Mallards v Benwell and Walbottle August 5 @ Riding Mill

I’m writing this with my feet up, the wireless on and a glass of halfway decent Pinot Gris helping to focus my thoughts. This is a situation in which I have found myself with some regularity in this, our summer of discontent, the difference being that this time I have a match report to write to help pass the time.

Our latest trip down t’ Mill saw us take on regular foes Benwell and Walbottle, in a fixture sandwiched into the calendar at short notice. The day was a warm but dull affair with heavy grey clouds constantly threatening to intervene. A shortened match of just 16 overs per innings was agreed with concerns over the light at this late stage in the season. The visitors won the toss and elected to bat first. Captaincy for the day fell to Dave Cox, with regular skipper Mark “Buxom” Buckley and deputy, Mark “Bleeding Gums” Butcher, both missing in action.

Despite something of a scramble to assemble a team, it was a strong Mallards XI that took to the sward, bang on about 5 past 6 in the evening. Hamid Malik took the new ball with Cox operating at the other end. A well balanced battle commenced with Walbottle openers Smith and Harrington looking to score quickly, but being restricted by some tight bowling.

The score progressed to 24/0 after four overs before Hamid struck in the 5th, as Latif settled under a top-edged pull at square leg to remove Smith for 24 off just 15 balls. Misfortune struck in the following over with Cox pulling up lame in the last ball of the over and being forced off the field with a hamstring strain.

Johnny Bennett took over the reins for the remainder of the innings, as Andy Watson came on to bowl the seventh over. The scoring continued at a steady, but not unmanageable rate, before Watson bowled Harrington for 16 in the ninth over with the score on 53.

Bennett continued to change up the bowlers, with Tom Browne and Ankush each taking a turn. Opposition number three, Dickinson reached the retirement score of 25, making way for Ridley, who was also keen to push the rate. Ankush found the third wicket in his second over, the 13th of the innings, bowling Ridley for 21.

The innings came to a close with more bowling changes, Liaquat Latif and Bennett both taking a turn, the final score was 117/3. A good score from 16 overs, but with some power in the Mallards line-up, this was within reach.

Robbie Burns and Ankush were sent out to open, and Burns wasted no time, taking 22 off the first over, which incidentally only contained five balls. A single off the first ball of the second over brought Burns back on strike who, after an uncharacteristic dot ball, duly nailed his fourth six of his innings. Reaching the retirement score in just seven balls is possibly a Mallards record and certainly put the match there for the taking…

Salesh was in at three and out first ball, trying to continue the momentum but failing to connect with a straight one. One half of the Norwich Mafia, Chris Lucas was promoted to four, largely on the back of his success in the dice-based format of the game during lockdown. It was an aggressive move which didn’t pay off as Lucas was shortly on his way for one.

Bennett at five and Ankush looked to calm things down with a smattering of boundaries pushing the score along. The Great Lockdown of 2020 has robbed us of the comforting sight of a Mallards collapse; fortunately we were about to be treated to a classic of the genre. Bennett was first to go, unable to clear the ring off the penultimate ball of the fifth over, before Si Holland was beaten by a good one next ball.

How were we still only at five overs? This was a strange innings.

Ankush fell off the first ball of the sixth over for a patient 11, and a relatively comfortable 55/2 had become 55/5 in the blink of an eye. Latif and Hamid began the rebuilding, absorbing some good bowling while keeping on top of the run rate.

Hamid was the next to go, unlucky to top edge one to fine leg. Watson, in at nine (remember, we’re still only in the ninth over at this stage), was straight down to business with a couple of well struck fours. Together with Latif the partnership took us to the verge of victory before Latif ran out of runs and reached the retirement score before Watson miscued one to mid on.

With a bit over two overs left and still 11 runs remaining it was still there to be taken but Browne at 10 (graciously allowed to bat in Cox’s absence by the opposition) and Beacock at 11 couldn’t pierce the field to find the required runs, and we finished on 110/8 after our 16.

A hard-fought match that went right to the wire but we were just unable to finish it off. However, no time for self-pity as the team make it two games in two days against Belmont Knights. Get it done, lads.

Finally, thanks to Mallardus Emeritus, Andy Dunhill for turning up and offering to umpire, such gestures are always welcome.