Category Archives: Match Reports 2016

Mallards v Ovington Kestrels @ Riding Mill August 23

The history of mankind, of nations savage and civilised, of democracies and dictatorships, is scarred by violence, armed conflict and the futile waste of good, young, innocent life.

But some scars run deeper and heal slower than others, and none more so than when comrade is set against comrade, brother against brother. The origins of such bitter conflicts are many- territory, ancient grievances, contrived narratives, love, rejection, riches derived from the prolongation of suffering; but always at the centre is a scheming mind which sees an opportunity to manipulate the great powers through manipulation of the most powerless.

And so it was that 23rd August 2016 saw  an Ovington Kestrels side arrive at Riding Mill to face the Mallards, who must have wondered if the generator and lights in the pavilion were working after all and they were able to see their own reflection in the dusty mirror. Here, ranged against the honest, gentle yeomen of the Valley, were such men as Aswini Dasika… Andy Horner… David Purves…  worse still, Brian Taylor… men who had worn a Mallards shirt that very season or who had at least made common cause with these peaceful eccentrics  time and again… and at the head of their snarling ranks, the mastermind himself, the Mallardian Machiavelli, Tony Jordon, the modern-day father of this Cain vs Abel tragedy (pictured)

No Mallard feared the firepower of these men, but the cold and rusty blade of treachery was felt deep before the first ball was bowled, but despite Skipper Browne’s gallant choice to face the traitors down and bat first, the wounded decency of the Mallards would not let them settle, and cost them early.

Scott perished first, lost in the confusion and panic of a burning village to be run out for 3 by the bowler, Terry. Kent was caught by the same man, worked out for 4 by Brian Taylor, who of course knew this place so well from the many warm welcomes it had given him… Kiel looked the part, drawing the sting of the invading horde with a dignified stay at the crease, before being caught off Terry, a man who perhaps did not know what Jordon had made him a part of and, as a result, was able to play with the unaffected decency of the innocent.

But Bennett knew these new-found foes as well as they knew him, and fought back with fury, sending flat, flaming arrows across the sky to record four 4s and two 6s in a rapid surge to retirement. At 44/3 with Bennett to come back, Mallards were holding out.

Hunt perished immediately through a lazy chip to the infield off Terry. Perhaps the fight in him had already gone. But Van Doorn, a mercenary with a conscience perhaps having returned to the Mallards from upriver, combined with Rawley to take the score to 64 before being bullied from the crease by the imposing Purves. Rawley took up the assault, advancing in short charges between periods of cautious accumulation. Cap’n Browne backed his man up with a late flurry, before both men fell near the end of the innings, Rawley cleaned up by the smiling, skidding assassin Dasika, and Browne bowled by the flinty Wallbanks – an honest foe, at least. Hayward and Haylock saw the innings out, and Mallards had set the Kestrels 105.

Taking the new ball, Cap’n Browne was perhaps still unsettled by injustice, conceding 9 off his first over to the marauding Hall and the other Terry, but steadied by a miserly Page at the other end, he found his rhythm. And Browne it was who struck, and twice! In his third over, Kent caught Terry, and the umpire found in favour of the righteous to send Hall packing. 30/2.

But Horner, as thick skinned as they come, patted singles around nonchalantly as though enjoying this dirty business. And then with cruel relish, he set about the last of Page and the nibbling Haylock, hammering two fours and two sixes before leaving the field in disdain for the ragged Mallards. Suddenly they had 82 on the board. Wallbanks had enjoyed himself alongside Horner and after a period of introspection,  decided to finish things before the sun poked between the trees at the bowler’s end. He saw the score to 103 before being trapped in front by Hunt for 24.

Kiel delivered a final blow for peace, honour and the spirit of cricket by bowling Bullock for 1, but the grinning Dasika, who had gone about his business almost unnoticed to make an unbeaten 8, saw the Kestrels home by six wickets in the final over, in the company of Terry, the man who had earlier sown such terror and panic among the Mallards, on this black and dirty day.




Mallards BBQ and Cricket Fiesta

It is often said that the sun shines on the righteous, which means that the Mallards and assorted friends must be very righteous indeed as this year’s annual BBQ and Cricket Fiesta was blessed with perfect conditions, blazing sunshine, tons of burgers and, most importantly, a full chest of ice-cold beer (and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks!).

The growing popularity of the event saw around 30 players, young, old and decrepit turn up for a game, along with many families, out for a day’s sunshine and some increasingly inept cricket as the beer took hold. Three teams were handpicked by Mallards despot Taylor (G) who coincidentally surrounded himself with a strong-looking side. A round-robin structure was agreed with each team playing twice, 12 overs an innings and some arcane restrictions on both bowling and batting to prevent the handful of half-decent players around having undue influence on the results.

Team B went out to bat first against a youthful-looking Team A, notwithstanding the veteran opening bowlers Cleaver and Taylor (B).  The game started sluggishly, an early drop from Taylor (B) setting the tone for later, equally sloppy drops by Gardner M and Kent S.

Fortunately the first of these drops proved insignificant when the culprit quickly made up for his error by bowling his namesake Taylor D for just 2. Bennett soon followed him back to the pavilion for 8, bowled by Cleaver.

Bullock, however, took advantage of the second dropped catch by becoming the first of many of the day’s batsmen to retire for 20 before Cleaver showed the others how to catch the ball to remove Hunt for 7. Kent then quickly made up for his dropped catch, from his own first ball, clean bowling Scutt with his next effort for just 2.  B team captain Airey and Elliot managed to prevent further loss as the innings ended on a below-par 66-4 from 12.

Team B Captain Cox led from the front in his team’s response, rattling off a quickfire 22, including three fours and a six – more boundaries than the opposition had managed between them.  He was ably supported by Gardner M, who added another three boundaries to the total in his unbeaten 20.

In between those fine knocks Green S (the senior Green) compiled a painstaking 6 and an early victory was prevented by a late flurry of wickets as Gardner R fell to Airey for 5 showing no mercy to the junior element, Wilson was bowled by Hunt for 2, Cox P (who had travelled all the way from Christchurch to play) was run out for 3 and Cleaver was stumped from his first ball for 0. Despite this late drama, Team B cruised to victory with 4 balls remaining, reaching 71-4 at the close.

After a brief break, a weary Team A crawled slowly back on to the field to take on the refreshed Team C (refreshed by a few beers while waiting to start that is.)  McCaffrey, who seemed more ‘refreshed’ than most (possibly mixing something non-alcoholic but similarly narcotic with his diet coke) swung heartily to little avail as the innings got off to a slow start, only 5 runs coming from the first two overs. Wood’s slogged four from Hunt in the third over got things going however and the scoreboard ticked over a little quicker before McCaffery finally succumbed to Wisbach for 8. Buckley’s arrival saw the scoring rate quicken and when Wood was bowled by Gardner B for 16 in the 7th over it had reached a respectable 43-2.

The arrival of Dasika to join Buckley speeded things up further as the pair moved through the gears adding 29 runs in the next three overs before they both retired on 20 and 23 respectively, an unusually scratchy Van Doorn and Benson seeing the innings to its conclusion on a very healthy 83-2.

Team B started like a team whose fate was already sealed, captain Airey and Gardner B finding it hard to get after bowlers Watson and Dasika and after four overs the scoreboard had crept along to just 12. Things were about to get worse. New bowler Benson hit his stride immediately, clean-bowling Airey and Wisbach from successive balls. Buckley bowling at a pace that made Club Captain Stig’s ‘even slower ball’ look rapid, also started well having Haylock caught for just 1 to leave the B Team in deep trouble at 17-4 at the halfway stage. Fortunately Taylor D was settling in nicely and averted a total collapse, gradually moving the score up through the thirties and forties before retiring for a well-made 20. Bennett joined the patient Gardner B (who had somehow survived having his bail clipped by a quick ball from Green S – a controversial selection to bowl when acting as a sub fielder which drew howls of protest from the pavilion) Gardner saw his long innings finally came to an end with a run out as they managed to reach 63-4 to lose by 20 runs, their second defeat in a row.  On the plus side they now had first dibs at the burgers from the now fully lit barbecue carefully positioned so that the smoke was blowing directly towards the wicket and not forgetting beer (or other refreshments) as the two winning teams now had to play-off in what had become a final.

For the second game in a row Team C batted first, this time with bowling hero Benson opening with Van Doorn. Things got off to a sticky start when the latter was bowled for 0 by Green D but the arrival of Nitsch (complete with a runner) got things moving. The injured batsman’s stand-and-hit policy paid off immediately as he carved a couple of boundaries away to get the innings going – albeit batting with marginally less foot movement than usual gave him an excellent opportunity to test out his protective equipment (and recent hernia op scar) with one delivery from Green Sr. Ably supported by Benson the pair started to ensure that Team C would at least have a decent target to defend. More boundaries came from both batsmen as Nitsch retired on a rapid 21 to bring Taylor to the wicket, his innings starting with a fine drive from the much-feared opposition captain Cox. Benson finished his innings with a flourish, another boundary in a well-made 23. New batsmen Watson and McCaffrey perished for the cause, both chasing quick runs, the former bowled by Gardner M, the latter caught and bowled by Wilson. Wood joined Taylor G at the crease and the pair saw the innings home, a respectable 77 with Taylor G, 12 not out.

Team A sent out Cleaver and Kent E to try and win the game, and thus the competition, the latter’s innings quickly ended by Van Doorn, who despite captain’s instructions to bowl wide of the crease, clean-bowled the youngster for 0 (an identical delivery to an earlier ball that had had been belatedly called no-ball, mostly by the fielding side.) Green D joined Cleaver at the crease and the game went into a strange stalemate, the batsmen unable to get the ball away, and the bowlers bowling just wide enough to get away with it. Something had to give as the scoreboard slowly reached 19-1 from 7 overs, 59 required to win from just 5 overs.  Green D was then run out for 8, brutally sacrificed by the harsh Cleaver, and brother Green P quickly followed, caught behind by Wood off of Benson. Kent S was sent in to try and raise the scoring rate but quickly became the second run-out victim, a diving direct hit from the excellent Benson giving umpire Wisbach little choice but to reluctantly raise his finger. Taylor B now joined the fray but with 44 runs required from the last two overs things were looking bleak.

Cleaver, having tried to break new records by batting through the innings without reaching double figures, just failed in his bid, bowled by Nitsch for 8 to bring the team’s last hope, skipper Cox to the crease. Even for him it was a forlorn cause, after carving a four and a huge six from Wood’s first three balls he perished trying to repeat the trick, top-edging the ball high into the air to be well-caught by Nitsch for 14. The final ball of the innings saw Taylor B run out for 6 as Team B finished on 52-7, Team C running out comfortable winners by 25 runs.

Technically Team C won the day, but only thanks to a suspiciously biased team selection policy by the Club Despot, however it was all academic. The real winner was a great afternoon’s cricket, played in a good spirit by all, with everyone getting their chance to shine. Special mention should go to the Gardners – all three of the male members of the family managing to take a wicket for their troubles – but the individual Man of the Day award must go to Team C’s Benson, leading wicket-taker with 3, the only man to take two wickets in a spell, an unbeaten 23 with the bat and a direct run-out to boot.

Thanks to the many people who contributed to making it a fabulous day, particularly to Julie Gardner, Ellie and Holly who took on sorting the pile of burger buns and organising the food distribution (plus also the local Riding Mill team member whose name we all managed to forget for also taking on some of the barbecuing duty); Peter N for getting the food and the drink; Johnny B for his last-minute pitch mowing and, last but not least the venerable Mr Heslop for his excellent umpiring. And most importantly not to forget all the families who came and supported the event – hope they enjoyed a lovely end to the season as much as the players clearly did.

However even though the sport fixtures are over, don’t forget that we do run a social calendar.  This will include the Captain’s Curry Night (which Captain Stig has generously offered to pay (look at the last line of his report!) for everyone’s spicy repast) sometime during this autumn and, of course, the Annual Dinner which will be held towards the end of January where season stats will be revealed and those much coveted awards will be given out.



Mallards v KSOB @ Riding Mill August 24

It was, as the journalists say, a slow news day. The Rio Olympics had closed and after weeks of record-breaking, medal-winning athleticism the media had no more sporting prowess to report other than the contortions of a second-rate politician sitting on the floor of a Virgin train (all such mis-guided opinions are the second-rate writer’s own and definitely not those of the editor!). So when acting-captain Cox sent his first two batsmen out onto the sunlit fields of Riding Mill on Thursday 24 August, he had little idea that what was to follow would be a team display that would astound the viewing public and simultaneously consolidate the reputation of the appropriately named Mallards Cricket Club.

The first few overs progressed innocuously enough. Openers Kent and Taylor knocked the ball around smartly and the Kings School Old Boys attack, accurate and pacey though it was, were wicket-less: Mallards scoring 30 in five overs. Bowlers Ferris and Anderson were replaced and then the nature of the contest changed. Taylor was the first to go, playing three dot balls before skying a delivery from Black to be caught in the deep. He was replaced by Horner, who scored a quick couple of boundaries and so normal service was presumed to be restored. But then lanky, stubble-bearded D. Gregg came into the attack. His first delivery was laughable: hoisting a slow, high, looping ball into the ether with all the speed, venom and potential danger of an orbiting suet pudding. Falling to earth, however, it re-entered the troposphere with as much effect as Sir Isaac Newton’s apple, or Hitler’s first V1 buzz-bomb. That is to say its impact destroyed the rules of physics – it was revolutionary, game-changing; what Joseph Schumpeter would describe as an act of creative destruction. Kent was clean bowled for 18. Who was smiling now?

The rest of Gregg’s over was as blackly comedic as his first ball and though Horner was able to dispatch one delivery over the boundary, this gave no hint of what was to come. In his second over, Sandhu was shockingly clean bowled by another suet pudding from Gregg for 2. Incoming and just as rapidly outgoing, Jordon was clean bowled next by Gregg for a golden duck. Thompson blocked the potential hat-trick ball but swished away at the one that followed to be yet again clean bowled by Gregg for another duck. Horner, watching from the non-striker’s end could not believe the staggering surrender of his team mates…until he faced the slow-turning pudding thrower in his third over and was, you guessed it, clean bowled for 15. Gregg’s figures at this stage were three overs, 5 wickets – all clean-bowled [and all to ugly cross-batted swipes by the batsmen – ed.] – for 9 runs. After a brisk start, Mallards had subsided for 45 for 6 off nine overs. Blitzed!

Bennett and Cox came to the crease and, although able to stay there, could do little to dent Gregg’s figures – who retired after a fourth over that conceded only two more runs. With him gone, Bennett was eventually able to blast a six and a four before being caught going for another maximum at deep long-on. Cox added a curiously circumspect 7 and Rawlley 2. Mallards finished on a frugal 81 after 18 overs.

Haylock and Cleaver opened the bowling for Mallards and kept it fairly tight (barring a couple of looser deliveries) to hold the Old Boys to 24 after five overs – Haylock being rewarded with one batsman, Sample, holing out to Kent on the long-on boundary and the other batsman, Moir, hitting his own wicket going for a big sweep.

At this stage, King’s Old Boys were behind the run rate but now Roe and Latimer were in the middle and they promptly set to work to redress the balance. Despite the continuing efforts of Haylock, Cleaver and incoming bowlers Bennett, Cox and Horner, the score progressed rapidly. In desperation, Bennett even attempted to imitate the looping-pudding style of Gregg’s earlier artillery, but all to no avail. The required target of 81 was overhauled with no further loss of wickets in just twelve overs – the final run coming from a leg bye called by an unrepentant Roe denying his team-mate the chance to actually score the winning run off the bat. An ignominious finish.

Sprawled shell-shocked and defeated in the Wellington afterwards, all the Mallards could do was reflect on the carnage caused by a series of innocent-looking projectiles that ‘didn‘t come on to the bat,’ as some complained. And then came the final sting in the tail: in circulating the score-book, certain members were dismayed to discover that Old Boys batsman Latimer had knocked off 41 runs without retiring– thus denying the Mallards attack the chance of bowling at the King’s lower order and thereby the opportunity (well, it might have been possible!) of snatching victory at the death. A cruel post-script! [actually I think the retirement had been agreed at 50 – ed.]

A little later, when your correspondent phoned the BBC team on Test Match Special to say: ‘you won’t believe this cricket – it rivals the Olympics for entertainment!’ the reply came back: ‘You’re right. We don’t believe it.’ One Geoffrey Boycott added: ‘My uncle Algy could have done better with a stick of rhubarb’. Maybe that’s true. We are not called the Mallards for nothing.


Mallards v Umpires @ Bill Quay August 18

Mallards gathered at Bill Quay in fine spirits on a pleasant evening, looking forward to the always warm welcome and a game of cricket played in a friendly manner by our ever amiable hosts Bill Quay, or to give them their Sunday name – The Umpires.

Spirits were further raised by the news that we had international visitors. Mr and Mrs Cox having read (and I am reliably told, enjoyed) reports of Mallards (mis?) fortunes over the past 2 seasons via the wonders of the world wide web, decided to make the 20,648 mile round trip from Christchurch, New Zealand just to watch the Mighty Mallards in action, oh and to see their son Dave while they were here! At this point I should probably apologise to Mr and Mrs C as apparently they particularly enjoy the witty, well-written and occasionally educational match reports. Sadly the clever clogs that normally write the reports are all away or just couldn’t be a**** to write this one so you’re stuck with me doing it – a creatively challenged halfwit with the memory of a gold fish with Alzheimers! I would say thanks to the person who fed me that line on the night, but predictably I’ve forgotten who it was! As compensation I have included an appropriate photo atop this report to alleviate any homesickness that may have allayed our visiting Kiwis. Fortunately the scorebook was filled in impeccably for the Mallards innings, (less so for Bill Quay) so read on for an accurate(ish) account of the nights proceedings.

Mallards lost the toss and were invited to bat first. Steel and Butcher opened the innings and safely negotiated the 1st over with 3 singles coming from it. However Steel, clearly affected by the absence of Kent his usual opening partner, was unable to forge a lasting partnership with Butcher and he took an uncharacteristic swipe at the 1st ball of the 2nd over and was bowled by the fairly rapid (and considerably younger) Clayton for 2. Cox was in next and buoyed by the presence of his watchful parents and keen to impress, started fluently. He was enjoying the fast bouncy wicket and dispatched anything short, his first 3 scoring shots all being 4’s. Butcher was content to watch Cox deal with the pacier Clayton from the other end while trying his luck against the steady but largely unthreatening Hamblett. Cleary he was enjoying watching a little too much as after hitting a four through the covers he repeated the shot and stood admiring his efforts seemingly oblivious to the fielder sprinting round the boundary and Cox charging down the wicket screaming at him to run! Eventually Butcher started running and got lucky as the bowler fumbled a fine throw in from the boundary and another run was added to the total. Sadly he was unable to make the most of his reprieve as shortly afterwards he was comprehensively bowled by a fast full (inswinging?!) ball from Clayton for 6, with the score 29 – 2 at the start of the 6th. This quickly became 29 – 3 as Jordon could only get a glove to a shorter ball from Clayton and was caught behind. McCaffrey then joined Cox and they kept the score board moving with a mix of good hitting and enthusiastic running. Cox was in fine nick hitting 5 fours and a six in his 30 before retiring in the 8th with the score on 45.

Wood was in at 6, lower than usual as the skipper had finally succumbed to weeks of hinting (some might might say nagging) and planned to utilise his “much under-used” (his words not mine!) bowling later on. McCaffrey was batting nicely but was deceived by the pitch as he hit one straight back to the bowler instead of to the boundary as planned and fell for a entertaining 14. Beacock joined Wood and continued his recent run of form despite pulling a calf muscle and requesting a runner. Cox, now a grizzled veteran of the squad, had wisely kept his pads on and was clearly not in the mood for small talk with his parents despite them flying round the world to see him thus volunteered. Wood (who bizarrely also picked up a muscle pull) and Beacock both picked the gaps in the field nicely to bring the score to a healthy 92 – 4 after 14 before somewhat surprisingly Wood picked out a fielder for a fine 20 having helped put on 35 in 5 and a bit overs, despite the pair’s difficulty in running. Thompson and Benson then both fell cheaply, both caught off the bowling of Sweeney to leave the Mallards faltering on 98 for 7 after 16 overs. Beacock finally succumbed to his lack of mobility and was bowled for a very respectable 24 that included 4 fours. Haylock went down swinging a few balls later bringing Cox back to the crease again. With Cleaver picking up singles and Coxy hitting another 6 and 2 more 4s, 20 runs came off the last 2 overs to take the score to a very decent 130 with Cox finishing on 46, a great effort albeit short of the 50 that was mistakenly shown on the fancy electronic scoreboard!

Beacock was unable to take to the field so Wood took up the wicket keeping gloves despite his own  injury, unfortunately b****ing up the Skipper’s carefully thought-out bowling plans! Mallards did take to the field with an unexpected bowling replacement as Bill Quay native Tom Browne, who had been watching, kindly nipped home to change into his whites and sub for Peter but sadly as a sub he was ineligble to bowl [or put another way the captain was too polite to ask the opposition for permission – ed.].

The experienced Cleaver opened the bowling from the greenhouse end (your reporter can still hear the smashing of glass after his bowling was deposited over the fence several seasons ago!) and bowled well, beating the bat on several occasions and inducing a genuine edge through a sadly vacant 1st slip but also going for runs from a decent looking batting duo. The less experienced (at least for Mallards) Benson opened from the road end and was unlucky to see a very confident appeal turned down off his very first ball. Both bowlers had figures of 0 for 9 after 1 over and 0 for 15 after 2 but their fortunes then differed as Cleaver managed to get Howard caught behind by Wood in his 3rd over and finished his 4 overs with 1 – 27 which was pretty respectable in the face of some impressive batting. Sadly Benson took the brunt of some powerful hitting in his last 2 overs including 2 sizeable 6s finishing on 0 for 44 but at least managed to see off Sweeney as he retired on 35! Each 6 resulted in a change of ball, and it was at this point that our club despot, having finally turned up to spectate, elected to rummage in the team kitbag and throw a pink match ball into the ring.

With ball visibility vastly improved, Cox and Haylock took over bowling duties intent on slowing down the run rate, but although Cox cleaned up White with a beauty that had the umpire extolling its virtues, they went for 9 and 10 runs respectively in their first overs leaving Bill Quay on 90 – 2 after 10, seemingly on course for a comfortable victory. Cox and Haylock however had other ideas, Haylock bowling tightly  conceding just 12 runs off his next 3 to finish with 0- 22 off 4 overs and Cox really getting up a head of steam and bowling genuinely fast, beating the bat on numerous occasions in admittedly fading light and getting Little neatly caught behind by the stand-in keeper Wood off a thin edge to finish with 2 – 23 off his 4.  At 116 – 3 off 16 overs with the light getting worse and the big hitters seemingly back in the pavilion the game was still in the balance which had seemed unlikely just 6 overs previously. With Wood behind the stumps and the Skipper unconvinced his own unique brand of ‘even slower’ balls would do the trick, McCaffrey and Steel took over to try and finish the job. Sadly despite some decent bowling and 2 wickets for McCaffrey including a great catch in the deep by Cox (show off!) the Umpires managed to finish in style with a 6 to win by 5 wickets with 7 balls to spare. Special mention must go to stand-in keeper Wood who conceded just 1 bye in the entire innings despite having to keep to the very rapid Cox in poor light, with a couple of balls actually knocking Trev off his feet – top effort.

Unfortunately we were unable to get the win that both Dave Cox and his parents’ efforts deserved but none the less I think it was a hugely enjoyable game played in the right spirit – I know for certain that Bill Quay appreciate our efforts and always look forward to our visit which I think says a lot for Mallards both on and off the pitch. As always we retired to the bar where club despot Gareth did his best to lift everyone’s spirits by dishing out shed loads of crisps and even introducing Mrs C to the epicurian delights of pork scratchings – that’s got to be worth the trip alone!

On a personal note, I am now away on holiday for 2 weeks and will miss the rest of the season (no cheering please!) so would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has played this season and made my first season as skipper such an enjoyable one despite scoring even less runs than usual! Also thanks to Dave McGuinness for sorting fixtures, Pete Nitsch for looking after the Riding Mill pitch, Leon and Peter for financial wrangling, Vice Skippers Glen and Dave C for winning more games than me! and last but not least Gareth for being the glue that holds Mallards together. Apologies if I have forgotten anyone!

Go well for the rest of the season and keep your eyes peeled for news of the ‘Captain’s Curry Night’ to be held in October(ish).  I’ve just come up with the name so no fixed plans yet but pretty sure it will involve the Captain and curry! And I will gladly pay for everyone who comes! [this last sentence may have been edited slightly – ed.]

Mallards v Genetics @Riding Mill August 3

The Old Firm, El Classico, The Ashes,  Ali/Frazier, Connors/McEnroe, Prost/Senna….all classic examples of sporting rivalries, and all, without question, infinitely more skilful than the talents on show in the bi-annual Mallards/Genetics cricket contest.

Under gloomy skies, and with a decidedly poor weather forecast, these two giants of North East friendly cricket gathered to do battle for the first time this year for the coveted Jon Robinson trophy.

A quick head count saw both skippers agreeing to 12 a side, and Genetics captain Gardner won the toss and elected to bat, just as the drizzle began to fall.

Gardner and Ashwini were the Genetics openers, with Cox starting from the end that normally has the sun behind it, not tonight.  Cox with excellent lines and finding an edge from Gardner that ran down to the third man boundary. Watson started from the field end and grabbed a breakthrough with the last ball of the over, Gardner caught by McCaffrey, 11-1 after 2 overs.

Tarbuck strode to the crease and Cox found another edge – this time wicketkeeper Kent deflected the ball away from the always reliable Scott at 1st slip.  Scott’s chance would come again though, as Tarbuck got a thick edge from Watson’s bowling in the very next over. Down it went again however.  Ashwini was into his stride now, launching Cox for an impressive straight six, and continuing to score quickly off new bowlers Bateman and Dunhill.  Dunhill did take the wicket of Tarbuck for 13, going through his shot too early and seeing the ball smack into the top of off – textbook.

Ashwini had his feet up in the pavilion by now having retired, the rain was starting to get heavier, as were the bowlers, with Scott now coming on to bowl.  Bennett and Van Doorn were the two new batsmen, Gibbons kept it tight at the other end, Scott offered up a juicy full toss to Bennett which was despatched with ease.  After 8 overs Genetics were accelerating on 58/2.  Scott, however, picked up his first wicket this season, bowling van Doorn for a well-made 13, before Bennett hit a six to earn his retirement.

Taylor sent down a very tidy over indeed, how it went for 20 runs I’ll never know!  Wood then bowled a load of dross that only went for 1 run.  I’m writing this a few days after the game and can’t be entirely sure I’ve got the descriptions right for the two bowlers here…. (was so tempted to correct this – Ed.)

McCaffrey removed Jordon for a duck, clean-bowled and Deon perished to skipper Butcher LBW for 18.

Lucas joined in with the wicket of Hamid, bowled for 0.  After 17 overs Genetics had got to an impressive 129/6 – now with Goulding and Wisbach at the crease, McCaffrey putting down an identical chance to the one he caught earlier. Goulding began finding boundaries with ease and was supported well by Wisbach – who eventually fell to a fine delivery from Bateman, full and swinging in, not much he could have done about that.  That was to prove the final wicket as Mitcheson smashed a quality 4 in the final over to bring the innings to a close on 150/7.  An intimidating target.

The target looked to be even more unlikely as the rain began to get heavier and heavier, travelling Dave Heslop announcing “it doesn’t look very good over there”.

Still, as the Senior Groundsman was on holiday and nobody wanted to be the one to text him and ask if we could keep playing, we carried on.  Kent and Taylor to the crease.  With such a large target ahead boundaries and quick singles were crucial, Taylor however did seem intent on running the quickest singles ever to be taken in the history of quick singles.  Kent was having none of it, sending him back with metronomic regularity.  It was Goulding that was to strike first, bowling Taylor for 1.  (The scorebook said 0 but Taylor, suspiciously changed it to 1 post-match – ed.)

McCaffrey came in next, timed a gorgeous cut shot for 2 off Goulding, and then tried the same shot the next ball only to clip it straight to an unnamed fielder – who was doing the scorebook??!!! The rain continued to fall, it must have been bad as B. Taylor sent down a slower ball.  Lots of umming and ahh-ing on the boundary, should we call it off?  We were 12/3 after 4 overs, with Wood departing for 0, also to Gouding. The verdict was unanimous (amongst the Mallards) we’d best call this off lads.

Cox smashed a 4 then a 6 off Wisbach’s first two balls of the 5th over – that rain really wasn’t that bad you know and there were definitely gaps in the clouds.  The wicket now looked like something a “tough mudder” would enjoy, but that was frankly irrelevant.  Sensing defeat, Gardner called it when offered by umpire Taylor and sadly that was the last play of the evening as the covers went on [in a spree of coordination that the Chuckle bros would have been proud of – ed.].

With no hope of further play it was off to the pub, where the fun continued.  Could Genetics statisticians please record a drop from Gardner, as his packet of crisps went tumbling behind the bar and into the slops bucket.

Good craic & average cricket, the hallmark of these two fine teams.  Match fees were collected for fundraising in memory of Jon Rob.  Fingers crossed for better weather for the second fixture in a few weeks (and firing up the BBQ!).

Mallards v Ovingham @ Clara Vale July 27

One of the best things about playing at Clara Vale is the trip to The Boathouse afterwards. The Boathouse is a wonderful pub, good enough that the best of us can drop our guards. It started when Tony Cleaver, a multiple-times published author, revealed he has never written a Mallards match report and despite much peer pressure and goading, he couldn’t be convinced to write this one. So, with undeserved levels of confidence I offered to act as ghostwriter and write in the style of an economist. Unfortunately I know precisely nowt about this topic, and after a night spent researching the 2008/9 resurgence in Keynsian theory, I concluded that a) the level of bullshit inherent in the world of economics far exceeds that which is acceptable in a MCC match report, and b) by pursuing this field, Tony has wasted his life.

I of course invite TC to reply to this accusation by writing the next report. 

2016 has been reasonably kind to the Mallards, with plenty of new faces showing up through the year, however it was a collection of grizzled old pros that gathered at Clara Vale to take on Ovingham . A couple of late team changes saw Bennett take Taylor’s place for MCC, while Jordon, perhaps looking to put in a case for the friendly fire award, donned opposition colours for the evening.

Stig either won or lost the toss, and we were to bat first on a pitch that was only discernible from the outfield by the presence of creases at each end. Kent and Steel were first up and started strongly. Both batsmen were able to negotiate the extremely variable bounce with apparent ease, and rattled the score along to 43 in the 7th over before Kent retired (25 being the house rules for retirement score). Cox was in at three and looked to pick up where Kent left off, hitting a quick pair of boundaries.

Steel was the first man out, trying to go over the top and sending a steepler to long-off from the bowling of Wallbank. This started a bit of a wobble, Cox tried to lift bowler Drake over long on only to be caught right on the rope for 11.

Wilson and Lucas continued to look positive, but both fell cheaply, for 2 and 5 respectively. The score faltered along to 84/4 after 13; still solid but these well travelled folk know just how wrong a good start can go. Beakers and Bennett however, had set out on a wonderful partnership, finding that same rhythm that Kent and Steel had earlier on. They moved the score on to 112 before Bennett reached 25 and retired in the 17th.

Butcher, wielding Lucas’s new (or new-looking anyway!) bat and under clear instructions to not damage it, showed Lucas exactly who was in charge of who as he hammered his first ball backward of square for four. The 17th was a good over for us, as we took 16 runs off it, and we were looking set for a decent score. Beakers was properly into his stride now too, and the last few overs were seen out, ending in a massive score of 145/4;  Beacock 21* and Butcher 11*, T Drake the best of the bowlers with 3/22. I’m pretty sure this is our best total in the last couple of years.

By this stage, the sun was out and the evening was promising to turn into a cracker, just right for some Boathouse beer-garden action! We slowly prepared for the defence of our score, with TC positively chomping at the bit to get amongst it – he must have marked out his run four or five times by the time the batsmen appeared.

145 was a good score, but a practised eye could see a few batsmen amongst their lot, so no eggs were being counted at this stage. Cleaver and van Doorn shared the new ball, and fears about batting talent were shown to be realised. Whilst not getting out of hand, there weren’t many signs of taking wickets either. And the two openers, Ashfield and Miller were able to keep a rate of 6 and over going without much bother, however some good fielding stopped things from spiralling. At 36/0 after 6, the first bowling change came with Cox replacing Cleaver and McGuinness replacing van Doorn.

Neither were able to find the breakthrough, and both openers soon reached 25 and retired. New batsmen Tate and Jordon were unable to match the earlier pace and a few quiet overs quickly pushed the needle back towards MCC. However we were still wicketless after 12 overs when the next bowling change came at 67/0.

Bennett finally found the breakthrough in the 13th however, as Jordon was caught by Cleaver for 1. The calm was disturbed a little in the next over as Wilson took a while to find his line, no thanks to the umpire (I’m looking in your direction, Taylor!) Bennett struck again in his second over, as Tate was caught by Lucas, doing his best Trevor impression and hitting the deck hard afterwards. He later claimed it was cramp – nobody believed him.

By this point the game was still up for grabs, at 97/2 after 16. But the skipper had faith and brought on Steel (remember that hat-trick anybody?) in the 17th. Steel didn’t disappoint and teamed up with Beacock for a stumping off his first ball. At the other end, Butcher brought himself on and managed to ignore the sledging from his own camp to bowl a very tight line.

The score tottered along to 119/3 after 19 overs. 27 required off the last, surely we were safe…

Bang, Stig strikes, a fine overhead catch from Kent at midwicket and they’re four down with three balls left and still on 119. Seven runs off the final three ballls weren’t enough and MCC had done well to keep our nerve after a strong start by the opposition to clinch victory by 19 runs.

Cap it off with a wonderful sunset down the pub, and it was not a bad evening at all. However next week sees the first of this year’s John Rob Cup matches, so let’s hope the strong form continues – I have a good feeling this year!

Mallards v Davipart @ Riding Mill July 20

On a rather hot and sweaty evening at Riding Mill, Mallards turned up as prepared as their fellow professionals playing in the test match at Lords days earlier. However, unlike England, there was no kit bag as Gareth was running late. So the tried and tested saying of ‘whoever has kit, can open the batting’ was echoed around the pavilion end by captain Stig.  As Kent, Cox and Wisbach chuckled off to the pavilion to get padded up, the batting line-up was pencilled in. Kent and Cox to open, Wisbach at the prestigious number 3 position.

They all clambered out of the home dressing room, sweating like they had been on a treadmill in a sauna, but to Wisbach’s surprise, McGuiness had cobbled together some old batting pads from the bin, women’s gloves and a dodgy looking bat that looked like it had been plucked from a charity shop.

Nevertheless, Wisbach [suffering from vertigo? – ed.] was happy to let McGuiness jump into the number 3 spot.

Kent and Cox marched on to open and started well. They swiftly moved onto 47-0, when Cox had to retire (30) after smashing 2 sixes and 3 fours. Jeff Thomson being hit to all parts by the aggressive Cox. In came McGuiness. Kent fell next for 15 after looking well set for another retirement (probably confused by what he was seeing at the other end) caught and bowled Umar. Luckily for Mallards the skillful Wisbach strode up to the crease to join the hapless McGuinness.

McGuiness and Wisbach put on a few runs, including a lovely swashbuckling four from McGuiness. The next ball he repeated the exact same shot, and as the crowd looked to the boundary, the bowler, Hakim, celebrated as the stumps lay on the floor. Captain Butcher next in to steady the ship.

Wisbach then fell (2) to a classy delivery from Umar, pitching the ball half way down, it stopping in the pitch to then dipped under the pull shot and hit the top of the wicket. Joe Root would have struggled to fend of such a deceiving delivery! (no prizes for guessing who wrote this report!) 59-3. Taylor in next.

Taylor was struggling to get the ball away due to some nifty bowling from Umar (finishing with amazing figures 3-2-2-2) and Dhillon, while Butcher had better luck hitting a beautiful four to the bench boundary and scampering singles on a regular basis. Alas, it did not last. A full ball from Dhillon and a mighty swish took care of Butcher (7) who came back to the pavilion thinking he had to try and ‘hit out’ as there were so few overs left. Once the scorers had pointed out there were over 7 overs left, he realised he had misread the scoreboard and slumped onto the bench in disappointment. But he shouldn’t have been too upset, as Beacock was in at 72-4

Taylor managed to negotiate some singles but he also succumbed to the ever impressive Dhillon, bowled (3). 77-5. Mexter in.

Mexter dealt with the dangerous Dhillon for two balls and then smashed him high and far in the air. Unfortunately he had picked out a young, galloping Saif, who ran 5 meters in 3 seconds and pouched the ball, which was drifting over his head. Dhillon finished (3-1-7-3)  Mexter gone (0) 77-6.

Benson and Beacock (sounds like a comedy duo) were left to try and somehow make some progress against some accurate bowling.

Beacock started well with two 2s, while Benson contributed with some well-ran singles. Beacock continued the singles theme and then the party started! Jeff Thompson returned for his final over.

An array of boundaries followed, Beacock playing like Steve Waugh hitting 3 fours in 6 balls and Benson chipping in with a boundary of his own, both batsmen hitting Thompson (4-0-38-0) and then Anderson in the final over. Benson was run out (10) and the final delivery saw Beacock bowled Anderson (1-0-8-1)for an inspirational 23. 108-7 after 20 overs.

Davipart started well, hitting Browne and Van Doorn for 22 off the first 3 overs. But then Van Doorn struck.  Sandhu (16) caught behind magnificently by the youthful Beacock, who dived low to the right and took a great catch, 26-1. Two balls later the dangerous D Rawley (3) was caught well by Kent off van Doorn. 29-2, Mallards back in the game! The remainder of the report does not last long however.

Anderson and Y Rawley must have left the oven on at home, as both seemed to be in a bit of a rush. A flurry of boundaries from the slugger ‘One Shot’ Anderson and some giant hitting from the talented Y Rawley, which included 3 sixes and 2 fours propelled the score on. Y Rawley retiring on 33, leaving bowling figures in tatters behind him. Browne (4-0-31-0) and Van Doorn (3-0-33-2) were the unlucky ones who faced the brunt of the ovens being left on. 83-2 by the time Y Rawley had retired.

Cox and Mexter were now on, trying valiantly to stem the flow and both bowled well in the circumstances against Anderson who was continuing to do his best impression of Babe Ruth and swinging wildly at everything. More boundaries and a six followed and the run chase was down to single figures. Cox finished with a quite impressive tally (3-0-16-0) and Mexter was left to bowl the last over to Anderson, who felt it right to turn down a long single as he wanted to hit the winning runs. But he did not get the chance and had to take a single to then [rather grumpily – ed.] retire (30). Hakim hit the winning boundary off Mexter (2.4-0-19) and the players made their way back to the sauna pavilion.

A big defeat with Davipart chasing the runs down in 13 overs, but overall Davipart were far better on the night. Mallards can take positives against a good team however. Especially man of the match Beacock, who showed more than half the team how to bat properly!

Mallards v Sparta @ Riding Mill July 5

Sparta have become somewhat of a bogey team for the Mallards over recent years so the question was could the revitalized Mallards of 2016 vintage break the hoodoo?

For those of you who aren’t fans of the lengthy Mallards match reports, a clue to the outcome of the game can be found in Peter Nitsch’s post match remark, “well aa’al the Sparta lads are cricketers!” (Peter can be hired for motivational speaking – just contact the bar staff in the Welly)

Anyhow back to the game.  Glenn (balls of) Steel was standing in for Butcher as captain and with Beakers having a fitting for his new mask. Steve (cymbals) Kent was behind the stumps.  The book doesn’t record whether Mallards won the toss, but the end result was that Mallards would have a bowl. Steel turned to the dependable Dunhill and the Blyth Bullet (Watson) to open the bowling.  If you can be arsed to read on, this pair emerge as the starring players in this match report.  Sparta’s opening batsman (Nelson) decided he was in no mood for messing around and quickly set about Dunhill hitting 6 runs off the first 3 balls.  However, the wily old fox {or is that ferret? – ed.} struck back with his 4th ball pouching a sharp caught and bowled effort to knock Nelson off his column.

At the tree & chair end Watson’s first over was steady but produced no further breakthroughs.   So back to the wily old fox who instructed McGuinness to drop to deep mid on for the start of his second over.  The field change produced instant results as Pearson holed out to McGuinness (for his 6th catch of the season) reducing Sparta to 12 for 2.  Could Mallards be about to break the Sparta hoodoo? Please, read on….

The Blyth Bullet (poor man’s Ashington Express) piled on the pressure but could not quite make the breakthrough and at the end of the 4th over Sparta had moved on to 23 for 2. Spratt had been causing Mallards plenty of problems but in the 5th over he became Dunhill’s 3rd victim, clean bowled for 15.  Watson’s third yielded just 2 runs as Sparta nudges into the thirties and  Dunhill’s final over was notable for what could have been.  First Dunhill failed to keep hold of a fierce caught and bowled chance and then the usually dependable McGuinness spilled a steepler on the boundary.  Sadly a very rare Mallard’s five wicket hall had slipped from Dunhill’s grasp, however, his figures of  4 overs 3 wickets for 10 runs were still mighty impressive. Could the evening get any better for Dunners?

Watson finished his spell of 4 overs with no reward for 25 runs.  Sparta stuttering at 39 for 2 from 8 overs.  Mallards were in need of a strike bowler, Wood had been whirling his arms like a newly installed wind turbine but skipper Steel had other ideas turning to the ace up his sleeve Aly Hall.  Hall was joined in the attack by Kiwi Cox.  Hall’s and Cox’s first overs both went for 6 as Sparta began to go through the gears. Marshall was particularly punishing and took a liking to Hall’s swing bowling. At the end of the 11th over Sparta had moved on to 65 for 3.  The Mallards were desperately in need of a wicket to break the Sparta momentum. And, on cue, up stepped (Dickie Hadlee) Cox to bowl Douglas and then Simpson in successive overs slowing Sparta to 66 for 4 off 12 overs.  Hall (3 overs 0 for 22) was given the hook by Steel and on in his place came Joel ‘Big Bird’ Mexter.  Mexter started with a canny over which conceded 5 runs.   At the other end Dickie Hadlee (Cox) was really hitting his straps and causing the Sparta batsmen all kinds of problems but sadly his spell had to come to end (4 overs, 2 for 10).  Steel began to scratch his head, who could join Mexter to finish the innings?  Wood by this point was whirling his arms like a windmill in a force 10 gale but Steel once again ignored , the eager ex-skipper, opting for the Mallards {allegedly – ed.} leading (but slightly expensive) wicket-taker McGuinness.  Langley took an instant liking to McGuinness’ buffet bowling, whacking him for 16 quickfire runs before McGuinness caught him ‘rope a dope’ style – plum in front lbw. At the other end ‘Big Bird’ Mexter began to bound in to the calypso beat, first Langley (6) and then Hunter for 0 were dismissed, both caught by Wood, who performed his customary ‘I have been shot by a sniper’ roll on the floor for both catches).

The scorebook begins to dry up at this point but Sparta ended their innings at around 115 runs from their 20 overs with the impressive Marshall unbeaten on 36 after returning for another go at the tiring Mallards attack. Mexter finished with the impressive figures of 3 overs 2-14.  McGuinness’ figures are frankly as embarrassing as they have been most of the season but he did manage to snaffle his 10th wicket of the season (blatant self-promotion).

Mallards strode out to bat, chasing a gettable total somewhere between 115-120, (thanks to the lackadaisical scorekeeping).  The spring in the Mallards batsmen’s step did not last long as Langley bowled majestically removing Kent with the 3rd ball of his opening wicket maiden.  Cox joined Steel at the wicket but runs still proved hard to come by and despite doggedly hanging around for a few overs Steel perished for 1 in the fourth over driving straight to a fielder (like a bullet out of a gun – according to the skipper).  Mallards were rocking on 14 for 2.  Cox had managed to eke out a few runs but was not at his fluent best.  Next in was Hall who also found scoring runs against the miserly Sparta attack tough. Sparta by this point where using the opportunity to give the whole team some bowling practice, switching bowlers every 2 overs, unfortunately, for Mallards it seems the whole Sparta team can turn their arm over.

Cox eventually began to find his radar and hit a few good boundaries. He was ably supported by Hall as they steadied the good ship Mallard.  By the 9th over Mallards had managed to grind their way to 46.  However, Hall perished in the next over for a useful 12.  Swiftly followed by Wood who was run out by a direct hit for 1 whilst trying to up the scoring rate.  Next in was Lucas who managed to keep Cox company for a while and also score 2 lusty boundaries. Sadly Lucas was caught in the 12th over going for another big hit.  Cox was also soon to retire after a persistent innings of 30.  Next at the crease and bound to strike fear into the Sparta attack were new batsmen, Jordan and McGuinness at the wicket.  Jordan wasted no time in going for a quick/kamakazi single which resulted in his innings ending, run out for 0. ‘That’s another fine mess you have got me into Stanley’, Jordan was heard to utter as he trudged from the crease.  McGuinness faired little better and struggle to pick Marshall who couldn’t decide whether to bowl spin or medium pace. He rapidly dispatched McGuinness for another duck (McGuinness obviously not giving up the Mallards Duck Award without a fight).

Mallards were really in the soup now, the scorebook {again, grrrrr – ed.} is a little hazy but it looks as a flurry of wickets left them at 74 for 7.  Next in was Mexter who survived possibly the plumbest LBW shout of the century thanks to Wood’s myopic umpiring only to fall a couple of balls later for 2.  By this point it was looking hopeless for Mallards. The defiant Watson managed to thump a rare boundary but runs were proving increasingly hard to come by for the Mallards’ tail.  With Cox eager to return to the fray Watson set off for a very ambitious single which left Dunhill stranded in the traps.  The usually phlegmatic Dunhill proceeded to explode, grinding to a halt, hands on hips in the centre of the wicket and bellowing at Watson, “Are you f%@!ing stupid????”.  This grossly un-Mallardian conduct puts Dunhill neck and neck with another Mallard (who shall remain nameless) for the Strop of the Year Award.  Despite successfully getting Cox back to the wicket Watson now struggled to hit the ball to get the Kiwi All-star back on strike.  Watson was then caught off the bowling of Roe for 4 and the Mallards innings petered out with a whimper.  The scorebook is very ropey and it appears the Mallards innings ended on somewhere around 95 a good 20 to 30 runs short of the Sparta total – whatever that ended up being….

Both teams headed for the Wellington whilst Dunhill headed home for his tomahawk as Watson cowered in the changing rooms fearing the murderous glint in Dunhill’s eye.  In truth, Mallards were outplayed by Sparta but who cares, we play for the fun, the camaraderie and amazing gongs at the end of season do!  Long live the good ship Mallard and all who sail in her!!!

Mallards v Durham Staff @ Riding Mill July 13

And so, with political turmoil all around, this season’s festival of cricket continued. It was a chance not only to banish the previous nights memory of Benwell and Walbottle but also repay the visitors for their early season 50-run victory – grey towers, massive piles, the odd black eye and all. Could the 13th be lucky for Mallards or would we end adrift of the run rate, like a Mallardian Boris Johnson suspended mid-air on a zip wire, podgy midriff garrotted by a safety harness.

With captain Stig not present, tossing duties fell to Glen ‘Deputy PM’ Steel. Mallards were down to bat first. He ordered his Cabinet and strode out statesmanlike with Kent to open. The scorebook records an austerity start (more dots than braille?) in the first over supplemented by some unforeseen tax receipts courtesy of a couple of extras. However, the sun was shining (ish) and the duo set about fixing the proverbial roof before Kent fell for 14 (bowled Boothroyd S) and Deputy PM Steel was caught off Costello for 9.

Roofwork duty was duly taken up by Messrs’ Cox and Bennett. Together they ensured a solid measure of fiscal probity before the next deficit in the wicket column. Cox was the victim, bowled by Gillespie for 18 in the 14th. This included a mahoosive 6 that initially threatened the actual clubhouse roof before sailing clean over it. Chief whip duties then passed to Bennett who retired shortly afterwards on 31.

With the score at 85 for 3 at the end of the 15th the batting order had sufficient depth left to unleash some capital expenditure. Secretary of State for Fixtures (Home Sec?) McGuiness connected his blade for a fine 4 before being caught shortly afterwards for 5 off the bowling of Gillespie. This was followed by a partnership between Bateman and CLucas – well I say partnership the former scored some free flowing runs while the latter toe-ended a couple of singles and tried to keep running between the wickets while realising how unfit he was.

At 109 off 19 the Mallards Cabinet realised more would probably be needed and started to make some calculated spending pledges. The markets reacted with volatility. First Bateman departed off Boothroyd (S) for 16. This brought in club Chancellor Mexter who was also bowled while swinging at one for the team. Browne faced the hatrick ball but nonchalantly saw this off before dispatching the next for 4. The last ball saw another Browne connection and a frantic attempt to maximise runs by returning for a third. This just thwarted when CLucas was run out due to the juxtaposition of a direct hit and being knackered.

The Mallard balance sheet recorded a total of 121 for 7. Would our credit rating be sufficient? Had the roof been fixed enough? The exit poll was in doubt given Durham’s previous 134 against us earlier in the season. However, that was in the vicinity of their massive piles and the pollsters had been wrong before!

After a swiftish turnaround and some watering of the Thames, it was the opposition’s right of reply. Deputy PM Steel set out his manifesto on the field with Browne and a fired-up Cox first out of the battlebus to bowl. However, Durham came out fighting and had 25 on the board by the end of the third. Cox then drew first blood, trapping English LBW for 14. English initially attempted to drown out the opposition cries before quickly remembering he was not in the Commons and departing with an apology.

Browne completed his spell (3-0-20-0) and was replaced by Bateman in the 7th who quickly claimed the next scalp – Gillespie for 17 – caught by Home Secretary McGuiness who was delighted to bag another contribution to his ‘perfect palms’ catching battle with Poet Laureate Wood.

The end of Cox’s spell (4-0-22-1) saw Cleaver enter the fray to complement Bateman. The scorebook fell a bit short of the Hansard standard at this point but a couple of things were evident and dimly remembered:

* the free scoring Whitfield retired on 30
* Cleaver removed Verna for 19 (caught by Cox), Wastell for 0 (caught by Bateman and appears to have finished with figures of 3-0-10-2
* Watson bowled Boothroyd (S) for 17 – and finished on 3-0-16-1
* Party Chairman Taylor arrived to check on progress and cheer us on
* Wrede was run out for 2 by a Mexter Cleaver combo

*Cox made a stunning two handed diving catch attempt that slipped from his grasp at the last together with a Spumanti nomination. Alas all he had to show for it was a very creditable entry for stain of the year award (grass!!) – sponsored by Vanish.

Over and above all of this was the fact that Durham’s initial run rate had been slowed by excellent Mallards teamwork. This meant that with the opposition requiring 7 off the last over to win, it was tight and close, even tighter and closer than Lycra on an overweight middle-aged man struggling up a hill on a billion pound bike one Sunday morning.

The honour of closing out fell fittingly to Iron Chancellor Mexter. We had fixed our roof but theirs had developed a hole. Could we piss through it? Four singles and a dot ball meant it was last ball do or die. The Iron Man had it. Ice in his veins he delivered on target and Boothroyd (I) was unable to get a clean strike away. In their desperate search for run he was dispatched by a swift Bennett throw and stumping from Kent (who had chosen to take to the field spurning the now trade marked Hannibal Beacock keeper gimp mask).

Mexter finished on 2-0-18-0, Mallards had won by 2 runs and the sound of satisfied Mallardian banter filled the home dressing room. All was well in the world – until 5 minutes later when we found out Boris Johnson has been named Foreign Secretary. Yes the real one, chauffeured car and everything. One is tempted to say that rather limits future photo ops of mid air zip wire suspension. Then again…

Mallards v Benwell & Walbottle @ Walbottle Campus July 12

Right, let’s try this again shall we? Last time we travelled to Walbottle Campus we just about needed snow chains, so a repeat fixture was arranged for the height of summer. So on a cool and overcast day, and with the odd shower floating around, we gathered gradually and it wasn’t long before last week’s outstanding result at Burnmoor was being dissected in minute detail. Confidence was high in the camp and it was with a bounce in his stride (or maybe he was just jogging because he was late), Skipper Stig strutted out for the toss. Which he lost. Nevertheless, Mallards took to the field in great humour, mainly thanks to the sight of Hannibal Beacock in his brand new gimp mask (see above).

2.3 overs later, and with opening bowlers McGuinness and Watson now in the foetal position and twitching alarmingly, opening batsman Black was walking off retired on 33. We had seen a brutal display of hitting, two fours, four sixes and a solitary single – a leading edge that had dropped agonisingly close to Jordon’s outstretched hands at short cover. If there was more of this to follow we were in for a long 20 overs.

Once again scorebook details are a little sketchy as ours hadn’t been filled in for their innings, but I can tell you that things settled down a touch after that, the score ticked along from 38/0 after just three overs, to 67/0 after eight. Still a fair clip but the rate was coming down. Watson (4-0-31-0) and McGuinness (4-0-29-0) recovered well from the early onslaught but neither were able to find the breakthrough.

The fielding was tidy on a difficult outfield; a short boundary on one side, and a long downhill slope on the other. Cox gets special mention for a brace of fine diving stops on the short boundary (and because he’s writing the article), as does Jordon for several sharp stops in close. As a reward for biggest grass stain, Cox was brought on to bowl, with Wisbach at the other end. The run rate continued to come down but the breakthrough eluded us.  Singh reached 31 and retired, but then Wisbach struck. Wood, who is enjoying a most un-Mallardly competitive contest with McGuinness for most catches in a season, pouched one at mid-on, complete with a trademark unnecessary tumble, claiming Robson for 2.

Wisbach struck again in his next over, with Robbie caught and bowled for a duck. After 16 overs, the score was 103/2, Wisbach’s figures (4-0-26-2), spoiled by an expensive last over. Cox finished wicketless but was frugal (4-1-9-0). B&W’s other opener, Harrington who was the ice to Black’s earlier fire was harshly retired for 15 at some point around now.

Wood (2-0-10-0) and Butcher (2-0-11-0) were given the responsibility of closing the innings out and did so admirably, as the innings ended on 125/2. A much less intimidating score than what could have been.

Kent and Steel took up the reply, after their magnificent opening stand in Burnmoor, but immediately it seemed like tough going. Timing the ball seemed to be a struggle, in fact the first ball that Steel got out of the middle went straight to cover and he was caught for 2. Cox came in at three, looking to move things along, but also struggled, dropped twice early on. However he and Kent did manage to rotate the strike well until Kent misjudged a single and was run out for 16, with the score at 43 in the 10th over.

The run rate was becoming an issue, but the batsmen seemed unable to do much about it, perhaps it was the pink ball, as some theories suggested. Cox continued to swing but without much success, before being stumped for 24. Wood followed shortly after, bowled for 4 with the score at 58/4 off 13.

Stig and Thompson set about the rebuild, starting to find a bit of freedom and getting the score to 90 before Stig was bowled for 16 in the 18th over. Jordon was bowled for a duck, bringing Beacock to the crease. Unfortunately there was not enough time to chase down the remaining runs and the innings closed at 96/6, with the not out batsmen Thompson (16) and Beacock (3).

In the end it was their early run explosion that was the difference, and fair play as we weren’t able to match it. Never mind, our fixtures list this year ensures that there’s a chance for redemption just around the corner.