Mallards v Davipart @ South Shields June 23

Get the champagne out - we won
Get the champagne out – we won

Last week’s match report ended on a note of utter despair: “The 28-run defeat, snatched from the jaws of victory was a ninth-consecutive loss.  Will next week’s away game at Davipart take the run into double figures?  Probably.”

And so, after a long weekend of unpredictable weather that seemed to tune-in those views, the sun finally shined for the better part of a whole afternoon and evening. Buoyed with chance to score some vitamin D, a surprising enthusiastic Mallards squad changed into their whites in the unfamiliar changing room 4, complete with massage table – although, sensibly, nobody took up Mr Nitsch’s offer of a deep tissue massage (at least I think that is what he was offering).

The opposition was keen to get going and with vice captain Butcher still wrestling with his jock strap instructions were sent out to deputy Browne to perform the toss and elect to bat if successful. Despite mutinous inclinations to otherwise bowl, Browne correctly called and followed captains’ orders.

For the second game in a row, Kent and Steel were given the opportunity to cement their places as the dream team opening pair. A steady start it was, the first over conceding just 2 byes from the tidy left bowling of Umar, and 4 from the next over from the ever tidy bowling of Thompson from his now much reduced 2 pace run-up (he informed me after the game that he is working on a half pace run-up in memory of the late Ian Jackson (early era Mallard before he defected to Davipart)). A loose second over from Umar saw 10 runs come from it, thanks to a well-timed pull shot from Steel and some driven 2s from Kent. With the partnership on 38, Steel (17) was controversially given out lbw by Mexter, in the 8th over from a decent delivery by Thompson (1 for 12 off 4) that beat the bat and hit Steel on the back leg. The bruise on Steel’s thigh (displayed to all in the changing room) suggested it may have been high, but the suspicion is that hawk-eye, if it had been available, would have given umpire’s call.

Jordon, in at 3, started with his customary few balls to see himself in, but with Kent at the other end calling the singles the scoreboard was kept ticking over until the latter finally retired on a highly creditable 33. Nitsch in at 4 promptly ran-out Jordon (5) with a possibly ambitious 2 that saw an exhausted Tony fall short by a couple of yards at the start of the 15th over. With the score on 74, Butcher strode to the crease, mindful that a more competitive total was needed. A quick single was then followed by a series of 4s and 2s, with Nitsch happy to farm the strike in favour of his rampant vice-captain. By the 19th over the score was 111 and with the last over coming down Butcher seized the opportunity to boost his average by cracking one last 4 to retire on 30.

Clearly mindful of needing to score runs, Lucas hit a straight driven 2 with his first ball, before being bowled by Hamza on his second. Watson with just 2 balls left hit a single and the innings finished with Nitsch (10 not out) calling a 3 run bye to a startled but game Watson, to see the Mallards innings close on a highly respectable 120 (only 71 runs less than England were managing at the same time at Old Trafford – then again I suspect they may have had a slightly quicker outfield and better batting track).

Mallards took to the pitch to defend their total and with some assistance from the old hands, Butcher democratically set a mildly defensive field. Browne opened the bowling and an otherwise tidy over was marred by what was to be, a rare loose ball despatched by Sandu for 4. Mexter opened from the other end and again was punished by Sandu for a loose ball, hit well to the long-on boundary. At the end of the 2nd over Davipart were well on the run rate with 13. However the two openers started to apply the brakes, backed up by some excellent sweep fielding from Watson, Lucas and McGuinness that kept well struck balls down to singles. With the pressure building, Mexter made the breakthrough removing the dangerous Sandu, making full use of his height to take an over-his-head caught and bowled and a wicket maiden to boot. At the end of the 8th over the score was 31 for 1, Browne, despite bowling well, went wicketless to finish his 4 over spell with a highly respectable 0 for 13 and Mexter 1 for 16 off his allotted 4.

Ringing the changes Butcher looked to Taylor and McGuinness to continue the good work. Taylor deciding to flight the ball, took what seems to his customary couple of balls to get the radar working properly, before bowling a leg side full toss that saw opener Scholes chop the ball onto his stumps, bowled for 9 by an embarrassed-looking Taylor. With McGuinness finding a much better line from the football stand end, Taylor was free to continue tossing the ball up, removing first the dangerous Yogesh Rawley for just 2 using the old trick of bowling 2 wides then getting one plumb on target to trap the batsman on the back foot in front of the stumps lbw, and then the fortunate dismissal of Harwood who stepped back onto his stumps trying to make room to cut another well-flighted ball. Big credit to Harwood for taking the decision out of a slightly confused umpire’s hands and walking off in gentlemanly fashion.

By the end of the 16th over the score was 67 for 5, McGuinness getting a well-deserved wicket, clean-bowling Gilfillan for 3 to finish with 1 for 15 off 4 and Taylor the surprising 3 for 21 off his allotted 4. With the run rate climbing Davipart had to look at upping their tempo, and Butcher decided that with 54 needed off the last 4 there was some leeway to finally give “I’m a bowler really” Lucas a chance to pop his bowling cherry. Lucas quickly found bowling in the middle is not the same as having 2 lengths of white netting to help guide your direction, and an 11 ball over yielded 10 runs including 2 highly celebrated dot balls. Watson (0 for 18 off 2) was given the ball at the other end, and also struggled with his radar and was perhaps a tad unfortunate to be denied a wicket from a well-taken catch by Steel at long-off thanks to a no-ball.

Dinesh Rawlley and Umar were making full use of the more friendly bowling to score runs, the former largely going for the singles method (not advised at his age!) and the latter trying to find the boundary. However it was too little too late. With the score on 96 at the end of the 19th over, and 25 needed Butcher turned to the injured Nitsch (groin) to bowl the last over, who sportingly tried to help them get there, but in the end only went for 13 to see the Davipart innings finish on 109 for 5 with Rawlley Sr 22 not out and Umar 23 not out.

So a second win of the season for Mallards, defying the doomsayers and ensuring that Butcher maintains his 100% record as vice captain. Mutinous mutterings in the ranks about deposing the incumbent skipper (fully endorsed by a partying Wood down at Glastonbury) were quickly quashed by Butcher himself, stating that he has an average to protect. Sorry Trev you don’t get off that easily! A party atmosphere in the dressing room (see above)  still didn’t help Nitsch to persuade anyone to massage his injury, and so it was a short walk (or limp in Peter’s case) down the corridor to the bar to watch the dying moments of the Kiwi innings as they capitulated once again to England in the T20 (sorry Dave couldn’t resist getting that one in).

With one win apiece in the series with Davipart the decider will be played on our home ground in 4 weeks time. Should be a good one to look forward to.