Mallards v Benwell & Walbottle @ Walbottle Campus June 10

Here’s another tip to the selection committee, when you select a side, make sure it has at least one schmuck [ahem] willing and able match reporter in the ranks, otherwise you end up doing it yourself.

With rains of biblical proportion forecast for the next few days, the weather gods at least provided a small window of opportunity to get a game in. With a Mallards team full of players who love to get as many games in as possible (i.e. they’ll play for anyone), it looked like a strong showing was in the offing. However the much anticipated face-off before the start between VC Colin “Give it the Heeet” McCaffery and VC Stig “Strictly carrots & humous for me” Butcher failed to happen, as Butcher declared himself injured after doing something rigorous in the lake district fells and completely ignored doctor’s orders to consume a significant amount of malt whisky to speed up his recovery.

Arriving late, your reporter has no idea if McCaffery won the toss or not, only the observation that Mallards were already in the field about to start – albeit without a match ball, which was quickly rectified. By the time I had got changed the first wicket had fallen 3 balls into the innings, apparently a stunning catch taken by Hall (well that’s what Ally told me) at mid-wicket off the bowling of Thacker (coming down the hill) for a duck. In fact, both openers bowled well with Watson providing an able foil running up the hill to restrict Benwell & Walbottle to just 30 runs off the first 8 overs.

Casting around for replacement bowlers, McCaffery turned to Malik and Gibbons. Hamid bowling down the hill had a torrid first over going for 25 runs, with batsman Davey taking a liking to what he was being served up with – the score almost doubling in the space of 1 over. Meanwhile Gibbons claimed the second of the wicket of the evening, a floated up one that removed Horbury for just 4 in his first over.

McCaffery’s faith in his change bowlers was rewarded at one end with Hamid going for just 5 runs off his subsequent 3 overs, and the clean bowled removal of opener Jenkinson senior who created pressure for himself by inextricably deciding to try and cream every delivery to the boundary having being content to nurdle the previous 10 overs. That may have had something do with the fact that Jenkinson junior was now at the crease and a need to set an example. However, Jenkinson junior needed no role model and decided that Gibbons bowling was to his liking, leaving Patrick with the unflattering and definitely not deserved 1 for 41 off his 4 allotted overs.

With the score on 101 off 16 overs the skipper turned to try and find two final bowlers to see out the innings. Taylor had previously having expressed an opinion that he would try turning his arm over for an over if there really no other option and he could bowl down the hill. With not much other choice, McCaffery took the plunge and in a pique of clemency allowed Taylor to trundle down the hill. He immediately made an impact allowing Jenkinson junior to hit a 4 and become the second retiree of the evening on 31 not out. However, that cunning piece of guile also brought it rewards, somehow tying up an end and being rewarded with the wicket of Bateman for 3 bowled by one that made Stig’s “even slower” ball look decidedly pacey. Wilkinson bowled a tidy over from the downhill end and encouraged by the previous one from Taylor he was invited to bowl again.

First ball a dot, then an ambitious drive to mid-off was safely pouched by Ally Hall, running around to his left to remove Brown for 9. In comes skipper Draper only to be clean bowled by one that hovered for about half a second in front of the off stump before deciding to hit it. A rare hat-trick was on. Taylor asked for a moderately attacking field, with McCaffery in at short mid-off. Delivery made and the ball is driven low-but-straight into the normally reliable hands of the skipper only to bounce straight back out in-front of an aghast Taylor’s eyes. Robbed I tell you!! Two rubbish balls to finish the over with remarkable figures of 3 for 11, but it so could have been 4 for 5. Give me a season or seven and I may forget.

Set 128 to win (could have been more if it hadn’t been for some excellent keeping by Beacock), Kent and newcomer Zahid strode out to bat brimming full of confidence. However, there is a definite knack to setting a field at Walbottle and the home team have it and Mallards don’t. Shots that should have whizzed to the boundary instead found a conveniently placed fielder for just a single. This got all too much for Zahid, who having just hit a glorious first boundary of the innings, perished clean bowled to one that nipped back for just 6. With skipper McCaffery in next, attempts to up the tempo failed thanks to some tight bowling, the aforementioned field placings and a general refusal to take fielder’s arms on – something that the B&W lads had been particularly good at.

McCaffery, having just hit a single that bounced 6 feet short of the boundary into the waiting hands of a fielder, perished with a shot to the safe hands of mid-off for 3. Now Ally Hall has been making noises this season that he is finally going to attend an MCC end of season dinner, now that he’s realised the value of the trophies on offer. With two good catches in the match already likely to put him on the shortlist for swoop fielder, he decided to go after the most coveted trophy of all, clean bowled by a beauty for a second ball duck. Now normally the skipper would be upset by this, but as the current holder of that particular trophy, he seemed at ease that someone else was making an early bid to take it from him.

Thacker and Malik made slow but steady progress, but by the end of the 10th over Mallards still needed 99 to win. Thacker perished for 5 (singles), caught by Jenkinson senior at mid-wicket. Replacing him was Watson, who under clear instructions to “hit out or get out” followed the instruction to the letter with a quickfire 30 runs in 19 balls before retiring on 30 not out with just 14 balls to go (worth noting Malik, comfortable in the anchorman role, scored a modest 7 in the same time). However, the writing was on the wall, 50 runs were needed and Hamid had an average to play for. Gibbons valiantly tried to ensure that Malik had the majority of the strike, but in the end, it was all over with Mallards on a respectable, but sadly considerably short, 96 for 5, Malik finishing with 18 off 31 balls.

Beer, cider & other soft drinks were consumed in the club bar after, the consensus verdict of the forensic post-match analysis (which lasted all of 30 seconds) was that we should have made three figures and that certain people need to push their first run a bit quicker, or maybe it was that we’re all getting too old to be running up slopey wickets. In the meantime I’m looking into the logistics of how we pack a decent sized spirit level into the team bag.