Mallards v Benwell & Walbottle April 29

A new cricket season. A new captain for Mallards. Would this be the start of a new dawn, a new day for Mallards’ fortunes or would the familiar travails and woes continue to replicate the decades of misfortune, misdemeanour and missed catches that preceded it?

It all started off so well with new captain Buckley losing the toss and being asked to field, which is what he would’ve done anyway had he won the toss. Taking to the field in glorious sunshine, calm winds and a slight air of trepidation, Mallards opened with Jha and Malik. Jha wasn’t too confident about things, stating he hadn’t turned his arm over in anger for over 8 months however, this made Buxom think he was an ideal opening bowler. The captain was proved right as Jha’s line was perfect from the off with only 2 coming from it – one of them a bye. Malik opened from the far end bowling down the hill and got a wicket in his first over, using that tried and trusted technique of obtaining no bounce whatsoever from the pitch and clean-bowling the batsman (E Horbury). The decent line and length continued from both bowlers Jha keeping it tight from the pavilion end and Malik claiming another 2 wickets in his 2nd over – same dismissal style as Horbury. Jha finally got the wicket his bowling deserved in his 3rd over and, after 5 overs, Benwell & Walbottle were sitting at a lowly 18-4! B&W’s batsmen were out thus: Horsbury – 0; Smith – 7; Casey – 8; Amir – 0. All clean-bowled!

Malik continued with his 3rd over but, during it, managed to damage a finger getting his hand in the way of a sharp caught & bowled chance. At the end of the over, he went off to get treatment. Jha finished off his spell and finished with figures of 4-0-16-1 – a great effort. Nitsch had come on to replace young Malik and got the wicket of Wheat (out for 6), who was splendidly caught by Jha diving to his right at square leg. This brought Jenkinson to the crease. There was a distinct defensive element to his play. As a reward for getting a wicket in his first over, Buxom gave Nitsch a second over (even though Malik was back on the pitch) and he came ever so close to getting a second wicket when Ridley edged and was dropped by Beacock. Would this prove our undoing? Nitsch finished with 2-0-14-1 as Ridley thanked Beacock for dropping him by hitting Nitsch for a huge six up the hill over McCaffery’s head which bounced back off the metal fence onto the pitch!

Mexter came on to replace Jha and, in his second over, got the wicket of Jenkinson for 1, who was out LBW, clearly someone who only understood half of the Morse Code – plenty of dots but certainly no dashes! He took it as gracefully as ever. After 11 overs, B&W were 47-6! Only 7 overs left to go. All Mallards needed to do was keep it tight. Ridley had other ideas and, over the course of the next few overs, took it upon himself to use his reprieve from being dropped on very low single figures and retired on 30 not out. He’d been well supported by Draper who was now joined at the crease by Hayes. This partnership saw out the final few overs and scored quite regularly. Mexter finished with 4-0-14-1, Malik with figures of 4-0-20-3 and Latif, who’d replaced Nitsch at the far end, ended with figures of 4-0-26-0 – not a true reflection of his bowling as he had a couple of shots fall just short or go just over the despairing attempts of the Mallards fielders. Benwell & Walbottle finished on 93-6 off 18 overs, basically doubling their score in the last 7 overs. A great effort from Mallards though and they should feel a little hard-done by. Extras were very low too, only 8!

Mallards’ requirement wasn’t too difficult. 94 off 18 overs, a run-rate of only 5.2 an over. Less than a run a ball for those of you who aren’t overly mathematically astute! Opening with Kent and Ankush in an attempt to give us a decent footing worked in the first over with their opening bowler, Hayes, going for 10. Great stuff. Things were slightly pegged back with only 2 coming off the 2nd over, delivered by L Bateman, but we were still ahead of the run rate. Nothing more needed to be asked. With what seemed from the boundary a policy from the batsmen of only looking for 4s or 2s when 3s or singles could have been obtained, a nagging doubt appeared in the captain’s mind and he voiced it thus: “this could be their undoing”. As sure as eggs is eggs, Ankush holed out to Draper at mid-off for 8 from the bowling of Hayes in the 3rd over. He’d been a bit tighter in his second over and Mallards were 13-1 off 3 overs. McCaffery came in at number 3 and played a supporting role to Kent for a short while before Kent guided a delivery from Hayes to Amir at slip and was out for 7!

After 6 overs, Mallards were 27-2, just a bit behind the run rate. Jenkinson came on from the far end in the 7th over and, clean-bowled McCaffery for only 4 (which he’d scored off Atkinson’s one and only over) meaning that Mallards were now 31-3. Butcher, batting at number 4, was now joined by Malik who hit consecutive twos off Jenkinson’s bowling to exact a sort of revenge for taking McCaffery’s wicket!! An anonymous bowler then bowled the 8th over in which Malik hit a boundary and single, before scoring a single off Jenkinson’s first delivery of his second over. Butcher wanted to get in on the act and went for a launch over mid-off. Unfortunately, he succumbed to the same fate as Ankush as his new, svelte-like physique had seemingly taken the oomph from his shots and it didn’t travel its usual distance and was gobbled up by the safe hands of Draper. Nitsch was in at 6 and was quickly out again second delivery when playing on and bowled by Jenkinson for a duck.

Jha went in at 7 and formed a nice little partnership with Malik. The opening bowlers who’d done the damage at the start of B&W’s innings were getting Mallards back on track with their batting! Ridley went for 7 runs off his first over (replacing Anonymous) and, after 10 overs, Mallards were 45-5. 49 runs required off 8 overs. The next over brought 8 runs but over 11 only brought 3 runs and the dismissal of Malik who was caught off the bowling of Ridley for 18. Skipper Buxom came in at number 8 (his troublesome back meaning he couldn’t move particularly well) to partner Jha in the middle. 10 runs were scored off the bowling of Draper in the next over (including a comical single and a sublime 4 for Buckley) and Mallards were now on 66-6 off 13 overs. 5 overs remaining, 38 needed. The next over saw the dismissal of Buckley for a quick-fire 7 off the bowling of Ridley from a ball that pitched halfway down the wicket and hit about a third the way up middle stump. The shot choice was shocking, but still! Beacock came to the wicket and, after supporting Jha for an over and a bit, was clean-bowled by Ridley for 0. 16 overs gone, Mallards are now 76-8 with Jha and Mexter in the middle. Jenkinson came on for his fourth and final over and the penultimate over of the Mallards’ innings and subsequently clean-bowled Jha for 22. The final pairing of Mexter and Latif ran extremely well together for the last 9 deliveries and got us to within 6 runs of a tie but we came up just short and finished on 87-9, losing by just 6 runs.

So, not quite a new dawn for Mallards in their first game of the 2019 season however, a great effort all round from everyone in the bowling, fielding and batting. We came close but just not quite close enough. Here’s to a better result next time!