Mallards v Benwell & Walbottle @ Walbottle Campus June 11

It’s a common myth that history is written by the victors. Clearly bunkum in Mallards case, history instead being written by those of the squad who are either: (a) keen to contribute their share of documenting the progress of the friendliest cricket in the north-east; or, (b)  unlucky enough to be “volunteered” with the task of doing so by virtue of not looking away quickly when the skipper (or despot, if present) asks who wants to make themselves a candidate for one of the more popular of the newer canon of trophies. In past seasons (a) has been the prevalent, however this season (b) has been more the norm.

Take this account as example. At some point this Boyesian ramble*/ rant*/ railing*/ rhubarb* (* delete as appropriate) will finally get around to providing an account of the game. In the meantime it will continue to serve as a reminder that match reports are the lifeblood of the team (and indeed our many fans) and that leaving them for several weeks before getting round to documenting them from hazy memory only serves to make them more an exercise of half remembered fiction than actual reportage. Then again, peering myopically through the mists of time may be the best way of recollecting some of the team’s performances!

So anyway, a bit more prompt turnaround would be appreciated!

Enough pot calling the kettle black and on with the report…

Pretty sure that Monday 11th June was actually quite a pleasant evening – certainly no rain around. Captain Stig lost the toss (he may have won, but who cares?) and Mallards were put into bat. Probably a good tactic as there were still a couple of the squad yet to arrive. Kent and Malik opened Mallards innings to some decent bowling from the B&W side. With runs tending to come from the incredibly long college-side boundary rather than the much shorter woods boundary, scoring was mainly in ones, twos and threes. Hamid was first to perish bowled by one that nipped back. McCafferty in at 3 was largely becalmed by continuing tight bowling and was bowled for 3 trying to make some space to “give it some heet”.

With the scoreboard moving at a relatively pedestrian 4 per over the first bowling changes were made and the change bowlers were even more miserly than the openers. Kent, having dried up on boundary shots, was caught at mid-wicket (I seem to recollect – could be wrong) by skipper Draper for 14, leaving Mallards on 35 for 3 off the first 9 overs and captain and vice-captain at the crease to rebuild the innings and get things ticking over – minute hand rather than second hand fashion. Buckley, also struggling to find the boundary, fell in the 13th over bowled by Wadsworth for 12 with both change bowlers only going for 8 runs each off their allotted 4 and the score at 47 at the end of the 14th over following a maiden from Turnbull.

Skipper Draper wrought further changes, bringing himself on to bowl from the downhill end. Releasing his slow loopy exocets with a grunt that Monica Seles would have been proud of, the complete lack of pace was all too much for Gibbons who having just hit one glorious 4 miscued the next one into the air for an easy catch to depart on 5. Taylor, joining Butcher at the crease, plodded along in singles before deciding to have an argument with umpire Dunhill about the fact that a ball pitching off the wicket is actually a no-ball (see law 21.7) not a “you should have left that wide”. Clearly having lost concentration, Taylor,  two balls later, managed to angle a rare offside delivery from Draper straight into the diminutive 13-year-old keepers’ gloves for a paltry 6.

Ian “The Flashing Blade” Stone was next in, flashed hard for one, and flashed again only to be bowled. With the score a diminutive 82 from 19, some pride was restored by Tom Browne in the last over. Taking inspiration from the recently departed Prof. Stone, Tom swung hard and connected with two for six runs each, only to be run-out on the last ball of the innings – taking “one for the team” to leave Mallards with a slightly below par 95.

Taking to field Captain Butcher looked to his main strike bowlers to open the reply, Browne electing to take the uphill end, while the senior, but fitter, Dunhill was assigned to the down-slope pavilion end. Opener Jenkinson (St Georges Rover skipper) got the B&W off to a flying start with a boundary into the woods from a leg-side delivery. However he quickly remembered that the role of a good opener is to occupy the crease and bat as long as possible and proceeded to do just that.

With runs hard to come by, fellow opener Dickinson was run-out by a brilliant direct hit from Buckley for just 8. At the end of the 8th over, the B&W score was 29 for 1 and things couldn’t be closer. It could have been two if Dunhill had managed to cling on to a caught and bowled chance that, with hindsight, he would have been better off avoiding altogether given the speed it was travelling. Ringing the first changes Malik replaced Browne and Stone replaced Dunhill. Some initial tight bowling kept the run rate down, and at the end of 13th over the score was 39 for 1 – 8 runs behind Mallards at the same point.

It was at this point that the wheels started to come off. Jenkinson after being given some stern looks from the boundary and a severe talking to by a tactical change of umpire, accelerated with a pair of twos and a four to finally retire in the 14th over on 30 not out. Davey, in at no. 4 was clearly under orders and spotted an instant weakness in the Mallards defence, which was Dunhill still nursing a very sore hand, who suddenly became a ball magnet – or rather target since no shot in his direction actually stuck, instead travelling into the woods and messing up what had otherwise been tidy figures for both Malik and Stone, who still finished with respectable figures of 1 for 13 and 0 for 19 off their allotted 4.

At the end of the 16th over the score was 62 for 2. Captain Butcher was clearly feeling the pressure with vice-captain and despot (and ex. Captain) offering advice that was not welcome. Ringing his final changes, Butcher trusted the back four to Ankush and Gibbons. With wickets in hand though, the B&W players hand plenty of scope to swing, and swing they did to good effect with 29 runs coming off the next 3 overs. Davey also departed having been seen off for retirement on 30, to leave Bell and Draper needing just 6 to win off the last over and Gibbons entrusted with the task of bowling Mallards to glory. A dot first ball raised hope, only to be dashed by Bell hitting a two and then a four to see B&W home with 3 balls to spare.

So a good tight game and the inescapable feeling of what could have been. Maybe next time Mallards will have their revenge?