Mallards v Excelsior Batters @ Riding Mill 22 April

Here’s a conundrum. What’s the point of being club despot if you can’t bring the rule of authority down on the masses – e.g. by delegating responsibility for penning the match report to one of your minions? When this doesn’t happen the result is this opening 447 character rant and the entire team suitably demeaned in a way that is bound not to curry favour. Then again my personality profile has identified out that I am an uncaring autocrat at heart, so who’s worrying?

Enough Boysian digression…

With the Riding Mill wicket finally declared hard enough to play on, and a glorious evening more reminiscent of June than April, Mallards finally got their season underway against a full strength Excelsior Batters.

After losing the toss, vice-captain Stig (pictured above) saw his team put into bat. After a hasty dressing room conference consultation with one of his senior colleagues (Mr Nitsch), the batting line-up was determined, with Kent and, a slightly reluctant Nitsch sent in to open the Mallards account. Kent, taking first strike, took a Tavare-like approach to the tidy bowling of Wright and ensured the season started with a maiden. Kents’ dedication to keeping the wickets column at 0 was such that when Nitsch retired on 25 (in an innings that included 2 beautifully timed 6’s) at the start of the 6th over, the score was 26. Mr Extras was only other scorer.

Putting himself in at 3, Butcher immediately opened his account with a flashy 2 amid mutterings from Kent about playing yourself in first. Butcher wasn’t in the mood for hanging around, and somehow instilled some impetus in Kent, much to the chagrin of the rest of the team who where offering spread betting odds on him finishing not out on 9-11 runs at the end of the innings. Butchers’ assault on the bowlers ended prematurely thanks to fine full-stretch catch at cover by Wood (sounds familiar – Ed). With Cox in at 4, a solid partnership then developed seeing both batsmen running well between the wickets and both Kent and Cox retiring on 25 not out in the 15th over with the score at 108 for 1.

With 2 new batsmen in, in the shape of Scutt and Lucas, and Excelsior turning to their most economical bowlers, runs became harder to come by. However, thanks to some sharp run-calling from the boundary, a 9-run partnership developed, only for Lucas to be castled while valiantly attempting to hit the ball over the boundary (having been thwarted on his first-ever scoring shot for Mallards, seeing it hauled in a foot from the rope for just a single). This left Beacock to hit a cameo single from the final ball of the innings and Scutt, determined to get a decent average this season, not out on 6. The total set for Excelsior to win 119 – not bad on a pitch with a slow outfield.

Butcher’s attempt to help proceedings by using a white ball was thwarted by opposing captain Krishnan who politely declined his request – strike one from his box of tricks to swing the odds in Mallards favour. However, Butcher turned to his second trick, a new-ball opening partnership of McGuinness and Mexter. Sadly Krishnan, taking first strike for Excelsior, failed to repeat his diamond duck of last season despite plenty of vocal encouragement from Taylor to do so, but clearly phased by McGuiness’s bowling took a cheeky single. This gave McGuiness the chance to soften up the other opener Spencer with a high looping no-ball before trapping him on the back foot for a relatively straightforward lbw decision for umpire Jordan.

While Krishnan was freely scoring from one end, in particular showing Mexter a total lack of respect, other batsmen found things more difficult, with the outfield starting to slow down more as the temperature cooled. Mexter did get his reward though, clean bowling Bishell for a duck in his final over to finish with figures of 1 for 21 off 3, while McGuinness finished his spell with 1 for 16 off 3, the score at the end of the 6th over an on-the-pace 41.

Ringing the changes, Wisbach and Cox were invited to bowl, the former starting with an almost Shane Warne-like ball of the century dismissal of Brexice, clean-bowled around his legs for the 3rd Excelsior duck of the night. With Krishnan retiring on 25 not out, Wilson and Bodley took the attack to Mallards. Despite some valiant fielding from Lucas – the ball magnet for the evening –  runs started to flow, especially from Wisbach who was probably unfairly treated due to the runs being largely dried up at Cox’s end.

At the end of the 12th over, the score was approximately 89 for 3 (the scoreboard on the night and the book-keeping were both a bit vague on this) and Butcher was under pressure to find some inspiration to stem Excelsior’s charge.

Counter-intuitively he decided to turn to experience choosing Nitsch and Taylor to bowl the final 6 overs (with the contingency plan of putting himself on if things started to hit the fan).

After slightly expensive first overs with 16 runs conceded (all in singles and two’s), both found their stride with runs started to dry-up and pressure building on the batsmen. Nitsch was the first beneficiary thanks to a fine catch taken by Cox at deep mid-wicket to dismiss Wilson on 24 and Taylor in the next over clean bowling Langley for 1 (not that he actually witnessed the delivery after slipping at the point of release and finished in a crumpled heap only to look up at some happy Mallards fielders).

Nitsch finished his spell with another wicket to finish with a highly respectable 2 for 14 off his 3 overs. With Excelsior needing 13 runs for victory from the final over, Butcher decided to keep his faith in Taylor (well he had little choice because by this time he was already at the end of his amble (run-up is too charitable nowadays).

A trio of singles started the over before a controversial not-given stumping was followed up by Taylor, again slipping, clean-bowling Henderson for 1 with one that beat everything before coming to rest at the base of middle stump with just enough force to dislodge a bail. With just one ball remaining and 10 needed the game was up for returning batsman Krishnan who could only force a single off the last ball to give Mallards a fine opening victory by just 8 runs.

The final 6 overs conceded just 30 runs for 4 wickets with only one boundary conceded (we decided not to say which bowler because it might upset Peter.)

So, off to the Wellington in still surprisingly good light, amid speculation as to whether captain Wood would be able to maintain the winning streak next week, or whether he would even make the starting XI!