Mallards v Ovington Kestrels @ Riding Mill June 30

If Alan was writing this week’s report it would be an elegant exploration of the demise of proper scorebook-keeping, detailing how scorers used to take pride in their work, recording each minor event in meticulous detail so that the full story of a game could be retold to our children and our children’s children etc. However, as it’s not Alan let’s dispense with that and summarise: this season our opponents’ record-keeping has been, to use the Geordie vernacular, shite.  Ergo the first half of this report has been written with no information on the score after each over, or indeed any over, or the score at any fall of wicket. So I’ve made it up. Needless to say, the second innings, faithfully recorded as usual, by trained Mallards scribes (pictured above), is entirely accurate.

To the game. It was a beautiful sunny night and, in that light, the captains agreed that they would extend the game to a 22-over match, with a maximum of four overs per bowler and retirement at 30. Ovington skipper Jordon won the toss and chose to bat. Browne and Mexter opened the bowling with two cagy overs before Mallards struck with a great piece of fielding, Cox’s quick pick up and throw was smartly taken by Kent, who whipped the bails off with opener Ball snr well short.

This seemed to energise the attack. Browne struck first, clean-bowling the dangerous Hall for 1, with only one wide coming from the over and then Mexter trumped this, bowling Greenwood for 5, in a wicket maiden to leave the batting team struggling at 9-3 from four overs. After another tight over from Browne, Mexter struck again, trapping Wallbank lbw for 4 and the opening pair’s demolition of the top order was completed when Browne bowled Jordon in his final over to leave the Kestrels in apparent disarray at 17-5 from just seven overs. Browne finishing on a superb 2-8 from four overs and Mexter an almost-equally superb 2-9 from three.

At this point Skipper Wood could have chosen to close out the game by bringing Cox on to bowl but he didn’t (doh!) turning instead to the in-form pair of Wisbach and Scott. The rush of wickets had brought two new batsmen to the crease, one of them being the impressive Ball jnr who started to repair the damage by crashing Wisbach for a six and a four in his first over. Scott, at the tree end, was managing to keep things a little tighter, and apart from a four from his first ball, only conceded singles in his two overs. Unfortunately, Ball jnr had clearly taken a liking to Wisbach and found another pair of fours as he raced quickly to 31, retiring with another boundary from the bowler’s final delivery and the score on a much more respectable 61-5 from 12 overs. Scott finished with 0-12 from two and Wisbach 0-32 from three overs.

Mallards’ relief at seeing the back of Ball jnr was short-lived as, after a sluggish start, new batsman Shields proved even more destructive, despatching Taylor for a huge six and a four in his first over. Unusually, it was the bowlers from the pavilion end who seemed to be suffering as Heslop, at the tree end followed Scott’s example of keeping things relatively steady. Cox yet again provided a morale boost with a terrific piece of fielding that saw Cowe run out with a direct hit from a tight angle but the score continued to mount as Shields smashed Taylor around the park, two more sixes coming from the latter’s final over as the scoreboard raced on to 113-6 from 18 overs with Shields retiring on a very rapid 35.

About ten overs too late, Wood finally introduced Cox to the attack, and clearly going for a pacy finish, brought himself on at the other end. Both moves found success with Cox dismissing Mayfield, neatly caught by Kent, who it should be said kept beautifully all night, and Wood clean-bowling Watson for 0. Unfortunately the latter success brought Ball jnr back to the crease, much to the consternation of the faithless Mallards fielders. Cox’s second over saw a couple of hoiks for four from late order batsman Taylor but Wood’s second saw the final wicket fall when Ball jnr, having hit his previous ball for six tried to repeat the trick and was neatly stumped by the immaculate Kent from the final ball of the innings with the score on 138-9, Cox finishing with 1-13 from two and Wood 2-8 from his two. The score may have been daunting but the Mallards ethos was intact with eight different bowlers having been deployed and only Browne bowling his full complement of four overs.

With the sun blazing down Mallards sent out their sturdy-sounding opening pair of Steel and Kent and as you would expect they started steadily, defending well against the pacy Ball jnr whilst milking plenty of runs off the less-pacy Taylor and after six overs had progressed nicely to 30-0, with both batsmen hitting some very crisp boundaries.

The introduction of two new bowlers saw a continuation of a similar pattern with Mayfield leaking runs at one end while the spinner Cowe kept things very tight at the other. Kent was beginning to open his shoulders now, with another boundary from Mayfield and it was a surprise when he miscued the same bowler a couple of balls later to fall for 26.  An even bigger surprise was that Jordon held on to the catch in the difficult sun to leave Mallards on 44-1 from nine overs, behind the required run rate but with plenty of batting to come. Another tight over from Cowe made it 44 from ten to put pressure on the batsmen, which paid off in the next over when a frustrated Butcher miscued a lofted shot straight to Wallbank for 0. This left Mallards sitting on 54-2 at the halfway stage with a hefty 85 required from the last 11 overs, but with the in-form Cox having joined Steele at the wicket confidence remained high.

Sadly, such confidence then dipped, as Cowe lured Cox into a rash shot, Taylor swallowing up the top edge in the covers to make it 55-3. Wood joined Steele at the crease and the pair carefully put the ship back on course, taking 24 runs from the next three overs before Steele retired on 31 with the score on 78-3 from 15 and 61 runs required for victory from just seven overs.

Unfortunately, at this point, the opposing skipper Jordon ironically chose to abandon the give-everyone-a-game ethos which most of us treasure and brought back his three opening bowlers to complete their sets of four overs.  Scott and Wood were now struggling to pick the ball up out of the sun and having to eke out the scoring with some frantic running which finally saw Scott run out for 6 with the score on 88. Taylor perished in similar fashion, much to his obvious chagrin, and though Mexter and Wood then managed to find a couple of elusive boundaries the game was up. Wood finally perished in the frantic run chase, skying a short ball to Hall for 27 in the 20th over with the score on 108. Wisbach joined Mexter and the pair managed to take the score on to 117-6 as Mallards eventually perished by 21 runs.

With the weather holding up beautifully a very convivial evening was then spent at The Wellington where, by and large, it was agreed that even though we appear to be the last bastions of the Corinthian Spirit in friendly cricket, it’s a tradition worth continuing. It’s just a shame so few other teams feel the same way.