Mallards v St George’s Rovers @ Riding Mill June 9

Last time I wrote a match report, I talked about trust issues; this time I feel I should spend time exploring the art that can be found in a well-tended cricket scorebook. However, this would detract from the challenge of producing a report containing as little factual information as possible. Besides, the academics in the team have a certain reputation to uphold when it comes to paperwork and they excelled themselves this week, producing a document of the match that perhaps only a number of senior FIFA accountants could truly appreciate.

That’s enough grumbling, as Riding Mill had turned on one of its signature summer evenings, drawing the mind back to Mallard-in-absentia Craig Scott’s vintage piece on the subject and providing the first truly warm and sunny match of the year. The pitch was located at the northern-most end of the square giving an invitingly short, and downhill, boundary square of the wicket. Combining the short boundary with a fine outfield and what looked to be a belter of a track, it seemed like we were in for plenty of runs.

St Georges Rovers were the first opposition for this week’s double-header, and were something of an unknown quantity, being a newish addition to the fixtures list. However, Mallards were fielding a strong side with Burgess, Philby and, er, Nitsch coming in from the cold, their safe return from exile being overseen by spymaster and confirmed Australian, Van Doorn. Two new faces were also welcomed into the side, with Reece Morrison and Ian Watson being presented with the iconic green cap. (Once they cough up the requisite fee – Ed.)

Somebody won the toss, with the result being that St Georges Rovers would bat first. Skipper Wood showing there were no hard feelings by tossing the new ball to Cox, starting from the Pavilion End. Cox found the line from the off, finding the edge with his first ball only for it to run unchallenged to the boundary. Perhaps a sign of things to come as a number of half chances were created throughout the innings that went just wide of the fielders.

Van Doorn started from the Tree End and was tidy from the outset; just a few singles off his first. And so the first eight overs passed, a mixture of good, tight bowling and the odd bad ball which were punished; Cox in particular beating the edge on a number of occasions. Three tough chances went down in that time, Van Doorn grassing a firmly hit return catch off his own bowling, Nitsch putting down a chance in the gully off Cox and the debutant Morrison decking a catch in the deep which he did well to reach. After eight overs, the score was probably in the region of 45/0 (not recorded) with Cox going for 19 and Van Doorn conceding 24 off their four overs.

Skipper Wood then turned to spin from the Pavilion End with Wisbach picking up the mantle and proving a threat. Line and length were crucial in these conditions, as McGuinness soon found out from the Tree End, his first two balls disappearing for 10 before he found his spot. In fact it was McGuinness who found the breakthrough, snaring SGR number three Appleby, caught behind by Kent for 21 (opener Atkinson having retired for 33 at some unrecorded point before this ). This breakthrough saw the run rate take a dip as the score was in the vicinity of 82/1 after 12 overs. Wisbach and McGuinness continued to apply pressure with the former bowling opener Brown for 21 in his final over. Wisbach ended with 1 for 16 and McGuinness with 1 for 32.

The newest Mallards were brought in to continue this decent showing, but came up against Hall and Jenkinson who were looking for blood. The slogging started and some powerful boundaries were struck. Morrison, coming out of a long cricketing hibernation, bowled a solid over that somehow went for 12 before Skipper Wood brought himself on for the 19th. Wood was not put off as more runs came, and managed to pick up the wicket of Jenkinson, well caught in the deep by a slightly surprised Stig  (he wasn’t the only one – Ed). Wood’s one over saw 1-12 and Watson secured a very tidy return of 0-18 off his two.

All in, St Georges racked up a good score of 141-3, though the thousand-yard-stare on the faces of those who had fielded on the short boundary showed that runs were there for the taking if you found the gaps.

After a quick turnaround, Kent and Nitsch were striding confidently out to the middle to begin the reply. Kent started well with a confident boundary off his second ball, while Nitsch played out a maiden at the other end. Taylor, about to deliver his second over, pulled up with a pulled calf and retired from the rest of the innings forcing a rapid strategy rethink by the Rovers, with Henton the chosen one to replace Taylor.

The score built steadily over the next few overs with Kent showing utter disdain for anything loose. When the breakthrough came, it was Nitsch bowled by Henton in the 5th over for 2, or possibly 3 (your guess is as good as mine) and the score at 21. Rumours soon began to circulate that this was a deliberate ploy by Nitsch; with the Welly closed for refurbishment, he spied a profit-making opportunity and disappeared with a furtive glance over his shoulder, not to be seen for some time.

Meanwhile Stig, possibly touched by the sun, had sauntered out to the middle, without a care in the world and whistling gently to himself. Not worrying about run-rates or anything like that, he spouted off to anyone who would listen about how he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world at that particular moment. He set about steadying the ship and leaving the hard work to Kent.

Kenty inevitably retired on 33, bringing in Cox and an audible sigh of relief from the team on the boundary’s edge as they hoped he would now shut up about all the runs he scored at the weekend. With Stig still in his own little world at the other end, Cox took up the role of run scorer and moved the total on to 66 for 1 after 12 overs. In the 13th over, Stig (9), still with a faraway look in his eyes ambled off after wafting at a straight one from Jenkinson, bowling from the Tree End. It was with an entirely different look in his eyes however, that Skipper Wood walked off the very next ball, having been adjudged LBW by umpire Van Doorn, making what could now be his only appearance of the season.

77/1 (I think) became 77/3 (maybe) in the space of two balls, though fortunately Jordon was next in and made a very strong showing of steadying the ship with a collection of dot balls. Cox departed in the next over, retired for 30, bringing in Watson at number 7. Watson announced his entrance by thumping his first ball in Mallards colours to the long on boundary for four.

Unfortunately at some point not long after this (exactly when is not entirely clear, but probably in the 16th over), Munroe was brought on for a few overs from the Tree end started with a wicket maiden, claiming Watson, bowled for 4. From here, things are a bit of a blur, with the scorebook indicating that a lot of wickets fell in quick succession, but exactly who, how and in what order is a question for the ages. What I can tell you is that Morrison, truly entering the Mallards spirit, fell for a duck. McGuinness came in, smashed a first ball six then got out. Jordon was run out for just one, and Wisbach was also out for 0 somehow. (a fine catch in the deep I believe – Ed)

During this time, Kent, unused to the Mallards reputation for sudden collapse, had to quickly get back into his whites and pad up again, to resume his retired innings with a dash for the finish. The score had lurched to roughly 106/8 with some overs left and the chase was on. Unfortunately some defensive field setting saw the required boundaries hard to come by. The innings ended on 122 for 8 with Kent having got to 42 and Van Doorn on 4 or 5. Another loss by 19 runs, proving that we are consistent if not successful.

Two things then happened. First, Nitsch reappeared with a very laden cooler full of beer, opening the Riding Mill Speakeasy for the first time this year and negating the temporary absence of the Welly. Unfortunately, he hasn’t perfected the preparation of chips and onion rings, so we had to go hungry.

Second, he turned the lights on in the changing rooms. Now while the sight of an ice box full of beers would normally be the high point of an evening such as this, the sight of twenty-two grown men whooping and cheering at the marvel of electricity must surely have touched the hearts of all those present. A cracking evening eventually drew to a close with no-one paying any attention whatsoever to any other games of cricket that might have taken place that day.