Mallards vs Ovingham @ Riding Mill May 24

Around 2000 years ago Jesus Howard Christ came into this world through a VERY complicated surrogacy/fostering/adoption programme which no-one fully understands to this day.

Fast forward 2000 years to the present and “Jesus H Christ” is an expression commonly heard on the cricket pitch during Mallards games amongst men who don’t fully understand why they put themselves through it week after week!

Speaking of people who don’t fully understand what they are doing, captain for tonight’s game was Mark “Buxom” Buckley, being groomed (pause for horrific flashback to his school years) for a potential future of more regular captaincy – we’ll see how that goes. At the toss, with Buxom and Ovingham’s vice-captain discussing who had the most players still en-route, Mallards lost the toss and Ovingham decided to bat (based purely on the fact that they had fewer players available at that time). With Mallards still waiting for Messrs Gibbons and Holland, we took to the field with 2 players from Ovingham kindly volunteering to field for us – a big thank you to Ray and Jonah for that.

Opening with Browne from the Sheep Field End, Browne was on it from the start and clean bowled Ovingham’s opener, D Hall, for a duck. This brought Ovingham’s captain (who’d arrived just as the game was about to start) Derrick to the crease. A few balls later he was dropped at slip, when Buckley spilled a sharp chance diving to his right, for nought. Would this prove expensive? We’ll find out shortly. At the end of the over, Jonah and Marley were replaced by Hollands Snr and Jnr, Thomas stepping in to the breach to cover for Gibbons, who’d arrived late and was still getting ready. Opening from the Extremely Tall Trees End was Mr Watson and he only conceded 2 runs from his first over. He also took a wicket with the last ball of the over, R Hall, caught by someone – I can’t tell you who as it’s not registered in the scorebook! (Good to see the skipper was paying attention rather than gazing at the sheep – webmaster) I’m sure that this can be rectified at some point in time. So, after 2 overs, Ovingham were 3-2. Not a bad start at all.

After one over on the field, Holland Jnr made way for the now-ready Gibbons and the official team-sheet line-up was complete. The good start from Mallards continued with a maiden over from Browne (a bye came from it) and Watson only had 10 come from his 2nd over which did include a 6 from Derrick (that drop by Buckley when Derrick was on nought beginning to look problematic). Browne then had another maiden and then a further 9 runs from Watson’s 3rd over which did include another 6, this time from 4th batsmen D Tate. Browne finished off his spell by only conceding 6 runs off his final over ending with figures of 4-2-7-1. Not bad at all. Watson conceded 7 runs of his final over and finished with figures of 4-0-28-1. His bowling was certainly better than the 28 runs that came off his overs. Replacing Browne from the Sheep Field End was Dunhill who, despite conceding a 4 off his first delivery, managed to bowl 5 dot balls for the remainder of his over. Replacing Watson at the Extremely Tall Trees End was Nitsch and, in his first over, despite being tonked for a couple of 4s, he took the wicket of Tate, clean bowled for 22. At the end of the 10th over, Ovingham were 52 for 4. Halfway through the Ovingham innings, it’s probably about level on points (to use boxing parlance) between the two sides.

Both Dunhill and Nitsch kept it fairly tight in their bowling, with Dunhill especially unlucky not to get a wicket and his finishing figures (4-0-23-0) were, like Watson’s, slightly unfair for what his bowling deserved. Dunhill was the unfortunate victim of a rather huge 6 off his 3rd over to which the fence at the Sheep Field End was also a rather unfortunate victim after being hit by McCaffery’s crotch who had tried to follow the ball into the field! Nitsch kept his bowling tight and after we’d seen the retirement of Derrick for 31 (so yes, that drop from Buckley when he was on nought did prove expensive) he took the wicket of Marley for 4. Nitsch finished with figures of 4-1-17-2 – great stuff.

To close off the overs, Buckley brought on Latif from the Sheep Field End and Gibbons from the Extremely Tall Trees End for the final four overs. Both put in great effort and both conceded 15 runs from their two overs. Ovingham finished on 111 from their 20 overs thanks to 3 sixes, several dropped catches and 17 extras. However, a great effort from the fielding side and, with the batting line-up for Mallards, a target of 112 was certainly achievable with a required run rate of only 5.6 runs per over (less than a run a ball for those struggling with the mathematics of it all).

Sending out an opening partnership of Kent and McCaffery, the expectations were high and those were certainly met by the openers who scored 8 off the first over from P Hall and then 9 off the first over from Derrick. After 2 overs, Mallards were 17-0 compared to Ovingham’s 3-2. A far better start and also well ahead of the run rate. Hall and Derrick kept it slightly tighter in their second overs, conceding only 3 runs apiece but we were on course for what was needed – no concerns from the boundary rope from either the team or the captain. To be honest, we were so confident that most people were taking Mr Nitsch’s dog for regular walks, such was the belief that we wouldn’t require any batsmen lower than number 5. After 2 overs from the Sheep Field End, P Hall was replaced by Ray Marley and he tightened up the bowling a little by only conceding 4 runs from his first over. It was the same from the other end where R Hall came on to bowl and he only conceded 2 runs from his first over. The run rate was slowing down somewhat and, after striking Marley for 3 fours in his second over, Kent played on and was bowled for 23. This brought Holland to the wicket and he ably supported McCaffery, who was still there. Although the run rate had slowed down somewhat, both batsmen continued to persevere, gradually accumulating runs over the next few overs when, in the 10th over, McCaffery succumbed to the bowling of R Hall for 22, clean bowled.

Joining Holland at the wicket was Gibbons and he was off the mark immediately by scoring 2. At the end of the 10th over, Mallards were 56 for 2 and were exactly where they needed to be from a run-rate perspective and with plenty of wickets in hand. Ovingham were 52-4 at the same point. Valiant efforts from both batsmen over the next few overs kept the score ticking along but we slowly started to fall behind the required run rate and then, in the 14th over during the bowling of M Bowey (brought on to replace Marley at the Sheep Field End [who’d finished with figures of 4-0-21-1]), Holland decided to go for a little walk. Unfortunately, the ball wasn’t dead and he was run out for 13. This brought the skipper to the wicket and he was in no mood to either lose his wicket or lose this game. Mentioning to Gibbons upon arrival at the crease that the run-rate needed to be upped they set about their task and, by the end of over 15, had moved the score on to 85-3, back above the required run rate. Unfortunately, in the next over, Gibbons fell to the bowling of Derrick, clean bowled from the Extremely Tall Trees End.

Nitsch ambled to the wicket and, after instructions from Buckley stating that there’s plenty of space for 1s, 2s and the occasional 4, subsequently went about providing a full-blooded swish at EVERY delivery he received. This resulted in Nitsch pulling his arse and made him even more immobile than normal. It was, however, very amusing! After trying to struggle on for a few deliveries, it was decided that a runner was required for Nitsch. This proved more difficult than it should have done, however, we eventually had Browne volunteering himself for the task in hand [pedantic umpires note, it should have been one of the openers! – ed.].

Whilst keeping Mr Browne informed as to what was required during the overs, the Captain took it upon himself to keep Nitsch off strike and ensure that the runs required were achieved with the minimum of effort and requirement for a runner! Hitting the returning P Hall for 13 off his 3rd over and the innings’ 18th over, Buckley and Nitsch/Browne knocked off the remaining 8 runs between them and the game was won – Buckley finishing on 27 not out and Nitsch limping to the end with 3 not out.

Everyone will agree that it was a great game played in the true spirit of Mallardian friendlies – good craic, everyone getting an opportunity and a closely fought outcome.

After the game, everyone retired to the pub for drinks, food and further banter. With a VERY good turn out from both teams plus additional family members/supporters [just as well given the generous portions of chips and sausages that the pub doled out – ed.], it was like the pagan festivities of old – drink, food and socialising. You never know, rather like Jesus H Christ and his followers, maybe we can “borrow” this festival of post-match celebration from the Pagans and repeat it on a regular basis. We won’t, however, use 25th December as that’s already been stolen, sorry, utilised!