Mallards v Sparta @ Heaton Medicals June 20

Sometimes, games with Mallards live long in the memory and sometimes they’re best to be forgotten almost immediately. This game can be listed in the category of the former (which is probably why it’s taken so long to get this match report written up [I’ll casually gloss over the fact that I’d completely volunteered to write it!!])

The Heaton Medicals Ground is an absolute joy of a ground – a secluded idyll of greenery protected from the hordes of drunken, promiscuous (lucky bastards), ne’er-do-well students who are slowly taking over the suburb of Heaton gutter by gutter, by a large wooden fence, high trees and thick shrubbery. It’s a pity we don’t play here more but, unfortunately, we don’t have a DUP-sized pot of money available to help bribe the groundsman – sorry, I mean, form an arrangement where we have confidence in the groundsman and he’ll supply us with a good wicket.

Anyway, on to the game. The skipper for tonight’s game, Mark Buckley, arrived just before 6pm armed with his piece of paper that had the names of the squad written on it and who was going to do what (in theory). Winning the toss (with a coin of his own as the Sparta skipper couldn’t be arsed to go and get one of his own), Buxom put Sparta in to bat as he was feeling sorry for them in that they only had 9 players. Opening with the young whipper-snappers Tony “Trigger-Finger” Cleaver and Andy “Make mine a packet of 20” Dunhill, the game was all set to become a classic, where people will be saying in years to come  “I was there”, “I bought the dvd” and “who was playing again?”.

Sparta opened with D Douglas and S Gibb, DD showing Trigger-Finger respect by blocking the first over for a maiden. Gibb wasn’t so capable in the 2nd over as he was removed 2nd ball by Dunhill for the good-ol’ leg-before! More plumb than a capable plumber who was feeling particularly plumbish that day. Anyway, this brought G Nelson to the wicket and we were to settle into a particular rhythm for this batsman who tended to flat-bat the ball to long-on. Kenty gave Buxom the heads-up about this but, being ever so supportive of his bowlers, the skipper gave Dunhill the chance to show what he could do. Unfortunately, almost immediately, Dunners presented the batsman with a rank long-hop which was duly despatched to the long-on boundary arc. Reticent to adjust the field (even with Kenty giving Buxom a look portraying “I told you so”) after a bad ball being given the treatment it duly deserved, the Skip kept the field as it was. When the next 4 was despatched to the same place off a perfectly fine ball from Dunhill, Buxom conceded and set the field accordingly. This was to prove very beneficial during the Sparta innings. Both TF and Dunners toiled away admirably against DD and Kiss Me Hardy by keeping the boundaries limited and they finished with 4-1-22-0 and 4-0-22-1 respectively. The change of bowlers brought a slight loosening of the shoulders for the 2 batsmen with Wisbach getting particularly rough treatment from the batsmen. Watson was slightly meaner with his bowling and the only 4 that came from his bowling was when Buxom literally jumped out of the way of a shot heading at high speed towards his shins (the Skip is using the fact that he’s running the Great North Run this year for charity as a valid excuse for protecting his shins – still doesn’t excuse the fact he didn’t react quick enough to use his hands!!). However, Nelson quickly retired back to port with an impressive 31 not out whilst DD followed not long after for 34 (after hitting a 4 so really should have retired 4 runs earlier!!) and this brought Spratt and Mattock to the wicket. Buxom replaced Watson after 2 overs to bring on Hamid from the pavilion end to add a bit of pace to the attack towards the end of the innings. Going for 6 runs off his first 2 overs plus a few byes, it helped stem Sparta’s run-rate and, with Wisbach valiantly toiling away at the other end, he eventually got his reward when Spratt skied a shot that was caught by Kenty at short mid-off. Spratt was gone for 14 and Stu finished with figures of 4-0-31-1 – a great effort. Watson was brought back on to replace Wisbach and add the end of his first over of his 2nd spell, was rewarded with the stumping of Mattock for 9 after some great glove work from Beakers behind the sticks. With S Foulds and J Ellis now at the crease for Sparta, some great bowling from both Watson and Hamid kept the scores down. Hamid got a wicket in his last over when Buxom took a rather splendid catch low down at cover (pretty much what he should have done off Watson’s bowling) to remove Ellis and Watson was unlucky in his last over going for 10 runs. Watson finished with 4-0-26-1 and Hamid 4-0-12-1.

It must also be said that it was a fantastic effort from the entire team with great fielding, willingness to move positions for different batsmen, chasing down the ball to prevent boundaries and tolerating a skipper who was, in a way, making it up as he went along!! Everyone should be rightly proud of their role.

The Mallards’ innings began with Kenty and Harry Singh opening for us. We were confident of a good 50+ partnership for these 2 so when, after a couple of boundaries, Harry was removed for 8 off the bowling of Langley, there was a slight air of disappointment. Being offered great support from the stands (well, the bench just behind the boundary) by messrs Rob Wilson and Captain Stig, the positivity was there and in went Mr Wisbach at number 3. After a nice little shot for 4, Stu was removed after being clean-bowled by Ellis with a ball that pitched on leg and hit off-stump. You can do nothing about those type of deliveries!

This brought in Chris Lucas to support Kenty who’d been building up an impressive innings and he eventually retired for 32 which brought Buxom to the crease. After a slow start and seeing Mr Lucas removed, clean-bowled by Ellis, for a duck, Hamid joined Buxom at the crease and the run-rate picked up again with some boundaries and good, quick running between the wickets which put the pressure on the Sparta team. After Hamid was removed for 9 after being clean-bowled by Spratt, Buxom was joined at the crease by Si Holland, who was to provide some fabulous support!

It must be said that during the time that the Skip was batting, he was also asking people to swap over and field for Sparta (to bring their numbers up to ten) as well as getting the umpires changed over. A big thank you to Tony, Si, Chris Lucas and Mr Watson for fielding for Sparta – very good of you!

Anyway, back to the batting, Buxom and Holland put together a good little stand with a good mixture of boundaries (including a 4 for Holland!!) and little ones and twos, with Buxom basically shouting at Mr Holland what to do. To be fair, he more than capably held his own and did what he was told very well!! They also had to contend with a little strop for the Sparta skipper who took umbridge at Harry calling wides when he said he let loads like that go. Harry got the calls right because if Buxom can’t reach them, then they’ve got to be fairly wide. Whilst their skipper was mouthing off and about to start his run-up, Buxom just walked away and refused to face the bowling as it was not in the spirit of the game and gave their skipper a minute to calm down. Thanked by the wicket-keeper and slip fielder for doing that, Buxom then ensured that he kept his wicket.

When Buxom retired for 33, Beacock came to the wicket under the strict instruction from the Skip as their paths crossed to “swing at everything and run like there’s no tomorrow! To be fair to Beakers, that’s what he did and even though he was bowled by Nelson for just 2, he’d followed the instructions to the letter!! Watson joined Holland at the crease and things were getting very close now. We were down to the last 2 overs and we had Tony and Dunhill padded up. It was then that Mr Holland hit a fabulous 4 off Spratt straight back down the ground that was received with a loud roar from the watching Mallards. At the end of the 18th over, we were on 113 chasing down the 118 set by Sparta. We then saw a great combo of Mr Holland and Watson close out the innings by getting the required runs and we actually scored the winning runs from a no-ball and a good bit of running off that no-ball too.


So, in summary, fabulous bowling from Cleaver, Dunhill, Wisbach, Watson and Hamid was more than ably supported by a great fielding display from the whole team. The batting was mightily impressive too with good running between the wickets keeping the pressure on the fielding team and pushing them into mistakes. In the end, a more than well-deserved win for Mallards. Well done everyone.