Mallards v Davipart @ Riding Mill July 22

What's plan C skip?
What’s plan C skip?

Whilst a current Google search shows that ‘collapsed like a house of cards’ leads the race for most common ‘collapse’ analogy (21,000 hits) there is little doubt that it will be overtaken within a generation by ‘collapsed like a Mallards’ tail’ (currently 0 hits but after this report that figure will undoubtedly increase)

In the post-apocalyptic era etymologists will no doubt  puzzle over this  phrase.  They will shake their heads and rush off to consult with their ornithologist friends – all ologists will hang out together after the apocalypse to avoid contagion from the riff-raff – who in turn will inform them that it makes no sense, a Mallards’ tail being something with no collapsible properties whatsoever. In fact, those who combine both ornithologist and theologist tendencies will point out that the Mallards’ tail is a thing of such perfection that it is clear evidence of the hand of God in its creation, whilst quietly setting light to a bonfire made entirely from copies of Darwin’s Origin of the Species.

Eventually, after queuing for hours to take their turn on the world’s one remaining computer, an Amstrad ZX, which like a technological cockroach will be one of the few machines to survive the nuclear holocaust, they will discover the answer on this very website.

The story began on a slightly overcast evening at Riding Mill in late July, 2015. Mallards took to the field, after losing the toss, hoping to arrest a hideous run of one win in fifteen games against Davipart who had been their only victims in that run. It didn’t start well.

D Rawley Jnr and Sandhu hit their straps from the off, racing to 23 from the first two overs with Mexter conceding three fours from his first over.  Browne, at the other end, was also somewhat under the cosh, 15 coming from his first two overs, and after six overs the visitors had rocketed to 54, with Mallards’ only success coming when Browne bowled Sandhu for 16 in the fifth over.

Things were about to turn however, the retirement of Rawley Jnr and a change in the field to a more attacking intent, saw the runs start to dry up. Browne and Mexter finished their spells strongly, conceding only four runs from their last two overs to end with 1-25 and 0-33 respectively.  They were replaced by Cox and Haylock who continued the good work, backed up by some excellent ground fielding, with Haylock, in particular, excelling on the boundary as the visitors suddenly found themselves floundering slightly, only reaching 67 at the halfway stage.

Mallards’ confidence began to grow, with Cox beating the bat umpteen times and Haylock bowling beautifully the scoreboard slowly ground to a halt and another wicket fell, the latter trapping Skinner lbw for 16. The only fly in the ointment during this period was another unfortunate injury for Mexter, who fell awkwardly diving for a ball in the gully and dislocated his shoulder, necessitating another rapid return to the RVI where, fortunately, he now possesses frequent faller status and was rushed through for treatment, past a bemused alcohol-drenched waiting room. (N.B. the good news is that the shoulder is now back in its proper place and thanks to a copious supply of drugs the patient is recovering in a state of bemused bliss, happily unaware of the carnage he missed.)

On the plus side, Mexter’s fielding replacement, Umar, immediately showed the value of youth by running out his colleague D Rawley Snr for 1 as the visitors crept along to 87-3 from 14 overs. The fielding side were now firmly in control and Cox and Haylock finished their spells with two more tight overs to restrict the opposition to 92-3 from 16 overs, finishing with 0-15 and 1-19 respectively, Cox’s figures all the more remarkable as six of those runs came from one enormous six in his first over.

Watson and last week’s anti-hero Boyes took over and though Watson’s first over took a bit of stick they maintained the pressure with the last three overs as Boyes showed that he can also get proper batsmen out by bowling  the opposition skipper Y Rawley for a solid 29. With only 11 runs coming from the last three overs, Davipart ended their 20 overs on an eminently gettable 115-4, with only 61 runs coming from the last 15 overs.

The home side sent out Kent and Butcher to build a platform and the plan worked when Kent smashed the wily Thomson’s fourth ball for four. It stopped working two balls later when the bowler struck back, clean-bowling Kent for that single boundary.

Skipper Wood joined Butcher in what is becoming a regular partnership and the pair got their heads down, defending stoutly against Thomson,attacking wildly against the pacy but wild Hamza at the other end and generally playing hit-and-run. By the end of the sixth over they had taken the score on to 26-1 and then started to accelerate, Wood, in particular finding the gap between keeper and first slip with unerring accuracy, as they raced on to 41-1 from eight overs. Thomson’s three overs only went for seven runs before he was presciently held back for a late burst by Davipart’s obviously mystic captain.

Unfortunately the blossoming partnership was halted in the next over when Wood was lbw to the unorthodox Skinner for 22. Fortunately, this brought Cox to the wicket, fresh from hitting 150-odd for Corbridge at the weekend, and he continued this form with a four and a six to keep the momentum going. At the other end Skinner worked his magic again, mesmerising Butcher with loop, to bowl him for a well-made 21 but with Lucas joining Cox, the run rate continued to climb, another six from the latter taking the score to 65-3 from 12 overs,  with 51 required to win from the last eight.

Lucas was the next to perish, unluckily picking out a lone fielder at mid-on for 3, but with Cox smashing two more sixes the chase was firmly on at 81-4 from 14 overs, 35 needed from six at less than a run-a-ball, with Boyes joining Cox at the crease, hoping to repeat his match-winning feat from the previous week, only this time for the good guys!

Sadly, Cox’s next run saw him retire for 30 as Watson came out to join Boyes and the pair initially kept up the momentum to take the score  to 92-4 from 16, 24 to win from 24 balls. Those of a nervous disposition should look away now.  The next two overs came and went with only a meagre seven runs added but with only four wickets down there was still hope of getting the required 17 from the last 12 balls.  Re-enter the wily Thomson, held back for just this moment. With his first ball he removed Watson, bowled for three. His third ball saw new batsman Jordon out lbw for 0 (Umpire Butcher’s finger pointing to the sky before the ‘w’ in Howzat had even registered).  Thomson’s fourth ball saw Browne swipe and miss, bowled for 0. Surely there couldn’t be a hat-trick against the Mallards for the second week running. Of course there could. Haylock came and then went again, his only ball being caught by the grateful bowler for his fourth wicket in five balls.

On the plus side, Haylock’s dismissal saw the return of Cox, who had rather prematurely put his civvies on thinking his day was over. Boyes, still there somehow, blocked Thomson’s final delivery to give the returning Kiwi the strike with 17 required off the final over. If anyone could do it he could, the more optimistic Mallards’ contingent dreamed.

The final over saw every Davipart fielder on the boundary with the exception of the wicket-keeper, Cox swung mightily but to no avail, his normal fluency perhaps hampered by his stay-press grey chinos, shirt and tie, as the Mallards innings closed on a disappointing 105-8. Yet more ‘what might have been’ thoughts ran through the crowded pavilion, Mexter’s mighty batting would surely have turned the tide if he hadn’t been swilling down heavy-duty paracetomol in Ward 17 when he was needed in the middle. C’est La (r)vi as the cheese-eating surrender monkeys almost say.

As always, such thoughts were quickly banished as the new routine of beer and snacks outside the pavilion was thoroughly enjoyed thanks to Taylor’s excellent efforts (his new title of chief caterer and ambulance driver will be ratified at the next annual dinner) as we celebrated the imminent arrival of ‘collapsed like a Mallards’ tail’ into the next edition of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.