Mallards v Excelsior Batters @ Riding Mill 14 June

The forecast overnight rain had failed to materialise, and despite the unseasonable high winds the game was on. Most of the team assembled at Riding Mill in good time, to improving weather conditions, the earlier wind having moderated, and the sun showing belated signs of appearing.  Some were still smarting from their ignominious defeat at Burnmoor, and wondering what lay ahead – had the promising start to the season crumbled away? Captain for the night Buckley won the toss and elected to field despite being short of two players, the veteran Haylock, and the debutant Jha, travelling together and delayed by traffic.  Excelsior captain Krishnan volunteered to field for the Mallards, a decision that he was to regret.

Browne opened the bowling for Mallards at the lone tree end, and beat both batsman and wicketkeeper with a couple that failed to bounce, straying from his excellent line of the last few games. A rapid start for Excelsior, halted by an excellent first over by Dunhill. Beacock, standing up, missed a sharp chance, but then opener Stephenson fell to an excellent catch at mid-off by his captain (is this an early contender for the Friendly Fire award, or are the opposition barred from contention?). Excelsior were 14 for 1 after 2 overs. Browne found better line and bounce off a length in his second over which kept the runs down, although Buckley failed to hang onto a difficult chance edged to the slips. At the end of the over, a relieved Krishnan made way for Haylock and Jha, who immediately took a good catch at mid-on off Dunhill to remove Walker for 5. A more expensive over from Browne was followed by a tight one from Dunhill, and the opening pair finished with Browne on 0 for 26, and Dunhill a very commendable 2 for 12 off four. Excelsior were approximately 43 for two after 8 overs (note to ed: due to the incomplete record in the scorebook, it is impossible to determine the exact number of extras at any particular stage so the score would seem to be 39+?), with Bodley and Richardson looking ominously settled.

Haylock replaced Browne, and Dunhill by Mexter, both bowlers troubling the batsmen with some bounce, though an occasional four helped the score along. Mexter, in his second over conceded only one run, but this gave Bodley his 25 and he retired not out. Excelsior captain Krishnan faced the first ball of Haylock’s next over, and deceived by the bounce, top edged high in the air and Buckley, running back from slip caught a fine catch. Richardson then departed for 25 not out, and Haylock’s final over was a wicket maiden, giving him figures of 2 for 16 off four. Mexter completed his spell with a tight final over (0 for 17 off four). Excelsior batters’ score had looked ominous at around 80 (?) from 14 overs while Bodley and Richardson were batting, but after their departure runs were hard to come by. The last four overs were delivered by Benson and Jha. Benson, with his slow looping leg breaks, ending with remarkable 2 for 3 off 2, whilst at the other end our latest recruit Jha produced two excellent overs of medium pace, ending with 1 for 4, conceding only one scoring shot. The visitors ended their innings on 97 for 7.

This was an excellent effort by Mallards bowlers, supported by good fielding, but the bowlers’ figures would have been even more impressive had all the catches been taken.

Kent and McCaffrey marched out to start the Mallards innings. Kent drove Glenwright’s first ball for four, but then boundaries proved elusive. An increasingly frustrated McCaffrey was bowled for 5 in Bodley’s second over, to be replaced by Benson. Glenwright (9 for 0 off 2) was replaced by Richardson who bowled Benson for 2 with his third ball. At the end of the fifth over, Mallards were 22 for 2. Krishnan replaced Bodley (1 for 9 off 2), and Kent and new batsman Greenwood continued to find scoring difficult, with the opener accumulating steadily, and Greenwood, looking busy as usual, only able to score in quickly taken singles. Greenwood departed for 9, bowled by Krishnan in the 12th over, with the score on 46, leaving Mallards still needing 52 for victory. Kent retired on 25, having scored the only two fours of the Mallards innings. Richardson (1 for 10), and Krishnan (1 for 19) completed their spells. Buckley and Jha were now at the crease, and with new bowler Stephenson loose and frequently wide, the score accelerated. 49 from 12 became 67 from 13. A tight over from Walker was followed by a looser one from Jobling. Despite Bodley returning for another over, the score moved on rapidly to  a winning 98 for 3 in the 17th over, Buckley scoring a quickfire 23 not out from 16 balls and Jha a very impressive maiden 10 from 11.

The Mallards had won another victory! This makes 5 wins from 9 games – can anyone remember such a start to the season? The teams adjourned to the Wellington, with Mallards delighted by the return to winning ways.