Match reporter: Alan Boyes
It was the naughty step, a visit to Principal Savile’s office and a belated referral to operation Yew Tree for the Mallards.
All had seemed set fair on a sun drenched late afternoon at the Jesmond County Ground. With a late start in prospect, because an under 15’s Grammar school game was still in play, this was opportunity for several Mallards to consume generous amounts of performance unenhancing drugs and to top up their melanomas in the brilliant, burning sunlight.
Drugged or not the Mallards couldn’t help but notice the high standard of batting, bowling and fielding that they were going to have to follow once the kids had vacated the pitch. “The trouble is these kids are trying too hard. They all think they’ve got something to prove whereas we’ve reached that high mountain peak of maturity. From our lofty peak we feel the air of another planet. We’ve nothing to prove,” As one Mallard eloquently put it. So confidence couldn’t have been higher – if you can’t distinguish bluster and bullshit from confidence.
Then the first tiny hints of doubt: “Who has the kit bag?” Quizzical looks all round and with the finely honed powers of Sherlockian deduction the team collectively narrowed it down to Mr Peter Nitsch who was, at the time, treading the boards in Stratford. His magnificent “Bottom” was wowing the audiences there in a much lauded production of “Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Back in Newcastle the reviews weren’t so good as his colleagues had deduced that he’d left the kit bag at Riding Mill. A pithy and withering review from local theatre critic, Gareth Taylor was particularly [eloquently short and – Ed.] stinging but deemed unsuitable for publication; apt though it was. The message did, however, reach the forlorn thespian.
With the humiliation of having to plea for kit charity from the opposition and heads spinning from their “essential medication” the Mallards took to the field in less bullish fashion than might have been the case earlier. The burnishing sunlight gave way to an enveloping chill that saw the lesser spotted Alan Boyes rushing back to the pavilion to get his fleece top. The exhaustion from this lengthy run left him breathless for a couple of overs and led to a couple of unfortunate fumbles – not in the Principal’s office you’ll be pleased to know.
A fast outfield, firm wicket and reasonably competent looking opening batsmen did not auger well for the Mallards. So it was to prove despite Andy Dunhill and Tom Browne bowling a reasonable line and length. Anything slightly inaccurate was punished and the score sped along at nine an over with only the prospect of batting retirements for reaching thirty providing any hope. The score passed 50 in the sixth over and reached 65 after just seven.
Some chances came and went with a run out miss and the normally reliable Peter Beacock dropping a catch but it was mostly one way traffic for the first 12 overs as the score passed a hundred.
Eventually Davidson retired on 33 but Leon took the first actual wicket by dismissing the other opener with a seemingly slow motion caught and bowled. Craig followed this up by bowling Payne. Leon had Devlin well caught by Colin and the scoring rate began to slow. Indeed Leon finished with fine figures of 2 for 18. The remaining overs were delivered by Andy, Trevor and Stig.
With 4 down a burly man came to the wicket dressed in a green top and dark trousers. First impressions think are, “this guy won’t have a clue” followed by bitter experience where many a poorly attired player smacks every other ball for six. For once though, prejudice proved spot on as this one seemed incapable of hitting anything. The scoreboard ground to a halt only for him to finally connect with one ball from Andy, which Stig pouched spectacularly. Congratulations were hearty but short lived, “Oh I guess the next batsman can’t be that bad.”
Despite that Trevor and Stig took another wicket each, including a sharp stumping by Pete, as the RGS Old Boys closed on a fine but hardly frightening 137 for 6. A special mention should go to Colin McCaffery for a tireless display in the field that saved many runs. This had been a great fight back and given the Mallards real hope.
How do we know all this? These were historic events, after all, happened literally days ago. The RGS Old Boys, great fans of French situationist art appeared to have kept the score and then randomly cut the bowling analysis into many dislocated pieces and rearranged them in a new absurdist form. It’s good that they loved art but it wasn’t much help to us Mallards. Thankfully, a large team of professional restoration staff was drafted, who lovingly and tirelessly worked through the night to reconstruct the original masterpiece. The following morning, their spokesman, Professor David Starkey confidently announced that the original had been faithfully restored to its original state and provided a perfect facsimile of King Richard III: It might as well have done.
OK so historical memory was a bit iffy for part one but the Mallardian restorers got to keep the books for the reply. Many of the eye witnesses still live among us today. Glenn Steel and a slightly surprised and bewildered Alan opened the innings. It’s fair to say that things didn’t start too well. Alan facing the very first ball realised the painkillers and anti epilepsy tablets had his head spinning before the bowler released the ball. Thankfully it tailed way down leg side for a bye. When a more clear headed Glen was confused by a fielder’s dark trousers he called for a single thinking it was the umpire only to see him collect the ball and run Alan out. Alan left the scene quite relieved that his dismissal could be blamed on someone other than himself rather than his own short comings.
Sadly the hapless opener was quickly followed by the cream of the Mallards batting line up as they crumbled to 18 for 5. Glenn, Matt, Colin and Trevor were soon able to warm themselves in the bar before Craig and Leon began to rebuild the innings. The scoring rate however, like the British economy, didn’t pick up as it bobbed along at or around 3 an over for the first 16 overs. Eventually the dogged Butcher / Scott partnership was broken when Craig was caught and bowled for a creditable thirteen. Leon soon followed and Pete, in a situation set up to play for his average, was uncharacteristically was caught for a duck. That left the score at 45 for 8 with just 4 overs left. A large gathering of RGS old boy groupies chanted, drunkenly throughout the innings, cheering every little RGS triumph along the way. Normally this would be very annoying but it showed a totally unwarranted respect for the Mallards abilities when they’d not mounted the slightest threat to their team’s total.
To this point Stig had taken Lord Haw-Haw, sorry Hawke’s, famous adage about “getting them in singles” to heart. It was more like getting them in dot balls and the occasional bye. With just 2 wickets remaining and the overs drifting away the Mallards faced a super human task to overhaul the RGS total. Not since Eric Pickles became the first man to successfully cross the Florida Everglades on a pogo stick and Michael Gove climbed Mount Everest on rollerblades had human endeavour reached such dizzying heights. Sadly both those adventures ended tragically when both men survived to tell the tale [much to the frustration of Andy Dunhill who had been looking forward to getting a solid 7 overs of much wanted batting practice in – Ed.].
For Eric Pickles and Michael Gove read Mark Butcher and Tom Browne: the final 2 overs showed a remarkable acceleration with Tom blasting an unbeaten 21 [including a humongous 6 over the fence and into the cemetery – an early candidate for a trophy nomination perhaps? – Ed.] and Stig a “quality, well structured” unbeaten 17, blotting his copybook only by scoring a needless late boundary. Tragically these heroics still came up 60 runs short but thankfully the two heroic warriors emerged unscathed to enjoy a pint after the match.
With defeat looking inevitable so long before the close the lads were reconciled to their fate and took the defeat in the way that only true winners do; a shrug of the shoulders and a “whatever”. Defeat this time but rest assured that for the Mallards glory juggernaut this was but a mere puncture; they’ll be back on the road crushing opposition at ground near you soon; with or without their kit.