Mallards v Knights CC August 6 @ East Rainton

It’s pretty hard to find a village in County Durham that didn’t have a pit at one time, East Rainton being no exception home to no less than eight pits between 1815 and 21st July 1978 when the last one closed. Generally owned by various members of the aristocracy, one of the few benevolences often granted by those masters was to facilitate the building of a cricket ground for the miners. Consequently, Durham is riddled with village cricket grounds – often safe from re-development due to being built on otherwise unsafe for construction land.

And so, Knights CC (pictured above) turfed out from their usual ground due to council apathy to do the risk assessments that we need in these strange times, duly sent a screen shot of a location just off the A690 with the advice “it’s easy to find”. And actually, it was. A picturesque, if albeit, undulating outfield, cricket ground up a single-track lane complete with a brand-spanking-new (and very nice looking) club-house that was out-of-bounds due to the C-19 restrictions.

Losing the toss, ex-vice-captain McCaffery was invited to bat and after a quick consultation with the Despot, a batting order was agreed with Cleaver promoted to the heady heights of 10. Opening the batting though were Holland senior junior (Ed) and new(ish) recruit Goldsborough. Andy is epitome of what we aspire to in Mallards and did not disappoint by duly clipping the first ball of the innings straight into the waiting hands of mid-wicket, this ensuring that he is firmly in the running for at least one trophy in this truncated season (message to Mr Cox, who is compiling live statistics for the season, think a diamond duck counts as double in the stats!).

In at 3, Holland junior junior (Tom) came in and immediately started with a confidence level that no other Mallard managed on what was a difficult wicket that made timing of shots difficult, Tom’s partnership with his brother was short lived and a procession of Mallards came and went with no-one getting out of single figures and Knights making sure that every catching opportunity was taken. Special mention must go to Stu Green – resplendent with his lock-down haircut – for some particularly good sledging of the opposition while batting! Tom was finally out in the 15th over for a very creditable 20, leaving the old lags of Cleaver and the Despot attempting to at least see out the innings. Sadly, it was not to be with the Despot getting himself out thanks to a suicidal run attempt that saw Blenkiron uncharitably throwing and hitting the stumps with only one to aim at. The final outcome 57 all out, an over short of the allotted 18.

Knights must have been thinking that an early finish was in the offing, but it was to prove not to be. Cleaver who had already marked his run up at the end of the Mallards innings, took the first over and bowled with his usual miserliness and was rewarded with 2 wickets from his allotted three overs, removing both openers – first Clark for 1 and a second thanks to a stunning one-handed catch at mid-wicket by Goldsborough that would have probably otherwise gone over the head of most other Mallards.

Conscious of defending a low score the combined leadership of McCaffery behind the stumps, and who was having a blinder of a time throwing himself about, and the Despot at fly-slip/ gully – the bowling was quickly rotated to give everyone a chance at doing so. Browne, deprived of a glass of muscle relaxant before the match by his chauffeur (aka McCaffery) and clearly suffering from his second game in as many days bowled stiffly but somehow snaffled an lbw by surprising the Knights number 3 with a delivery that was on target. Meanwhile at the other end, replacing the very tidy Goldsborough, Stone rolled back the years with a masterclass in bowling guile that saw just 2 runs conceded from his 3 overs. Stone was unlucky not to bag a couple of wickets as well thanks to the other feature of the innings that saw every other catching chance either dropped or falling just out of the reach of the fielder.

Coming on in the last trimester of the innings, Ed Holland bowled with some zip conceding just 7 runs from 3 overs and helped seal a run-out even with a ball juggling take that gave the stretching batsmen that faint glimmer of a chance of a reprieve only to dash those hopes. With wickets in hand, but the overs ticking down Knights stepped up their pace, taking a shine to Latif and on the last ball of the 16th over finally overhauled Mallards total to win by 6 wickets.

With no club-house bar and no obvious public house nearby it was a case of pack up bags and head home (possibly via McDonalds drive-through for the very excellent junior Hollands courtesy of Holland senior). However, another close game, but another one we ended up being on the wrong side of the finish line – a Mallardian performance through and through.