Mallards v Umpires @ Bill Quay August 30th

One evening in mid-February 1976, in a terraced house in Ryton (8 Crookhill Terrace to be exact), Mr & Mrs Buckley got a bit bored. There was nothing to listen to on the radio; their record collection had been played to death; they couldn’t be bothered watching the Black and White Minstrels Show on television (probably because they weren’t racists) and there was no-one to chat to on Facebook or Twitter (mainly down to the fact that they hadn’t been invented yet). So, they decided to do what all young, married couples do. But when they got to the pub they found it was closed for refurbishment. So, naturally, their next idea was to make a baby and, sure as ova meets sperm, 9 months later Mark Daniel Buckley was born. Surely, nothing in any of their young (or very, very young in the case of Mark) could match this experience of sheer joy, delight and memorable moments. They were wrong.

On Thursday 30th August 2018 something surpassed even that moment in the lives of the Buckleys. With Mark now not so young (41 years of age), Mrs Buckley retired and collecting her pensions, and Mr Buckley long since gone from this mortal coil, the Buckley memorable moment was toppled from the top of the chart. On a small area of greenery in South Tyneside, amongst houses, trees and randomly-placed shipping containers painted white, the new chart-topping moment occurred. A group of middle-aged men played another group of men (and one female) at a game of cricket. What were we going to see? Would it be something to rival Sir Garfield Sobers’ 6 sixes in one over? Brian Lara’s world record test scores? Bob Willis bowling out the Aussies at Headingly? The Ashes test at Edgbaston in 2005? Laker’s 10 wickets in one innings? Well, if you want to read on, you’ll find out.

It was a beautiful late-summer’s evening in Bill Quay. Clear blue sky, temperature in the mid-teens, little wind (with the exception of the flatulence occasionally emanating from the visitor’s changing room) and a nice convivial atmosphere amongst the assembled throng of participant cricketers. A lot of the conversation referred back to last year’s game between the two teams that finished in a last-ball tie and whether tonight’s game could get close to that at all. The two skippers went out to do the toss at 6pm and Captain Butcher unfortunately lost the toss and the home side elected to bat. 16 overs per side, retire at 30 and maximum 4 overs per bowler. Despite Buxom limbering up and turning his arm over, he was heinously overlooked by the captain who turned, somewhat sensibly, to messrs Cleaver and Watson to open the bowling.

The opening batsmen for Umpires were Little & Cockburn, which we’ve all had at some point in our lives if we’re honest, and they set about their task against Mallards’ valiant opening bowlers. Cleaver took the first over and was hit for a couple of 2s by Little before enticing the batsman into a shot down to deep mid-off, where the catch was held by the safe hands of McCaffery. One over and Umpires for 4-1. Watson took the 2nd over and was slightly more expensive than Cleaver, despite bowling a nice line and length. He went for 9 with a couple of fours coming from the willow of the new batsman, Sweeney. The batsmen and bowlers had a good contest for the first 6 overs, with a drop by Beaks after an edge off the bowling of Cleaver (Webmaster’s note: I have received a tweet from @therealpeterbeacock which reads ‘FAKE NEWS. It dropped short. I am the bestest wicket catcher of all of them. No one catches catches as good as me) as well as a bottom edge by Cockburn that landed just short of the keeper in the final over of his spell. Cleaver finished with 3-0-11-1, which is rather good. Watson was not so fortunate as Sweeney took rather a liking to him in his final over, hitting him for 16, including 2 fours and 1 six. Luck certainly wasn’t with Watson as in this over the batsman got it completely wrong and the ball came off his pads and trickled an inch past the off stump. Watson finished with 3-0-31-0 which was certainly not an indication of his bowling. The opening bowlers were replaced by Thacker and Latif, who continued building on the good foundations that the Cleaver/Watson combo had set. Thacker’s first over went for only 6 runs, including one boundary and Latif’s first over saw a broad variety of events! Firstly, he let Sweeney tonk him for four which brought about the batsman’s retirement on 33 – a great effort by the batsman. As well as a wide, another boundary and a couple of singles, Latif also took the wicket of Jago, the new batsman, who was deftly stumped by Beacock. It was a fair decision by the home umpire, as we’ve definitely seen the vast majority of those not given when they’ve been that close!! In the next over, Thacker claimed the wicket of Cockburn who holed out to the still safe hands of McCaffery in the deep. Latif finished off his 2nd over conceding only 8 runs and, after 10 overs, Umpires were 76-3. Certainly not a score that inflicted fear or despair in the thought of trying to catch it at the same stage of the Mallards’ innings!

Taking over from Thacker/Latif was the slightly more part-time bowling of Wood and Kent. Wood’s first over went for only 9 whilst Kent’s first over, despite a vicious beamer aimed at the batsman’s head, went for only 5, including the wicket of Anwar. A rather reluctant Wood returned for a 2nd over and decided that, as it was the end of the cricket season, the team didn’t need the cricket balls in the team’s bag so let the batsman thwack 2 balls for sixes that were irretrievable!! (To be fair, we’d already replaced the ball that Sweeney had hit for 6 off Watson earlier in the game). Wood’s 2nd (and final) over went for 18 runs. Despite Kent having decent figures of 1-0-5-1, he was replaced by McCaffery who went for only 6 runs himself, including one boundary. Wood was replaced by Thacker, who went for 10 runs off his 3rd over, giving him figures of 3-0-24-1. Steel, who turns his arm over with the same regularity that Donald Trump tells the truth, came on to bowl the last over and he ended up with 1-0-6-1, getting the wicket of Howard for 15 with Beaks taking another stumping! Their last batsmen was Miss R Dyer, who certainly played a stroke that wasn’t instantly recognisable to most Mallardians – the textbook forward defensive shot. After 3 dot balls, she scored a single from the last ball of the over/innings meaning Umpires finished on a score of 130 for 5.

So, not too unrealistic a target to get. Only just over 8 runs an over required to get the 131 runs needed for the win. There was certainly no desire to get another tie like last year!

Opening with Kent and Steel to start the run chase, the Umpires opened their bowling with Hamblett and Hamblett – in no way confusing at all! After seeing off the first 3 deliveries of Hamblett’s first over rather safely, Kent hit the next ball for a nice four before finishing off the over with a couple of singles for him and Steel. The second over, but Hamblett’s first, saw a few more runs where, after a wide and a single for Steel, Kent opened his shoulders somewhat and hit 3 consecutive fours!! 2 overs gone, Mallards are 20 without loss – well ahead of the required run-rate. The 3rd over started rather unfortunately with Steel being bowled by Hamblett(P). As the batsman himself said “right shot, wrong batsman”!! Steel’s wicket brought McCaffery to the crease and a further 8 runs were taken from the over – a couple of wides, a two and some singles. Hamblett(P) finished with 2-0-14-1. T’other Hamblett (I knew him, Horatio), didn’t fare so well in his 2nd over and conceded 16 runs, the majority of them to Kent who retired on 31! Buckley came to the crease and hit his first ball for 3. At the end of 4 overs, Mallards were 45-1 with one batsman back in the hutch and massively ahead of the run-rate. The next couple of overs went for a combined total of 7 runs with Anwar conceding 4 and Dyer conceding 3. It also brought about an injury for McCaffery who did a leg muscle in; enough to require a runner. However, these overs also brought the run out of McCaffery/Thacker (his runner) for 7 and this subsequently brought Thacker to the middle officially (with no runner) and he saw out the rest of the over from Dyer without scoring (or losing his wicket). Buckley was a bit bored already so decided to go after Anwar and, after missing the first delivery with a swish that nearly took his shoulder out of its socket, hit the second delivery for a nice 6 over long on that went over the fence (but not the netting). Some more singles followed and a 3 and Anwar finished with 2-0-16-0. Thacker then took the attack to Dyer who, despite bowling a decent line and length, went for 9 runs off her 2nd over. Howard took over from Anwar and Thacker took him for 7 runs off his first over and a further 8 runs came off Cockburn’s (replacing Dyer) first over so, after 10 overs, Mallards were 88-2 compared to Umpires being 76-3! Thacker decided to get in on the maximum act by hitting Howard for 6 off the 1st ball of his second over. Then an exchange of singles, a 2 and a four between Thacker and Buckley brought Mallards to 107 off 12 overs as well as the retirement of Thacker for 31! Little took over from Howard and his first ball went for four from the bat of Buckley, subsequently bringing around his retirement, also for 31! So, after 12.1 overs, Mallards have 3 retirees and well ahead of the run rate. Cleaver now joined Wood at the wicket and quickly returned to the pavilion after a 3-ball duck where he was caught behind off the bowling of Little. 13 overs gone, Mallards are now 112 and require 19 runs off the remaining 3 overs. Sweeney came on to bowl and conceded 8 runs off his first over, 6 to Wood and 1 to Latif (plus a wide). 120 now with 2 overs remaining. 11 runs required. Little’s 2nd over didn’t start too well for Mallards, 3 dot balls to Wood despite his best efforts to hit it to the boundary. Well, just to hit it really! A wide then another wicket when Wood was out LBW. Captain Butcher came to the crease and managed to score 6 runs off the last 2 balls. Mallards were now 127 with only one over remaining with only 4 runs required to win. Surely it was going to happen. A bye off the first delivery – score’s now 128. Then 2 dot balls before Butcher swings the bat and gets an inside edge onto his stumps. 2 balls left and Beacock joins Latif at the wicket. First ball for Beacock and a single is scored. Mallards are now on 129, 1 run to tie (again) and 2 to win – whatever happened, the batsmen had to run on the last ball. Sweeney gets the ball back, starts his run up and lobs it up in to the air. The amassed Mallards on the boundary are watching the ball (through the by now deepest darkest gloom) fly through the air towards Latif. The bat is raised, Latif’s front foot is planted and he brings the bat down to connect with the ball. Beacock sets off from the non-striker’s end, Latif runs on his call. The ball has gone about 3 foot from the stumps and the keeper is making his way towards it. Beacock’s closing in fast and the keeper picks up the ball and stretches out towards the stumps. There’s a mixture of diving wicketkeeper, splintering stumps and sliding bat – everyone looks towards the square leg umpire. Did he make it? Is it another tie – the second in consecutive years? Have Mallards rescued the situation? After what seems like an eternity, the umpire raises his finger and Beacock is given run out on the last ball of the game! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! Mallards have lost by one run. After 32 overs between the 2 sides, 259 runs shared and Mallards lose by one run.

Looking back at last year’s game, which was the tie, we can state that these 2 sides are practically inseparable! 72 overs (36 per side), 531 runs from the 2 teams and only 1 run between them over the 2 games – marvellous stuff. This game is always a joy to play.

Everyone stayed back to enjoy a drink, have a drink and share the chips & curry sauce that had been so kindly bought by Mr McCaffery. I can state, without fear of contradiction, this was a fantastic way to end the season, even if it was a defeat. Here’s to the Captain’s Curry Night and the Mallards’ End of Season Dinner!! Have a great winter one and all.