xian JH-7 fighter-bombers (fourth generation Russian rubbish) and Chengdu J-10 interceptors (decent, but hindered by dreadful hydraulics). I’ve not been this nervous since the super-over at the ICC Cricket World Cup final in 2019.
Air Defence Officer: Ship defence systems are stretched, Sir, like the gap between bat and pad when Jonny Bairstow plays a forward defensive. The PLA are playing a dangerous game. One ‘mistake’ by them and it could be the end for one of the Royal Navy’s most capable and powerful surface ships.
Marine Engineering Officer: I agree, Sir. Our pair of Rolls-Royce Marine Trent MT30 gas-turbine engines yield 48,000 horsepower, but we’re struggling for speed. Some suggest that the pesky Reds infiltrated the shipyard at Rosyth and sabotaged one of the propellor shafts. Rather like when a bowler runs on the pitch in his follow-through, thus giving undue advantage to the bowling team (law 41.14 Bowler running on protected area).
Weapons Officer: Vulture! Vulture! Vulture! [Ed – this is code for imminent danger due to targeting by an anti-ship missile]. A DF-17 hypersonic missile (developed using technology stolen from BAE Systems) is incoming, relative bearing 10 degrees starboard! Unlike the other ‘near misses’, this one has ‘locked-on’ to the ship using its radar! It’s travelling at Mach 10: we don’t have a weapon capable of stopping it! Estimate time to impact: 45 seconds.
Commanding Officer: Crumbs. It’s a bit like the third day of the second Ashes Test in 2013. The one at Adelaide when Mitchell Johnson took 7 for 40. I’m afraid we’ve had it, chaps.
Communications Officer: Sir, incoming message on the V/UHF Rohde & Schwarz radio! It’s a direct transmission on the top-secret 30 Commando Information Exploitation system (developed by Ian Fleming). I’ll patch it through to the intercom…
“Despot calling Danny Boy, Despot calling Danny Boy. Are you receiving me, Captain Hewitt? A short-burst high frequency message follows. Good luck, gentlemen. Despot out.”
Commanding Officer: Communications Officer, report!
Communications Officer: It’s a series of dots, numbers and letters, Sir, sent by geopolitical genius, deep-cover MI6 operative and Mallards CC supremo ‘The Despot’. Translating now… It seems to relate to a match on 4 August 2022 between Belmont Knights CC and Mallards CC. The data are somewhat incomplete, but analysis reveals that Belmont Knights batted first, making 122-3 from their 20 overs.
Commanding Officer: An impressive score, Communications Officer. Who bowled for Mallards?
Communications Officer: Cleaver and Agair opened the bowling, Sir. The former posted figures of 4-0-34-0 and the latter 4-0-15-0; tough going against talented batsmen Halliday (who retired on 30) and Davidson (who retired on 31). Boyce (4-0-15-0) and Professor Ian ‘The Flashing Blade’ Stone (3-0-30-0) were followed by Cox and Holland (S). Mallards’ Antipodean talisman dealt with Clarke (bowled for 21) and Bradley (D) (bowled for 28); Holland’s wily darts accounted for Pennels (caught by Cox) for 0.
Weapons Officer: A fine effort by Mallards’ bowlers. Their accuracy and skill in the face of some useful batting would serve us well on ship: they’d be welcome to operate our Phalanx Mk15 Close-In Weapons System, 30mm DS30M Mk 2 Automated Cannon and M134 Miniguns. Estimated time to missile impact: 20 seconds.
Commanding Officer: Indeed so, Weapons Officer. But unless they could take out a hypersonic missile with one of their deliveries, I’m afraid we’ve had it. Did Despot’s message include any other data?
Communications Officer: More dots numbers and letters, Sir. Analysing now… Nair opened the batting with McCaffery. Pennels accounted for Nair (bowled for 2), while McCaffery added an impressive 23 in a partnership of 43 with Green (who made 17) before being bowled by Power; Green fell (stumped) to Wilson. Agair was joined by Cox until he was bowled for 2 by Bradley (N); Cox progressed well before the same bowler stopped him for 19. Meanwhile, skipper Buckley accumulated a well-made 34 before retiring.
Commanding Officer: Given the time of year and the latitude, I presume that the light was fading (much like our chances of surviving an impact by a DF-17 hypersonic missile in approximately 15 seconds).
Communications Officer: That’s correct, Sir. It was now darker than the stains on Mao Zedong’s underpants, the dirty old git. Mallards needed a challenging 9 from the 3 remaining balls of the final over. Holland (S) and the majestic Professor Ian ‘The Flashing Blade’ Stone added a superb 7 in the gloom, including a tremendous 4 by Holland (S). Four was needed from the final ball, with the sky as black as the prospects of any country that pursues Marxist-Leninist-Socialist claptrap. Stone pushed the ball to deep-midwicket and ran a superb two but was run-out (for 2) pursuing the elusive 2 runs.
Commanding Officer: A sad but creditable end to an entertaining game amongst two spirited teams. Quite why Despot sent this to us now is a little perplexing. Pass me the data file, Communications Officer. Let’s see: dot-2-dot-one-4-W. My God! It’s a ‘kill-code’…
The Air Defence Officer entered the code into the ship’s anti-missile targeting computer. The Chinese missile dropped harmlessly into the sea, nosediving like the economy of a Marxist-Leninist-Socialist state that is not protected by an artificially devalued currency, manipulation of its balance of payments account and theft of intellectual property from other countries. The PLA later apologized for ‘accidentally’ targeting HMS Prince of Wales, blaming the ‘error’ on ‘undesirable social elements’ who were arrested (along with their extended families, friends and associates; in fact) and sent for ‘re-education’ in what is not in any way an extensive system of concentration camps.
The Mallards are a team of cultured disposition: a distinguished collection of gentleman players. They are resolute, nay courageous, in the face of superior odds yet modestly restrained in their celebrations should fickle fate ever turn in their favour. Theirs is not to resort to wild cheering should an opponent falter. Not for them the triumphalism of England’s Lionesses. No, as Kipling advised, the Mallards can meet with triumph and disaster (particularly the latter) and treat those two impostors just the same. They are a team for which the ethic of the summer game rules supreme. Playing in the right spirit is our aim. Should Davipart gain success by some hefty batting and, heaven forbid, by scampering about in the field to deny Mallards scoring off some noble strokeplay, then so be it. Moral victory is ours.
At first the sun shone brightly as our opening batsmen, Cox and Wood, strode out from the pavilion. And noble strokeplay was not to be denied by even the most fiendishly athletic of the opposition: slow donkey-drops from opening bowler Thompson were quickly despatched to all parts as soon as our pair had ‘got their eyes in’. Cox retired on 33, Wood selflessly supporting him by stalling any temptation to lash out, gaining the odd single (two, actually) and picking up a wide and a leg bye. Next in came Ankush who, after blocking a couple and adjusting his sights, smacked the first six of the day. More boundaries followed and he soon retired on 32, the score now standing at 71 for nought; Wood continuing to block allcomers and give unselfish support.
Having established moral superiority, the Mallards were now content to play with straight bats, gain a single here and there and offer up the odd wicket or two to appease their opponents. Wood was eventually bowled by Manav for the heroic score of 3 (yes, three). Pradeep, similarly stone-walling, was caught out for one. Stig came and went – run out without facing – (what noble sacrifice) which left captain Hamid and old-timer Stone – he of the 80s flashing blades – to finish the innings not out with 9 and 7 respectively. Eighteen overs in all for a grand total of 89 for 3. Excellent achievement. Hurrah!
Davipart now sent out D. Rawley and Dhillon, two devilishly strong batsmen, but were the Mallards discouraged? Not a bit. Cleaver and Dobson opened the bowling and soon got into their rhythm. Unfortunately, so did the batsmen. Dobson was rudely hammered for 27 off two overs. Cleaver gained revenge after a couple of boundaries by bowling Dhillon, and then in his next over, as Rawley uncouthly attempted to hoist one over the ropes he was caught by Cox at long off. Rye was next man in. Cleaver kept him quiet for a couple of balls and then struck him on the front leg as he was attempting to pull. Was that lbw? Cleaver should have appealed because the final ball of the over was despatched for six, only for the umpire to whisper that, yes, he would have given him out, had anyone shouted. Cleaver finished with 16 for 2 off three.
Rye was joined at first by Sandhu, who in facing Si Holland seemed frozen at the crease. Holland’s looping deliveries completely mesmerised him. Holland eventually finished with 0-7, off three overs. Sandhu came out of his stupor against Stone – only to top-edge a wily full toss into the hands of Cox, waiting on the line at mid-wicket. Y Rawley was next to partner Rye on the greensward. Both scored rapidly and would have continued plundering runs, Rye especially, off the bowling of Stig, Stone and Ankush, had not the latter removed Rye’s middle stump as he top scored with 27. Finally, Seth came in to watch Y Rawley as he finished clubbing Stig into the rough – Davipart thus reaching 91 for 4, in the 14th over.
It was a contest that, for the Mallards, see-sawed between victory and, alas, eventual defeat. It was a distinguished display throughout, nonetheless. As always: memorable performances. A special mention for Ramsay who neither batted nor bowled but fielded with distinction and nary a moment of complaint. Sublime! Magnanimous. After the close of play, in the dressing room and then in The Duke of Wellington (see above), the Mallards could smile and rest assured that Kipling would be proud of them. This was yet another, ahem, moral victory