Mallards v Architects @ Riding Mill 30 May


The game of cricket is a strange beast. It can, on one hand, be an absolutely sublime game full of moments of genius that draw gasps of wonder from the crowd, skilled players making the impossible look simple, athletic fielding at levels of speed and agility that surely can’t be human and shots so powerful that the ball is past you before you’ve had time to blink, never mind move! On the other hand, it can involve Mallards, where the game goes from the sublime to the ridiculous, the only gasps from the crowd are ones of disbelief, the players make the simple look impossible, speed and agility are words seen only in a dictionary and the ball is usually past the batsman before they’ve had time to move!

So why was I screaming at everyone who was driving on the A69 at 5.55pm to get out of my “flipping” (or words along those lines) way so that I could get to Riding Mill on time to play this game? Because there’s something about playing in the Mallards team that is special. Is it the camaraderie? Is it the spirit in which the game is played? Is it the fact that it’s not taken too seriously? Is it that no-one knows what’s going to happen from one game to the next? Is it because the main objective of the night is to actually get to the pub after the game, rather than the game itself? The answer is, of course, that it’s all of the above and more.

Playing for Mallards was something I genuinely missed when living in Lincolnshire for the last couple of years. To be welcomed back into the fold so warmly and immediately made me realise exactly why I missed Mallards. It’s not necessarily about the game of cricket, it’s the social aspect that it brings. Which is probably why it’s taken me so long to get on to the game itself!

A lovely sunny evening in Riding Mill bode well for a good game of cricket and, with Mr Nitsch finishing off the cutting of the wicket as I pulled up in my car, the ground was in tip-top shape too. Apparently, we’d won the toss and were batting first against an Architects (or QSCC to give them their proper title) team that seemed to have a different mentality to other games we’ve played against them.

We opened with Mussett and Kenty against their opening bowling pair of Harkin and Harrison and our batsmen were soon well into their stride with 20 coming off the first 2 overs – Mussett tonking several 4s and Kenty chipping in with a boundary of his own. The next 2 overs continued at a similar rate as our scored moved onto 36 with the H-team taking a further bashing on their bowling figures. In the 5th over, Mussett retired having passed 30 with a tonking six over long on off Spurs (who had replaced Harkin) and walked back to the pavilion to be replaced by Hall. It was in the 6th over that our first wicket fell when Hall was clean bowled for just 1 trying to howk Harrison back over the bowler’s head for 6. The fact that he’d been hit on the arm by a bit of a beamer (admittedly accidental) from Harrison the ball before probably had a slight influence on the choice of shot.

Hall was replaced by the skipper, Mr Cox, and we thought we’d be back into our stride after the slight inconvenience of losing Mr Hall. At the end of the 6th over we were 51-1, with Mussett back in the hutch, ready to return should we have a typical Mallardian collapse. Kenty and Mr Cox slowly started to rebuild the innings and, at the end of the 8th over, the run rate was still impressive as our score moved on to 62. However, it was at the expense of losing the wicket of Mr Cox to the bowling of Harrison. A gorgeous flick off his legs was caught one-handed by the fielder at square leg. The one-handed bit was surely one for the cameras and totally unnecessary. The next batsman was Buxom, fresh from his retiring score against Durham the other week but, as we were to discover, unable, this week, to hit a cow’s arse with a banjo tonight never mind a cricket ball with a bat. However, Kenty continued to score runs and eventually retired having passed 30. This brought Emoji Lucas to the crease and, having taken a guard of middle stump, promptly stood about a foot outside leg giving the bowler all 3 stumps to aim for. Needless to say, a few balls later, Emoji was walking back to the pavilion to be replaced by newbie,  Holland.

After a few words of encouragement from Buxom to just enjoy it, keep it simple and don’t get out, the 2 batsmen went about their business. Unfortunately, their business was to not score any runs and we went from a score of 68-2 in the 10th over to 77-3 in the 12th, then 79-4 in the 14th over. You see fewer dots in a Morse code transcript than in the scorebook over those overs. Eventually, Buxom holed out finally having connected with one going for broke and this brought Mr Nitsch to the wicket and the score started to increase again. Ably supported by Holland, Mr Nitsch started hitting boundaries, something not seen, it felt like anyway, since Methuselah was a lad! Holland was caught off the bowling of Brigham (who’d also dispensed with Buckley) and Nitsch was then supported by Mr McGuinness, who replaced Holland. Mr Nitsch eventually went for 17 having been bowled by Brigham and the last wicket was McGuinness who was run out by a country mile. Trigger-Finger had pitched in with a couple of singles. Mallards finished on 106 having been on 68 after 10 overs. Was only scoring 38 runs in the last 10 over going to come back to haunt them?

Mallards opened their bowling with Trigger-Finger Cleaver and Mr Watson and both were into their rhythm quickly against the Architects’ opening batsmen of Warman(?) and Loach.  Warman(?) was first to go in Watson’s first over, clean-bowled by an impressive delivery. This brought Spurs to the wicket and having only scored 2, he was clean bowled by TF Cleaver. 2 wickets in the first 3 overs and the score was 23!

Ashley came to the wicket for Architects and, after a boundary and a single, was sent packing by Watson, clean-bowling yet another batsman. In the meantime, opener Loach was slowly progressing and building up a decent score as a good partnership with Brigham developed. After TF Cleaver and Watson had finished their spells with figures of 4-0-23-1 and 4-0-20-2 respectively, McGuinness and Cox came on to replace them.

Some fast and aggressive bowling from Skip Cox was rewarded when he (rather loudly) found the edge of the batsman’s bat and it was finely caught by Kenty behind the stumps. Everyone went up (including Davy Heslop who was several miles away collecting his Indian takeaway by now) in celebration but the batsman didn’t move and the umpire said he didn’t hear anything. The look of disbelief on everyone’s faces was justified but we carried on, determined to overcome this obvious miscarriage of justice. Eventually, Skip Cox got his reward when he clean-bowled Loach for 22 (although, for some reason, the scorebook has it down as Hall, even though he didn’t bowl!). McGuinness also removed Brigham by clean-bowling him for 19.

At the end of the 12th over, the dismissed Architects batsmen had only scored 56 runs between them. Was the chance of a Mallards win still on the cards? Unfortunately, our conceded total of extras was rather high in wides and byes (despite a fantastic display behind the stumps by Kenty) which made Architects’ score much closer than it could have been. Mussett replaced McGuiness and got a couple of wickets by clean-bowling both M Robinson and Harkin for 7 and 0 respectively. During Mussett’s bowling, Skip Cox attempted a catch on the run which ended up in him landing on his bowling hand so McGuiness was brought back to replace him at the Pavilion end. Despite some great bowling (all wickets were clean-bowled), good fielding and a great collective team effort, Mallards’ score was just too low and D Robinson along with Harrison brought Architects home to win the game by scoring the clinching runs in their 18th over.

So yes, scoring only 38 runs in our second 10 overs did cost Mallards the game. We were close though. Blooming close.

There would have been more figures given for the Architects innings but they hadn’t filled in the book properly (again)!

There was a decent turn-out at the pub from both teams after the game was nice to see although, for some reason, the opposition couldn’t have sat further away from us if they’d tried. Learning that Mr Nitsch is a fan of Shaun Mendes and enjoys going to his concerts (along with the concerts of several gay icons) was a revelation to discover! Worth the trip to the pub on its own! However, the evening was a perfect summation of what playing for Mallards is all about – playing for the love of the game, good camaraderie and socialising afterwards with good craic. Long may it continue.