Category Archives: Match Reports 2015

Mallards v Riding Mill @ Riding Mill 2 September

The club despot inspects the troops
The club despot inspects the troops

It was the final game of the season and for some their first. And for some a game too far after the exertions of the bank holiday weekend barbecue game where Ducks and Drakes met head to head. That is an important game where Mallards come together in the spirit of friendly cricket and, more importantly, a Mallards team is guaranteed a rare win. This winning streak of 1 was enough to scare off Davipart, the scheduled opposition for the final game of the season, so landlords Riding Mill stepped into the breach.

With captain ‘Lucky Ducky’ Wood having an injection for his frozen wing it fell to club despot Taylor to lead the fold. On a cloudy evening in September he won the toss [hurray! – Ed.] and elected to bat. A format of 12 x 8 ball overs was agreed and Bennett and Porteous opened the batting.

After a short spell from the opening bowlers with some quick runs and the odd boundary, Nitsch came into the attack and retired Bennett who reached his 25 in 16 balls.

This turned out to be a  master-stroke of distraction bowling as Porteous, attempting to follow Bennett’s example, then fell to Purvis  bowled for a dashing 14 .

Nitch, his work done, then dashed from the field (not from shame apparently but to transport a daughter he claimed) bringing the deceptively youthful and bespectacled Hamza on to bowl. His nippy bowling soon dispatched Lucas and Taylor (both bowled for 2). Wilson then came to the crease with the pressure mounting to increase the run rate. Needless to say he played true to his Yorkshire heritage seeing off Hamza in true Boycott style without scoring (although Hamza scored on his inner thigh).  He soon left the field for a glorious three bowled by Hall.

Green and Wisbach then both achieved ducks nobly swinging as the Mallard innings faded with the light. Scutt made 4 not out to end the innings with McGuinness 1 not out for company as the end came with a grand total of 69-6 (inc 17 from the ever reliable Extras)

So to the reply. Tight overs from Hunt and Cleaver allied to committed fielding gave the Mallards early hope and the pressure eventually paid off with the wicket of Greensit, caught by Porteous from the bowling of Cleaver.

This brought Mallards on-loan youth development scheme intern Jordon to the crease. Focused on bringing improvement to the youngster’s game the bowlers and fielders closed in. As the screw turned the tension mounted and only released when Wisbach pouched a catch at point from the bowling of Hunt to a silent stunned disbelief.

This brought Marks to the crease but he was swiftly returned to the pavilion by Hunt who was enjoying a spellbinding spell, bang to rights lbw. The slew of wickets seemed to distract the fielding team for a moment. The opener Hamid who had seemed becalmed became inspired and retired on 25.

A well-taken sharp catch at fly slip by Scutt to dismiss Purvis for 7 from McGuiness illuminated the tail end of the fielding side’s efforts  like the sun poking briefly through a cloud on a fading evening, but eventually the Mallards resistance sunk under the horizon (rather like the season apparently). Hall  scored 17 n.o. [and with his 3 wickets must now be a contender for the Friendly Fire Award – Ed.] and with the help of Reid 5 n.o. they made short work of the remaining balance to clinch victory by six wickets with time to spare.

Off to the Welly, sadly no chips, but hopefully there will be an abundance next year, and maybe one or two more wins. See you next season!

Cricket Festival and BBQ @ Riding Mill August 31

‘Why does it always rain on me?’ sang the pedestrian balladeers Travis back in the day. They were of course referring to Bank Holiday Mondays and therefore it was no surprise that this year’s Cricket Festival and BBQ began with it sheeting down.

Travis, however, had never been to Riding Mill – a planned gig in the Wellington having been cancelled when the locals realised who was playing and refused to pay £1.50 a head for tickets. Riding Mill just doesn’t do prolonged spells of rain. The Scottish whiners were also unaware of the Mallards and their associates’ determination to get some cricket in regardless of the wrath of the weather Gods. (The covers, pictured, were handy as well)

The cricket started pretty much on time. Teams were picked in the old schoolboy fashion by the two captains, Wood and Taylor (G) though such choices were made discreetly for fear of undermining the confidence of those chosen last. Despite the weather, 23 intrepid souls had turned up to play in the unique formula of two 15-over innings per team and after winning the toss, Taylor (G) decided that his team, who we shall call the Drakes would bat first.

Things started slowly for openers Hayward and Taylor (D) and after 3 overs it was 11-0. However, with the help of a few wides and byes the score started to mount and after 6 overs the pair had reached 38-0. Hayward was the first to perish, bowled by Watson for 14 but Wilson (R) joined the fray and began by launching a huge six into the adjoining ploughed field. A Jordon over, which included six wides, also saw Taylor became the first batsman of the day to reach the retirement figure of 25 which brought Wilson (J) to the crease. The younger Wilson clearly wasn’t particularly keen on batting with his dad as he trudged very slowly to the crease and then trudged back even more slowly, bowled first ball by Wood. Wilson R’s obvious amusement at his son’s unfortunate demise was perhaps a tad cruel given that he’d clearly passed on his own hapless forward defensive stroke. This left the Drakes handily placed on 67-2 from 9 overs. Wilson senior then joined his son back in the pavilion in the next over, bowled by Gardner for a solid 17 to leave new batsmen Lucas and Scutt at the crease.

Scutt was quickly removed for 6, caught by Cleaver from the bowling of Heslop but Lucas kept the scoreboard ticking over with the second 6 of the innings before he was run out by a Steele/Wood combination for 14. A final flurry from Nitsch, including three further boundaries saw Drakes mount up a healthy 116, including an unhealthy 25 extras.

The Ducks innings began with the Gardners, M and R, leading the battle against the youthful attack of Wilson J and a third Gardner, B. The bowlers held sway with just nine runs coming from the first two overs. Gradually the senior opener, Gardner M, found his touch as the partnership developed and when Gardner R was bowled by Nitsch for 4 the pair had taken the score on to 35 in the 7th over. The senior Gardner retired for 25 soon after to bring Steele and Tedder W to the crease but the latter became the second youngster to perish for 0, bowled in the day’s first and only wicket maiden by the demon McGuinness to leave Ducks struggling on just 48-2 from 10 of their allotted 15 overs.

This brought Tedder senior to the crease and he came and went quickly for 4, surprisingly bowled by Haywood. Steele, who had been progressing serenely, was joined by Buckley as the Ducks finally began to up the tempo. The former finally perishing in the 13th over, bowled by Taylor D for 17.

Buckley, though, was just getting into his stride and finished the innings with a flurry of 4s as 26 runs were added in the final two overs to bring Ducks up to 89-5, Buckley ending on 21 not out, the unfortunate Jordon run out for 6 in the final over run chase.

This gave the Drakes a very nice cushion of a 27-run lead to take into the second innings which followed a swift beer break.

Both teams had agreed to bat in reverse order second time around so this time the Drakes began with Taylor (G) and Cox and again things started slowly, with just 9 from the first two overs. Gradually, however, they picked the pace up with some quick singles and when Taylor was bowled by Steele for 14 in the sixth over they’d reached 33 with Cox approaching retirement. Taylor’s demise saw a minor collapse begin. First Heslop dismissed Gardner B for 2, with the help of a comfortable catch from Jordon. Ducks skipper Wood then took the lead, taking two wickets in two balls, bowling McGuinness for two before trapping Nitsch lbw first ball for 0.

Cox had mostly been watching from the other end but decided enough was enough, hitting Gardner’s first ball for six to retire on 27. But still the wickets fell, Scutt was the next to go for 0, Wood again involved, taking a fine catch at backward square leg from Gardner M’s bowling.  The next to go was the doubly unfortunate Wilson J, bagging his second golden duck, bowled by Gardner for 0. Drakes had gone from a comfortable 44-1 to a shaky 54-6 in the space of three overs with Cox also retiring.

All this left Lucas and Wilson at the crease aiming to replicate their form from the first innings, Lucas getting things underway nicely with two fours as Wood’s second over failed to match his first. Jordon’s radar again went a little haywire, sixteen runs coming from his over as Drakes put themselves back on course for victory at 81-6 from 12 overs.

The Ducks hadn’t given up hope though and a comical run out of Lucas, his second of the match, through a combination of Jordon’s boot and Buckley’s quick hands slowed the scoring down. They rallied again when Watson bowled new batsman Taylor D for just 2 (not recorded in the scorebook so I hope that’s right!) but Wilson remained unbeaten on 13, his second solid knock of the game as the Drakes finished on 98-8 and a two innings total of 214, leaving Ducks a hefty target of 126 from their 15 overs.

The Ducks final response got off to a dodgy start when they realised that the barbecue had been flashed up and several of their batsmen tucked into burgers, damaging the large stomachs/quick runs equation.

An unlikely opening partnership of Heslop and Cleaver took to the field and the former was the first to go, clearly distracted by the burger smells, as he was bowled for 0 in Taylor G’s opening over.  The Ducks were now going down like a row of, um, ducks. Wood was next to go, after surviving a loud but optimistic lbw shout he was run out for 2 next ball by Nitsch’s surprisingly swift pick up, turn and direct hit. Watson soon followed, for 1, bowled by Gardner B, as the Ducks struggled to 30-3 from 5, the runs almost all coming from the blade of Cleaver.

Wisbach’s arrival finally settled things down and his pair of opening fours meant the chase was back on as they took the score to 53 from just 7 overs before Cleaver retired on 25, a career-best score (although as his career began before the advent of the pen this cannot be confirmed.)

Jordon was in and out swiftly, lbw to Lucas for 1 to bring the Ducks biggest hitter Buckley to the crease with 70 wanted from 7 overs. With the next three overs bringing 24 further runs hope remained but such hope was strangled in the next over, McGuinness bowling Buckley for 13 in what was probably the game’s deciding moment.

Wisbach did his utmost but eventually fell for 24, bowled by Taylor D, and with 36 runs wanted from the last two overs the game was up. There was still time for the comical sight of Tedder Snr being run out by Tedder Jnr for 5, before the latter also perished, bowled by Scutt for 2 as the innings petered out to 103-8 from 15 overs and the Drakes claimed victory by 22 runs.

No man of the match trophy was on offer but a mention in despatches should go to Messrs Taylor D, Cox, Gardner M and Cleaver(?) who all managed to retire not out in one of their innings and to Wilson R  and Buckley for two solid innings in a row. On the bowling front, McGuinness’s wicket-maiden stands out but the leading wicket-takers were Wood and Gardner with 3 each, the latter stealing the show with 3-9 from just two overs, suggesting that his captain probably under-bowled him (twice!).

A big thanks to Messrs Taylor G and Nitsch for the organisation and provision of beer and burgers and the vast host of wives, girlfriends, concubines etc who not only turned up to support but in the time-honoured tradition made most of the tea!

Several beers were consumed in the early evening gloom to toast the end of another season and discuss the outgoing captain’s record of played twelve, lost twelve. Follow that Mr Butcher!


Mallards v KSOB @ Riding Mill 26 August

A grey damp start to Wednesday morning turned into a lovely evening. With nine out of  eleven Mallards already changed and making some attempt to warm up in the outfield at Riding Mill, the Kings School Old Boys team arrived with some delay (gridlock on the bypass wasn’t helping). Looking on, the Mallards squad realised that this was an Old Boys squad with emphasis on the first syllable – meaning that the age profile of the opposition was pretty much on a par with themselves – hearts lifted at the thought of the prospect of a close game – nay even a chance at going for victory.

In the absence of both captain, vice captain and any other usual suspect to take control, Despot Taylor took charge, strode out to the middle with opposition captain Black, duly lost the toss and Mallards were invited to field first. Friendly rules were agreed and with the evenings drawing in, it was decided that a 16 over game was in order. In the absence of the team kitbag (still in transit somewhere in a rat-run in Newcastle, along with Cox), a root around found a suitable match ball, which was immediately seized on by Cleaver who had already paced out and taken position at the end of his run. Things were now ready to commence when it was noticed that both teams were also suffering from scorebooks also in transit. With no Stig available to offer up his snazzy Lords cricket scorebook, it looked like proceedings would be delayed until Van Doorn remembered that he had an old scorebook in his car and hence ensured that play pretty much got underway on time.

Cleaver indeed was invited to bowl and produced a tidy over going for only 3. At the other end Van Doorn took 3 deliveries to find the right strip, and a further few balls to find where the stumps were, conceding a couple of boundaries – a commodity that was to prove rare for the evening. Things settled down and Van Doorn was rewarded with finally finding his radar with the wicket of G Black bowled by one that came back into the right hander. At the end of the 6th over the score was 29 for 1, with Cleaver finishing on a miserly 6 runs from his 3 overs, while Van Doorn finished with 1 for 22 off his 3 and Cox finally arrived from his exploration of the back roads of Newcastle. Ringing the changes Wisbach took over from the pavilion end and Haylock from the one tree end.

Wisbach took an over to settle down, but Haylock – obviously keen to show that all the sexagenarian contingent in the side were up to plugging an end – started off very tidily. Despite some excellent fielding, KSOB continued to push quick singles, however a push to point in Haylock’s second over saw the two batsmen contrive to run into each other and Taylor swooping in made certain the mistake was seized upon by a direct hit to the non-striker’s stumps to see the departure of Devlin for 9 (please note that KSOB names are largely my interpretation of the handwriting in the book).

At the end of the 12th over the score was 60 for 2, with Tobin retiring on 30 not out in the 12th over-ish, Wisbach finishing on none for 20 off his 3 overs, and Haylock taking the plaudits for his economical 9 runs conceded off his allotted 3 overs. Slow bowling seemed to be the order of the day, with boundaries hard to come by, so Taylor wrung the final bowling changes putting McGuinness on from the pavilion end and somehow succumbed to Scutts’ frantic warming up efforts at the end of each over and cries of I can bowl – rather reminiscent of Donald Pleasance in the Great Escape – by inviting him to take the other end. Despite some decent fielding, Willis and a surprisingly spry Peffer keen to show that, again, being 60 odd was no barrier to backing up a long way took the field on and started taking any and every single they could. A couple of twos at the end of the innings saw KSOB close on 85 for 2, with both final bowlers conceding 12 runs off their two overs.

There was an expectant air in the Mallards camp that the score was gettable. In an attempt to gain advantage, Taylor lent KSOB one of Mallards pink balls, on the grounds that it would give the batsmen a better chance to see the ball out of the trees. Hall and Kent were asked to start the reply. Taking a leaf out of Taylor’s tactics (well I’m taking credit for having some!), KSOB also started with a slow bowling attack. Ian Black, as ever, started tidily with his straight off breaks conceding just one off the first over. However it was his fellow opener Moir that made the breakthrough enticing Hall to play a chip straight into midwickets’ hands for a duck. This brought Cox to the crease, clearly annoyed at the traffic delays, who opened up his account first with a four off Black and then a huge straight driven 6 off Moir. Kent at the other end was happy to keep the strike rotated with quick singles and by the end of the 8th over the score was tantalisingly placed on 44 with Black finishing on 14 for 0 and Moir 1 for 29 off their maximum four overs.

With Cox looking set to retire not out, having hit yet another big six over the midwicket boundary, it was a surprise when he miscued one off change bowler Anderson’s first over to be caught by Black for 27. It was at this point that the rails started to come off. Jordon scraped around for an over before being given out lbw by “trigger finger” Cleaver at the end of Gregg’s first over. This brought Taylor to the crease who got off the mark with a couple of singles, only to see Kent squared up on the stumps to be adjudged the second lbw of the night for a respectable 22. However Taylor then proceeded to get completely tangled up by the well-flighted bowling of Gregg, and despite managing to hit 5 out of the 6 deliveries, none travelled more than 10 feet from the bat to concede a maiden.

At the end of the 12th over the score had crawled to 56, with just four left to overhaul the target. The 13th saw 9 runs come off it, but clearly desperate keep the scoring rate up, Taylor chased a rare wide one from Gregg only to top edge it to ensure he was put of his misery with a well-taken tumbling catch by Black. Wisbach made it a pair in the over for Gregg caught somehow (I was in the dressing room at that point so I have no idea other than to report what was written in the book). Meanwhile Van Doorn was doing his best to keep the score ticking over, aided by Scutt who hit a tidy 2 and a 4.

With the score on 75 at the end of the 15th over, a big 11 runs from 6 balls was needed to see Mallards get their third victory of the season. With Van Doorn on strike there remained hope, however Gregg still flighting and pitching the ball up crushed any hope of victory bowling Van Doorn for a creditable 11 off the first ball. McGuinness, conscious of the need for boundaries swiped and missed his first two deliveries before scraping a single. 10 needed and 2 deliveries needed. Scutt on strike and needing to find the aerial route to the boundary could only block the next well-aimed delivery, and conscious that the game was up and the prospect of getting a not-out to help improve his average ensure that he blocked the last one as well.

So off to the Wellington for beer, chips and onion rings. The game was lost and Gregg the hero with 4 for 10 off his overs. However all played in really good spirit, but in vain for Mallards who look destined to finish with only 2 wins for the season, unless they can win next week’s bonus game against Davipart ….

Mallards v Genetics @ Riding Mill August 19


If you see this man....
If you see this man….

One of the most anticipated events in any Mallards’ calendar is the annual dinner, where top class food and drink is consumed, the preceding season is dissected in minute detail (admittedly with accuracy that falters somewhat as the evening progresses), and the awards for the year are handed out. This year it had already been suggested that a new award be created for best match report, and after tonight’s match there were strong calls for another, the Remember-Who-Your-Friends-Are Award for best performance in opposition colours. This would take the form of a mallard with a knife embedded in its back, and frankly it could be the most hotly- contested one of the lot; Alan Boyes and Tony Jordon, I’m looking in your direction, mainly because I can’t yet bring myself to look at Steve Kent, more of which later.

Anyway, on with the show. The second of this year’s Jon Robinson Cup matches looked in some doubt as the rain started falling shortly before the scheduled start of play. The covers were rushed on and it wasn’t looking good, however before enough support had been raised for an early trip to the pub, the rain cleared and a shortened contest of 10 eight-ball overs was agreed upon. Mallards would bowl first and try out the one over per bowler limit, something that was bound to test the scorers.

Captain Browne led the troops out onto the field, and was keen to make his mark as Skip by adhering to the tactic, so popular in short-format cricket these days, of opening with a spinner. The tactic nearly paid dividends as Wisbach opened from the Pavilion End delivered an excellent over, conceding just two and beating the bat on several occasions. McGuinness at the other end was also able to keep openers Taylor and Heslop quiet, bowling accurately and with good pace.

Steele was next to try his luck, and after a couple of loose deliveries which saw the scoreboard gather some momentum, enticed Taylor out of his crease to be stumped by keeper Kent. So 21-1 after the third over and Browne kept the trend of varying the pace of the attack by bringing himself on at the Tree End. His first ball was, frankly, awful but somehow Heslop got himself into a tangle and the ball cannoned off his pads and onto the stumps, 21-2 and two new batsmen in. Wilson and Ramshaw looked to get the score moving, but Green, making his bowling debut for Mallards, had other ideas, bowling Ramshaw in the middle of an excellent over, conceding just 4 runs.

Runs continued to not be easy to come by, though new batsman Bennett was looking to change that, taking sixes in consecutive overs off Scutt and Lucas. Both bowlers bowled otherwise tidy overs, conceding 8 and 10 runs respectively. Genetics’ number three Wilson was forced to retire hurt after Scutt’s over, bringing in Cookson who suffered the ultimate insult of being run out without facing a ball in Lucas’s over, after Cox swooped to cut off a quick single. Lucas also picked up the prized wicket of Goulding, clean bowled for just 1.

Cox was bowler eight and showed excellent control with just a single coming from the over, leaving the Mallards in a strong position with the score at 57-4 with just two overs remaining. Van Doorn continued the tight bowling conceding just 6. Unfortunately the last over was something of a disaster as the Genetics batsmen realised something needed to be done to lift the scoring rate. Jordon, perhaps feeling some sympathy for the batsmen started with a few wides, well, more than a few if truth be told, before Bennett hit a four to reach the retirement score of 20. Tarbuck was next in and was in no mood to mess around, hitting 4-6-4 before being caught off the last ball by Cox at the square leg boundary. Genetics’ final tally was 90-6 after their 10 overs, an enticing score, and hopes were raised of breaking the winning drought.

After a rapid turnaround to beat the fading light, Mallards’ openers Steele and Kent strode to the middle. Kent didn’t hang around, getting a top edge off the third ball and offering a simple catch to Tarbuck off the bowling of Mitcheson. Not a great start, though things soon picked up as Steele and Van Doorn set about dismantling the bowling, after the first over the score was 13/1 and after the second 31/1. This was some of the finest batting seen this season as a succession of glorious boundaries from both batsmen tipped the balance right in the Mallards’ favour.

Regular readers will know exactly what happens when a new paragraph begins with the team in a seemingly invincible position. It is perhaps worth mentioning at this point that Genetics having started with 10, had been reduced to just 9 players after the injury to Wilson in the first innings. The Mallards, always quick to lend a hand in such situations, provided a fielder, originally in the form of Lucas, before he had come off to pad up, then Browne and finally a very reluctant Kent.

Back out in the middle, Steele had raced to retirement (22 off 10 balls) off the last ball of the 2nd over, before incoming batsman Jordon was bowled by Taylor without troubling the scorers. However Scutt and Van Doorn were able to keep the run rate from getting out of control before Van Doorn retired on 20. The boundaries had dried up but some good running had kept the scoreboard moving.

Cox was next in with 29 required off a little under three (eight-ball) overs. Some more good running and a six from Cox over backward square leg saw them on target with two to go. Having just 9 players available to bowl, Mitcheson came back to bowl a second. Seven runs came before Scutt was bowled off the last ball, leaving 10 to win of the last 8-ball over – finely poised, but with the Mallards still confident of victory.

Bennett took off his keepers’ pads to bowl the last over. The first ball was clipped for a couple, then the next ball was tossed up and was hit hard and flat back down the ground by Cox; he thought it was six, the crowd thought it was six.  Former Genetic, Kent didn’t. Standing at long off, presented with a gift-wrapped opportunity to palm the ball over the boundary to seal victory for his team, he was instead overcome by a most uncharacteristic bout of common decency and held on to what can only be described as a very good overhead catch. He has since gone into hiding but we have managed to obtain a picture of his disguise (see above).

Unfortunately, Wisbach and Lucas were unable to chase down the remaining eight runs as the innings closed an agonising 3 runs short.

So it was another loss, but Jon Rob matches are always much more about the occasion than the result and the smell of bbq did a wonderful job of distracting the players from wondering just how we let that one slip. Speeches, toasts and presentations were made, burgers were eaten and beer was drunk as the sun set on another cracking evening.

Mallards v Bill Quay @ Bill Quay August 13

Tony C makes the report's picture space two weeks in a row - a rare honour
Tony C makes the report’s picture space two weeks in a row – a rare honour

Colombia and Bill Quay have much in common. The former is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world including nearly 2000 different species of bird while the latter has many different types of sheep. They both host famous music festivals, Colombia has its Rock El Parque, the largest festival in Latin America, Bill Quay has the equally legendary Chickenstock, second only to Woodstock amongst ‘famous festivals that end in the word ‘stock’.  They are also both named after famous explorers, Christopher Columbus and the infamous Bill Quay, who set off from Newcastle in a rowing boat to discover the New World but stopped for a pasty just outside Gateshead and never managed to move on.

And now they both have another legendary figure in common, Senor Tony Cleaver, the notorious novelist/academic/economist/demon bowler who returned from the home of the Andes to try and inspire Mallards to new heights in the nick of time as they sought a long-awaited victory against Bill Quay.

Skipper Wood for once lost the toss but after a long run of defeats batting second would probably have chosen to bat anyway.

An unlikely opening partnership of Taylor and Scutt took to the field and after a maiden over to start, the former got the innings moving with two crisp fours in the second over. Unfortunately Taylor’s lively start came to a premature end in the next over when he was bowled off an inside edge by P Hamblett for 9. Butcher joined Scutt and as the pair settled in the scoring initially dried up with Mallards reaching just 13-1 after 4 overs.

Thankfully things picked up in the next couple of overs with some sharp running and a cracking four from Butcher as 15 runs were quickly added but the seventh over saw the second wicket fall, Butcher bowled by P Hamblett for 8. New batsmen Buckley strode confidently to the crease whistling a tune from The Mikado to the consternation of the fielding side.

A first boundary for Scutt kept things ticking over but runs continued to be hard to get and at the halfway stage Mallards had reached a fairly paltry 46-2. P Hamblett  had finished his spell of four overs with 2-9 and it was his namesake M Hamblett who struck next, bowling Buckley, from another inside edge, for 4. Wood now joined the durable Scutt at the crease but their brief partnership was halted in the next over when Scutt was finally bowled for 14.

With boundaries hard to find Wood and new batsman Scott started to push for singles, a policy that worked right up until the moment Scott was run out for 1 by a direct hit with the score on 56.  Wisbach then joined the fray and the brisk running continued as the run rate started to lift before Wood was bowled for 4 to leave Mallards on 70-6 after 15 overs.

McGuinness came and went swiftly but not before hitting a crisp 4 but Wisbach was now starting to hit form. He was joined by local boy Browne and the pair finally started to give the innings some momentum with some big shots although Browne was perhaps a tad fortunate to survive a handful of dropped catches.  When the latter was finally caught for 9 in the final over they had managed to take the score on to 101.

Finally it was time for our intrepid renaissance man to return to the fray. The returning Cleaver was sentimentally promoted to number 10 where he showed why he is normally number 11 as after four dot balls the innings ended on 102-8 with Wisbach’s unbeaten 24, including 3 boundaries the undoubted highlight.

With a below par total to defend Browne and Cleaver opened the attack but Bill Quay’s batsmen seemed keen to finish the game early, punishing anything loose and after six overs they’d raced to 45-0 with the only highlight for the fielding side a remarkable one-handed pick up of a fierce on-drive by Haylock who was almost immediately rewarded for his efforts by being given a bowl.  The change of pace immediately put the brakes on albeit temporarily. Unfortunately his excellent start wasn’t matched by the fielders as three catches went down in one over, Messrs Buckley, Wood and Wisbach all failing to take their chances. At the other end McGuinness had more luck, taking Mallards first wicket of the night with a ball that started out at chest height only to dip at the last moment to clean bowl the startled batsman Lowe for 23. With his fellow opening batsman, another Lowe, retiring on 27, two new batsman were at the crease but sadly they also seemed to be in a hurry as 26 runs came off the next two overs to leave the home side sitting pretty on 80-1 from just 10 overs. Haylock finished his spell with 0-23 from three overs, McGuinness 1-18 from 2.

Wisbach was next on and continued his good night with only three runs coming from his first over. Scott’s first over looked as if it would be the last when, after an early boundary his fifth ball was also despatched to the distant corner of the ground, batsmen Hayden walking off as it flew along the ground, having reached the retirement total of 25. Embarrassingly he hadn’t accounted for the determination of McGuinness who ran round the boundary and cut the ball off inches from the rope.  Hayden returned to the crease, shame-faced and proceeded to smash the next ball for four instead. The end came from the first ball of Wisbach’s  next over, another four bringing the game to a premature end in just 13.1 overs.

The beer was nice.

Mallards v Victorians @ Riding Mill August 11

‘…the important thing in Life is not triumph, but the struggle; the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well. To spread these principles is to build up a strong and more valiant and, above all, more scrupulous and more generous humanity’. (Pierre de Coubertin)

‘Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser’ (Vince Lombardi)

Anyone who has ever had a scheduled appointment at the RVI will know that hospitals operate in a vastly different time zone than the outside world. It was therefore no surprise that Tuesday’s match against the Victorians started a little late.

Given the absence of most of the Victorians’ team the toss was largely academic as  stand-in skipper Taylor magnanimously pronounced that Mallards would field to enable the show to get on the road.

With Browne, Dunhill and Mexter absent from the line up the skipper tossed the (nearly) new ball to Cox.  Victorians opening partnership of Nosir and Naveed were in no mood for playing themselves in and Nosir proceeded to dispatch the first two balls to the boundary. This produced some pensive looks from the Mallards. If they can do that to Coxy’s bowling, it’s gonna be a bloody long night! The first over passed without additional boundaries with the score on 9 without loss.

McGuinness was next up with the ball and started well with his first six balls going for only a couple of runs,  sadly for the bowler the match had been reduced to 14  8-ball overs and balls 7 & 8 promptly disappeared to the boundary, Victorians on 18-0 at the end of the over. Cox’s next over stemmed the flow of runs and after three elongated overs the Victorians were cruising at 21 without loss.

At this point Nosir and Naveed developed an urge to dispense with cruise control and set about McGuinness’ buffet bowling with relish, despatching the next 8 balls for 14 runs, including the first of a number of sixes during the evening. It could have been a slightly different story had Scutt managed to pouch a tough steepling catch.

Debutant Ruecroft was next into the crosshairs of the Victorian’s heavy-hitting openers. He made light of not having played for over a decade and bowled some promising stuff, managing to slow the openers’ scoring rate, beating the bat a couple of times without taking that elusive wicket.  That prize of the first wicket fell to the wily old fox, Haylock in the 8th over.  With Nosir having exited the stage for an unbeaten 32. Naveed seemed eager to join his chum and danced down the wicket to Haylock only to swing and miss.  Ally Hall made no mistake behind the stumps and Naveed was gone for 28. Haylock finished his two overs with a very useful 1-11.

By this point the Victorians were on a decent score somewhere in excess of 60  (sadly I can’t tell you exactly what it was as their approach to score keeping was akin to their timekeeping.

With the talented openers gone, the Victorians lost some momentum and the scoring rate began to slow. Smelling blood the Mallards raised their game. First smart fielding by Cox, removed new batsman Neela, run out for 1.  Then in the next over Mallards ‘king of swing’, Nitsch managed to remove Hamid for 15 with one that nipped back before repeating the trick and dispatching Shoaib for a duck with one that seamed away.  (Both descriptions courtesy of Mr Nitsch himself). The limited scrawl in the scorebook did however record Nitsch’s admirable figures of 2 overs, 2-5.

The next batsman Amar didn’t trouble the scorers much, misjudging the flight of a Van Doorn delivery and chipping the ball to the scampering McGuinness at mid on. Van Doorn completed his spell finishing on 1-17. The score? For arguments sake let’s say it was about 100-105 after 12 overs. Watson came on for the penultimate over and bowled a sound line and length restricting the batsmen to a handful of runs before his final ball was clubbed to the boundary.  Victorian’s innings had stuttered a little but the final two batsmen Asif and Javed (10 not out) had regained some of the earlier initiative with Asif amassing a quickfire 19 before the returning Cox trapped him plumb in front in the final over. The Victorians finished with  123 for 6 off their 14 elongated (8 ball) overs.  The Mallards were not deflated though and a spirited display in the field was epitomised by welsh tighthead Taylor bullocking into kiwi fly-half Cox in his eagerness to chase down a loose ball (perhaps in hindsight the Mallards would be better suited to the oval ball game).

Without trusty openers Kent and Steel stand-in skipper Taylor scoured the changing room looking for opening batsmen before giving up and decided to back himself to open the batting with Hall.  Taylor set about the job of chasing down the daunting target with gusto, timing a boundary nicely towards the pavilion in the first over and then wading into a short ball and giving it the full treatment in the next over. At the other end Ally was finding it a bit harder to find the boundary, so he pragmatically dug in and took on the Wood role of nudging and nurdling to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

Sadly Taylors’s fun at the crease was ended prematurely at the start of the 4th over by a good delivery from Anwar (bowled for 11).  New batsman Lucas strode out to the crease full of optimism, however, bowlers Zavid and Anwar began to find their rhythm and runs became harder to come by.  Hall and Lucas managed to keep the scoreboard moving with some canny running but at the end of the 6th over the Mallards innings had only progressed to 34.  New bowler Asif proved a bit easier to get away and Hall struck his first boundary of the innings as  Mallards moved the score on to 43 at the end of over. The next bowler Shoaib was definitely to the batsmen’s liking and the runs began to flow, two nice boundaries and some more sharp running took the total up to a much healthier 54 at the end of the 8th over.

The 9th over saw Hall retire for a hard-earned 30 bringing Scutt to the crease. Lucas’ eagerness to chase down the quick singles was creating some moments of panic in the middle and amusement on the sidelines.   One ambitious call for a quick single by Lucas being accompanied by an almost instantaneous cry of ‘Oh, F**k, no!’ Lucas survived this scare but the unfortunate Scutt was not to be so lucky, run out for 0 in the next over without having much chance to get bat on ball.

With the light fading rapidly batting was becoming tricky and some of the deliveries from the Victorian’s bowlers were a little lively.  Lucas was their main target, first softened up with an eye watering blow to the upper groin before being tasered in the buttock with a rising delivery.  This rather dry match report cannot do justice to the fabulous sound effects that accompanied Lucas’ discomfort, a high pitched squeal (ooooh) followed by a blood curdling yelp (aaayyyyee).  The sympathy on the boundary was palpable as Lucas’ comrades fought back tears and shouted, ‘count ‘em Chris’ and ‘some pay good money for that’.

With the premature demise of Scutt, the wounded Lucas was joined at the crease by Cox.  However, batting was becoming a lottery in the deepening gloom and overs 10 and 11 passed with the score only nudging along to 68.   After manfully putting his body in the line of fire, Lucas perished for a hard-earned 17, lofting an Amar delivery to a waiting fielder.  Next up to bowl for Victorians was Javed (normally to be seen opening the bowling at pace for Ponteland 1stXI).  Javed at first decided to dispense with pace and try some spin.  Cox responded to this generosity by smashing a fine 4 and a big 6.  After this impudence Javed returned to plan b and send down some fast & accurate bowling off a short run-up.

Despite Cox’s best efforts the game was beginning to slip away as Mallards had ended the 12 over on 82 needing 42 off the last 2 overs to win. Next in, to keep Cox company, was the pugnacious Mr Nitsch.  Peter was a little perturbed at the speed of Amar and particularly Javed’s bowling in the failing light and had already politely suggested to the Victorians elder statesmen that they might want to ask the bowlers to moderate their pace before someone gets hurt.  Peter left for the crease muttering, ‘if he’s still bowling that fast when I get out there, I’ll chin him!

Nitsch began as impressively with the bat as he had finished with the ball, belying the poor light to hit a pair of boundaries in a defiant attempt to steer the Mallards to an unlikely victory. Cox chipped in with some useful runs before perishing in the final over bowled by Javed for a battling 16. This left debutant Ruecroft to see out the final balls of the innings with Nitsch, the innings finished with another Nitsch boundary and a single but the game had long gone and Mallards finished on 103-4 off their 14 overs.

Sadly it wasn’t to be and once again the Mallards had undoubtedly fought well but had ultimately fallen a frustrating 20 runs short in chasing down a challenging target.  However, as always the Mallards had given their all and in truth winning would have been a bonus.

Which brings us back to our opening quotations. De Coubertin would be a massive fan of the Mallards, with its’ ethos of being all about the taking part, the camaraderie and the crack.  And what could be more symptomatic of fostering a ‘generous humanity;’ than allowing your opponents to win most weeks? Sadly Vince Lombardi was unavailable to comment as he’s long dead. Who’s the loser now eh, Vince?

Most of the squad (except Lucas who headed off to seek out a local S&M club for another good beating with leather!) headed to the Welly for the post-match team debrief. Whence the club despot created a buzz of excitement by announcing that he had been successful in his attempts to lure,  Tony ‘the hatchet’ Cleaver back from exile in South America to bolster the Mallards attack in the next game against the Umpires.  Could the man with the golden arm (see above) be the secret weapon that drives the Mallards towards that elusive victory?  Stay tuned you won’t have long to wait to find out….



Mallards v Genetics @ Riding Mill August 8

Chris hears that its his turn to write the match report
Chris hears that it’s his turn to write the match report

In the words of Dinah Washington “What a difference a day makes – 24 little hours”. The rout of the Aussies within 18.3 overs of their first innings at Trent Bridge the day after the evening before should provide much by way of consolation to those of a Mallards persuasion.

Like the Ashes, Mallards v Genetics is another of the greats in the pantheon of sporting rivalry. Indeed so established is the fixture that special rules apply – it was 12 players a side, a maximum of two overs per bowler and Genetics only referred to players by their Christian names in the score book! As is customary several Mallard regulars also took to the field in the opposition ranks – with the now predictable results!

And so, on a pitch with some green and overcast conditions perfect for the exponent of swing bowling Captain Wood won the toss and put Genetics into bat. (His thoughts may also have been influenced by trying to keep his team away from the available source of booze in the pavilion for as long as possible).  This saw the opening strike partnership of Cox and McGuiness paired against the blades of ‘Jonty’ and ‘Sid’. A cagey opening period ensued between the two teams with the first four overs going for 18 without loss. The two over rule then brought Taylor and Haylock into the breach with the latter striking first blood in the eighth over with the dismissal of ‘Sid’ for 15 to a smart catch by Wisbach.

At 38 for 1 things were looking good as the bowling carousel changed again to bring in Wisbach and Boyes. ‘Jonty’ and new batsman ‘Danny’ continued to build a slow but steady platform until Boyes’ first ball. Continuing his recent hot form (yes we still remember that hatrick) his first ball clean bowled ‘Jonty’ for 20. At the end of their overs things stood at an interesting 68 for 2 off 12.

It was at this stage that the game kicked into a higher gear for both teams. Wood and Nitcsh were next up. It was Wood who struck first – removing ‘Phil’ for 22 through a regulation catch by his strike partner Nitsch  (oh alright – he pounced gazelle-like to take an excellent one-handed catch inches off the lush outfield. Spumanti moment we wondered!). There was now no stopping Nitsch. With the first ball of his second over he removed ‘our Craig’ who was unlucky to be given LBW. Despite the suspected noise of bat on ball, the lack of investment in hot spot and snicko meant his return to the pavilion for 1. (Revenge would not be long coming). He was replaced by new batsman ‘Davy’ who lasted two balls before hearing the Nitsch death rattle. Wood meanwhile kept up the pressure from the other end with new batsman ‘Mike’ removed by a sharp stumping from keeper Kent.

As the carousel turned again Mallards were in a promising position, with Genetics on 86-6 off 16. With Stig anchoring one end an apprehensive Buckley stepped up at the other. However, he needn’t have worried. His third ball removed new boy ‘our Tony’ for 0 (another who was also later to get his revenge) after he skied a lollipop to Lucas who could do nothing but catch it. Then he smartly ran out ‘Danny’ for 22 off the swift fieldwork of McGuinness. Unfortunately the dismissal brought in ‘Rob’ who only had attack in mind and, with new partner ‘Graham’, proceeded to score several boundaries off Stig including a mahoosive 6. This left a clearly nervous Lucas to finish off the match. With memories fresh from his previous 10-ball over (which started with 4 wides and a no ball) he surprised everyone including himself by bowling 6 accurate deliveries. With the 20 overs spent the score had accelerated to 121 for 8. However, this was still very doable and the Mallards had faith.

The changeover saw traditional opener Kent accompanied by the promoted Lucas. Genetics decided to open the bowling with ‘our Craig’ and after a swift single by Kent, things took a turn for the worse. After 2 dot balls the nosebleed induced by being promoted to opening batsman caused Lucas to flash at a ball sending it looping into the clutches of ‘Danny’. It was his first Mallard duck, but unfortunately not the last of the night. New batsman Buckley, fresh from his bowling success settled in quickly and scored 8, including a lovely boundary, before ‘our Craig’ struck again clean bowling him.

His dismissal brought in the steadying presence of Nitsch who set about building a resolute partnership with Kent. They proceeded to move the score onto 56 off 10 overs and were looking very solid. Boundaries however, were hard to find with the scorebook recording a solid row of 1s punctuated by the occasional 4 and a splendid Nitsch 6. Just as Mallards nerves steadied things were to turn with the introduction of ‘our Tony’ into the attack. This clearly confused Nitsch who, on 22, had his eye in and was clearly expecting a Mitchel-Johnson-like-something to the left or right. Instead Jordan launched an inch perfect Yorker to dislodge Nitsch’s bails first ball. He was replaced by Wood who much to Nitsch’s annoyance then proceeded to benefit from several wides.

Boundaries were still hard to find but Wood and Kent continued to tick over the scoreboard until the second umpiring incident of the evening. This saw Wood ‘stumped’ after missing a shot off the bowling of Davy. Let down by the lack of investment in DRS he was forced to reluctantly to return to the Pavillion. This brought in Cox whose fine recent form came to an unexpected end as he was clean bowled by ‘Jonty’ for his first ever Mallard duck. Like an antipodean moth he chose to seek solace by nurturing the newly kindled flames of the post-match barbie.

With the score at 75 for 4 off 14 things were still finely balanced. Unfortunately Kent had been forced to retire and ‘Jonty’ was only getting started, clean-bowling both Stig and Boyes for 4 and 5 respectively in his next over. By now Wisbach had come to the crease and he was to prove the last vestiges of continuity as successive partners came and went. Taylor got the third duck of the evening when caught and bowled by ‘Rob’. He was swiftly followed by another duck for McGuiness off Davey. At 92 off 18 overs things were looking grim. Trying to up the pace Haylock scored a sweetly timed and rare boundary before being run out for 5. This brought Kent out of retirement. Quickly downing his beer he strode purposely back out to the wicket. Sacrificing his average for the cause he was stumped striving for an elusive boundary. Mallards were all out for 98 off 19 overs with last man standing Wisbach all alone on 8.

And so with hostilities ceased it was time to partake in convivial post-rivalry banter aided by additional liquid refreshment and some excellent man food. It was also a time to celebrate Jon Rob and remember that cricket is not just a game but a glue that binds the initiated together. Although we had lost this latest match in the sporting rivalry, at least we outperformed the Australians. We scored more runs by a considerable margin, both Kent and Nisch scored more than their top batsman (Mr Extras), we lasted an over longer and they had 3 ducks themselves. Bring them on!



Mallards v Davipart @ Riding Mill July 22

What's plan C skip?
What’s plan C skip?

Whilst a current Google search shows that ‘collapsed like a house of cards’ leads the race for most common ‘collapse’ analogy (21,000 hits) there is little doubt that it will be overtaken within a generation by ‘collapsed like a Mallards’ tail’ (currently 0 hits but after this report that figure will undoubtedly increase)

In the post-apocalyptic era etymologists will no doubt  puzzle over this  phrase.  They will shake their heads and rush off to consult with their ornithologist friends – all ologists will hang out together after the apocalypse to avoid contagion from the riff-raff – who in turn will inform them that it makes no sense, a Mallards’ tail being something with no collapsible properties whatsoever. In fact, those who combine both ornithologist and theologist tendencies will point out that the Mallards’ tail is a thing of such perfection that it is clear evidence of the hand of God in its creation, whilst quietly setting light to a bonfire made entirely from copies of Darwin’s Origin of the Species.

Eventually, after queuing for hours to take their turn on the world’s one remaining computer, an Amstrad ZX, which like a technological cockroach will be one of the few machines to survive the nuclear holocaust, they will discover the answer on this very website.

The story began on a slightly overcast evening at Riding Mill in late July, 2015. Mallards took to the field, after losing the toss, hoping to arrest a hideous run of one win in fifteen games against Davipart who had been their only victims in that run. It didn’t start well.

D Rawley Jnr and Sandhu hit their straps from the off, racing to 23 from the first two overs with Mexter conceding three fours from his first over.  Browne, at the other end, was also somewhat under the cosh, 15 coming from his first two overs, and after six overs the visitors had rocketed to 54, with Mallards’ only success coming when Browne bowled Sandhu for 16 in the fifth over.

Things were about to turn however, the retirement of Rawley Jnr and a change in the field to a more attacking intent, saw the runs start to dry up. Browne and Mexter finished their spells strongly, conceding only four runs from their last two overs to end with 1-25 and 0-33 respectively.  They were replaced by Cox and Haylock who continued the good work, backed up by some excellent ground fielding, with Haylock, in particular, excelling on the boundary as the visitors suddenly found themselves floundering slightly, only reaching 67 at the halfway stage.

Mallards’ confidence began to grow, with Cox beating the bat umpteen times and Haylock bowling beautifully the scoreboard slowly ground to a halt and another wicket fell, the latter trapping Skinner lbw for 16. The only fly in the ointment during this period was another unfortunate injury for Mexter, who fell awkwardly diving for a ball in the gully and dislocated his shoulder, necessitating another rapid return to the RVI where, fortunately, he now possesses frequent faller status and was rushed through for treatment, past a bemused alcohol-drenched waiting room. (N.B. the good news is that the shoulder is now back in its proper place and thanks to a copious supply of drugs the patient is recovering in a state of bemused bliss, happily unaware of the carnage he missed.)

On the plus side, Mexter’s fielding replacement, Umar, immediately showed the value of youth by running out his colleague D Rawley Snr for 1 as the visitors crept along to 87-3 from 14 overs. The fielding side were now firmly in control and Cox and Haylock finished their spells with two more tight overs to restrict the opposition to 92-3 from 16 overs, finishing with 0-15 and 1-19 respectively, Cox’s figures all the more remarkable as six of those runs came from one enormous six in his first over.

Watson and last week’s anti-hero Boyes took over and though Watson’s first over took a bit of stick they maintained the pressure with the last three overs as Boyes showed that he can also get proper batsmen out by bowling  the opposition skipper Y Rawley for a solid 29. With only 11 runs coming from the last three overs, Davipart ended their 20 overs on an eminently gettable 115-4, with only 61 runs coming from the last 15 overs.

The home side sent out Kent and Butcher to build a platform and the plan worked when Kent smashed the wily Thomson’s fourth ball for four. It stopped working two balls later when the bowler struck back, clean-bowling Kent for that single boundary.

Skipper Wood joined Butcher in what is becoming a regular partnership and the pair got their heads down, defending stoutly against Thomson,attacking wildly against the pacy but wild Hamza at the other end and generally playing hit-and-run. By the end of the sixth over they had taken the score on to 26-1 and then started to accelerate, Wood, in particular finding the gap between keeper and first slip with unerring accuracy, as they raced on to 41-1 from eight overs. Thomson’s three overs only went for seven runs before he was presciently held back for a late burst by Davipart’s obviously mystic captain.

Unfortunately the blossoming partnership was halted in the next over when Wood was lbw to the unorthodox Skinner for 22. Fortunately, this brought Cox to the wicket, fresh from hitting 150-odd for Corbridge at the weekend, and he continued this form with a four and a six to keep the momentum going. At the other end Skinner worked his magic again, mesmerising Butcher with loop, to bowl him for a well-made 21 but with Lucas joining Cox, the run rate continued to climb, another six from the latter taking the score to 65-3 from 12 overs,  with 51 required to win from the last eight.

Lucas was the next to perish, unluckily picking out a lone fielder at mid-on for 3, but with Cox smashing two more sixes the chase was firmly on at 81-4 from 14 overs, 35 needed from six at less than a run-a-ball, with Boyes joining Cox at the crease, hoping to repeat his match-winning feat from the previous week, only this time for the good guys!

Sadly, Cox’s next run saw him retire for 30 as Watson came out to join Boyes and the pair initially kept up the momentum to take the score  to 92-4 from 16, 24 to win from 24 balls. Those of a nervous disposition should look away now.  The next two overs came and went with only a meagre seven runs added but with only four wickets down there was still hope of getting the required 17 from the last 12 balls.  Re-enter the wily Thomson, held back for just this moment. With his first ball he removed Watson, bowled for three. His third ball saw new batsman Jordon out lbw for 0 (Umpire Butcher’s finger pointing to the sky before the ‘w’ in Howzat had even registered).  Thomson’s fourth ball saw Browne swipe and miss, bowled for 0. Surely there couldn’t be a hat-trick against the Mallards for the second week running. Of course there could. Haylock came and then went again, his only ball being caught by the grateful bowler for his fourth wicket in five balls.

On the plus side, Haylock’s dismissal saw the return of Cox, who had rather prematurely put his civvies on thinking his day was over. Boyes, still there somehow, blocked Thomson’s final delivery to give the returning Kiwi the strike with 17 required off the final over. If anyone could do it he could, the more optimistic Mallards’ contingent dreamed.

The final over saw every Davipart fielder on the boundary with the exception of the wicket-keeper, Cox swung mightily but to no avail, his normal fluency perhaps hampered by his stay-press grey chinos, shirt and tie, as the Mallards innings closed on a disappointing 105-8. Yet more ‘what might have been’ thoughts ran through the crowded pavilion, Mexter’s mighty batting would surely have turned the tide if he hadn’t been swilling down heavy-duty paracetomol in Ward 17 when he was needed in the middle. C’est La (r)vi as the cheese-eating surrender monkeys almost say.

As always, such thoughts were quickly banished as the new routine of beer and snacks outside the pavilion was thoroughly enjoyed thanks to Taylor’s excellent efforts (his new title of chief caterer and ambulance driver will be ratified at the next annual dinner) as we celebrated the imminent arrival of ‘collapsed like a Mallards’ tail’ into the next edition of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.

Mallards v Durham Staff @ Riding Mill July 15

The stand-in captain and senior players bravely face up to the firing squad following the latest Mallards defeat
The stand-in captain and senior players bravely face up to the firing squad following the latest Mallards defeat

Wednesday night saw this season’s return match with our most accommodating of hosts, the Mallards Cricket Club. Over the years we have enjoyed many a delightful evening in their presence both at our own state of the art facilities at Maiden Castle and their more “bucolic” surroundings at the Riding Mill ground. Let’s not be patronising though because the ground now sports fancy covers and a pavilion complete with soft furnishings and electricity.

We felt more than well disposed towards our good friends at Mallards before we arrived at the ground but to be presented with all this! Could life get better? You bet. They generously donated their finest player to solder the breach in our squad for the evening. A player, we were told that bore an uncanny resemblance to Chris Gayle when wielding the bat: and a bowler who could turn a ball so prodigiously on cracked pitch that he could pitch it on a length and spin it backwards to run out the batsman at the non-strikers end. We have to admit that we more than a little sceptical about these claims from the generous Mallards club despot but we were grateful for any help. We did wonder how they could let a player of that quality go and hope to have any chance of winning.

It hardly seemed a fair fight; the only question was how easy to go on our recently much traumatised friends. Yes we read their recent match reports too. Who couldn’t feel pity and a shared sense of grief when reading them? There’s plenty in the news about massacres in ISIS controlled Syria and Iraq but there wasn’t a peep on the typically left wing biased BBC regarding the horrific events that unfolded at “Slash and Burn” Moor last week. As for Channel Four News; well don’t get me started about that Jon Snow…enough already.

Let us not dwell though on the pain of yesterday. There was a game to be played and here’s what happened:

It was a cool, slightly depressing “backendish” evening. It felt like summer was on the wane but we were soon made to feel at home once we’d tested the new lights and the highly expressive and fun loving plumbing. It had been a tough journey to the ground with traffic around Durham and Teesside leaving us short at the start even with the new recruit. The captains agreed to let us bat first so that we could reach a full complement in the meantime.

We faced few problems in the first two overs but English was bowled in the third over by a ball from Browne that seemed to stop in the dusty surface. Runs still flowed quite freely at the other end with few alarms. Soon Swift reached a fine thirty before retiring. This brought the Mallards answer to Crystal er…, Chris Gayle to the wicket. The similarities were obvious, what with his two arms, two legs and two eyes. Fortunately for us he showed that he had far more to his game than the simple, one dimensional, raw power he is famed for, by quickly setting about keeping a long watchful eye on the bowling.

The sharp spin from Wisbach and disciplined left arm pace of Cox slowed us briefly before Walton launched a series of straight drives whizzing back passed the unfortunate Mallards spinner. This included three in one over with Boyes complementing this with a few gentle nurdles between second slip and third man. The inning reached its zenith at eighty for one of twelve. Yes that’s as good as it got for us.

The score board was ticking along very nicely until Boyes received one of the balls of the millennium from Cox that stopped on the pitched, looping gently off the back of his bat to second slip McGuinness. It was a cruel dismissal to one of the most aesthetically pleasing knocks I have ever had the privilege to witness.

He was soon followed by Walton, whose blistering knock was ended as he stepped down the wicket for one charge too many and fell to Wisbach from a smart stumping by Kent.

Up to this point we were aiming for something between 130 and 150. With the two quick wickets the runs dried up with none of our batsmen managing to get going in the face of one the meanest bowling attacks that we have faced for a long time. There was a notable run out when the lightening quick reactions of Mallards club despot, fielding at point hurled a thunderbolt to the keeper to engineer an unlikely wicket. We know not to mess with him again.

We limped along to what appeared a well below 114 for 7 off our 20 overs. The last eight overs had gone for barely more than four an over. After Walton, no one managed to reach double figures. Cox’s four overs had gone for just nine and Scott’s two overs late on yielded two for seven. Faced with a star studded Mallards batting line up and our own depleted bowling attack it was going to take some defending.

Viete’s first ball didn’t augur well as his near beamer was no balled.  Thankfully, this was to be his only loosener. His next was on target and perhaps the trauma of facing a fast beamer had traumatised their opener, Kent, as he played on to his stumps with the next delivery.

A flying start that wasn’t followed up as opener Steele and the Mallards captain Butcher began calmly accumulating the runs close to the required rate with few alarms. The two accelerated above five an over, reaching forty seven in the ninth when Mallards skipper, Butcher, was spectacularly caught by Viete off the bowling of English. Even so, the odds still heavily favoured the Mallards as one of their most prolific batsmen, Cox strode to the wicket.

The appropriately named Steele was proving an impenetrable fortress and we feared what the mighty Cox might do. What choice did we have, with our depleted attack? We tossed the ball to our guest Mallard who feigned surprise – as if he’d never bowled before! We soon discovered that the Mallard despot had been having a laugh about his ability to produce extravagant spin: That was the club despot’s extravagant spin perhaps. His first over was tidy but nothing more.

With English and Boyes bowling the scoring rate slowed ever so slightly but not alarmingly for the Mallards until Cox was bowled by Boyes following a fine boundary. Once again Boyes feigned shock and surprise rather than celebration, asking just what had actually happened. Still, after fourteen overs the score was seventy four for three: plenty of time to canter home easily.

The tide began to truly turn when Metcalfe bowled the next over. We hadn’t been told about Boyes’ extraordinary athleticism in the field but we were given a demonstration as he took a leaping catch, plucked out of the air when Lucas fired a cannon ball that looked destined to clear the boundary. Incredibly Boyes clutched the catch at midwicket (don’t believe the editorial caveat that will doubtless say it was a dolly) [it was – ed.].

Boyes’ next over was to prove decisive as Mallard club despot Taylor sliced a catch to Swift off Boyes. The next delivery clipped the off bail of Scott’s wicket: the kind of ball that not even Shane Warne could dream of. Now on a roll and seeing the whites of the batsmen’s eyes he completed his hat trick by clean bowling Watson. There were many high fives but the guest bowler still feigned shock and surprise. Frankly this fake modesty was starting to get on my nerves: who was he trying to kid? He was certainly taking the Mikhail.

Yet things got better still next ball, as Boyes generously decided to bowl a wide long hop. McGuinness confidently struck it to the far outfield and set off for two before changing his mind when he saw Viete, with his powerful throwing arm collect the ball. McGuinness promptly sent his partner back but it was too late: Wisbach run out nought. The poor fellow’s expression was a darker shade than melancholic as he trudged back to the pavilion.

Boyes’ spell finished with the Mallards now seventy nine for eight with only four overs left. To give the Mallards a sporting chance we brought back our speedy opening bowler, Viete from the dark tree lined end. Inexplicably, the Mallard tail struggled to put bat to ball. Even their combative lower order hitter and most jolly public school chap, Mr F Tourette-Browne, couldn’t put bat to ball and we feared he’d put his back out as he swung wildly at each ball regardless of their merit.

Metcalfe put him out of his misery by bowling him. It was the kindest thing to do. This brought the mighty Steele back to the crease and another boundary from him gave the Mallards some hope and planted doubt in our minds. Fears were allayed in Viete’s final over when he scattered McGuinness’s stumps with the score on eighty nine. Steele was left unvanquished but alone on a stylish thirty seven.

On the face of it: job done. We’d claimed a season double over the Mallards but we couldn’t help the hollow feeling that without their help we’d have stood no chance. It felt like the Mallards had won with their deliberate condescending generosity designed to make us look small. We hoped to take solace at the Duke of Wellington only to be told that the club despot had decreed we were boycotting that establishment for the evening after the aforesaid manager of the hostelry called him a liar and would have to settle for a few beers the team were raffling off at the pavilion [along with free crisps– ed.]: Now the light bulbs really came up trumps as we stood outside and savoured the clean country air as we supped our booze.

If the game had left us feeling hollow and their guest player had got on our nerves it was still a most pleasant end to the day. The sun set apologetically behind the trees as we supped their supply of booze dry and drove home in a more relaxed frame of mind. Cricket is a lovely game.

Mallards v Architects @ Burnmoor July 9

In Japanese culture, the concept of shame is a powerful societal influence.  Public humiliation can result in shunning, ostracising or, in extreme cases, Seppuku – the ritual disembowelling of the person. If the Mallards played in Japan, you would need a ruddy big sponge for all the blood that would be spilled.

The evening started so well. Passable weather for somewhere south of the river. Burnmoor (or is it Bournmoor – who cares?) presented a cheery enough rural/urban idyll, resplendent with a country churchyard, and farmer’s field ,  a not too ugly housing estate and a clubhouse in a converted Victorian school – a suitable symbol as we were just about to be given a cricketing education.

The Skip (aka Wood) made his way to the wicket, and came back with the news that we would field and, as it was home ground rules, there would be no retirements. We should have realised at this point that it was going to be a long night. The opening pair of Fenwick and Brown had a combined age easily in excess of a century – a score which both were keen to make.

Browne’s (our Browne, not their Brown) new consistency in line and length led to a fairly tight opening over, with just the seven off it. Not bad, considering the wicket had the consistency of a moist Victoria sponge. Wisbach opened from the Estate End, and the proximity of the leg-side boundary proved mightily painful for all the bowlers trundling in that way.  Both batsmen demonstrated their love of Wimbledon, by regularly dumping the ball in the adjacent tennis court. Even the good balls were dispatched, and Wisbach’s two overs went for 29.

Boundaries continued to be picked off, and Browne’s four overs went for 30. Normally, this would have resulted in a torrent of obscenities from Tourette’s Tom. This evening, the response was ‘could have been worse’.  Mexter had joined from the Estate End and watched two gigantic sixes mark the end of his first over. Haylock replaced Browne and kept the batsmen honest and slightly less profligate.  Skip dropped a low drive from Brown off Haylock, his usual bucket-like paws a bit too firm to hold the catch. Mexter continued the form of leaking boundaries at the end of his over, and finished his session conceding an impressive 40 from 4.

The two batsmen spent most of the time with hands on hips admiring their partner’s bludgeoning of the hapless bowlers. Eventually, Fenwick got bored with heaving sixes over the baseline and walked off, having scored 59. The sense of relief was short-lived when a Viking in a cricket helmet made his way to the wicket. Clinton proved to be equally effective at finding the baseline of the tennis court, and utilising a slightly more stylish technique.

Haylock looked tight and composed, but that was probably the quart of gin he had supped at the office before the game. His four overs looked better than his figures of 0-38. Watson had replaced Mexter at the dreaded Estate End and, despite a valiant effort and some good line and length, the runs continued to flow. Taylor, in his new-found role as boundary rider, was kept particularly busy retrieving balls from the bush. Brown, still there but slowing up due mainly to extreme age, skyed a drive to the luckless Skip who, despite a brief juggling act, spilled his second catch of the night. Not that it made much difference by this point.

The only light in an otherwise pitch black tunnel was the two overs from Goulding, who regained some self respect for the team by bowling tightly and only going for 11 from his two overs. In the context of the innings, it was a veritable McGrath-like effort. Watson suffered damage in his final over, and finished on a chastening 0-48.

The two batsmen walked off having put up a score of 205 from the 20 overs, with no wickets down. It felt worse than that. There was an empty, slightly stunned air around the Mallards, as they trudged off. One disconsolate voice was heard to say, ‘that was as much fun as cancer’ – a crass statement given the age and chain-smoking, heavy drinking lifestyles of many Mallards. Who has not waited anxiously for the results of a second endoscopy, or the biopsy on that nasty anal polyp?

Architects bounded onto the field for the second innings. Not really surprising as, for the past 90 minutes, eight of them had done nothing more than pick buttercups and watch the sixes rain down. The Mallards opening pair of Bennett and Taylor strode purposefully to the wicket, focusing on the challenge ahead. Bennett’s second ball went for a glorious six, raising a flurry of crows from the graveyard. Game on. The next ball dropped out of the bowler’s hand, scuttling along the deck. In true Mallardian style, Bennett hoisted the ball straight into the wicketkeeper’s glove. Game off. The graveyard crows now cackled like the Augurs of doom.

Greenwood came to the wicket, and quickly showed his intent with a couple of lovely fours.  Taylor chipped in with a lovely boundary, and all was set for the chase – right up to the point where Taylor was bowled by Lawson.  The Genetics pairing of Greenwood and Goulding offered hope. Runs were amassed. Hope was raised. However, Architect’s senior bowler, Johnson moved into the limelight. The octogenarian pouched a tricky catch off his own bowling and Greenwood was on his way back to the hutch.

Cometh the hour, cometh the Skip –  announcing his arrival with a careful defensive prod, which set the tone for much of his innings. Skip was playing the long game, or that is how it felt from the sidelines . Goulding continued to impress with a number of handsome boundaries, and it was only when he was bowled by a swinging ball from Lewis that all hope finally faded. Green, a newbie to the team, joined Skip in the run drought, and made a fashionable two before perishing in a typical Mallards style – run out [due to suffering a wardrobe malfunction in the upper thigh department mid second run – ed.]. All bodes well for his future career with the Club.

The Skip ended his  vigil when he edged one to the keeper for 17 and a new pairing of Wisbach and Mexter were at the crease. The game already very much over the horizon, and playing for his average, Wisbach demonstrated a cool head and steady technique. Mexter went for the more uncultured route, clubbing a couple of fours and then falling to the predicable straight ball. He left the field with the air of a man who should have known better. Watson appeared for a brief cameo and then it was all over.  Defeat by 98 runs.  It could have been worse, but not by much.

The evening began pregnant with possibilities; it ended with possibly the highest total scored against us in 36 years and, possibly, the only time the Mallards have never taken a wicket. The bar beckoned and we supped passable lager in those old fashioned, extra tall pint glasses, with the line on them, designed to show the working man that he is not being short-changed by the head.

It was a night of contrasts. You could say it was about talent over mediocrity, ability to play versus desire to take part.  Perhaps it was more to do with the Mallardian spirit contrasted with a more practical application of the game.  All our team played, all our team participated. In the end, maybe both teams were winners. But probably not.