Mallards v The Umpires @ Bill Quay August 17

In 1972 (when most mallards were mere ducklings), a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they did not commit. They were the A Team, a group of mighty men since, of course, commemorated in verse by the ubiquitous Mr Sheeran.

Like all great leaders of men, captain ‘Hannibal’ Stig brought his A Team, his solders of cricketing fortune from the LA Underground to the streets of Bill Quay with a plan. A winning plan, a plan he would love when it came together. Win the toss, bat big, and bowl them out cheap.

Part one of the plan paid off. The toss was won the words “we’ll have a bat” were said. What could possibly go wrong? Well… his openers were AWOL. In the absence of Nitsch and Malik. It’s was ‘Howling Mad’ McCaffery and Buckley that were instead given the orders to pad up.

Buckley faced the first ball bowled by Adams. A dot to begin with followed by a single to get off the mark and then the swashbuckling McCaffery hit a 4 and 3 to end the 1st over with the score on 9 without loss (thanks also to a wide). Second bowler Cuskin began with another wide and then sent down a long hop. McCaffery’s eyes lit up at the sight of such a gift and he pulled it beautifully into the on side. Now, on another day it would have gone either side of the man at midwicket for a beautiful 4. Today however was not another day and instead it went straight to Jago, who took a regulation (for other teams) catch to send McCaffery back to the hutch, the score 10/1.

Still with no sign of either opener, Stig strode to the middle like a man on a mission. A man wanting to be a leader by example. He did this by smacking his first ball for 4. A pattern then began to develop with either dots, ones or 4 being scored as a partnership began to be formed by Stig and his faithful lieutenant Buckley. The score racing to 59/1 after 8.

Into the 9th and Buckley, facing retirement on 26, including 3×4 and 1×6, got a straight one onto the pads that was adjudged to be hitting and was given LBW the score 59/2.

Malik had arrived by now (still no sign of Nitsch and as both teams had 10 it was deemed fair). Like the skipper before him, he got himself off the mark with a 4 driven straight back past the bowler.

Mallards continued to plough on, captain Stig retiring on 32 including 6×4. His retirement brought Blocker Wisbach to the crease, and with Malik struggling to find his timing at the other end fears of a slowdown in run rate were being murmured from the benches. Those fears began to grow as Wisbach put on 3 from 9 balls and in the 15th over with the score on 93 Malik managed to get himself bowled by Law for 14.

That brought out Benson and a change in Wisbach who produced a spell of batting in which he pitied no fool! He smashed 4 consecutive 4s and a 6 punched out of the ground that AB de Villiers would have been proud of. Wisbach’s smile at the turn of events is recorded above. Benson at the other end hit a quick fire 10 before becoming another victim of the speedy J. Law (3-0-19-2). With the score on 106/4 off 17. Beacock entered the field and with his usual assured play rotated the strike with a series of singles and a beautifully-timed 4 through the covers to finish 8 not out alongside Wisbach on 26. A score of 136, one of the biggest scores by Mallards in a long time, had members of the opposition worried. Part one of the plan had come together and ‘Hannibal’ Stig loves it when a plan comes together.

So it was down to the bowlers to defend the total. First up Watson. A dot to begin with followed by a drive through the covers by Jago for 4 and 4 singles shared between him and Cuskern. Dunhill began from the other end, again with a dot, before 10 came off the next 4. Then with the last ball of the over Cuskern tickled one round the corner off his pads and a quick single was attempted only for Benson to swoop to collect and release in one movement throwing down the only stump he could see. The umpire’s finger was raised and Jago was out for 7 (18/1). After a single off the first ball of the 3rd, new batsman Adams struggled to get off the mark with sledging coming from his own team-mates. At the other end the 2 singles in the first 3 balls were followed by the first massive six by Cuskern – straight out of the ground in the same place as Wisbach and the score had moved onto 28/1 off 4. Watsons final over beat the bat a couple of times but also had a driven 4. Finishing on 3-0-15-0. 34/1 off 5 became 34/2 off 6 as Dunhill produced 3 tight balls that Adams couldn’t get away before the 4th took his off stump, Bowled for 2. Dunhill finishing on 3-1-19-1.

Benson replaced Watson with a tight first over going for 2, Browne at the other end producing an equally tight 3 off his first after replacing Dunhill. Cuskern then took a fancy to Benson putting the first ball of his next into No. 47 Davidson Road’s shed with a mighty thud. 2 singles and a 4 from the remainder of the over raised the scoring rate further. Browne at the other end was tight again, just a single and a wide coming from his second. The score now 59/2 off 9. Benson 3rd was a mixed bag of dots and 4s as he finished his spell with 3-0-23-0.

By now Cuskern had retired on 33 with Lowe and Cuskin at the crease. Brown after going for a couple of singles from the first 2 of his last suddenly got the yips. 3 wides in a row looked to be spoiling his figures but he got it back and finished on a splendid 3-0-14-0. With the score moving to 78/2 off 12 – a tight finish looked likely.

The newly-rebranded Smasher Wisbach replaced Benson, with Cuskin facing. A dot first ball was followed by a 4 then another dot before the breakthrough. A heave across the line by Cuskin took the top edge and niffy glove work by Beacock from a steepling ball saw the end of Cuskin as the score moved to 83/3.

Malik replaced Browne at the road end and after the first few deliveries went for dots down the legside with athletic work that defied his age from Beacock saving extras, an edge for 4 and quick single took 5 off the over.

Lowe was plodding along nicely but his counting didn’t seem the best as he began to walk to retire only to be told he was on 28! Into Wisbach’s 2nd over and with 13 coming off the first 4 balls White attempted to go big down the ground again only to be caught by McCaffery on the boundary for 16. With the score now 107/4 off 13, Wisbach finishing on 3-0-23-2, Umpires suddenly looked favourites.

With Lowe back in the hutch after finally crossing the line on 33 it was up to Harrison and Hamblett to take Umpires to victory. Unfortunately Hamblett went for a duck, clean bowled by Malik (111/5), then J. Lowe quickly followed for 1, again bowled by Malik (113/6). Mallards were back in it.

After 18 over the score had moved onto 115/6 with Umpires requiring 23 from just two overs, Mallards were back in the box seat. Stig’s plan was working a treat – surely even the Mallards couldn’t give away victory from here. McCaffery was summoned to bowl the 19th with the field appropriately spread. Sloppy fielding from his first ball produced a 3 for Harrison. Then came a single for Howard before a Harrison 4 and 2 dots with another 4 to finish off the over.

The tide had turned again, into the 20th over and Umpires now required just 9 runs to win. Well as the old saying goes: if you want a job doing, do it yourself. So full of confidence from his retirement earlier in the evening Captain Stig took the ball in his hand. three singles, a 4 and a dot ball took us to the last ball with the game on a knife edge, Umpires needing 2 to win and 1 to tie with Howard facing. A straight drive and off they ran. A fumble in the field gave them a chance for a second but a quick throw from Malik and good glovework from Beacock saw the bails removed before a diving Harrison could make his ground.

A thoroughly enjoyable and hard fought game of cricket had finished in a tie. Sometimes a plan doesn’t come together but sometimes it doesn’t matter.