Mallards v Riding Mill @ Riding Mill April 30

With the North East experiencing the kind of weather that makes climate change deniers go and lie down in a darkened room, head groundsman Pete Nitsch somehow managed to produce a playable pitch for Mallards’ second game of the season against their landlords Riding Mill. An 18-over game was agreed with three overs per bowler and the usual retirement on 25. In a strange turn of events Mallards played with 10 men, McGuinness (don’t let the above smile fool you) having been persuaded to turn out for our opponents. (Rumours that Mr Nitsch has photos of some nefarious goings-on have been strongly denied by both Mr McGuinness and the goat.)

In the absence of the usual contenders, Mallards captain and vice-captain, Wood and Butcher, assumed responsibility and strode out to open the batting in glorious sunshine. Things began well and a combination of hard-running and Butcher’s well-timed off-drives saw three 2s come off the first over.

That combination continued for the first four overs with more good running (a rare 3 seeing a call for oxygen from the pavilion) interspersed with boundaries from Butcher keeping up the six-an-over run rate and at the end of the fourth over Mallards were well-placed on 24-0. A couple of quiet overs followed and when Butcher smashed another boundary to retire on 27 not out off the first ball of the 7th over the score had reached 30-0.

Mexter joined Wood at the crease, and despite the new man hitting one boundary, the pair scratched around for a couple of overs before Mexter was caught at mid-off for 5. Wood followed in the next over caught behind for 3, leaving Scott and Cox to take the reins as Mallards crawled to 39-2 at the half-way stage.

Cox continued his fine form with the bat, though boundaries proved hard to find and the scoreboard turned over slowly before Scott’s patience ran out, as did his innings, a direct hit sending him back to the pavilion for 4. Jordan came and went, clean-bowled by the quisling McGuinness for 0 to bring last season’s batting legend Wisbach to the crease with the score at 55-4 after 14 overs.

A couple of late boundaries from Cox lifted the run rate slightly and saw him retire for the second game in a row on 25 and Beacock’s entrance was followed swiftly by his exit, missing a straight bowl for McGuiness’s second wicket as Mallards ended their innings on an under-par 82-5 from 18 overs.

Mallards took to the field in a strange combination of bright sunlight and freezing weather with many fielders glancing enviously at the keepers’ gloves. Hopes of an early breakthrough were slightly undermined when Riding Mill’s opening batsman (and number three bowler) pulled Dunhill’s first ball for six and further dented when Taylor’s first over went for 17, including two 6s and a 4.  Such was Horner’s haste that rumours of a spontaneous happy-hour being announced at the Wellington began to circulate and a fourth 6 in Dunhill’s second over saw him retire on 30 in the third over. Wicket-keeper Beacock was particularly glad to see the back of him after an ill-judged (in every sense) ramp shot had fortunately hit the stopper in the chest.

With Hall also chipping in with a couple of boundaries the home team had reached a damaging 43-4 from just 4 overs.

Despite this battering Mallards were keeping their heads up in the field with Scott’s feet proving a difficult obstacle for the opposition to pass and a maiden from Dunhill (0-16) and a tight opening over from Wisbach stopped the rot. Cox took over from Dunhill and managed to force some bounce from a pretty stodgy pitch with little luck, one inside edge going for four, and after eight overs Riding Mill were sitting pretty on 59-0, with just 24 needed from 10 overs to win.  Even the most optimistic Mallards was beginning to think the game might be up and, unfortunately, Horner’s replacement Taylor seemed to also have a taste for an early pint as he smashed two 4s and a 6 from Wisbach’s final over though the bowler did get a measure of revenge by having stumped by the impressive Beacock for 24 for Mallards’ first and only wicket of the night, Wisbach finishing with 1-24 from his three overs. Terry (RM’s number two bowler) joined Hall at the crease.

Cox managed to delay the end, completing his excellent spell of 0-12 from three before Scott bravely took over the bowling with just two runs needed for victory.  One ball later it was all over as Hall drove a straight four to give Riding Mill victory by 9 wickets.

A stalwart crowd gathered outside the Wellington, braving the chill, to debate the home side’s policy of excluding several members of their side from either batting or bowling, imagining the carnage that would have ensued if Wood and Butcher had decided to open the bowling as well.

Ultimately the Mallards decided to rise above such petty squabbling by stealing most of the chips and onion rings.