Category Archives: Match Reports 2019

Mallards v Umpires August 29 @ Bill Quay

On a gorgeously sunny evening at the end of August, 11 Mallards cricket players, men all good and true, assembled at Bill Quay Cricket Club to play the oft-anticipated fixture against Umpires. Eagerness, excitement and bon viveur abounded amongst the team as they gathered for the 5.30pm start, scheduled accordingly due to the nights closing in a tad quick at that time of year.

Unfortunately, no-one had told the opposition and they didn’t turn up until 6pm! Also, no-one had the keys to the container so no stumps, bails or cricket balls were available to the home side.

Therefore, after much discussion and debate, at 6.15pm the game started with yellow plastic practice stumps, plastic bails and, thankfully, with Mallards bowling first, a decent cricket ball.

Even more unfortunately, due to the writer of this match report waiting almost 2 months to draft up the happenings of the evening, and the scorecard for the innings of Umpires being somewhat bereft of detail, the information regarding the first innings of the evening may be a tad sketchy!

However, Skipper Buxom opened with the Watson “brothers”. The young, athletic A Watson opened from the housing estate end with a fine maiden. The slightly older, not-as-fast-as-he-once was, I Watson opened from the road end and, with his 4th delivery of his first over, took the wicket of opening batsman A. Jago for a duck, caught by Holland at mid-off. Finishing with a wicket maiden, Umpires were 0-1 after 2 overs. Both bowlers continued with their fine, efficient bowling and, in the 5th over, A Watson got the wicket his bowling deserved, clean-bowling the other opener, Adams, for 10. I Watson, deciding to not be usurped, took the wicket of Harrison who was caught by Mexter for a duck. No further wickets materialised for either bowler and both openers finished with fantastic figures: 4-1-10-1 for A Watson (deserved more) and 4-2-7-2 for I Watson. A great effort from both chaps to have Umpires at 17-3 after 8 overs.

The next two batsmen didn’t stick around too long and both were run out – R Bunker for 5 and C Duggan for just one.

The next 2 bowlers were Hamid Watson, nee Malik and Leon Watson, nee Mexter. Both men continued with the fine bowling displayed by Watson and Watson, and this Watson pairing kept it relatively tight, difficult to score from and they were backed up by good fielding from the rest of the Mallards (as the run outs show).

Malik got a wicket with his 2nd delivery having A. Hill caught for just four – a nice bit of revenge having just been hit for the aforementioned four off his first delivery and there were just a handful of runs of the remaining deliveries with Watson/Mexter also keeping it tight from the road end. Watson/Malik kept it even tighter in his 2nd over, with just 5 coming from it (one four and a bye) before Mexter got one of his traditional lbws, having M. Jago caught plumb in front on the middle yellow plastic stump! Watson Malik took the wicket of M. Howard in his 3rd and final over for just 4 and Watson Mexter conceded 7 off his third and final over for the bowlers to finish on 3-0-22-2 (Malik) and 3-0-21-1 (Mexter). At the end of 14 overs, Umpires were 62-8. The final 4 overs (the match having been reduced to 18 overs per side due to the late start) were to be bowled by Nitsch and Holland. Nitsch had a mare of a first over, going for 15 including 2 fours and a six from their captain, Lowe. Holland didn’t fare that much better, going for 11 off his first over, but it did see the retirement of Lowe. The last batsman, Cockburn, came in, scored one, then was out from the bowling of Nitsch after hitting his wicket, bringing the fast-scoring Lowe almost immediately back to the crease. Thankfully, he was run out from the last ball of the innings for 32, with D. Averil remaining not out on 26. Having scored 58 between them, those 2 batsmen scored more than half of their teams’ runs.

Astonishingly, there were 4 (FOUR) catches by Mallards fielders today – 2x Holland (who was as surprised as the rest of us), 1x McCaffery – who took it diving/falling/tripping (delete as appropriate) to his left and went down like the proverbial sack of spuds in super slo-mo, and one by Mexter who used his ridiculously long arm to take one very low down.

The Mallards reply began with Kent and Ankush opening the batting and to say it was something of a demolition of the opening bowlers, M. Howard and A. Hill is a bit of an understatement. Boundaries flowed, mainly for Ankush and off the bowling of Howard, who finished with figures of 2-0-23-0. Hill was a bit better and finished with figures of 2-0-12-0. After 4 overs, Mallards were motoring along rather nicely at 36. Howard was replaced by C Duggan who went for 14 off their first over. 5 overs gone, 50 runs on the board for Mallards. Just under halfway there and still 13 overs to go. Surely Mallards couldn’t mess this one up?!! We have been there before however!

Ankush had, by the end of Duggan’s first over, retired for a very quick 30 and this brought McCaffery to the crease. However, “The Cat” was soon heading back to the dressing room for a duck, chopping on to his wicket from the rather pacy bowling of Lowe (more of that later). Duggan then struck in his 2nd over, clean-bowling Nitsch for just one. 50-0 had very quickly moved on to 57-2 after 7 overs. However, with Kent and A. Watson at the crease, hopes were still high.

By now, the light was fading fairly fast and the pace of the bowling of Lowe was causing some consternation from the boundary, particularly from Skipper Buxom who wasn’t impressed at all. Cockburn replaced Duggan and took the wicket of A Watson for just 2, after he’d underhit a shot that would usually fly to the boundary for 6 and was caught by Howard. Wilson came to the wicket and manfully supported Kent in the run chase, eventually being clean-bowled by Cockburn for six, including one delightful four. After 13 overs, Mallards were now at 76-4. Plenty of wickets in hand and 5 overs still to go to get 30 runs. Easy eh?

Skipper Buxom had come to the wicket in near darkness and didn’t see his first delivery from Cockburn until it literally passed his bat. Thankfully it wasn’t in line!! However, Buckley and Kent went after the bowling and Kent retired on 31. This brought Malik to the crease and both batsmen continued to attack the bowling on offer. The game finished with Buckley thrashing Averil to the boundary for 4 and Mallards winning the game with 3 full overs to spare!!

In the pitch black, the teams walked off the pitch shaking hands, exchanging pleasantries and having enjoyed another fantastic game between these two teams. After the last 2 years’ games being separated by just the one run out of 400+, this was a somewhat different beast. The vast majority of players retired to the bar to have a drink or two, as well as consuming the fantastic purchase of chip butties and curry sauce by Mr McCaffery once again. It’s worth playing this game just for those!!

As a footnote to this match report, the delay in writing this was due to a mixture of work commitments, holidays but, more importantly, the sad and very upsetting news of the sudden, unexpected passing of Leon Mexter, only a couple of weeks after this game. The spirit of Mallards was epitomised by Leon and none more so in this game – giving his all when fielding and bowling, taking a(nother) wicket and a catch whilst, at the same time, kicking the ball over the boundary to concede a four when trying to field it! Typical Mallard! I know I speak for everyone within the Mallards and local friendly cricket community when I say that he will be sorely missed and never forgotten.

Mallards v Genetics August 13 @ Riding Mill

The annual battle for the Jon Robinson Trophy – In which our heroes are surprised by the weather, and other unusual occurrences … …

The story of this game begins well before the first ball was bowled, when the rearranged date for the fixture was announced, the first attempt having been thwarted by heavy rains when both sides arrived in hope, hung around in the wet, failed to see any encouraging break in the clouds, and returned damply home. Was there any significance in the new date? Immediately following the glorious 12th, when the slaughter of grouse begins, would it stand for the slaughter of another, rather wetter bird? Despite the continuing poor weather the forecast gave hope for a dry day on the 13th, and club members rushed to get their names in the hat for the club despot’s idiosyncratic selection procedure. The twelve fortunate ones (yes, even a twelfth man at this stage) received the welcome news. However it appears that some hacker has recently accessed the club distribution list, and appended it to that of our opponents, so we all got an early sight of the Genetics team. In amongst some familiar, and many unfamiliar names appeared one M Buckley, our team captain. He is rumoured to play occasionally for Genetics, and even captain the Sunday side (when they can muster a team), but surely not in this fixture! Was he not on the Mallard’s team sheet for the washed-out contest? What did this mean? Was Buxom generously playing for Genetics to even the contest, was he using his prior knowledge of the players to back a winning team, or did he just fancy the idea of batting for the other side? Time would tell … … However, as our final team sheet showed the ebullient C McCaffery as stand in captain, there was a collective sigh of relief. With Colin in charge all would be well (as some wise sage commented!)

The weather remained atrocious on the run up to the 13th, and once again the BBC weather forecast proved disappointing, the promised good day proving indifferent with signs of rain in the air. The first email from the club despot arrived on the day itself at 12.43:

Afternoon All, it may be dry and sunny, but an inspection of the outfield this morning revealed that it is still too wet to cut (it has not been cut for almost 10 days due to the weather), and the ground is very soft in places. The contractor is coming back at 3.15 to assess if it can be cut, so a decision will be made by 3.30. Peter Nitsch will advise then. At the moment he considers it to be touch and go.”

An afternoon of watching the skies began. It didn’t look promising. Then this missive arrived in the inbox:

“Afternoon All, Tonight’s game is ON, hopefully the low chance of showers will not happen. The outfield is pretty lush, and if a couple of people can get there for say 5pm, Peter would be very grateful for some help to get the outfield marked up. Please note that as prompt a start as possible would be appreciated, due to the rapidly failing light.” (Tuesday 15.55)

This came as a great surprise, especially to those in the Newcastle area, as it was raining at the time. Team members arriving early drove through rain, which cleared as the Tyne was crossed and the fabled “Riding Mill effect” came into force. Others arriving later saw great activity on the field with the boundary being lined, flags planted, Peter Nitsch riding the roller to flatten the strip, Beakers with a mower trying desperately to cut the grass behind the wickets down to a length that wouldn’t hide the ball, and young Thacker wielding another mower collecting grass cuttings in the hope that the ball when struck would at least leave the square, even if it did not make its way through the piles of damp silage to the boundary. The club despot had referred to the lush outfield; he never mentioned the lush infield. “Not much chance of running twos on this pitch” Trevor Wood was heard to say.

In due course the stragglers from both teams arrived. The two captains (or was it one captain and one deputy?) went out to the centre, and the toss was made. McCaffery won and elected to bat, saying that we would bat first on a dry wicket (!), and not have to bat in the dark when trying to hit the winning runs (more of that anon). It was, after all gone 6pm.

The captain set the field, the two umpires took their places, and the Mallard’s openers, Malik and Wood, settled in their positions. The game began in sunshine but with rainclouds threatening in the distance.

The first innings: slow progress against tight bowling and a slow outfield

 The Genetics openers, Rudd and Edmundson, medium pace and accurate, were difficult to get away; Wood and Malik settled into the task, running quickly between the wickets when the opportunity arose and despite Wood’s forebodings, collecting twos as well as singles. The score moved onwards, the most excitement coming from a square cut by Wood and umpire Beacock, seeing the unexpected possibility of a four in these conditions, misinterpreted a rather expansive arm gesture by the fielder as a signal that the ball had carried over the boundary and signalled a four. However, the fielder maintained that it hadn’t crossed the line, the signal was reversed, two scored, with Wood complaining that he could have run a third had he not seen the umpire’s signal. Would this loss of a run prove crucial? Mallards playing last week recalled a tied game.

The score moved onward, slow, but better than feared on such a pitch. 7 for 0 after 2 overs became 17 for 0 from 4, the run rate reaching over four an over. Honours even at this stage – the two bowlers had done a tidy job; the openers were beginning to look settled. Time for a bowling change. Taylor (B) replaced Rudd (2-0-12-0). Slower than the openers but accurate, he conceded a single and then trapped Malik lbw with his fifth ball. On came captain for the night McCaffery eager to push the score on. Mitcheson replaced the very tidy Edmundson (2-0-4-0), and went for six runs in his first over, keeping the rate at four an over. Still slow going. McCaffery and Wood tried to push the game on, McCafferty run out for 4 in the 7th over, replaced by Thacker, and Wood lbw to Taylor (B) for 10 runs in the 8th.

The run rate was beginning to be a concern, but it was a slow outfield and the team’s big hitters (apart from Buckley, currently directing operations for the opposition), were about to come on. Thacker and Watson were now at the crease.  Taylor (B) and Mitcheson continued to prove difficult to get away, Mallards cheering the first four of the innings by Watson off Taylor in the 9th over. The score then was 36. Richardson (of him, more later) replaced Taylor (3-0-1-8). Thacker, having spent a little time settling, struck Richardson for a magnificent straight six, and the following ball hit another powerful straight drive, only to see it plucked casually by the bowler inches from the ground. He trudged off the field for 10, muttering in disbelief. Still, there was Cox to come.

Mitcheson (3-0-1-14) was replaced by D. Taylor (of him, more later). Watson and Cox settled into their task against accurate bowling, slowly increasing the run rate until at the end of the 16th over the score stood at 70, and the chance of setting a target of over a 100 was becoming a possibility. Richardson (3-0-1-15) and Taylor (2-0-0-11) were replaced by Bennett and Jones. Both batsmen looked well set and beginning to increase the pace when disaster struck! In the 17th over Cox, on 12, was run out going for a single, and Nitsch was caught behind for a duck off new bowler Jones. Watson retired not out for a commendable 32, and Wilson and Holland survived the last overs, each not out 2. The total was 92 for 6, Watson the top scorer, with 14 extras; on this pitch possibly a competitive total, or so we thought.

The changeover was made, Mallards settled into their positions, Taylor (D) and Richardson came to the crease, and the ever reliable Cleaver took the first over, with Malik taking the second (Editors Note: thus opening the bowling and batting in a clear contravention of the cardinal Rule 1 (a) in the Mallards Regulations).  After two overs it was 7 for 0, and after 3, 13 for 0. At just over 4 an over, this was encouraging for the Mallards. Then further disaster! The fourth over went for 23 runs, with Richardson opening his shoulders and scoring three sixes, and by the end of the sixth over the score had rushed to 54, Richardson retiring not out 33, with four sixes and a four. Cleaver had commendable figures in the circumstances of 4-0-0-12, with the unfortunate Malik 3-0-0-37. There were four lost balls in the field over the one tree boundary.

Mallards had brief hopes of an honourable draw when it started to rain, and groundsman Nitsch decided that if it didn’t stop after one more over, the players would have to halt the game and retire to the pub. Of course, before the end of the over, the rain stopped and the sky cleared. The fielders were able to pause in their search for yet another lost ball to admire a magnificent full rainbow in the clear sky to the east, but sadly the end of the rainbow was nowhere near.

Cox replaced Malik, and Nitsch followed Cleaver. During Richardson’s fireworks, Taylor (D) had been accumulating runs, and this continued with the new batsman Jones, who hit a six off Cox who came off after two overs (2-0-0-17) to be replaced by McCaffery. The score had risen to 84 by the end of the tenth over, with Nitsch causing problems for Jones and was unlucky not to claim a wicket. The two “spinners” slowed the scoring rate down, and it took a further 2.4 overs for Genetics to reach their target of 93. Taylor on 29 declined a number of singles in the hope of hitting the winning runs with a boundary off Nitsch, eventually taking a single to retire on 30 with the scores level. This brought Buckley to the wicket at the non-striker’s end, and the game finished with a single by Jones off Nitsch (2.4-0-0-12). McCaffery ended with 1-0-0-2. At least Mallards avoided the indignity of watching their captain hit the winning runs, and the game had finished before it got dark!

In which our heroes reflect on another defeat, and the good that came from it … …

So there we have it. What should have been a keenly contested game in the August sunshine was a demolition – Mallards 92 for 6, Genetics 93 for 0 after 12.4 overs. It was a dejected team that adjourned for a consolation pint accompanied by chips and onion rings. Sid Mitcheson spoke for the victorious Genetics in accepting the Jon Rob trophy from himself, and generously handing it to the Mallards to touch. Somewhat cheered by the memory of Jon, and agreeing to the donation of match fees to cancer charities, the post-match session broke up, team members drifting off with some mutterings at the disappointment of not seeing the familiar old faces from Genetics at the crease.

Mallard-in-chief Taylor (G) has proposed that the match fees are donated this year to a Bowel Cancer charity, in memory of his chairman who died recently of the disease, and in gratitude for the fact that Tony Cleaver is still with us. So some good has come from the game, and there is always next year … … …






Mallards v Wolsingham July 21 @ Beamish

Dearest cousin Eglantine

To relax after spending the morning pondering whether Scott’s Marmion or The Lady of the Lake poems were to be preferred, and how ranked, against Byron’s Giaour and The Bride of Abydos, I strolled down to the Fairground near Beamish village.  The son of one of the gardeners, hardly able to contain his excitement, had informed me that the ‘famous Mallards’ were about to commence a match against Wolsingham.   Having recently so enjoyed watching Tom Hayward at the Oval, finding all corners of the ground with his flashing blade, I determined to sit awhile and take in the spectacle.

After summoning a man to find and erect a deck chair for my use, I settled down ready to observe these fine specimens of manhood go about their epic encounter.  Imagine my surprise when, minutes before the first over was due, a group – by my count, my dear, more than half of the team – headed off in the direction of the shops.   No doubt (I thought) in order to purchase a bag of boiled sweets and some sherbet dips, to sustain them while in the field, and to perhaps sign some autograph books.  They were so friendly – one even paused and so kindly offered to introduce me to the finer points of scoring.  (His fellow players seemed to think his gesture amusing – no doubt on the assumption that a mere woman would have difficulty in learning such a craft!)

The poor captain for the day, whom I heard addressed as ’Flashing’ something and  ‘Prof’ – so elegantly attired in striped shirt, cravat and cream waistcoat – emerged from the marquee tent to find he had very few troops on parade.    The growing crowd thought it highly amusing to see how he paced around, fretted and threw his hands in the air, declaring that this ‘would not have happened in his day’!

The abscondees, however, were back on station in no time.  As they passed, I heard one of them recounting how he had already fortified his system, ready for the match, with a plate of fish and chips and a pint, and that he fancied the extra pint of beer he was now carrying – in common with his fellows – was bound to give the team the edge in the forthcoming contest.  (You know, I fancy that I remembered him from a match last year.  He must be a keen ornithologist, as, on that occasion, he appeared to be intently watching a tree pipit, as the ball went past him in the field.  How his teammates chided him!).

I also noticed that the estate managers had supplied a Kookaburra Red Turf ball (for some reason, complete with pocket-sized sandpaper).  I recall reading a discussion of the merits of this particular item of cricket paraphernalia.  Mr C. Box expounded at length in those august organs, Cricket and Cricket Field (full sets of which are on Uncle Donald’s shelves, next to works by his favourite Victorian author, Stormy Daniels).  It is attested that the ball poses problems to all – batsmen, bowlers and fielders alike – and thus to the game of cricket, and possibly even the whole British Empire.

And so, to the match… The rules of which, by the way, restricted the run-up, and allowed 12 players for each side, with retirement for batsmen at 20 runs.

On this occasion, it seems, the famous swagger of the Mallards’ top order batsmen was not allowed to manifest itself, as Master Sam Waterwort struck twice for the seriously-minded Wolsingham representatives.  The standing umpire, Mr Lucas’s decision to send Mr Kent back to the tent, after a rap on the pads, caused the batsman to hide his disappointment (not to say, incredulity) by reciting what appeared to be substantial sections from Hercules as he removed his presence slowly from the field of battle.  Strolling in nonchalantly, at first wicket down, Mr Nitsch then deployed his relaxed, Goweresque style, followed by more nonchalance on the way back to the pavilion seconds later, again thanks to the lightning finger reflex of Mr Lucas.  With New Zealander Mr Cox – still suffering severe from nerves, after the recent misfortunes of his fellow countrymen at Lords – going for one, the first three batsmen were back in the marquee having exchanged their wickets for an average of just one run apiece.  Mr Watson steadied the ship, without piercing the ring of fielders, in an innings of seven singles; he was ably kept company by Mr Green, who batted well enough, but caused only the deposit of dots in the batting row of the scorebook.

Then, perhaps because the ball was losing its shine, or the clouds, or the captain’s language, the middle order got things going.  Mr Gibbons showed how it was possible to score in twos rather than singles, and to his 11 was added a further 21, imperiously struck by Prof. Paul Greenhalgh, one of the few gentlemen players of the team, on one of his (sadly) rare appearances for the Mallards.  He so dominated the batting as to strike two of the team’s three fours (the other being contrived by Mr Lucas), and before he had to retire, also shared a partnership with his son, Jasper (from which the lad will no doubt have learned much about the fine craft of batting).  Mr Lucas, attempting to atone for his earlier rashness, contributed 10 before being caught at the stumps – a fate that also awaited Mr Cleaver (for 2), after some feints of stylishness with the bat.  Stone started with a negative score, running one run for a wide, which if left alone would have yielded two to the total.  Nevertheless, he (n.o. 5) and Taylor (n.o. 2) were both in determined mood, and rolled back the years to ensure that the tail indeed wagged before the overs ran out.  Extras (20) ran Greenhalgh senior close for top scorer.

The Mallards first clever strategy in the field seemed one of allowing the new batsmen to tire themselves out through their impatient pacing while alone at the wicket.  Once the final Mallardian had arrived on the pitch (having finally located and laced up his boots), Mr Cleaver was cleared to commence from the top end, en route to tidy figures of 7 runs conceded off two lively overs.  Mr P. Gibbons, labouring up the slope, managed to have batsman Campbell caught by Mr Watson at deep mid-off, and returned figures of 1-11.   Mr Cox, showing great gusto, kept the batsmen quiet, while skipper Stone managed to elicit one lbw decision out of the umpire (McDaid for 14), but paid for this in not being granted a plumb lbw shout a few balls later.  His paper on the ‘umpire’s compensation decision theory’ was, I am told, half completed as he partook of the post-match Pimms and cream scones, for eventual submission to the journal Behavioural Intrusion in Cricket Statistics).

The youngest competitor, Master Jasper Greenhalgh accomplished his two overs at close to the par rate.  The ever-reliable Mr Nitsch, labouring uphill, showed the generous side to his nature with the ball.  Mr Lucas claimed the third wicket, when Howard was very smartly stumped by the ever-cheerful Mr Kent, to return figures of 1-6.   In a testimony to field setting, I’m sure, and the absence of tree pipets to distract fielders, ‘extras’ contributed very little to the score, just one wide and no-ball being called in Wolsingham’s winning total of 83-3.  They also had two retired batsmen (Dalton and Garner) in reserve.

A low scoring game reflected the paucity of boundaries – in no large part contrived by the choice of ball, upon which I expounded earlier, which bounced and pinged unpredictably on a pitch, if not from the bat.  Somewhat lacking in billiard table smoothness, the wicket had been freshly scythed that morning by Hawkins, but he had then needed to rush to church and neglected to apply a heavy roller.

I informed Uncle Donald in America that I had witnessed a match.  He is always so quick to respond with his pithy postcard messages:

“I was an excellent crikketer, when visiting England. Scored some GREAT sixers into the bleachers at the original thirteenth century stadium in Glasgow, Wales.  Then pitched twelve of them OUT!  I love that country, and they love me, love me so much!

“If England gets rid of those LOSERS as crikket opponents in Eurup, we can negotiate a WORLD SERIES between our two great countries.  It would be awesome.

“You guys would have to use baseball bats, though – and we’d use a diamond shaped wikket.  Lovely chlorine drenched chicken nuggets to follow, of course.  Just take back CONTROL, guys! BEAUTIFUL possibilities! Covfefe…!!!”

Oh he is so droll, Uncle Donald.  (Or do I mean, ‘total dick’?)

I do hope you are over the attack of the vapours.  I look forward to returning to Guildford soon, and getting the coal dust out of my hair.

Florence Leglance (Miss)



Mallards v Riding Mill May 21 @ Riding Mill

Though we were in the familiar surroundings at Riding Mill, we found ourselves in the away dressing room for a change – our hosts- familiar opponents, Riding Mill. We decided to field first after winning the toss. Cleaver and Holland were to open the bowling. With no time to lose Cleaver was ready to get us underway. Gibbons seemed to have a moment clarity after his traitorous act of lining up with the Riding Mill by stepping in to field as we were a few players down – thankfully however, he was marched off back to his traitor cell when the latecomers arrived.

Cleaver opened with some tidy line and length bowling, but faced stiff opposition from the Riding Mill openers, who annoyingly found form and settled into a comfortable opening partnership. Meanwhile Simon Holland had a tight first over but was undone by some slogging and Riding Mill quickly picked up a run rate of over 10 per over.

The first breakthrough came in the 5th over when Cleaver’s delivery was caught by Stone, 50 for 1. Malik then came on to bowl, keeping things tight with only two coming from his first over. Watson’s entrance proved deadly as the second wicket arrived with his first delivery of the match.

Watson would take off in the second over as he did in his first with another wicket, caught by McCaffrey. A few deliveries later the tide seemed to be turning when Watson chalked up his third wicket, this time lbw for Raza. He finished the over with an impressive 3-13, giving the Mallards belief. Malik pushed for more wickets in his third over but his reward would come in his fourth, bowling Marks for a duck. Riding Mill were 94 for 5 at this stage.

Cox then came into the attack and just like Watson before him took a wicket from his first delivery – a difficult rising delivery edged behind by Hall which was again taken by the safe hands of McCaffrey.

Stone came in for the final two overs. When he bowled Smith for 8, a familiar face came into bat – Gibbons’ first appearance this season and his second start in a Riding Mill shirt brought back painful memories. Despite a few singles and extras, Cox and Stone kept things tight in the last few overs as Riding Mill would finish with a total of 150 for 7.

Ankush and Malik stepped up to open the batting, both starting off with a nice boundary. Malik would fall early which left McCaffrey to step up and he got Riding Mill rocking with quickfire twos and a boundary. Ankush carefully negotiated their bowling with good shot selection to pick up a few more boundaries. As the run rate was picking up, we were dealt a hammer blow as McCaffrey was bowled on 10. Latif strolled in and would soon be followed by Cox, as Ankush finally fell in the 6th over; we were 37 for 3 and falling behind the required run rate of 7.5 per over.

Latif proved hard to break down by playing a good range of defensive shots with the occasional offensive one. Meanwhile Cox wanted to get the engines pumping, picking up a few singles and a boundary. However, he never seemed to quite settle and unfortunately, he would be undone by the Riding Mill bowling attack for 8.

From here things took a turn and we struggled to get a foothold in the game. Butcher and then Holland went for 2 and 3 respectively, before Moran came in looking to steady the ship. After a lovely pull shot to the leg boundary, she would then be caught by a top edge next delivery – 61 for 7. Watson came in at 10 and he and Latif decided to see off the last few overs, scoring a couple of runs in the process – when Latif was bowled for 3 it was clear the titanic was slowly sinking. We needed a hero and that came in the form of Cleaver, the only man able to save us. Yet on his 5th delivery faced, the criminal of the day, Gibbons would catch him at mid-off ending the tussle. Mallards finished on 65 all out.

A combined love of eating crisps and drinking pints brought the players from both teams together after the match. Even though Riding Mill won this one, the Mallards went home hotly anticipating the next contest.

Mallards v Belmont Knights August 8 @ Belmont


It was a gorgeous evening in August in the North East – perfect for a game of cricket. So, with that in mind, 22 men good and true (well, mostly) gathered at Belmont Community Centre to fight the gladiatorial contest of ball vs bat, leather vs willow, Mallards vs Belmont Knights!

Due to the captain being somewhere on the A1 southbound when it came to the time to do the toss, young Mexter stepped up and continued the tradition of the toss with aplomb by losing it and being asked to field. Captain Buxom turned up just after this and thanked Mexter for losing the toss as fielding first is the option he’d have gone for!

Opening with A Watson from the far end and I Watson (or I Hudson as was originally written in the book) from the “pavilion” end, conceding only 2 and 3 runs respectively off their first overs. Belmont’s openers, N Bradley and A Clark, saw off Mallards’ opening bowlers spells (max 3 overs per bowler) and the Watson combo had certainly worked, finishing with figures of 3-0-6-0 (A Watson) and 3-0-9-0 (I Watson). After 6 overs, Belmont were at 17-0, which was a great start by Mallards.

Thacker came on to replace A Watson at the far end and was hit for 4 off his second delivery by Clark. However, he got his revenge by clean bowling the batsman a couple of deliveries later for 14. This brought D Bradley to the crease who subsequently whacked his first delivery to the long off boundary for a comprehensive 4! Mexter (or Dexter according to the scorebook – scorers doing very well so far!) came on at the pavilion end and started with 3 dot balls. Obviously bored by this, Dexter Mexter decided to do something about it and had the opener Bradley given lbw (back leg, low down, right in front of middle stump) with his fourth delivery. The next batsman, Wright, came to the crease and was sent back first ball in exactly the same fashion. 2 in 2 balls and Dexter Mexter was on a hat-trick. Clamours from the fielders for everyone to crowd the batsman were dismissed by Captain Buxom who didn’t want to change a winning formula and, sure as eggs is eggs, the next batsman (Peterson) was out lbw first ball (back leg, low down, right in front of middle stump) and Dexter Mexter finished with a triple wicket maiden from his first over. Mexter offered to retire there and then but the Skip was having none of it!

The pressure was on Thacker now who only conceded 2 off his next over to Bradley. Mexter came on again to bowl to their new batsman, R Coy (dressed in shorts!!) and almost had another after A Watson dropped a rather hard chance at head height at short cover. That was to prove costly but Dexter Mexter didn’t care as he was demob happy knowing he’d dine out on his hat-trick for years to come. A couple of singles and a boundary followed over the next couple of overs before Thacker got his 2nd wicket, clean bowling Bradley for 8. Not many runs followed again as new batsman Gimple took an age to get off the mark so Thacker finished with 3-0-12-2 whilst Dexter Mexter finished with 3-1-9-3. A fantastic achievement from both and, after 12 overs, Belmont were 35 for 5.

Thacker and Dexter Mexter were replaced by Haylock and Latif respectively and the batsmen decided to go after these two bowlers, hitting several boundaries, particularly Gimple, who retired for 30 rather quickly. Despite their best efforts, the bowlers finished with figures of 2-0-17-0 (Haylock) and 2-0-24-0 (Latif). Belmont, after 16 overs, had moved on to 62-5 rather quickly, with Gimple back in the hutch if needed. Captain Buxom brought on messrs McCaffery and Butcher to bowl the last four overs and they chipped in to the wickets with McCaffery getting Pennels caught by Buckley for 0 and Coy caught (finally) by A Watson for 20. Butcher bowled Harris for 6 after he swept a bit too much and hit the ball onto his stumps!  Batsmen 10 and 11 (Blenkiron and Wake) saw off the last few deliveries and Belmont finished on 98 with the bowlers finishing with 2-0-12-2 (McCaffery) and 2-0-10-1 (Butcher). The game was on with Mallards requiring a run rate of less than 5 an over. Definitely attainable you’d hope!

Mallards opened with Thacker and McCaffery and, off the 2nd ball, Thacker hit opening bowler Pennels for 4 and nabbed a single of the last delivery and we were on the run rate. The 2nd over was taken by Harris and, after a few deliveries, got one to bounce a bit higher and Thacker fended it off straight back to him for a caught and bowled. Harris started with a wicket maiden (though not a triple wicket maiden like our very own Dexter Mexter – he needs to up his game a bit!) and Mallards had McCaffery & G Taylor at the crease. The score crept along rather slowly and, after 6 overs, Mallards were 19-1 and Pennels finished with 3-0-9-0 and Harris had 3-1-4-1. Pennels was replaced by Coy (still in his shorts despite it getting a bit dark and rather cooler) and, in his first over, he removed McCaffery for 3 by bowling him.

A Watson came to the crease and, over the next few overs, he and Taylor inched the score along. After 10 overs, Mallards were 32-2 in comparison to Belmont’s 33-4 so game was still on. After 12 overs, Mallards were 39-2 (Belmont 35-5) and bowlers Coy and Blenkiron finished with 3-1-7-1 and 3-0-9-0 respectively. Mallards were ahead of Belmont in runs and with a lot more wickets in hand too. Gimple replaced Coy from the far end and, from his 2nd delivery, A Watson hit him for a huge 6 over the long on boundary. Great stuff. Wake replaced Blenkiron from the pavilion end and was hit for 10 off his first over, Watson getting a couple of fours.

After only one over, Gimple was replaced by Petterson who had Taylor caught off his first ball. Taylor was gone for 10 and this brought Butcher to the crease. A few extras off Petterson’s first over and Mallards were 59-3 after 15 overs (Belmont were on 62). 5 runs came off Wake’s next over and then Petterson conceded 3 wides and a four off his first 2 deliveries and also A Watson retired on 33 with that aforementioned four. This brought Captain Buxom to the crease and Mallards needed 28 to win. 3 more singles and a further boundary off Petterson’s bowling and he finished with 2-0-17-1. After 17 overs Mallards were on 78-3 and needed 21 off 3 overs. Wake started his final over and had Butcher stumped off the 2nd ball, when he forgot to put his foot down behind the crease. This brought Latif to the wicket and he got a single off his first ball. This was followed by a dot as Buckley gave himself a chance to get his eye in at that end and then hit 2 consecutive boundaries so Wake finished with 3-0-26-1 and Mallards were now on 89-4 with 2 overs remaining. Only 10 to win off 12 balls. E Wright came on to replace Petterson and went for 3 off his first 3 balls but, keeping a tight line and decent length, made it very difficult for Latif to get the ball away. One over left and Mallards were on 92. 7 to win. Gimple came back on to bowl the last over from the pavilion end in the, by now, almost complete darkness.

2 came off the first ball. 5 to win off 5 balls. A single off the next one. 4 off 4 required. A dot ball. 4 off 3. A single off the next. 3 off 2. Then, off the penultimate ball, Latif is run out at the non-strikers end and 3 is needed off the last ball to win, 2 to tie. Dexter Mexter comes to the wicket and says to Buckley “I’m going to run like a gazelle”. No pressure thought Buckley, I’ve just got to hit the ball now. Belmont put everyone out to the boundary to stop any four but, as the pitch was quite a size, it still left an opportunity. Buckley tried to cut the ball down to 3rd Man area but missed it. However, the keeper didn’t take it and the ball flew down to around fly slip. Buckley set off like a slug whilst Mexter was already practically lapping the skipper. Buckley turned round for the 2nd and the keeper had the ball in his hands with pretty much what seemed like the entire number of extras used in Gandhi around the stumps waiting for the ball to be thrown in. For some unfathomable reason, the keeper kept hold of it and ran in with it. Even Buxom was faster than this and made it back for the 2nd run meaning the match was tied. A fantastic finish to a very good match that was greeted with cheers from the boundary darkness.

A great game all round and everyone went back to the pub for a drink and lots of chips (thanks to Gareth for those!).

Mallards v Riding Mill July 24 @ Riding Mill

At some point over the course of the season, someone decided that our regular fixtures with Riding Mill should take the form of a trophy. There’s been no actual evidence of said trophy materialising, but it has been suggested that it should be called the Wellington Cup, or Plate, or Shield, accounts differ. Only slightly more unanimous was the decision that when it actually appears, it will take the form of a bowl of chips, or maybe onion rings.

Putting such details to one side, the most important thing was that the teams were locked at one-all heading into the decider. Thus there was just a hint of tension in the air in the lead up to the fixture. Matches with Riding Mill are also a rich vein for Friendly Fire trophy candidates, though frankly if this year’s award goes to anyone other than Ben Stokes the awards committee needs to take a long hard look at itself.

Playing as the away team, and with the opposition warming up in a thorough and dedicated manner, Mallards started the mind games by turning up without a captain. Rarely in this day and age are arguments fought with such passion as a group of Mallards trying to avoid the captaincy. Eventually, and mainly because he’s a member of the club’s committee, Leon was pushed out of the changing room to go and have a toss. He promptly lost the toss, then used his captain’s powers to delegate the skippership to Cox, who was momentarily distracted and unable to defend himself.

Mallards were bowling first on a pitch that had been on the wrong end of a few thunderstorms in its recent past. Browne took the new cherry and opened proceedings on a glorious sunlit evening. With Stone operating at the other end, the game began in a balanced fashion. The breakthrough came when Browne bowled Zuraliew for 9 in the third over. That was the only wicket for the opening bowlers, batsmen A Watson and James built the score steadily but without ever really breaking free. Stone in particular was very effective at applying pressure, his four overs going for just 11.

Someone called M. Maxter is recorded as coming on at first change, and he bowled quite well for someone who doesn’t really exist. Mexter and Hamid continued to contain the batsmen but were unable to break the partnership. Looking for wickets, Cox turned to the experienced hand of Haylock, with himself at the other end. At some point in here, both Watson and James retired to bring in two new batsmen. Haylock took advantage and found a breakthrough, courtesy of an excellent reflex catch by Latif at point off the first ball of the 16th over to make it 87/2.

That was the start of a flurry as Cox struck twice in the 17th over (his second), first bowling Bowman for two then Mussett caught Frazier for 0. This is about where I get confused and the scorebook stops being much help. Either Nitsch or Mayfield was run out in the next over by I’m afraid I can’t remember who. Coming to the final over, with the score at probably 104/5, Cox trusted Haylock to close things out, and close things out he did. Three wickets fell, one to a well judged catch by Wilson under a steepler, and two to runouts. Once again, I’ve failed to recall the circumstances of one of these, but Mexter’s (which may have been the first or the second) sticks in the mind for being one of the more suave and casual direct hits you’re ever likely to see.

So that was the first innings done, or not as it turned out that among all the carnage the final over only contained five balls. However nobody seemed particularly bothered and it was decided that the Mallards would also only face 19.5 overs. The final score was 110/8 which, on a low and slow pitch wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.

Mussett and Wilson started things off with a great deal of positivity, 16 runs coming from the second over. However, Wilson fell at the end of the third over with the score at 22. Hamid was in at three and continued the momentum, and for a brief while there was some glorious stroke-making as the ball went to and over the boundary repeatedly.

Mussett inevitably retired and that was pretty much the end of the fun. Cox, at 4, was unable to find much timing and ended up chipping one to mid-wicket when trying to force the pace. In the next over, Hamid did well to get bat on one that shot along the ground only to see a superb return catch snaffled by bowler A Watson.

Holland and Latif looked to reset things, the run-rate still under control; timing had been a problem for most batsmen and so it continued. The resistance didn’t really last as a trickle of wickets became a torrent. Holland was caught off the bowling of Mayfield and Latif was bowled by B Watson. Mexter was bowled behind his legs, also by B Watson. 45/3 had become 64/6 and things were about to get worse.

Despite timing the ball well, Beacock struggled to pierce the field before becoming B Watson’s third victim. Browne tried to hit us out of trouble but was stumped without scoring and Haylock decided he’d contributed enough in the first innings. 64/6 very quickly had become 68/9 and the Mallards were in familiar and unpleasant territory with 6 overs still to go.

The upside was that Mussett was now able to return and immediately looked to take the long-handle to anything on offer. Stone did a good job of holding things up and even chipped in with a boundary of his own. A few foolhardy types began to believe as the score had progressed to 91/9 with one over remaining. The 5-ball over had been dealt with earlier so we had a full six balls to get 20 runs. Unlikely but possible, and just a little bit more tantalising after a wide off the first ball. However, it wasn’t to be as Mussett was bowled off the third ball for a brutish 46 and a final score of 92. Better than it had looked a few overs earlier but disappointing nonetheless.

As always, chips, beer and in-depth analysis followed in the Welly, on a beautiful Northumbrian evening. Still no sign of a trophy though.

Mallards v Durham Staff July 16 @ Riding Mill

On 16th July 1969, Apollo 11 took off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, bound for the moon and history. Fifty years later, Mallards CC looked to the heavens too to create their own little piece of history. For NASA, it took 400,000 people to put Armstrong and Aldrin onto the moon; on Tuesday evening, 11 brave souls walked out at Riding Mill to achieve the seemingly impossible – a Mallards victory.

To battle, and the opposition – Durham Staff.  In the eternal battle between Town and Gown, too often the Gown has triumphed. The dolts from the Town, knuckles dragging across their PhD certificates, have been no match for the imperious academics. A comprehensive victory earlier in the season gave Durham the scent of easy prey and an early trip to the pub. How disappointed they were.

Buckley, leader of our urchin mob, struck early and won the toss. Into bat for the great unwashed of the city; a bowl for the boys from the Ivory Tower. Openers Usama (a welcome newcomer) and Kent strode to the wicket, with the swagger of those not used to concession or defeat. Kent looked fluent, and in the moment – right up to the moment he was caught behind, from a lifting ball off Boothroyd. The umpire heard nothing and wouldn’t have given it, but Kent, the honest gladiator that he is, walked, acknowledging the edge. This noble temperament was to be sorely tested later on. Cox arrived at the crease, a Kiwi smarting from his nation’s latest engagement with the Injustice Fairy.  His stroke play was fluent, some might say, at times, even elegant. Usama and Cox assiduously accumulated runs, both taking a liking to a Mr T. Cleaver, who was fighting hard for his annual ‘Friendly Fire’ Award.

Durham’s opening pair saw out their overs, and the score had eased its way to 46-1 after 8. Unfortunately, Durham’s first change bowler was actually capable of spinning a ball, and Rahman got Usama with his first delivery, which pitched in another county, turned about 18 feet and pinged the off stump. Usama gone for a hard earned 13. Wood was next out of the hutch, holding his position in the upper order due to a recent flurry of runs and avoiding the drugs testing outside Glastonbury. Wood, as a writer of some fame, knows the power of punctuation and deployed the dot with great affect, frustrating the bowlers and leaving Cox to demonstrate his prowess at the other end. Right up to the point when Wood ran him out. A mix up, a farcical bounce off the wicketkeeper’s shins, a far-too-honest umpire, and Cox was back in the clubhouse, three short of his retirement.

A change of umpires was needed, and Kent made himself available. Unfortunately, a Durham player took exception to Kent’s lack of umpiring attire – apparently having a problem identifying someone standing behind the stumps as an official and not some errant fielder, trying to get a better look at a colleague’s batting technique – and sent him back to the hut. This clear infraction of the sartorial code of friendly cricket somewhat riled said Kent, and words were shared. It all added nicely to the mix.

Malik made headway with a series of fine singles and twos. Unfortunately, Wood was sunk by a low ball from the other Boothroyd twin. Six overs left, and 70-4. Could our brave boys get somewhere near a presentable total? Step forth the Skip, determined to show those academic sticky beaks that talent is classless. A steady accumulation of runs by Buckley and Malik moved things on nicely. Buckley, now impatient for glory, opened his shoulders and cut loose on the Durham bowlers, taking a particular liking to Costello, who went for 18 in his first over.  Our pair of lusty larrikins moved the scoreboard on with vigour, and by the last over we had topped the ton.

Then the fateful, almost fatal, moment. The last ball – a quick single and a Durham fielder with mischief in his mind. The ball, thrown in, missed the Skip by millimetres. More words were shared. The umpire, a Mr S. Kent, contributed his tenpenneth. It all made for a great atmosphere, and the spectators were enjoying the frisk enormously. So a total of 110 on the board. Defendable? Defeatable? Let’s find out.

The Mallards attended the pitch with a heightened sense of purpose, and blood pumping in their ears. The Skip, now invested with the soul of Douglas Jardine, strode with purpose, marshalling his troops for battle. Watson and Malik opened the bowling, and kept it tight. Particularly impressive, given that Durham’s opening pair could actually hold a bat. Runs were gathered, but the scoreboard did not run away out of sight. Malik completed three for just 11 runs, and the Skip held him back for a final over, if needed. Watson, tight of line, completed his 4 overs for 21. Robertson, Durham’s opening bat, retired on 30. Would he return to haunt our heroes?

Cox marked out his run, adding an extra couple of steps, so that he could more effectively channel his inner pain. Deliveries were lively; some might say virtually Bodyline, with ribs being rattled.  A neat ball and the other opener, Gillespie, picked out Usama at long on. Not having read the Mallards Coaching Manual, Usama actually managed to pouch the ball. First one down. Stone held up a strong end, and Cox continued to bowl with vigour. Natham and Hillborn move the score on, but never out of sight. Natham edged one to the excellent Beakers, behind the stumps. Or did he? Not given; no walk. No matter, next ball Cox castled him. Two down, and a climbing run rate. Oh, the excitement. Stone finished his spell with 3 overs for 21. Cox, possessed of antipodean angst, finished with 2 for 16 off 4 overs. Very pretty.

Then the Skip’s master stroke – he left. Wood, a man for all seasons, stepped forward to take the reins. Understanding the need for raw pace and intimidating bowling, Wood deployed his big guns – Latif and Mexter. Latif was economical and accurate, keeping the batters guessing. Mexter, bowling like someone else, was tidy and even a bit bouncy. His second over produced one that shot along the ground and clean bowled Whitefield, and then the moment of glory. Hillborn, the man of earlier altercations came down the wicket to Mexter, who, seeing the danger, lifted one into the body. Defending his ribs, Hillborn skied it to Kent at cover. Moving like Jonty Rhodes on Ephedrine, Kent swooped, diving full length and getting his hands under the ball, mere fractions of an inch above the ground. A lusty shout and a look to the batsman made the moment.

Excitement was mounting. Durham were still behind the rate, and the bowlers had their foot firmly on their throats. Latif finished his spell with a veritably parsimonious 15 off his 3 overs. Mexter managed 2 for 6 off his 2 overs. Modesty behoves the author not to comment on these figures, but simply let the numbers speak for themselves. So to the final over, and Durham needing 10 to win. Anything less, a humiliation at the hands of the urban oicks.

Malik, having been held back, now unleashed the final barrage. A wicket with his first ball, Boothroyd ( the tall one, not the chucker), hitting his own stumps. A couple of dots; a couple of singles, then the last ball. A peach of a delivery, clean bowling Costello and raising the roof of the clubhouse. A scarcely believable victory for Town over Gown, made all the more sweet by the level of needle introduced by the more chippy members of both teams. 8 runs the difference. But who cares about the margin of victory? It was the manner and magnificence that shone through – every Mallard at the top of their game; every Mallard a brother-in-arms. On this occasion, Durham knew that they had been defeated by fine margins but finer opposition. We may only have twenty or so PhDs and a handful of Professors amongst us, but we showed those academic types. Brick by brick, we dismantled their Ivory Tower and build our own ochre-coloured gazebo in its place.

A fine night, capped off perfectly by big bowls of chips and onion rings at the Wellie. Lovely.

Mallards v Excelsior Batters June 27 @ Riding Mill

‘I F****** HATE CRICKET!’ is not the most auspicious start to a match report or what you want to hear from your skipper but at approximately 6.15pm on a balmy summer’s eve at Riding Mill on the 27th June 2019, that is exactly what your reporter and stand-in skipper felt and expressed to the unfortunate Mallards within earshot.

It was a shame that such language coincided with the spectacular launch (see what I did there) of Mallards end-of-season-tour transport to Gibraltar (pictured above) which should have been a cause for joyful celebration but having exhausted the media training budget on 17 bags of plain crisps what can you expect from our elected representatives?

Rewinding slightly, stand-in skip arrived as the game was due to start having battled through traffic to find stand-in-for-stand-in skipper Mexter had executed his request over the phone to win the toss and elect to bat first, perfectly. Unfortunately one of the openers in an a bowler-heavy Mallards line up had also fallen foul to the traffic and was nowhere to be seen so stand-in skip reluctantly padded up in a hurry and nominated himself as stand-in opener as well. Fortunately proper opener Hall saw out the first over comfortably and nicked the strike off the last ball allowing enough time for the other proper opener Malik to arrive, again, fortunately, already changed. One scampered bye later, stand-in skip got his chance to shine and erase the memory of a bad day at work and missing out on selection the week before. As you may have already guessed, he failed to grasp that chance and was comprehensively bowled first ball by Mills – not quite as fast as namesake Tymal but still far too quick for the hapless stand-in opener/skipper!

While yours truly turned the air blue and then slowly put his toys back in the pram, Malik rubbed further salt into his wounds by hitting two 4s and a 6 in his first 5 deliveries and together with Hall made batting look easy while taking the score to a very respectable 41 off 7 overs. Regular readers will know things rarely go smoothly for long for Mallards and so it proved again as first Hall (13) and then Hamid (19) fell to catches off Sharif in the 8th over.  Latif and Holland then steadied the ship and steered the innings to 62 off 11 overs before Latif fell to Spencer for 6 in the 12th. The 13th over then accounted for debutant Goldsborough and also Holland runout valiantly trying to keep the run rate going, for a (personal) record-equalling 14 including a couple of 4s. 62 for 3 off 11 had quickly become 74 for 7 off 16 when Mexter fell for the third duck of the innings. Veteran Stone accumulated 11 not out while guiding the tail to finish on a total 98 all out off 20 overs as Cleaver was run out off the last ball yet again taking one for the team as he tried to eke out one more (potentially game winning?) run.

A youthful-looking Excelsior opening pair strode to the crease looking intent on knocking off the runs in double-quick time but were forced to treat Cleaver’s first over with the respect it and he deserved with just a single coming from it. A Watson’s first over went for just 2, lifting Mallards hopes of defending what felt like an under-par total. Sadly the young openers respect for Cleaver didn’t extend to a second over and Gray helped himself to 3 4s and a 6 prompting TC himself to declare ‘maybe its time for some one else’ That some one else was I Watson who despite going for 13 off his first over did dispatch Gray – retired for 28 and then Walker well caught by Mexter. A Watson then bowled Jobling for a duck in his 3rd and final over to finish with excellent figures of 1 for 8. Goldsborough replaced A Watson and was duly dispatched for 4 off his first ball for Mallards but restricted any further runs off the over – except 4 byes which were obviously the keeper’s fault (sorry Ally!) I Watson kept plugging away at the other end and bowled Sharif for 6 and Spencer for 0 to finish with fine figures of 3 for 25 off 4 spoilt slightly by 9 of his last over. Goldsborough took an excellent catch off his own bowling in his last over to finish with a highly creditable 1 for 9 off 3 in his first outing for the Mallards.

If anyone is wondering at this point why I haven’t reported the running total after so many overs it is because sadly the score book is incomplete (yet another error by the skip for failing to ensure the opposition filled it in correctly!) but it was roughly 70 for 5 after 12 overs. Wickets had to keep falling for Mallards to stand a chance of victory but despite the best efforts of Mexter and Hamid, only 1 more fell – Mills bowled Mexter for 17. Bodley and Donaghy then saw Excelsior over the line with 2.1 overs to spare to gain revenge for Mallards victory over them a couple of weeks earlier.

Clearly the tactic of batting first used so well by World Cup captains over the last few weeks doesn’t work all the time but it was a good game played in the sunshine and in the right spirit in a lovely part of the world and unsurprisingly after a pint or two in the Welly even the S-I-S had to admit it wasn’t all bad and even helped arrange an extra game for next week – so much for F****** hating cricket!




Mallards v Benwell & Walbottle July 8

Webmaster Wood has obviously become a little frustrated with the number of outstanding match reports (outstanding as in late obviously, I’m not commenting on the quality, that’s up to the awards committee), and he issued a decree that this report would be on the sub-editor’s desk by 10 am the morning after the match. Such power plays are seldom looked upon favourably, so whilst my competitive instinct naturally saw me pick up the gauntlet, I made no commitments to being kind to his batting or fielding in said report… Typically, I like to take my time over my reports, developing a theme, character arcs and several drafts, but tonight’s all about speed. Short and sweet. Any typos may be genuine or they may be included for comedic purposes, so good luck editing this, Trev. (See picture above for Wood’s latest swoop fielding attempt. What? Oh, not that Wood. Sorry, Dave.)

A gloomy evening at Walbottle awaited the teams, and skipper McCaffery dutifully won the toss and elected to bat. Whether this was because we did that last week and won after it was too dark for the opposition to see the ball in the second innings, or whether he was trying to replicate the pattern emerging in the World Cup of bat first and win, it is unclear. Regardless, the pitch looked flat, if not exactly horizontal, and with a short boundary on the downhill side, runs were sure to follow as openers Ankush and Wood strode out to bat.

After four overs we were 8/1, and it turned out the pitch wasn’t a belter after all; with very little bounce on offer runs were difficult to come by. Wood discovered the lack of bounce to his cost, under-edging one onto his leg bail for a three-ball duck. Ankush struggled to find timing as he and Kent, batting at three, tried to move the score along. Kent who had a stab at the Friendly Fire trophy last week with a very rapid 25, saw out dot after dot, falling for just two off 13 balls, caught off the bowling of Pratt. Nine for two in the fifth.

Ankush tried to get things moving with a glorious six just wide of the sightscreen but was out in the next over for 14, bowled by Hayes who recorded two wicket maidens in his first three overs. The two new batsmen, Malik and McCaffery, tried to get some momentum into the innings and started to find a bit of success, each managing to rotate the strike and finding the odd boundary and taking the score through to 37 before McCaffery played around a straight one and was bowled by someone whose name may have been Jacobson – we couldn’t quite be sure what they were shouting.

Cox joined Malik, who looked easily the most comfortable batsman out there, and the two continued trying to build something for the bowlers to defend. With a few well-run ones and twos and a six to each batsman, the had some success although were starting to run out of overs. Cox was bowled by Thomson for 12 with the score at 71 and Malik retired soon after bringing a halt to any momentum that had developed.

Nitsch, Hall and Latif saw out the remaining couple of overs bringing the score to 89/6 with Nitsch out for 2, Hall not out on 7 and Latif not out on 1. A disappointing score but with a slow pitch and darkness descending there was some belief that it could be defended with a bit of hard work and good luck.

Cox dug out the darkest, muddiest, least round ball he could find in the kit bag just to give that extra edge and opened the bowling. The plan didn’t work as he was hit back over his head for four in the first over. Goldsborough had a rough start at the other end and was unable to find any rhythm running up the hill. He was replaced by Malik who continued his strong performance by immediately putting the brakes on two batsmen who looked in the mood. After five overs the score was 34/0 and defending 88 seemed a tall order.

Despite good spells from Cox and Malik, wickets continued to be elusive and opener Bell retired on 27 in the seventh over. New batsman Davey looked to keep up with the rate before Malik finally struck, trapping opener Atkinson LBW for 22 in the tenth over, with the score at 63.

Nitsch, who had replaced Cox at the Uphill End, got shown the long handle as the batsmen looked to free their arms and started to pierce the gaps. Skipper McCaffery tried to ring the changes, replacing Malik with Ankush and Nitsch with Kent (yes, Kent), the unused Haylock apparently still paying a penance for his last over against KSOB. Both new bowlers conceded little, but with just a few runs to win and the score at 82/1 after 11, it was just a matter of time. In the end the final blow came in the 14th over as Benwell and Walbottle sealed a convincing win by nine wickets.

So that was that, except that in my quest for speed and in trying to gloss over too much of the ugly detail from the second innings, I realise I’ve completely forgotten to take the mick out of Trev like I promised. To be fair I was fielding on the other side of the field a lot of the time and could barely see him by the end, so he may have gotten away with a few things I missed. Except when, standing at short cover, he tried to kick the hardest hit shot of the night into next week, possibly earning him the Mutilated Mallard award, maybe even the Swoop Fielding gong, but definitely losing himself a toenail in the process. Use your hands next time, Trev.


Mallards v Riding Mill @ Riding Mill July 4

Mallards has always been a progressive club, long ago excusing their ladies from the arduous preparation of tea and cucumber sandwiches in exchange for the less nutritious chips and deep fried onion rings from the Wellington Pub.  Sometimes we’ve even (TRIGGER WARNING: Look away now any remaining gammonesque old boys)… let them play!

Now we’ve taken it one step further.  Our recent joint sponsorship of the England v New Zealand World Cup Match (I assume that was the deal that was arranged given the price we paid for our tickets) saw Mallards elect to eschew the usual scantily-clad models draped over the bonnet of the sponsors car in favour of our own pin-up, swathed in a shimmering electric blue number complete with a bright yellow streak, obviously representing the iconic Mallards Duck.  Our very own (though sometimes Riding Mill’s – see later) Pete Nitsch took to the role like that very same duck to water  (pictured).

The reaction was as you would expect. Several female spectators had to be hosed down, there was a large dent in the bonnet and only one complaint. Fortunately the man who said ‘that Linda Lusardi’s gone downhill’ was swiftly ejected from the premises and was last seen heading to the Masonic Lodge muttering something about ‘the bloody EU’ before chanting ‘Eng-er-land.’ (pictured below).

stig pic

All of which leads us, in a roundabout fashion, to last night’s highly-competitive game between Mallards and their hosts Riding Mill. Many of the previous day’s sponsors were in attendance, looking slightly peaky it must be said, with many of them probably having been banished to the couch to sleep, and there was a strong chance of the Friendly Fire trophy being snagged as Messrs Nitsch, Hall, Thacker, Watson and Kent all turned out for the home side.

Mallards opened the batting with the new partnership of Ankush and Wood hoping to continue the form shown in the recent victory over Belmont Knights. A steady start saw the pair reach 28 after six overs with Wood bizarrely outscoring his partner early on. That would soon change.  Ankush began to move through the gears with some very clean hitting but with the 50-partnership nearing was unlucky to be caught from what was probably a no ball for a splendid 22. After nine over Mallards were on a healthy-ish 49-1. McCaffrey came and went quickly for 3 but Wood was then joined by Cox and after a slow start the latter began to find form with some beautiful drives. Wood, meanwhile, was marooned on 22, surviving a variety of inside edges and even a catch behind, which Thacker, sportingly admitted hadn’t quite carried. When he finally reached 26 and retired with the score on 75 it was a blessing for all concerned, especially as it brought the hard-hitting Sailesh to the wicket.

Immediately the scoreboard began to rattle along again, Cox retiring on a stylish 25 with the score on 90 in the  17th over bringing Malik to the wicket with just under four overs to go.  Now the accelerator was being pushed firmly to the floor as boundaries accumulated, Malik’s first three scoring shots were all fours and Sailesh, crashed the ball around before retiring hurt on 24. Latif saw out the last two balls to leave Malik unbeaten on 15 and Mallards on a very solid 122 for just two wickets, with three batsmen retiring.

Kent and Nitsch opened for the opposition, the latter in more subdued garb than his modelling outfit. Both seemed keen to capture the Friendly Fire trophy as quickly as possible, with 15 coming from Goldsborough’s first over. The score continued to mount rapidly, 31 coming from the first three overs, Kent retiring in the fourth over for a very rapid 25. Skipper Butcher took decisive action bringing on the veteran Mitcheson, only recruited the day before at a cost of some 17 pints of ale. The alcoholic bribe paid dividends. In his first over he trapped Nitsch lbw for 13, in his second he removed Dickson in identical fashion and in his third he clean-bowled the dangerous Watson for 0 which meant that after 11 overs the home team were still handily placed on 69-3 but Mallards were back in the game. Parthiv finished a very impressive debut spell at the other end with 0-22 from his four overs and hopes were raised  as Cox, still smarting from the previous day’s result, found his length immediately, only conceding one run from his first over.

The game went into a quiet period as the Riding Mill batsmen tried to settle things down whilst keeping out a hostile Cox, keen to salvage his country’s diminishing reputation, and after 14 overs the result was delicately poised with the score on 85-3.  Mallards, though, were becoming increasingly bullish with the bowling backed up by some aggressive fielding and enthusiastic backing up – they could sense victory (regular readers will know that this particular sense has been proved fallible in the past though).

New bowler Sailesh quickly removed opposing skipper Hall for 14 then Cox was finally rewarded for his excellent spell when Malik took a blinding catch over his shoulder in the deep to remove the dangerous Thacker for 21, thus probably thwarting another Friendly Fire bid. The catch was even better as it was beginning to get very dark and the ball moved all over the place. Cox finished his spell with an excellent 1-9 from four overs.

The catch seemed to lift Mallards’ spirit even higher and the home side began to look worried as they had slipped to 92-5 from 16 overs and now needed 31 from four overs for victory with two new batsmen at the crease.  Worried Mallard frowns greeted the 17th over though as 10 runs came off it with Sailesh, temporarily, losing his radar – 21 needed from three overs.

Malik came on at the other end and immediately put the brakes back on, bowling Tahir for 3 to leave the home side on 104-6 with two overs to go. Sailesh refound his rhythm in his third over as first McCaffrey took an instinctive catch behind, appearing to catch the ball with his neck, to remove Walker before he clean-bowled Reid to leave the visitors in trouble on 107-8 with one over to come. A couple of quickly-run twos took them a step closer as the Mallards field sat deep to protect their lead before a combination of Ankush and Malik ran out Mayfield to bring the dangerous Kent back to the wicket with ten needed from just two balls. Thankfully he was at the wrong end and in attempting to sneak a single to get to the other end he was run out by McCaffrey to end the innings on 113 all out. A nine-run victory for an unusually competitive and focused Mallards team.

Victory was celebrated with a mountain of chips and onion rings at the Wellington, none of which was prepared by the decorous Mallards’ wives and girlfriends. Cos we don’t do that kind of thing any more, obviously.