Mallards v Riding Mill @ Riding Mill July 4

Mallards has always been a progressive club, long ago excusing their ladies from the arduous preparation of tea and cucumber sandwiches in exchange for the less nutritious chips and deep fried onion rings from the Wellington Pub.  Sometimes we’ve even (TRIGGER WARNING: Look away now any remaining gammonesque old boys)… let them play!

Now we’ve taken it one step further.  Our recent joint sponsorship of the England v New Zealand World Cup Match (I assume that was the deal that was arranged given the price we paid for our tickets) saw Mallards elect to eschew the usual scantily-clad models draped over the bonnet of the sponsors car in favour of our own pin-up, swathed in a shimmering electric blue number complete with a bright yellow streak, obviously representing the iconic Mallards Duck.  Our very own (though sometimes Riding Mill’s – see later) Pete Nitsch took to the role like that very same duck to water  (pictured).

The reaction was as you would expect. Several female spectators had to be hosed down, there was a large dent in the bonnet and only one complaint. Fortunately the man who said ‘that Linda Lusardi’s gone downhill’ was swiftly ejected from the premises and was last seen heading to the Masonic Lodge muttering something about ‘the bloody EU’ before chanting ‘Eng-er-land.’ (pictured below).

stig pic

All of which leads us, in a roundabout fashion, to last night’s highly-competitive game between Mallards and their hosts Riding Mill. Many of the previous day’s sponsors were in attendance, looking slightly peaky it must be said, with many of them probably having been banished to the couch to sleep, and there was a strong chance of the Friendly Fire trophy being snagged as Messrs Nitsch, Hall, Thacker, Watson and Kent all turned out for the home side.

Mallards opened the batting with the new partnership of Ankush and Wood hoping to continue the form shown in the recent victory over Belmont Knights. A steady start saw the pair reach 28 after six overs with Wood bizarrely outscoring his partner early on. That would soon change.  Ankush began to move through the gears with some very clean hitting but with the 50-partnership nearing was unlucky to be caught from what was probably a no ball for a splendid 22. After nine over Mallards were on a healthy-ish 49-1. McCaffrey came and went quickly for 3 but Wood was then joined by Cox and after a slow start the latter began to find form with some beautiful drives. Wood, meanwhile, was marooned on 22, surviving a variety of inside edges and even a catch behind, which Thacker, sportingly admitted hadn’t quite carried. When he finally reached 26 and retired with the score on 75 it was a blessing for all concerned, especially as it brought the hard-hitting Sailesh to the wicket.

Immediately the scoreboard began to rattle along again, Cox retiring on a stylish 25 with the score on 90 in the  17th over bringing Malik to the wicket with just under four overs to go.  Now the accelerator was being pushed firmly to the floor as boundaries accumulated, Malik’s first three scoring shots were all fours and Sailesh, crashed the ball around before retiring hurt on 24. Latif saw out the last two balls to leave Malik unbeaten on 15 and Mallards on a very solid 122 for just two wickets, with three batsmen retiring.

Kent and Nitsch opened for the opposition, the latter in more subdued garb than his modelling outfit. Both seemed keen to capture the Friendly Fire trophy as quickly as possible, with 15 coming from Goldsborough’s first over. The score continued to mount rapidly, 31 coming from the first three overs, Kent retiring in the fourth over for a very rapid 25. Skipper Butcher took decisive action bringing on the veteran Mitcheson, only recruited the day before at a cost of some 17 pints of ale. The alcoholic bribe paid dividends. In his first over he trapped Nitsch lbw for 13, in his second he removed Dickson in identical fashion and in his third he clean-bowled the dangerous Watson for 0 which meant that after 11 overs the home team were still handily placed on 69-3 but Mallards were back in the game. Parthiv finished a very impressive debut spell at the other end with 0-22 from his four overs and hopes were raised  as Cox, still smarting from the previous day’s result, found his length immediately, only conceding one run from his first over.

The game went into a quiet period as the Riding Mill batsmen tried to settle things down whilst keeping out a hostile Cox, keen to salvage his country’s diminishing reputation, and after 14 overs the result was delicately poised with the score on 85-3.  Mallards, though, were becoming increasingly bullish with the bowling backed up by some aggressive fielding and enthusiastic backing up – they could sense victory (regular readers will know that this particular sense has been proved fallible in the past though).

New bowler Sailesh quickly removed opposing skipper Hall for 14 then Cox was finally rewarded for his excellent spell when Malik took a blinding catch over his shoulder in the deep to remove the dangerous Thacker for 21, thus probably thwarting another Friendly Fire bid. The catch was even better as it was beginning to get very dark and the ball moved all over the place. Cox finished his spell with an excellent 1-9 from four overs.

The catch seemed to lift Mallards’ spirit even higher and the home side began to look worried as they had slipped to 92-5 from 16 overs and now needed 31 from four overs for victory with two new batsmen at the crease.  Worried Mallard frowns greeted the 17th over though as 10 runs came off it with Sailesh, temporarily, losing his radar – 21 needed from three overs.

Malik came on at the other end and immediately put the brakes back on, bowling Tahir for 3 to leave the home side on 104-6 with two overs to go. Sailesh refound his rhythm in his third over as first McCaffrey took an instinctive catch behind, appearing to catch the ball with his neck, to remove Walker before he clean-bowled Reid to leave the visitors in trouble on 107-8 with one over to come. A couple of quickly-run twos took them a step closer as the Mallards field sat deep to protect their lead before a combination of Ankush and Malik ran out Mayfield to bring the dangerous Kent back to the wicket with ten needed from just two balls. Thankfully he was at the wrong end and in attempting to sneak a single to get to the other end he was run out by McCaffrey to end the innings on 113 all out. A nine-run victory for an unusually competitive and focused Mallards team.

Victory was celebrated with a mountain of chips and onion rings at the Wellington, none of which was prepared by the decorous Mallards’ wives and girlfriends. Cos we don’t do that kind of thing any more, obviously.