Mallards v Davipart @ South Shields June 3

Injuries were the theme of the week as Mallards faced Davipart trying to end a run of five successive defeats.

Both Captain Wood and Vice Captain Butcher had picked up shoulder injuries (no doubt from the burdens of leadership they have to carry), the latter’s injury restricting his contribution to an appearance as the world’s least glamorous cheerleader. To add insult to the injuries the team was also hamstrung by the defection of several players, lured by the attractions of a younger, apparently more attractive model. There will be many ex-wives out there knowing how we feel. God knows what we’re going to tell the kids.

Anyway, to the game. Wood again won the toss and again put the opposition in, seemingly unaware that the definition of madness is to keep doing the same thing whilst expecting a different result. The regular bowling attack of Brown and Dunhill took up the cudgels with an unusually-attacking field to bowl to, boosting hopes of an early breakthrough. And so it came to pass, Dunhill forcing a leading edge from opener Guy which was comfortably taken by Greenwood in at short cover. With Browne following up this success with a rare maiden, Mallards had got off to a great start as Davipart reached a below-par 9-1 from three overs.

Unfortunately, the home side were just getting into their stride and gradually the new batsman Skinner and the opener Haygarth began to put their foot down, as a smattering of boundaries were mixed in with countless singles and by the end of the eighth over the pair had taken the score up to a respectable 50-1. Opening bowlers Browne and Dunhill retired with commendable figures of 0-18 and 1-28 from their four-over spells. Dunhill’s figures would have been deservedly better if Jordon had managed to hold onto a fierce drive which smashed through his fingers, a spectacular catch and hopes of winning the end-of-season Asti Spumante Moment trophy narrowly slipping from his grasp in one moment.

With Haygarth retiring, the rapid Skinner kept up the run-rate with his hit-and-run style as new bowlers Wisbach and Haylock struggled to restrict the rising scoring rate, 19 runs coming from the next two overs. The former, however, started to find his rhythm and in his next over he trapped the new batsman Dutta in front of his stumps, lbw for 5, with what he claimed to be his ‘flipper.’ To the uninitiated that’s a ball that doesn’t actually spin.

Unfortunately, at the other end, Haylock continued to receive undue punishment, conceding 21 from his first two overs. His response was to bamboozle the batsman in a Taylor-esque third over, with a flurry of wides luring the opposition captain Rawley into a rash drive which was safely pocketed by the bowler himself, to leave the home team on 98-3 from 14 overs.  Thankfully, Wisbach was keeping a tighter rein on the scoring at the other end and finished his four-over spell with the fine figures of 1-23. To Haylock’s consternation his caught-and-bowled success brought a new batsman to the wicket in Sandhu who took an immediate shine to him, hitting two successive boundaries, including the game’s first maximum, from his final over, leaving the unfortunate bowler with figures of 1-42 from four overs. The visitors were now sitting on the very healthy looking score of 115-3 from just 16 overs.

In desperation, Wood brought himself and Taylor into the attack to try and stem the tide and surprisingly, the captain struck in his first over, barging the non-striking batsman out of the way to take a diving catch off his own bowling, diplomatically ignoring muttered comments from several of the normal bowlers that ‘he wouldn’t have tried that hard if I’d been bowling.’ At the other end Taylor, after giving up a couple of boundaries, turned back the clock to come in off his long run, a policy which stopped the flow of boundaries but increased the flow of wides as Davipart finished on the formidable total of 145-4, with Wood finishing with 1-11 and Taylor 0-19 from their two overs.

Mallards began their response with the new opening partnership of Steele and Greenwood and the pair got off to a rousing start, with Steel crashing two boundaries from the second over to race to 14-0 from two overs. With the wily veteran Thomson giving little away at one end the scoring rate began to slow but even so it was a surprise when the in-form Steel perished in the fifth over, a miscued shot being well caught near the boundary to reduce Mallards to 26-1.

With new number three Scutt settling in, Greenwood took up the scoring mantle with a pair of boundaries and after seven overs the visitors were nicely settled on a very respectable 42-1, one run more than the home side at the same point.  In hindsight we should have declared.  In the next over Scutt (2) clubbed the bowl straight back to new bowler Hamza, for the third caught-and-bowled dismissal of the match and in the following over Greenwood sportingly walked after getting a very faint edge through to the keeper for a workmanlike 15.

Successive dismissals had brought a new pair to the crease, Jordon and Taylor, and understandably the scoring slowed as they settled in and at the 10-over stage Mallards had reached 50-3.  Urgent action was clearly needed but Taylor’s bid to introduce said urgency was curtailed when he anticipated Jordon’s fine off-drive resulting in a ‘one’ call. It didn’t. As Jordon stayed in his crease, awaiting a distant fielder’s response, Taylor hurtled down the track before realising he was on his own and was run out by a distance for 2. His disappointment was obvious, especially to those who narrowly evaded his hurled helmet, which left the field several moments before he did. (Some older team members were reminded of what he did to the kitbag the last time someone ran him out – see picture above.)

The injured Wood finally joined the fray and, in a show of management fraternity, ran out Jordon for 7 in a mirror image of the previous dismissal; this time the unfortunate Jordon failed to anticipate the ‘one’ call. (Rumours that Taylor later bought Wood a pint are yet to be confirmed). The flurry of dismissals brought Wisbach to the crease with the score on 57-5 in the 14th over. Thankfully things settled down as the new pair began to rebuild the innings, dreams of reaching the victory target of 146 long since gone.

After the preceding chaos things progressed serenely at around a run-a-ball for the next four overs before Wisbach was unexpectedly dismissed with the score on 81, clipping a full toss straight to square leg for 6.  Beacock joined Wood at the crease for the final two overs, the pair remaining unbeaten on 3 and 19 respectively as the innings came to a close on 91-6 from 20 overs.

With the ground still bathed in sunshine the team enjoyed a few open-air beers and Chorizo crisps (posh smoky bacon) though with two games coming up next week talk inevitably turned to fears of more defections. Burgess and Philby may have been unmasked but who would be the next Anthony Blunt?