Mallards v KSOB @ Riding Mill 26 August

A grey damp start to Wednesday morning turned into a lovely evening. With nine out of  eleven Mallards already changed and making some attempt to warm up in the outfield at Riding Mill, the Kings School Old Boys team arrived with some delay (gridlock on the bypass wasn’t helping). Looking on, the Mallards squad realised that this was an Old Boys squad with emphasis on the first syllable – meaning that the age profile of the opposition was pretty much on a par with themselves – hearts lifted at the thought of the prospect of a close game – nay even a chance at going for victory.

In the absence of both captain, vice captain and any other usual suspect to take control, Despot Taylor took charge, strode out to the middle with opposition captain Black, duly lost the toss and Mallards were invited to field first. Friendly rules were agreed and with the evenings drawing in, it was decided that a 16 over game was in order. In the absence of the team kitbag (still in transit somewhere in a rat-run in Newcastle, along with Cox), a root around found a suitable match ball, which was immediately seized on by Cleaver who had already paced out and taken position at the end of his run. Things were now ready to commence when it was noticed that both teams were also suffering from scorebooks also in transit. With no Stig available to offer up his snazzy Lords cricket scorebook, it looked like proceedings would be delayed until Van Doorn remembered that he had an old scorebook in his car and hence ensured that play pretty much got underway on time.

Cleaver indeed was invited to bowl and produced a tidy over going for only 3. At the other end Van Doorn took 3 deliveries to find the right strip, and a further few balls to find where the stumps were, conceding a couple of boundaries – a commodity that was to prove rare for the evening. Things settled down and Van Doorn was rewarded with finally finding his radar with the wicket of G Black bowled by one that came back into the right hander. At the end of the 6th over the score was 29 for 1, with Cleaver finishing on a miserly 6 runs from his 3 overs, while Van Doorn finished with 1 for 22 off his 3 and Cox finally arrived from his exploration of the back roads of Newcastle. Ringing the changes Wisbach took over from the pavilion end and Haylock from the one tree end.

Wisbach took an over to settle down, but Haylock – obviously keen to show that all the sexagenarian contingent in the side were up to plugging an end – started off very tidily. Despite some excellent fielding, KSOB continued to push quick singles, however a push to point in Haylock’s second over saw the two batsmen contrive to run into each other and Taylor swooping in made certain the mistake was seized upon by a direct hit to the non-striker’s stumps to see the departure of Devlin for 9 (please note that KSOB names are largely my interpretation of the handwriting in the book).

At the end of the 12th over the score was 60 for 2, with Tobin retiring on 30 not out in the 12th over-ish, Wisbach finishing on none for 20 off his 3 overs, and Haylock taking the plaudits for his economical 9 runs conceded off his allotted 3 overs. Slow bowling seemed to be the order of the day, with boundaries hard to come by, so Taylor wrung the final bowling changes putting McGuinness on from the pavilion end and somehow succumbed to Scutts’ frantic warming up efforts at the end of each over and cries of I can bowl – rather reminiscent of Donald Pleasance in the Great Escape – by inviting him to take the other end. Despite some decent fielding, Willis and a surprisingly spry Peffer keen to show that, again, being 60 odd was no barrier to backing up a long way took the field on and started taking any and every single they could. A couple of twos at the end of the innings saw KSOB close on 85 for 2, with both final bowlers conceding 12 runs off their two overs.

There was an expectant air in the Mallards camp that the score was gettable. In an attempt to gain advantage, Taylor lent KSOB one of Mallards pink balls, on the grounds that it would give the batsmen a better chance to see the ball out of the trees. Hall and Kent were asked to start the reply. Taking a leaf out of Taylor’s tactics (well I’m taking credit for having some!), KSOB also started with a slow bowling attack. Ian Black, as ever, started tidily with his straight off breaks conceding just one off the first over. However it was his fellow opener Moir that made the breakthrough enticing Hall to play a chip straight into midwickets’ hands for a duck. This brought Cox to the crease, clearly annoyed at the traffic delays, who opened up his account first with a four off Black and then a huge straight driven 6 off Moir. Kent at the other end was happy to keep the strike rotated with quick singles and by the end of the 8th over the score was tantalisingly placed on 44 with Black finishing on 14 for 0 and Moir 1 for 29 off their maximum four overs.

With Cox looking set to retire not out, having hit yet another big six over the midwicket boundary, it was a surprise when he miscued one off change bowler Anderson’s first over to be caught by Black for 27. It was at this point that the rails started to come off. Jordon scraped around for an over before being given out lbw by “trigger finger” Cleaver at the end of Gregg’s first over. This brought Taylor to the crease who got off the mark with a couple of singles, only to see Kent squared up on the stumps to be adjudged the second lbw of the night for a respectable 22. However Taylor then proceeded to get completely tangled up by the well-flighted bowling of Gregg, and despite managing to hit 5 out of the 6 deliveries, none travelled more than 10 feet from the bat to concede a maiden.

At the end of the 12th over the score had crawled to 56, with just four left to overhaul the target. The 13th saw 9 runs come off it, but clearly desperate keep the scoring rate up, Taylor chased a rare wide one from Gregg only to top edge it to ensure he was put of his misery with a well-taken tumbling catch by Black. Wisbach made it a pair in the over for Gregg caught somehow (I was in the dressing room at that point so I have no idea other than to report what was written in the book). Meanwhile Van Doorn was doing his best to keep the score ticking over, aided by Scutt who hit a tidy 2 and a 4.

With the score on 75 at the end of the 15th over, a big 11 runs from 6 balls was needed to see Mallards get their third victory of the season. With Van Doorn on strike there remained hope, however Gregg still flighting and pitching the ball up crushed any hope of victory bowling Van Doorn for a creditable 11 off the first ball. McGuinness, conscious of the need for boundaries swiped and missed his first two deliveries before scraping a single. 10 needed and 2 deliveries needed. Scutt on strike and needing to find the aerial route to the boundary could only block the next well-aimed delivery, and conscious that the game was up and the prospect of getting a not-out to help improve his average ensure that he blocked the last one as well.

So off to the Wellington for beer, chips and onion rings. The game was lost and Gregg the hero with 4 for 10 off his overs. However all played in really good spirit, but in vain for Mallards who look destined to finish with only 2 wins for the season, unless they can win next week’s bonus game against Davipart ….