Category Archives: Match Reports 2017

Mallards v Benwell and Walbottle @ Walbottle Campus August 7

It was an auspicious start.  All 11 Mallards had arrived at Walbottle Campus by 5.57p.m.  A quick calculation (using mental arithmetic, not a mobile phone) showed that the Mallards were sporting an average team age of 51.3 years – providing both wisdom and guile in unbeatable proportions.  Therefore, the 1 minute warm up that followed seemed both adequate and appropriate.

The opposition appeared strangely unfamiliar – a situation explained by an impending cup game at the weekend which they wished to practice for – the big guns had been brought out.  Seasoned Mallards feared the worst, though whatever was coming their way could not have been any worse than the previous game at the venue (see above picture).

Having won the toss and elected to field, 11 spritely Mallards gaily skipped out on to the pitch.  Then they got serious.  Browne (1-12) and Dunhill (1-20) opened the bowling, immediately finding a tight line and good length – reaping their just rewards with a wicket apiece – and reducing the opposition, Benwell and Walbottle, to 13 for 2.

Thompson and Nitsch, at first and second change, continued to probe outside the off stump.  Then Benson, Mexter, Stone and McCaffery all contributed with steady(-ish) overs.  However, Benwell and Walbottle rose to the challenge and began to show a disturbing level of class, with a series of straight sixes and other highly inappropriate shots which resulted in Davies, Robson, Ridley and Jenkinson all retiring with scores of 33, 30, 23 and 14 respectively.

The Mallards showed their usual prowess in the field, turning twos into singles and leaping and diving to save every possible run.  One highlight was a sprinting full stretch diving attempt by Browne to grasp a spiralling hook shot (which was hit so high it almost hit the oyster catcher – more on this later) only to see the ball dribble agonisingly from his fingertips.

Regardless of these heroics Benwell and Walbottle finished their 18 overs on 128 for 2. The big guns had hit their target.

The Mallard team huddle that followed concluded that, despite the presence of said guns, it was a very achievable target – the Mallards having their own big guns in Taylor and McCaffery.  They opened the innings, both striking the ball well.  However a well-placed field and a disciplined bowling attack stymied the run chase and led to the regular loss of wickets and a score of just 35 for 2 off 10 overs.  Nitsch (6) and Wood (13) both got themselves in but were overcome by some quality spin bowling (with the ball that bowled Wood reportedly spinning back viciously from 3 feet outside off stump).  Malik’s steady 32 not out (retired) was the highlight of the Mallards reply which ended in a respectable yet losing 88 for 4.

There ended another evening’s cricket – but not the lessons for the day.  Browne, the Mallards’ resident ornithologist, informed the team of the flight pattern and call of the oyster catcher (which previously narrowly avoided the spiralling cricket ball) and Taylor found a copy of GCSE Foundation Mathematics – resulting in a recalculation of the average age of the Mallards team to 49.6 years (using the mean rather than the median, of course!).

So, all was not lost…. the Mallards left Walbottle Campus sadly defeated on the pitch but happily enriched in the mind.



Mallards v The Umpires @ Bill Quay August 17

In 1972 (when most mallards were mere ducklings), a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they did not commit. They were the A Team, a group of mighty men since, of course, commemorated in verse by the ubiquitous Mr Sheeran.

Like all great leaders of men, captain ‘Hannibal’ Stig brought his A Team, his solders of cricketing fortune from the LA Underground to the streets of Bill Quay with a plan. A winning plan, a plan he would love when it came together. Win the toss, bat big, and bowl them out cheap.

Part one of the plan paid off. The toss was won the words “we’ll have a bat” were said. What could possibly go wrong? Well… his openers were AWOL. In the absence of Nitsch and Malik. It’s was ‘Howling Mad’ McCaffery and Buckley that were instead given the orders to pad up.

Buckley faced the first ball bowled by Adams. A dot to begin with followed by a single to get off the mark and then the swashbuckling McCaffery hit a 4 and 3 to end the 1st over with the score on 9 without loss (thanks also to a wide). Second bowler Cuskin began with another wide and then sent down a long hop. McCaffery’s eyes lit up at the sight of such a gift and he pulled it beautifully into the on side. Now, on another day it would have gone either side of the man at midwicket for a beautiful 4. Today however was not another day and instead it went straight to Jago, who took a regulation (for other teams) catch to send McCaffery back to the hutch, the score 10/1.

Still with no sign of either opener, Stig strode to the middle like a man on a mission. A man wanting to be a leader by example. He did this by smacking his first ball for 4. A pattern then began to develop with either dots, ones or 4 being scored as a partnership began to be formed by Stig and his faithful lieutenant Buckley. The score racing to 59/1 after 8.

Into the 9th and Buckley, facing retirement on 26, including 3×4 and 1×6, got a straight one onto the pads that was adjudged to be hitting and was given LBW the score 59/2.

Malik had arrived by now (still no sign of Nitsch and as both teams had 10 it was deemed fair). Like the skipper before him, he got himself off the mark with a 4 driven straight back past the bowler.

Mallards continued to plough on, captain Stig retiring on 32 including 6×4. His retirement brought Blocker Wisbach to the crease, and with Malik struggling to find his timing at the other end fears of a slowdown in run rate were being murmured from the benches. Those fears began to grow as Wisbach put on 3 from 9 balls and in the 15th over with the score on 93 Malik managed to get himself bowled by Law for 14.

That brought out Benson and a change in Wisbach who produced a spell of batting in which he pitied no fool! He smashed 4 consecutive 4s and a 6 punched out of the ground that AB de Villiers would have been proud of. Wisbach’s smile at the turn of events is recorded above. Benson at the other end hit a quick fire 10 before becoming another victim of the speedy J. Law (3-0-19-2). With the score on 106/4 off 17. Beacock entered the field and with his usual assured play rotated the strike with a series of singles and a beautifully-timed 4 through the covers to finish 8 not out alongside Wisbach on 26. A score of 136, one of the biggest scores by Mallards in a long time, had members of the opposition worried. Part one of the plan had come together and ‘Hannibal’ Stig loves it when a plan comes together.

So it was down to the bowlers to defend the total. First up Watson. A dot to begin with followed by a drive through the covers by Jago for 4 and 4 singles shared between him and Cuskern. Dunhill began from the other end, again with a dot, before 10 came off the next 4. Then with the last ball of the over Cuskern tickled one round the corner off his pads and a quick single was attempted only for Benson to swoop to collect and release in one movement throwing down the only stump he could see. The umpire’s finger was raised and Jago was out for 7 (18/1). After a single off the first ball of the 3rd, new batsman Adams struggled to get off the mark with sledging coming from his own team-mates. At the other end the 2 singles in the first 3 balls were followed by the first massive six by Cuskern – straight out of the ground in the same place as Wisbach and the score had moved onto 28/1 off 4. Watsons final over beat the bat a couple of times but also had a driven 4. Finishing on 3-0-15-0. 34/1 off 5 became 34/2 off 6 as Dunhill produced 3 tight balls that Adams couldn’t get away before the 4th took his off stump, Bowled for 2. Dunhill finishing on 3-1-19-1.

Benson replaced Watson with a tight first over going for 2, Browne at the other end producing an equally tight 3 off his first after replacing Dunhill. Cuskern then took a fancy to Benson putting the first ball of his next into No. 47 Davidson Road’s shed with a mighty thud. 2 singles and a 4 from the remainder of the over raised the scoring rate further. Browne at the other end was tight again, just a single and a wide coming from his second. The score now 59/2 off 9. Benson 3rd was a mixed bag of dots and 4s as he finished his spell with 3-0-23-0.

By now Cuskern had retired on 33 with Lowe and Cuskin at the crease. Brown after going for a couple of singles from the first 2 of his last suddenly got the yips. 3 wides in a row looked to be spoiling his figures but he got it back and finished on a splendid 3-0-14-0. With the score moving to 78/2 off 12 – a tight finish looked likely.

The newly-rebranded Smasher Wisbach replaced Benson, with Cuskin facing. A dot first ball was followed by a 4 then another dot before the breakthrough. A heave across the line by Cuskin took the top edge and niffy glove work by Beacock from a steepling ball saw the end of Cuskin as the score moved to 83/3.

Malik replaced Browne at the road end and after the first few deliveries went for dots down the legside with athletic work that defied his age from Beacock saving extras, an edge for 4 and quick single took 5 off the over.

Lowe was plodding along nicely but his counting didn’t seem the best as he began to walk to retire only to be told he was on 28! Into Wisbach’s 2nd over and with 13 coming off the first 4 balls White attempted to go big down the ground again only to be caught by McCaffery on the boundary for 16. With the score now 107/4 off 13, Wisbach finishing on 3-0-23-2, Umpires suddenly looked favourites.

With Lowe back in the hutch after finally crossing the line on 33 it was up to Harrison and Hamblett to take Umpires to victory. Unfortunately Hamblett went for a duck, clean bowled by Malik (111/5), then J. Lowe quickly followed for 1, again bowled by Malik (113/6). Mallards were back in it.

After 18 over the score had moved onto 115/6 with Umpires requiring 23 from just two overs, Mallards were back in the box seat. Stig’s plan was working a treat – surely even the Mallards couldn’t give away victory from here. McCaffery was summoned to bowl the 19th with the field appropriately spread. Sloppy fielding from his first ball produced a 3 for Harrison. Then came a single for Howard before a Harrison 4 and 2 dots with another 4 to finish off the over.

The tide had turned again, into the 20th over and Umpires now required just 9 runs to win. Well as the old saying goes: if you want a job doing, do it yourself. So full of confidence from his retirement earlier in the evening Captain Stig took the ball in his hand. three singles, a 4 and a dot ball took us to the last ball with the game on a knife edge, Umpires needing 2 to win and 1 to tie with Howard facing. A straight drive and off they ran. A fumble in the field gave them a chance for a second but a quick throw from Malik and good glovework from Beacock saw the bails removed before a diving Harrison could make his ground.

A thoroughly enjoyable and hard fought game of cricket had finished in a tie. Sometimes a plan doesn’t come together but sometimes it doesn’t matter.



Mallards v Genetics @ Riding Mill August 15


As almost a shoe-in for one trophy this season, your Club Despot has decided to see if he can make it a brace come the awards dinner in January, with a contribution to the match reporting. Which, it has to be said, has become a bit ragged of late with several defaulters still to submit their efforts after several weeks – not to mention any names but two that spring to mind share portions of their name with an American singer-songwriter and guitarist who died in 1997 (possibly best known for his cover of Hallelujah) and the mainland side of the Skye road bridge.

Following Mallards stunning 10-wicket victory in the first leg, it was always on the cards that Genetics would seek to bolster their side, ditching youth (D Taylor etc.) in favour of experience (any one of the Genetics XI who played!). Mallards in the meantime focused on their policy of just making sure everyone gets a game. Somehow also for this game, Taylor (G) managed to make just his 4th start of the season, but also reprised his captaincy role of old – mainly because nobody else wanted to do it.

Before things got started, however, there was a gathering at the one tree end of the field to dedicate two new, and finally installed in place, benches that the two teams have jointly paid for over the past seasons to commemorate  Jon Robinson. Sid Mitcheson fittingly led the dedication, having almost single handedly taken on the task of overcoming the collective lethargy that has been prevailing for almost 2 seasons for the clubs to commission and install them. It was also touching to have Jon’s mum and his daughter Sian (along with her newly-arrived son) in attendance. For those that didn’t meet Jon, he was a larger than life character with a tremendous eye when it came to batting and ability to take outrageous one-handed boundary catches (usually because the other was nursing a roll-up). Jon loved his cricket, and if he could get 7 days a week of cricket in during the season, he would, he played for anybody and everybody who would offer him a game. His main allegiances though were to Genetics first and Mallards second and we would always take priority. New year 2018 will mark 5 years since Jon left us too soon, and all of us who had the pleasure of knowing him remember him with fondness and still miss him. Consequently we’ve agreed that Mallards-Genetics games will continue to use the subs collected for charitable or practical cricket related donations – although it may take a few more years before we have the funds to build the Jon Rob stand at Riding Mill!

Onto the cricket itself. Taylor won the toss and elected to bat first, with agreement that the game would be 18 overs, max overs 3 per bowler (much to Cleaver’s dismay) and retire at 30. Kent and Mussett eagerly stepped forward to open the innings and were treated to some very accurate bowling from Taylor (B) and Tarbuck – making only his second appearance of the season for Genetics . With runs tight, both batsmen were made to work – Kent (I think) benefitting from an easy put-down by Buckley (who’d elected to play for the opposition). But it was Mussett who was the first to fall, bowled by a rare beauty from Taylor (B). Taylor (G) was in next with a determined glint in eye to secure a trophy that is surely his, by succumbing to a 3-ball duck, bowled by Tarbuck and ensuring that his season performance with the bat for Mallards will read 4 innings, 3 ducks and measly 3 scored. At the end of the 6th  over the scoreboard read 25 for 2 (thanks to two lots of 4 byes), and Genetics skipper rang the first bowling changes with Sid “the Slayer” Mitcheson replacing Tarbuck (3 overs 1 for 11) and Goulding replacing Taylor (B) (3 overs 1 for 5).

With Kent on strike, the game reduced to just two players, with the batsman determined not to get out and Goulding trying every bowling trick in the book to make it so. Meanwhile at the other end, Mitcheson got on the with job of taking wickets removing Latif for 1, who was quickly followed by Holland taking a suicidal quick single of his own calling – run out by the quicker running Bennett for the second duck of the evening. By the end of the 12th the score was 49 for 4, keeping the score rate at a smidgen over 4 per over.

Van Doorn replaced Mitcheson (3 overs 1 for 12) and Heslop, complete with bionic shoulder, replaced Goulding (2 overs 0 for 3). Kent having successfully navigated Goulding then proceeded to try to charge down a wide-ish one from Heslop and was duly stumped for 20 by an equally surprised Gardener – somehow managing to take a ball cleanly in his gloves for a change. Van Doorn, not wishing to miss out, then benefitted from a goal keeper-like full stretch catch by Buckley to remove Beacock for the third duck of the innings. With Wisbach and young Thompson at the stumps, things steadied and runs started coming, albeit helped by their plan to ensure that Mr Extras (21 – I think, the scorecard, as usual, not fully completed) would be Mallards’ highest scorer. However both made hay, until Wisbach contrived to pull a ball from Bullock in the final over straight into Gardner’s gloves – which somehow miraculously stuck. With two balls remaining Haylock, in at the dizzy heights of number 9 sensed a chance to improve his season average with a single off the final ball of the innings, leaving him on 1 not out, Thomson on a very respectable 12 not out and the innings at 84 for 7.

With not a lot to defend and Cleaver having already spent much of the Genetics innings polishing up the best of his two pink balls, Taylor elected to let Tony open up the Mallards’ defence from the Broomhaugh end with a tidy first over that saw just 3 runs come from it.  Haylock, buzzing from carrying his bat, opened from the now to be named “Jon Rob” end (the benches are a bit of a give away), was not so tidy conceding 7. With openers Gardner and Buckley stoically doing their job, and despite some good fielding, at the end of the 6th over Genetics were ahead of the run-rate at 32 for the loss of no wickets. Cleaver finishing off his allotted 3, and Haylock 0 for 16.

The first bowling change saw Wisbach replace Cleaver (3 overs 0 for 15) and Dunhill replace Haylock. With the ball coming out of the sun and extracting some turn, Wisbach bowled a tidy first over. Meanwhile Dunhill immediately found his line, troubling both batsmen, but with no luck. Wisbach’s second over saw Gardener retire on a well-crafted 30, to see Genetics on 60 from the first 11 overs. Dunhill finally got some reward in his last over trapping Buckley (24 – his score not his wishful age!) for a plumb lbw, finishing with figures of 1 for 13 off his allotted 3, which would have been 4 runs better if not for 4 overthrows from a slightly over-enthusiastic Mussett, seeing an opportunity to run the newly arrived Goulding out. The same said person, replaced Wisbach (2 over 0 for 17), and elected to bowl spin. Keeping things tight Ben conceded just 6 runs from his 2 overs, but by the end of the 13th the score was 70 and Genetics therefore only needed 15 off the last 5 for victory.

Electing to give everyone a chance, Taylor turned to Thompson to replace Dunhill. Tarbuck, in at number three, looked dangerous – until he was run out for 8 (book doesn’t record by who). However 10 runs came of Thompson’s over and, with 4 overs to go, only 4 were needed. Taylor elected to bring the field in. This tactic helped bag the wicket of Heslop, out for the fourth duck of the evening easily snaffled by Kent. With just 2 needed for victory and 20 balls to get it  Genetics, sensing victory, sent Jordon out to occupy the crease. Somehow he managed to get his bat on the first ball and was reluctantly forced to take a single by a screaming Goulding. One run needed, last ball of the 15th over and Goulding straight drove Latif’s last ball for four to see Genetics win the return by 7 wickets with 3 overs to spare.

Controversy then ensued, when Taylor present the Job Rob Cup to Genetics skipper Gardner at the Welly. Taylor quite rightly pointing out that at the end of the second leg Mallards were still ahead on net run-rate (and, I think, wickets taken). Cue setting up a decider next weekend in Wicklow! Third leg and all to play for!

Mallards v Genetics @ Riding Mill August 3

The year moves on, and with August comes the first El Classico of 2017. Enough has been written in previous year’s reports about the gravitas the Jon Rob matches carry, so I’ll not waste too much time on it here. Suffice it to say that one or two Geneticists were at the ground so early they were still striking their tents when I arrived.

Varying, often contradictory, predictions were offered about the weather prospects for the evening, but any fears proved groundless as the last of the grey clouds disappeared as the teams gradually assembled with none of the usual squabbling about who should have the Home dressing room. More pressing was the deciphering of the team selections, I’m not sure the eventual result matched any of the pre-game line-ups but who really cares.

Being so late with this report I can’t remember who won the toss, but for the sake of a good story let’s just agree that Stig did, chose to bowl, and move on. Taylor (D) and Hamid started things off for the Genetics, with Taylor not in any mood to mess around. Four overs later, with the score already at 40, Taylor retired on a sublime 32 which included six fours. At the other end, Hamid was trying to keep up but couldn’t find that same timing.

Things looked a bit ominous at this stage as the typically destructive Bennett strode out with purpose. Mallards needed a little something to help pull the game back their way a bit, and it came in not at all controversial circumstances as Bennett top-edged a legside full toss off Watson which was well caught on the fine leg boundary by Dunhill. This brought a bit of respite for the opening bowlers, Watson (3-0-18-1) and Dunhill (3-0-24-0), who were able to finish their spells in relative peace.

A bowling change brought another wicket as Hamid was bowled off Mexter’s second ball for 7. Mexter (2-0-4-1) and Bateman (2-0-16-0) fought to put us in front for the first time in the game, but Genetics’ number four Airey was going well and keeping things in the balance. Together with Jordon the score progressed through to 72/2 in the 13th over before Jordon was caught by Buckley off the bowling of Haylock (3-0-8-1) for 2.

Bowling well from the other end, Stone (3-0-12-1) picked up the wicket of Van Doorn for two, a sharp catch by Mussett in the covers. So by the time bowlers 5 and 6 had finished their spells, the score was 85/4 after 16 and we were in a decent position. Stig was still ringing the bowling changes as McCaffery and Mussett were brought on for the death overs.

McCaffery struck with his first ball (another excellent change, Skip) to end a strong innings from Airey (22), caught by Watson. McCaffery (2-0-13-2) struck again a couple of balls later, bowling Heslop for a duck. Numbers 8 and 9, Wisbach and Mitcheson looked to build a late rearguard action, before Mussett (2-0-8-1) had Wisbach caught by McCaffery for 10. The innings came to a close on 106/7 after 20 overs, definitely chaseable, but there were too many experienced Mallards out there for anyone to start getting carried away.

After a quick turnaround, Mussett and the newly promoted Bateman made their way to the middle and got stuck in at a frantic pace. At 19/0 after two overs and 32/0 after four, we were actually behind Genetics rate of scoring. However the openers powered on through with a wonderful display of strokeplay. No mercy was shown to the opening bowlers, Taylor (B) (3-0-27-0) and Mitcheson (3-0-28-0), as the ball disappeared to all corners.

At 59/0 after 6, Bateman won the race to retirement, his 34 containing two fours and three sixes. Mussett 6-4-4 in the next (and Wisbach’s first) over to join his opening partner in the shed, his innings of 33 containing six fours and a six, as well as a solitary single and a lonesome two. The score was now 74/0 after 7 and several people on both sides were struggling somewhat to come to terms with what they’d just seen.

The burden of closing the game out was passed to McCaffery (16*) and Buckley (1*) as Genetics skipper Taylor (B) fought to find a breakthrough. Wisbach (2-0-19-0), Hamid (2-0-12-0) and Airey (0.2-0-5-0) were tried but the damage had been done. MCC needed just 10.2 overs to close out a storming 10 wicket win, probably the strongest performance I can think of in 5 or so seasons of Mallard-hood.

The return fixture is just a few short days away and Genetics will no doubt be out for blood. I for one, can’t wait.

Mallards v Belmont CC @ Beamish Museum August 6

aa beamish waistcoatsAll the late-19th Century accoutrements were in place for a trip down memory lane in Sunday’s very friendly game against Belmont CC at Beamish Museum:  portly men in waistcoats, bowler hats, exuberant whiskers and very leisurely fielding – all authenticated by those doughty survivors of the WG Grace era, Messrs Stone and Cleaver.

The rules were explained several times before the slower members of the team grasped the full details: Twenty overs a side, two overs per bowler, two-pace run-ups, no lbws, no pads for the batsmen and 25 and out – aside from the pads pretty much business as usual for seasoned Mallards.

In a move of sheer recklessness McCaffery was made captain for the day and winning the toss he elected to field first. Belmont began steadily in the face of some decent bowling from Cleaver and Thompson, the only early incident of note being Taylor’s attempt to catch the ball with his back, being more interested in chatting up the scorer than facing the play. After four overs Belmont were 22-0.

Things began to get more interesting with the introduction of Cox and Stone, the latter one of the many bowlers who had to make little change to his normal run up. While Cox bowled very tightly, Stone’s first over went for ten runs but to compensate he also claimed the first wicket, bowling Smith for 12. His second was a perfect replica, ten more runs and the second wicket to fall, Monaghan bowled for 11 and after 8 overs Belmont were 49-2.

The game fell into a steady pattern then as the batting team kept the score around six an over as Latif and Butcher bowled steadily without much luck and after 12 overs the score had reached 76-2.  McCaffery decided that an intervention was necessary and his self-introduction brought immediate dividends when the newly-christened ‘Safe Hands’ Cleaver pouched a catch in the covers, cleverly using his groin as a pouch.  Sadly his new nickname was instantly removed when he spilled a chance in the very next over from the unlucky Taylor, who also saw the skipper narrowly fail to cling on to a diving catch in the deep.  Nevertheless, Taylor returned the impressive figures of 0-9 from his two overs, the skipper taking 1-14. Belmont were now 99-3 from 16 overs.  Not content with bowling well, Taylor, resplendent in a salmon pink waistcoat (see above) then donned the keeper’s gloves to allow Wood to bowl a couple of overs to finish off the innings in combination with the deadly duo of Green Senior and Junior. Things remained tight with Belmont mainly scoring in singles and after 20 overs their innings ended on 123-3 – an eminently gettable score. Special mention should be given to Thomson, whose energetic fielding helped to keep the score down to manageable proportions.

Cox and Taylor opened the batting for Mallards and progressed serenely for eight overs, adding 41 runs in the process before Taylor was finally run out for 18. Thomson followed quickly for 1 before Cox retired for an excellent 27.

By now the rain had started and the combination of that and the break-up of the indoor balls being used made it difficult to score quickly, the ball taking up most of the properties of a bathroom sponge. The skipper’s attempts to push the score on quickly ended when he was caught for 7 and Cleaver also perished early on, caught behind for 4.  Latif, meanwhile, had progressed steadily and things began to pick up when he was joined by Butcher, who immediately carved out a couple of fierce boundaries to take the score to 91-4 from 17 overs – 43 required from 3 overs to win.

Unfortunately the partnership was removed in quick order when Latif was bowled for 17 and in the following over  Butcher retired hurt with a strained thigh. The loss of wickets had also seen the run rate dry up, leaving new batsmen Stone and Wood requiring 21 from the final over for victory. Stone swung and missed a couple of times before finally connecting and being caught for 3 leaving Green and Wood to see off the last couple of balls as Mallards finished on 108-6, losing by 15 runs.

A splendid tea of cucumber sandwiches and Pimms was followed by a trip to the Sun Inn for ale and pork pies. Sadly, though the ambience was pure 19th century the prices were not.


Mallards v Riding Mill @ Riding Mill July 25

Socrates was a thoughtful sort of chap. Not for him the ‘bash it and scamper’ philosophy…when he was wielding the willow he would often pause, mid-stroke, just to admire the sheer poetry of movement of the ball across the greensward. Similarly, whilst bowling, he did not opt to fling the cherry with indecent haste at the opposing batsman, but would rather choose to weave magic and mystery with seam or spin. The Athenian master was, of course, one of the founding members of the Mallards who instilled in his followers the notion that ‘the game is the thing’. No mad scramble to win at all costs: what do you gain if you lose your soul in the pursuit of fickle glory?

The Socratic example inspired his fellows – contemporaries such as Aristotle, Cleaver, Stone, Pythagoras, Porteous, McCaffrey, Beacock et al, – to practice the summer game with the same sobriety. When the Mallards took the field against Riding Mill on Tuesday, 25 July, they were determined to show these untutored country folk the right sort of spirit in which to play.

It took a couple of wides before Cleaver’s limbs were persuaded of the Socratic philosophy but thereafter this opening metaphysician bowled with commendable discipline. It would have been, naturally, far too vulgar to actually take any wickets in his four-over spell but he finished by holding down the opposition to a meagre 13 runs. At the other end, newly-appointed captain Mexter – he of almost the same distinguished vintage as the Athenian elite aforementioned – asked the Wellington hotel landlord Ruecroft to step up to the crease. An interesting choice. (It should be mentioned in dispatches at this point that Tom Browne had stoically chosen to fall on his sword and restrict his participation to that of the scorebook, thus allowing this unseen-before publican to take his place in the line-up.) Ruecroft loped athletically into the fray and promptly took two wickets – Mahmood for 4 and Zurwalen for a duck – at the expense of 16 runs. This rather rash performance brought Jaidup to the crease who, in due course, was to set about flailing the ball to all quarters. Entertainment now became the dominant characteristic of the contest. Mussett bowled with startling variation – mostly fast and short – in contrast to Hamid, fast and long. Beakers plunged to and fro like a frantic salmon whilst Green must surely qualify for the swoop-fielding award by chasing after one long shot and putting in an impressive final dive, determined to prevent the ball from slowing down before it reached the boundary. Thanks to this, Jaidup retired not out on 32; Hamid finished his four overs with 1 for 27 and Musset was replaced after 3, taking 1 for 24. Stone and Mexter were to finish the attack, this a determined display of how the Mallardian philosophical school deal with adversity. Stone opted for mystique in sending down missiles of North Korean obscurity. He finished with 3 overs, no wickets for 25. Mexter dispatched deceptive, hooping deliveries that removed the dangerous Horner (28) and so finished after 2 overs with 1 wicket for 10 runs. Riding Mill meanwhile had amassed 127 in total, which included a generous 26 extras.

Mallards’ openers Porteous and McCaffrey were not intimidated by such a target. They duly flourished their weapons as Socrates would have applauded. Style and sophistication was the hallmark of their stand against the Riding Mill quickies, Zurwalew and Suraj. True, whilst Porteous collected a series of cultured singles, McCaffrey struck, on occasions, somewhat less elegant swipes to the boundary. He was finally undone on 28 by Mayfield, whereas Porteous retired on 30, not out. There continued no uncouth race to pile up runs. Musset batted with disdain until, 11 runs to the good, he spooned one up in the air to see if the opposition could catch it. They could. Ruecroft came in, hit two with an overhead forehand and was then promptly bowled by Khalid next ball. Latif and Green were next to face. The latter, of swoop fielding distinction, decided to run, slide and dive for everything, whether there was bat involved or not. Latif, meanwhile took the philosophical option, waving his bat majestically until bowled by Hall for 3. Hamid took up the strike in the last over, scoring one before Green, having failed to do so before, ran himself out on the last ball. He scored four. The Mallards reached a grand total of 87 and duly congratulated themselves in the Wellington on having sternly resisted the urge to chase false idols and had instead chosen to uphold the finest principles of metaphysical discourse. Cheers! The proper spirits were duly consumed.

Mallards v Durham Staff @ Riding Mill July 18

On a pleasant evening at Riding Mill Mallards and Durham Staff met for the second instalment of their annual battle with Mallards keen to get revenge for the earlier defeat at Maiden Castle.

Captain Stig won the toss and elected to bat, a decision that despite a slowish start, 4 for none off 2, was soon vindicated as the score sped to 50 off 7 overs mainly thanks to some crisp striking by Mussett who retired (as usual) on 31, ably supported by Kent. McCaffrey was next in but despite his  best efforts to keep the momentum going, fell for 1 somehow contriving to be bowled behind his legs by Nathan, something he was unable to explain to the incoming Butcher!

Kent fell next trying to accelerate the run rate,  caught off the bowling of Root (not that one!) for a fine 24, and Butcher played his usual mix of misses, blocks, very very late cuts(not edges!) and occasional half decent shots before becoming becalmed against some tight bowling from Boothroyd and lost his patience and his off stump trying to knock the ball in to Stocksfield, falling for 19 with the score on 91 for 3 at the start of the 14th over.

This soon became 95 for 5 as both Holland and Beacock fell (very) cheaply,  Beacock being particularly unlucky, playing on having got the full face of the bat on ball to give Root (no, not that one) his 2nd wicket. Latif joined Nitsch at the crease who had been previously happy to knock the ball around for 1s and 2s before reverting back to type and launching a huge 6 in to the adjacent footy pitch. Latif looked like another shrewd acquisition by former Skipper Wood as he showed some good technique and a straight bat to hit a series of singles and a nice 4 before being a casualty of the late push for runs, run out for 11. Bateman fell swinging, bowled by Boothroyd, leaving Browne to fend off the last ball leaving Nitsch unbeaten at the other end on 17, with Mallards finishing on a respectable  120 for 7 off their allotted 20 overs.

The evergreen Tony Cleaver opened the bowling for Mallards having done the same for Durham against Mallards in the first game and was clearly keen to banish any thoughts of a nomination for the friendly fire award for that performance by bowling even better than he had done at Maiden Castle, going for just 1 in his first and completing a wicket maiden in his second by bowling Hopkins.

Browne struggled to find his form from the One Tree End and was soon replaced by Bateman who together with TC bowled nicely to keep the runs down, so by the time TC had bowled Gillespie in his last over to finish with an excellent 2 for 12 off 4, Durham had crawled to 32 for 2 off 8 (keen readers will remember Mallards were 50 for 0 off 7).  Mussett took up where Cleaver had left off and went for just 2 in his first over.  Bateman’s figures took a bit of a dent in his last but he still finished with a respectable 0 for 20 off 4.  Mussett then took some stick in his second (not helped by 4 overthrows!) to leave Durham 62 for 2 off 11.

Having impressed with the bat Latif then took over from Bateman and bowled tidily going for 10 off his 2 overs. Mussett responded well to his 2nd over by bowling Wreak in his 3rd with a rapid yorker and finished with 1 for 25 off 4. After 15 overs Durham had reached 86 for 3 in comparison to Mallards 95 for 5 at the same stage so advantage Mallards, however the (much) younger legs of Powell and Root (him again!) who were now at the crease proved decisive as they stole quick singles, turned ones into twos and also found the boundary on occasion, so despite Nitsch’s and the returning Browne’s best efforts the scores were level after 18.4 overs, Root  having (finally!) retired on 30. Browne managed to take the game in to the last over by getting Whitfield ‘strangled’ down the legside off his 2nd ball, much to the batsman’s disgust as he claimed he was nowhere near it despite both umpires(from Durham) hearing a nick! Nitsch was left with the unenviable task of having to bowl a maiden in the last over for a tie but Powell managed to pierce the fielding ring to win the game and  rubbed salt in to the wounds by running an unnecessary 3 to reach his 30!

A 6-wicket win for Durham sounds comfortable but in truth it was a close game and a commendable effort by an aging or should I say maturing Mallards side who by my reckoning were on average at least 15 years older than our Durham counterparts. As always the game was played in a great spirit and a healthy contingent from both sides rounded off the evening in traditional style down the Welly where news of the impending start of a new barmaid soon replaced any talk of the evenings cricket!

Mallards v Sparta @ Heaton Medicals June 20

Sometimes, games with Mallards live long in the memory and sometimes they’re best to be forgotten almost immediately. This game can be listed in the category of the former (which is probably why it’s taken so long to get this match report written up [I’ll casually gloss over the fact that I’d completely volunteered to write it!!])

The Heaton Medicals Ground is an absolute joy of a ground – a secluded idyll of greenery protected from the hordes of drunken, promiscuous (lucky bastards), ne’er-do-well students who are slowly taking over the suburb of Heaton gutter by gutter, by a large wooden fence, high trees and thick shrubbery. It’s a pity we don’t play here more but, unfortunately, we don’t have a DUP-sized pot of money available to help bribe the groundsman – sorry, I mean, form an arrangement where we have confidence in the groundsman and he’ll supply us with a good wicket.

Anyway, on to the game. The skipper for tonight’s game, Mark Buckley, arrived just before 6pm armed with his piece of paper that had the names of the squad written on it and who was going to do what (in theory). Winning the toss (with a coin of his own as the Sparta skipper couldn’t be arsed to go and get one of his own), Buxom put Sparta in to bat as he was feeling sorry for them in that they only had 9 players. Opening with the young whipper-snappers Tony “Trigger-Finger” Cleaver and Andy “Make mine a packet of 20” Dunhill, the game was all set to become a classic, where people will be saying in years to come  “I was there”, “I bought the dvd” and “who was playing again?”.

Sparta opened with D Douglas and S Gibb, DD showing Trigger-Finger respect by blocking the first over for a maiden. Gibb wasn’t so capable in the 2nd over as he was removed 2nd ball by Dunhill for the good-ol’ leg-before! More plumb than a capable plumber who was feeling particularly plumbish that day. Anyway, this brought G Nelson to the wicket and we were to settle into a particular rhythm for this batsman who tended to flat-bat the ball to long-on. Kenty gave Buxom the heads-up about this but, being ever so supportive of his bowlers, the skipper gave Dunhill the chance to show what he could do. Unfortunately, almost immediately, Dunners presented the batsman with a rank long-hop which was duly despatched to the long-on boundary arc. Reticent to adjust the field (even with Kenty giving Buxom a look portraying “I told you so”) after a bad ball being given the treatment it duly deserved, the Skip kept the field as it was. When the next 4 was despatched to the same place off a perfectly fine ball from Dunhill, Buxom conceded and set the field accordingly. This was to prove very beneficial during the Sparta innings. Both TF and Dunners toiled away admirably against DD and Kiss Me Hardy by keeping the boundaries limited and they finished with 4-1-22-0 and 4-0-22-1 respectively. The change of bowlers brought a slight loosening of the shoulders for the 2 batsmen with Wisbach getting particularly rough treatment from the batsmen. Watson was slightly meaner with his bowling and the only 4 that came from his bowling was when Buxom literally jumped out of the way of a shot heading at high speed towards his shins (the Skip is using the fact that he’s running the Great North Run this year for charity as a valid excuse for protecting his shins – still doesn’t excuse the fact he didn’t react quick enough to use his hands!!). However, Nelson quickly retired back to port with an impressive 31 not out whilst DD followed not long after for 34 (after hitting a 4 so really should have retired 4 runs earlier!!) and this brought Spratt and Mattock to the wicket. Buxom replaced Watson after 2 overs to bring on Hamid from the pavilion end to add a bit of pace to the attack towards the end of the innings. Going for 6 runs off his first 2 overs plus a few byes, it helped stem Sparta’s run-rate and, with Wisbach valiantly toiling away at the other end, he eventually got his reward when Spratt skied a shot that was caught by Kenty at short mid-off. Spratt was gone for 14 and Stu finished with figures of 4-0-31-1 – a great effort. Watson was brought back on to replace Wisbach and add the end of his first over of his 2nd spell, was rewarded with the stumping of Mattock for 9 after some great glove work from Beakers behind the sticks. With S Foulds and J Ellis now at the crease for Sparta, some great bowling from both Watson and Hamid kept the scores down. Hamid got a wicket in his last over when Buxom took a rather splendid catch low down at cover (pretty much what he should have done off Watson’s bowling) to remove Ellis and Watson was unlucky in his last over going for 10 runs. Watson finished with 4-0-26-1 and Hamid 4-0-12-1.

It must also be said that it was a fantastic effort from the entire team with great fielding, willingness to move positions for different batsmen, chasing down the ball to prevent boundaries and tolerating a skipper who was, in a way, making it up as he went along!! Everyone should be rightly proud of their role.

The Mallards’ innings began with Kenty and Harry Singh opening for us. We were confident of a good 50+ partnership for these 2 so when, after a couple of boundaries, Harry was removed for 8 off the bowling of Langley, there was a slight air of disappointment. Being offered great support from the stands (well, the bench just behind the boundary) by messrs Rob Wilson and Captain Stig, the positivity was there and in went Mr Wisbach at number 3. After a nice little shot for 4, Stu was removed after being clean-bowled by Ellis with a ball that pitched on leg and hit off-stump. You can do nothing about those type of deliveries!

This brought in Chris Lucas to support Kenty who’d been building up an impressive innings and he eventually retired for 32 which brought Buxom to the crease. After a slow start and seeing Mr Lucas removed, clean-bowled by Ellis, for a duck, Hamid joined Buxom at the crease and the run-rate picked up again with some boundaries and good, quick running between the wickets which put the pressure on the Sparta team. After Hamid was removed for 9 after being clean-bowled by Spratt, Buxom was joined at the crease by Si Holland, who was to provide some fabulous support!

It must be said that during the time that the Skip was batting, he was also asking people to swap over and field for Sparta (to bring their numbers up to ten) as well as getting the umpires changed over. A big thank you to Tony, Si, Chris Lucas and Mr Watson for fielding for Sparta – very good of you!

Anyway, back to the batting, Buxom and Holland put together a good little stand with a good mixture of boundaries (including a 4 for Holland!!) and little ones and twos, with Buxom basically shouting at Mr Holland what to do. To be fair, he more than capably held his own and did what he was told very well!! They also had to contend with a little strop for the Sparta skipper who took umbridge at Harry calling wides when he said he let loads like that go. Harry got the calls right because if Buxom can’t reach them, then they’ve got to be fairly wide. Whilst their skipper was mouthing off and about to start his run-up, Buxom just walked away and refused to face the bowling as it was not in the spirit of the game and gave their skipper a minute to calm down. Thanked by the wicket-keeper and slip fielder for doing that, Buxom then ensured that he kept his wicket.

When Buxom retired for 33, Beacock came to the wicket under the strict instruction from the Skip as their paths crossed to “swing at everything and run like there’s no tomorrow! To be fair to Beakers, that’s what he did and even though he was bowled by Nelson for just 2, he’d followed the instructions to the letter!! Watson joined Holland at the crease and things were getting very close now. We were down to the last 2 overs and we had Tony and Dunhill padded up. It was then that Mr Holland hit a fabulous 4 off Spratt straight back down the ground that was received with a loud roar from the watching Mallards. At the end of the 18th over, we were on 113 chasing down the 118 set by Sparta. We then saw a great combo of Mr Holland and Watson close out the innings by getting the required runs and we actually scored the winning runs from a no-ball and a good bit of running off that no-ball too.


So, in summary, fabulous bowling from Cleaver, Dunhill, Wisbach, Watson and Hamid was more than ably supported by a great fielding display from the whole team. The batting was mightily impressive too with good running between the wickets keeping the pressure on the fielding team and pushing them into mistakes. In the end, a more than well-deserved win for Mallards. Well done everyone.

Mallards v Excelsior Batters @ Riding Mill June 15

For several season Mallards CC has been like one of those 40-something MILFs you see hanging around in World Headquarters, desperately needing an injection of youth before they forget what their equipment is for. Whilst the will and the knowledge of what’s required has been there, the energy, vim and vigour has been sadly lacking. But not any more.

This season the Mallards Cougar Club have found the young blood they needed and the change has been remarkable, renewed energy, running power and stamina abound – possibly due to the extensive pre-match exercise routines the youngsters have insisted upon – see pic above.

The regeneration has not been without a downside, a certain inconsistency of performance, occasional lapses in concentration and some difficulty in holding a bat whilst desperately clinging on to their latest I-phone, but overall the experiment has succeeded, the fielding improved immeasurably and less discussion in the bar afterwards about the merits of poor to middling 1970s soft rock acts.

Unfortunately others have noted this success and aimed to match it, not least Excelsior Batters, an always friendly, well-matched, school-based opponent who last night took advantage of a greater access to such youth by fielding several fresh-faced six-formers.

Captain Butcher, winning the toss, decided to copy last week’s winning tactic of putting the opposition in and chasing – a decision that bore early fruit when the skipper himself pouched yet another catch for his portfolio, Ali trying to over-hit a good-length ball from Galloway.

Sadly, one of the perils of youth appears to be an inability to keep a good scorebook so details of partnerships, falls of wickets and scores after each over in the first innings will be purely imaginary. Maybe we should look at introducing the use of an ‘App.’

The other opener, Haggie, was unfortunately quick to get into his stride, taking particular advantage of anything near his legs and regularly peppering the pavilion boundary. New batsman and opposition skipper Krishnan also began well and the score began to creep up – let’s say 30-1 after six overs for want of anything actually written down.

Both the opening bowlers, Browne and Gilloway had started well but both suffered a little in their final overs, as 20-odd runs were added before, from the latter’s final ball, Krishnan aimed a shot in the general direction of the moon.  Wood, at a short mid-off, stared up at the increasing rainfall, waited patiently, checked his watch, had a chat about Existentialism with Lucas at point, smoked an imaginary cigarette and then, eventually, when the ball broke back through the earth’s atmosphere pouched the catch, leaving the opposition on 50-2ish after 8 overs. At this point the rain seemed to get even worse and both sides trooped off for a five-minute break.

On their return, skipper Butcher, showing the wisdom of his age, ignored the desires of some of his ageing bowling options and stuck to the younger brigade, calling forward Thompson and Gibbons and the latter struck in his first over, bowling Jobling for 6.  At the other end Haggie had continued to bat well and at some unmentioned point retired for 30.

Thompson, after a slow start, found his groove and put a brake on the scoring rate, conceding just six runs from his second and third overs before Gibbons struck again, bowling a beauty which bounced and jagged back in to clean bowl Barrett for 9 leaving Excelsior on approximately 85-4 from 14 overs.

Unfortunately, this brought a new, younger batsman to the crease in Mir and he played fluently from the off, crashing two fours from Gibbons’ last over, despite which the bowler finished with a fine 2-22 from his four overs, Thompson finishing with a very decent 0-19 from his four.

Finally the veterans got their chance as Mexter and Nitsch were brought on to finish the innings. Mexter looked to have struck in his first over when Bodley carved the ball high in the air towards a nearby rainbow. Wood, again, waited calmly as the ball returned to earth and again pouched the ball – then dropped it. Any suggestions that the torrential rain had reduced the ball to a bar of soap were, like some of the scoring stats, purely imaginary.

Fortunately the drop didn’t prove too costly as two balls later a terrific piece of fielding by Gibbons and the quick reactions of bowler Mexter ran Bodley out for 9 – credit should go to the batsman for his super-sporting gesture of accepting the run out with the umpire nowhere to be seen (an umpiring lesson that Gibbons should have taken notes from – see later). At the other end, though, Mir had continued to press on and somewhere around this point he retired on 31.  Nitsch and Mexter finished things off well though, restricting the batsmen to singles in the last two overs as Excelsior finished on 124-5 – normally a par score but, given the conditions, probably better than it sounds.

Hall and Wisbach led the Mallards response but their desire for a fast start was thwarted by opening bowler Glenwright who began with two maiden overs.  Realising the need to up the pace, Hall managed to find a boundary at the other end but in attempting to find another was undone by a very low bounce and bowled for five in the fourth over. Wood joined the fray with Mallards already behind the required rate on 10-1 from 4 overs.

Wisbach was the next to go, chasing down a second run and, according to the square leg umpire, Gibbons, coming up slightly short.  One of the perils of youth is not to have developed the various excuses you can make up for not giving your team-mates out (the sun was in my eyes, one of the fielders blocked my view, sorry I was looking at my phone etc). Wisbach, to his credit, gave a brief nod of disappointment before wearily trudging back to the pavilion bringing skipper Butcher to join Wood with the score on 11-2 in the fifth over.

By this time the rain had stopped but the pitch had been reduced to a bit of a quagmire with sawdust all over the bowlers’ run-ups and deep holes around the batting crease. Batting was a bit of a lottery and, at first, the new pair struggled to move the score on and after 8 overs Mallards were way behind the rate on just 22-2, needing 103 from the final 12 overs.

Inspired by the energy of their youthful colleagues and the opposing outfielders they decided to step things up by running for everything. Suddenly the score began to mount as dots became ones, ones became twos, and twos became threes. Several pounds were shed and a heart consultant put on standby but it began to work. After 12 overs the score had reached 53-2 – even the introduction of the Friendly Fire nominee Dunhill failing to slow things down.  By now both batsmen were panting like the afore-mentioned MILF might have dreamed of but ignoring doctor’s advice they continued to charge up and down, even adding an occasional boundary. A further 23 runs came in the next three overs as victory changed from an impossibility to a remote possibility and then to a mere possibility.  Sadly, having added 61 in 8 overs, the pair were both soon to depart, Wood, caught by the keeper for a gallant 29 and Butcher retiring on a splendid 31 just a few balls later – a partnership of 66 having kept the game alive. Both batsmen then went for a long lie down.

Still, however, a nigh-impossible 42 was needed from 4 overs for victory. Excelsior had a last trick up their sleeve and brought back the two opening bowlers for our new batsmen, Nitsch and Lucas to face. With the light fading, and the pitch treacherous, it proved a mountain too high. Both batsmen swung hard but mostly missed, Lucas bowled by Glenwright and new batsman Mexter, being run out without facing a ball as Nitsch tried forlornly to match the running method of earlier.  Gibbons came in and hit a couple of good shots without reward as the innings finally came to a halt on 106-5, an honourable defeat by 18 runs.

A splendid turn out at the Wellington by both teams saw the many youngsters listening in awe at the feet of their elders as their veteran colleagues regaled them with tales of yore, of dinosaurs, dragons and highwaymen, trenchfoot, steam trains, black and white TV and Amstrad computers. A fine time was had by all, obviously.

Mallards v USCC Invitational XI @ Riding Mill June 8

Days of monsoon-like rain and a lack of opposition may have led to lesser teams spending the night in front of the telly but not the Mighty Mallards. Riding Mill’s unique micro-climate, very own super groundsman Pete Nitsch and Hamid’s black book meant that we were able to enjoy a full 20-over game in remarkably pleasant conditions.

There is no such thing as a guaranteed win  – as Theresa May would find out later that very evening – but this election day dust up was as close as Mallards will get, as the late withdrawal of original opponents Ovingham meant that this was effectively Mallards v Mallards  (with a few of Hamid and Harry’s mates to help make up the numbers) so a minimum of 6 Mallards would definitely be on a winning side – welcome news following 5 straight defeats!

The window of dry weather obviously caught out some people as only 20 turned up to play but these were soon divided into 2 teams which just for convenience sake shall now be referred to as MCC and USCC and has nothing to do with the result (oops, spoiler alert!). Hamid very kindly offered to let one of the longer-serving Mallards captain USCC but unsurprisingly (to your current Captain at least!) this was politely declined so Harry stepped up to the breach and subsequently lost the toss to MCC Captain Butcher who chose to abandoned his tried and tested (and mostly losing) tactic of batting first by inviting USCC to bat.

Wisbach and Ankush opened the batting for USCC and got off to a steady if tentative start against some tidy bowling from Bateman and Thompson and some alert fielding (yes that’s right – alert!). 18 off the first 5 overs with just 10 fielders represented a great start for MCC.  Ankush started to find his range and punished Thompson’s 3rd over leading to the introduction of the evergreen Ian Stone or The Flashing Blade to use his official nick name (apparently!) Bateman finished strongly, bowling Ankush for 25 in his final over to finish with a very impressive 1 for 10 off 4 overs. Gibbons then took up where Bateman left off and bowled beautifully enticing Riswan to drive the ball straight to Butcher who took the catch despite looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights according to one team mate! Stone, sorry, TFB, also bowled nicely despite a lengthy lay off and took the wicket of Wisbach for 10 (all in singles) and finished with a highly respectable 1 for 18 off 4. Gibbons held on to a steepling catch off his own bowling to dismiss Harry, much to the relief of Wood, who despite complaining just moments earlier that the ball had come nowhere near him all night, seemed more than happy to let Gibbons take over! (Got to encourage the youngsters – Webmaster) Patrick finished with a great 2 for 14 off 4, leaving USCC on a meagre 64 for 4 after 15 overs. After some gentle cajoling from the Captain, Moran took the next over and while it is fair to say she took a while to find her line, finished the over well leaving Nitsch and Wood to close out the innings. Nitsch bowled Holland and had Hamid sharply stumped by Beacock for a well played 25, finishing with 2 for 9 off 3 – another great set of figures – bowling ones obviously Peter! Wood trapped Raheel in front and only slightly blotted his copy book by predicting his last ball would go for 4, which it duly did, but still finished with very respectable 1 for 5 off his 1 over. Mexter and Sailesh remained unbeaten as USCC finished on 100 for 7 off their allotted 20 overs – a great effort in the field for just 10 players and surely a gettable target, however regular readers will know not to take anything for granted – unlike Mrs May!

Shorn of any regular openers, Captain Butcher was forced to push himself up the order despite his recent terrible form and open the batting alongside Hall. It was clear from the outset that both batsmen had different targets, Hall to calmly accumulate the runs required to win and Butcher to simply survive his first ball, something he had failed to do in his last 2 innings! Hall was untroubled by USCC opening bowlers Sailesh and Mexter while Butcher avoided the ignominy of a hat trick of Golden Ducks by playing a solid defensive shot to rapturous(ish) applause from the Pavilion much to the bemusement of those unaware of the circumstances. Things were to (briefly) get even better for Butcher who managed to intersperse numerous dot balls with a couple of 4’s before a very fine edge to the keeper did for him, out for 8 and MCC on 13 for 1 off 3, just behind the required run rate. Wood then joined Hall and both batsmen played nicely taking the singles on offer and regularly finding the boundary so by the time Wood was (very) narrowly stumped off Rizwan for 16, MCC were on 49 for 2 off 8 overs with Hall on 20, and comfortably ahead of the run rate. Bateman (having checked the positioning of his box – see pic) then joined the fray and was clearly keen to get home to check out the exit polls as he set about the USCC bowlers and Raheel in particular with relish, hitting 3 glorious sixes in an over including one of (if not the biggest) six this correspondent has ever seen at Riding Mill. Hall was still steadily accumulating at the other end and both batsmen reached their retirement score (Hall 30 and Bateman 33) in the 14th over leaving a paltry 8 to win off 6 overs. A maiden from Ankush and some tidy bowling from Haylock delayed the inevitable but new batsmen Nitsch and Gibbons stayed calm and knocked of the winning runs at the end of the 17th over to complete an unusually comfortable victory.

As usual a healthy contingent headed to The Welly where those successful Mallards (tried with limited success) not to gloat in the face of those less successful Mallards! Thanks to club despot Taylor’s carefully worded fixture description, Mallards are able to claim victory and boost the seasons win statistics but in truth and fully mindful of the gut wrenchingly sickening cliché – cricket was the winner (as it was pretty incredible that a game was held at all), and there were no losers on the day – oops sorry Theresa, I forgot about you!