Mallards v Davipart July 15 @ Riding Mill

So much about this fixture was unorthodox. The fact the first game of the season was more than half-way through July; the virtual changing rooms of spaced out chairs on the football field; the arcane rituals of applying anti-bacterial goop all over hands and (cricket) balls, and of course the almost tangible absence of one of the Mallards who had turned out in the previous fixture at Bill Quay on 29th August 2019.

Before the game got underway, all players took to the fields in a circle and observed a minute’s silence in honour of two Mallards who had left us during the off-season (see above). Many of the Mallards were resplendent in new whites bearing the name of Leon Mexter, former treasurer, and public speaker extraordinaire, who had been cruelly taken not long after the Bill Quay game, and whose absence left a long shadow over proceedings. But the silence was also in honour of Paul Benneworth, a Mallard of seasons gone by, and known for his general unorthodoxy – very much in keeping with the general nature of the fixture.

The teams took to the field suitably gooped-up, with Mallards sending Kent and Ankush into bat. Things started sensibly with a few dots before Kent unleashed the first boundary of the game and retained the strike into the second over. A quick single brought to the crease Ankush who aimed to open in big style but didn’t get enough on a lofted drive and was duly sent back to the “changing room” caught at mid-on.

Ally Hall took over and got straight to business with a single. Over the course of the next 5 overs, Hall and Kent gradually got the measure of Thompson and Maplesden (M), upping the run rate in the 5th and 6th overs to bring the score to 39 for 1 at the first anti-bacterial break after 7 overs had been bowled. Once play resumed, Kent and Hall continued as before, seeing the ball nicely and keeping the scoreboard ticking over, with both retiring on 30 and 31 respectively.

McCaffery took over from Kent; Cox replaced Hall, and both set in for a good bat with a string of singles and some effective calling to keep the strike rotating. After a period of settling in, McCaffery moved through the gears and took Maplesden (S) to the boundary a couple of times. He apparently took exception, and got his revenge in the 16th, clean-bowling McCaffery for a total of 18, with Mallards now 107 for 2 with 4 overs to come.

In the meantime, Cox had quickly found some form, scoring a string of uncompromising boundaries.  The pick of these was a glorious lofted drive towards the sightscreens, with the pose held for the slow-motion replay, and yet cruelly short of a maximum; falling seemingly inches short of the rope. It was a brief but effective cameo and Cox returned to the “clubhouse” to the applause of his fellow Mallards, having scored 31 off 19 deliveries. The score at this point was 129 for 2, with 2 overs still to come.

Buckley and Thacker were left to finish up the innings with Dhillon (G) and Dhillon (A) bowling tightly through the last 2 overs, only giving away 6 more runs and setting an impressive 1st innings total of 135.

A quick break before the Mallards took to the field to resume play, and Tony Cleaver started proceedings from the tree end forcing 3 dot balls from Sandhu (S), before he got the ball off the square for 3 runs. Hamid took the second over with a few looseners, which in addition to an unfortunate boundary wide, made for a fairly punishing first over. TC took the ball for the third over and, apparently nonplussed at being hit to the boundary from his first ball, bounced back by dotting the remainder of the over. Hamid showed similar resilience with a strong comeback in his second over, which went for an economical 2.

Given the uncharacteristically high target, many would have been forgiven for thinking this recent spate of tight bowling would be all we needed to pin back the opposition. However, just as our bowlers settled into their game, so too did the Davipart batsmen, Sandhu (S) and Rawley (Y). Nevertheless, Cleaver and Malik finished their spells – although wicketless – only having succumbed to 26 and 24 runs apiece from their 4 overs, with the score 53 without loss. If this run rate was maintained for the rest of the game however, it was going to be close…

Cox and Thacker took up the action and, like their predecessors, used their first overs to shake off some off-season rust. Cox struggled with the front foot (and sportingly gave Sandhu (S) a 6 to retire on 31), whilst Thacker watched his first ball fly over the boundary. Yet undaunted by this, Thacker took the wicket of Rawley (Y) with his third – evidently stung by that first ball slog – and dotted out the rest of the over. So, at the half-way point we had our first wicket and the scoreboard read 70 for 1, but at the same point in our innings the score was 58 for 1, so lots still to do in the home stretch.

Cox gritted his teeth and suppressed the run rate with each over he bowled, going for 6, 4 and 0 in his final three – the last being a double wicket maiden. This saw the departure of Sandhu (A) and Rawley (D) to the ‘pavilion’ to join their namesakes. Cox finished his spell with figures of 4-0-21-2. Thacker bowled tightly for the remainder of his spell, and would also have finished with 2 wickets under his belt, had Holland turned up to a few more catching practice sessions in the interminable off-season. Instead he saw Maplesden (M) take a single off his last ball, instead of taking his marching orders.

Continuing the theme of difficult first overs, Holland – fresh from his Denly-esque goober – took the ball and within seconds witnessed his team-mates rescuing it from the nettles. After this rude awakening, the over settled into a handful of singles, until the last ball pitched a little too full and was despatched towards the road for 6 runs by Dhillon (A) with a swat off his legs. Ankush took over at 121 for 3 with 3 overs remaining, and 3 balls in, avenged the leg-swat by clean bowling Dhillon (A). This brought Dhillon (G) to the crease, who didn’t trouble the scorer for the rest of the over thanks to some surgical bowling accuracy from Ankush. 18 overs bowled and the score was 124 for 4. 12 runs required off 12 balls.

Holland took his mark in the 19th, acutely aware that having gone for 14 in his first, he was in an excellent position to end the game early with a few characteristically wayward deliveries. However, despite a couple of wides, managed to leak only 6 more runs. Better than the first, but maintained Davipart’s run-a-ball target run-rate. 6 needed from 6.

Ankush stepped up to bowl the last over and two dots from the first 2 balls kept spirits going in the field. A single brought Maplesden (M) to the crease, and his next ball pinned him there – another dot in the book. The pendulum swung tentatively back to the Mallards, with 5 now required from 2 balls. The next ball went for 2. The field held its’ collective breath for the final ball. Maplesden (M) managed to get it off the square but not past the field. It was fielded in but not before a second run was completed. Scores level, the game was tied on 135 runs apiece.

Perhaps this was a worthy result. A friendly in every respect – Davipart worthy opposition, despite having only 7 surnames between them – and played in the best spirit of the game. A fitting tribute to absent Mallards.