Mallards v Riding Mill @ Riding Mill July 25

Socrates was a thoughtful sort of chap. Not for him the ‘bash it and scamper’ philosophy…when he was wielding the willow he would often pause, mid-stroke, just to admire the sheer poetry of movement of the ball across the greensward. Similarly, whilst bowling, he did not opt to fling the cherry with indecent haste at the opposing batsman, but would rather choose to weave magic and mystery with seam or spin. The Athenian master was, of course, one of the founding members of the Mallards who instilled in his followers the notion that ‘the game is the thing’. No mad scramble to win at all costs: what do you gain if you lose your soul in the pursuit of fickle glory?

The Socratic example inspired his fellows – contemporaries such as Aristotle, Cleaver, Stone, Pythagoras, Porteous, McCaffrey, Beacock et al, – to practice the summer game with the same sobriety. When the Mallards took the field against Riding Mill on Tuesday, 25 July, they were determined to show these untutored country folk the right sort of spirit in which to play.

It took a couple of wides before Cleaver’s limbs were persuaded of the Socratic philosophy but thereafter this opening metaphysician bowled with commendable discipline. It would have been, naturally, far too vulgar to actually take any wickets in his four-over spell but he finished by holding down the opposition to a meagre 13 runs. At the other end, newly-appointed captain Mexter – he of almost the same distinguished vintage as the Athenian elite aforementioned – asked the Wellington hotel landlord Ruecroft to step up to the crease. An interesting choice. (It should be mentioned in dispatches at this point that Tom Browne had stoically chosen to fall on his sword and restrict his participation to that of the scorebook, thus allowing this unseen-before publican to take his place in the line-up.) Ruecroft loped athletically into the fray and promptly took two wickets – Mahmood for 4 and Zurwalen for a duck – at the expense of 16 runs. This rather rash performance brought Jaidup to the crease who, in due course, was to set about flailing the ball to all quarters. Entertainment now became the dominant characteristic of the contest. Mussett bowled with startling variation – mostly fast and short – in contrast to Hamid, fast and long. Beakers plunged to and fro like a frantic salmon whilst Green must surely qualify for the swoop-fielding award by chasing after one long shot and putting in an impressive final dive, determined to prevent the ball from slowing down before it reached the boundary. Thanks to this, Jaidup retired not out on 32; Hamid finished his four overs with 1 for 27 and Musset was replaced after 3, taking 1 for 24. Stone and Mexter were to finish the attack, this a determined display of how the Mallardian philosophical school deal with adversity. Stone opted for mystique in sending down missiles of North Korean obscurity. He finished with 3 overs, no wickets for 25. Mexter dispatched deceptive, hooping deliveries that removed the dangerous Horner (28) and so finished after 2 overs with 1 wicket for 10 runs. Riding Mill meanwhile had amassed 127 in total, which included a generous 26 extras.

Mallards’ openers Porteous and McCaffrey were not intimidated by such a target. They duly flourished their weapons as Socrates would have applauded. Style and sophistication was the hallmark of their stand against the Riding Mill quickies, Zurwalew and Suraj. True, whilst Porteous collected a series of cultured singles, McCaffrey struck, on occasions, somewhat less elegant swipes to the boundary. He was finally undone on 28 by Mayfield, whereas Porteous retired on 30, not out. There continued no uncouth race to pile up runs. Musset batted with disdain until, 11 runs to the good, he spooned one up in the air to see if the opposition could catch it. They could. Ruecroft came in, hit two with an overhead forehand and was then promptly bowled by Khalid next ball. Latif and Green were next to face. The latter, of swoop fielding distinction, decided to run, slide and dive for everything, whether there was bat involved or not. Latif, meanwhile took the philosophical option, waving his bat majestically until bowled by Hall for 3. Hamid took up the strike in the last over, scoring one before Green, having failed to do so before, ran himself out on the last ball. He scored four. The Mallards reached a grand total of 87 and duly congratulated themselves in the Wellington on having sternly resisted the urge to chase false idols and had instead chosen to uphold the finest principles of metaphysical discourse. Cheers! The proper spirits were duly consumed.