Mallards v Victorians @ Riding Mill August 11

‘…the important thing in Life is not triumph, but the struggle; the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well. To spread these principles is to build up a strong and more valiant and, above all, more scrupulous and more generous humanity’. (Pierre de Coubertin)

‘Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser’ (Vince Lombardi)

Anyone who has ever had a scheduled appointment at the RVI will know that hospitals operate in a vastly different time zone than the outside world. It was therefore no surprise that Tuesday’s match against the Victorians started a little late.

Given the absence of most of the Victorians’ team the toss was largely academic as  stand-in skipper Taylor magnanimously pronounced that Mallards would field to enable the show to get on the road.

With Browne, Dunhill and Mexter absent from the line up the skipper tossed the (nearly) new ball to Cox.  Victorians opening partnership of Nosir and Naveed were in no mood for playing themselves in and Nosir proceeded to dispatch the first two balls to the boundary. This produced some pensive looks from the Mallards. If they can do that to Coxy’s bowling, it’s gonna be a bloody long night! The first over passed without additional boundaries with the score on 9 without loss.

McGuinness was next up with the ball and started well with his first six balls going for only a couple of runs,  sadly for the bowler the match had been reduced to 14  8-ball overs and balls 7 & 8 promptly disappeared to the boundary, Victorians on 18-0 at the end of the over. Cox’s next over stemmed the flow of runs and after three elongated overs the Victorians were cruising at 21 without loss.

At this point Nosir and Naveed developed an urge to dispense with cruise control and set about McGuinness’ buffet bowling with relish, despatching the next 8 balls for 14 runs, including the first of a number of sixes during the evening. It could have been a slightly different story had Scutt managed to pouch a tough steepling catch.

Debutant Ruecroft was next into the crosshairs of the Victorian’s heavy-hitting openers. He made light of not having played for over a decade and bowled some promising stuff, managing to slow the openers’ scoring rate, beating the bat a couple of times without taking that elusive wicket.  That prize of the first wicket fell to the wily old fox, Haylock in the 8th over.  With Nosir having exited the stage for an unbeaten 32. Naveed seemed eager to join his chum and danced down the wicket to Haylock only to swing and miss.  Ally Hall made no mistake behind the stumps and Naveed was gone for 28. Haylock finished his two overs with a very useful 1-11.

By this point the Victorians were on a decent score somewhere in excess of 60  (sadly I can’t tell you exactly what it was as their approach to score keeping was akin to their timekeeping.

With the talented openers gone, the Victorians lost some momentum and the scoring rate began to slow. Smelling blood the Mallards raised their game. First smart fielding by Cox, removed new batsman Neela, run out for 1.  Then in the next over Mallards ‘king of swing’, Nitsch managed to remove Hamid for 15 with one that nipped back before repeating the trick and dispatching Shoaib for a duck with one that seamed away.  (Both descriptions courtesy of Mr Nitsch himself). The limited scrawl in the scorebook did however record Nitsch’s admirable figures of 2 overs, 2-5.

The next batsman Amar didn’t trouble the scorers much, misjudging the flight of a Van Doorn delivery and chipping the ball to the scampering McGuinness at mid on. Van Doorn completed his spell finishing on 1-17. The score? For arguments sake let’s say it was about 100-105 after 12 overs. Watson came on for the penultimate over and bowled a sound line and length restricting the batsmen to a handful of runs before his final ball was clubbed to the boundary.  Victorian’s innings had stuttered a little but the final two batsmen Asif and Javed (10 not out) had regained some of the earlier initiative with Asif amassing a quickfire 19 before the returning Cox trapped him plumb in front in the final over. The Victorians finished with  123 for 6 off their 14 elongated (8 ball) overs.  The Mallards were not deflated though and a spirited display in the field was epitomised by welsh tighthead Taylor bullocking into kiwi fly-half Cox in his eagerness to chase down a loose ball (perhaps in hindsight the Mallards would be better suited to the oval ball game).

Without trusty openers Kent and Steel stand-in skipper Taylor scoured the changing room looking for opening batsmen before giving up and decided to back himself to open the batting with Hall.  Taylor set about the job of chasing down the daunting target with gusto, timing a boundary nicely towards the pavilion in the first over and then wading into a short ball and giving it the full treatment in the next over. At the other end Ally was finding it a bit harder to find the boundary, so he pragmatically dug in and took on the Wood role of nudging and nurdling to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

Sadly Taylors’s fun at the crease was ended prematurely at the start of the 4th over by a good delivery from Anwar (bowled for 11).  New batsman Lucas strode out to the crease full of optimism, however, bowlers Zavid and Anwar began to find their rhythm and runs became harder to come by.  Hall and Lucas managed to keep the scoreboard moving with some canny running but at the end of the 6th over the Mallards innings had only progressed to 34.  New bowler Asif proved a bit easier to get away and Hall struck his first boundary of the innings as  Mallards moved the score on to 43 at the end of over. The next bowler Shoaib was definitely to the batsmen’s liking and the runs began to flow, two nice boundaries and some more sharp running took the total up to a much healthier 54 at the end of the 8th over.

The 9th over saw Hall retire for a hard-earned 30 bringing Scutt to the crease. Lucas’ eagerness to chase down the quick singles was creating some moments of panic in the middle and amusement on the sidelines.   One ambitious call for a quick single by Lucas being accompanied by an almost instantaneous cry of ‘Oh, F**k, no!’ Lucas survived this scare but the unfortunate Scutt was not to be so lucky, run out for 0 in the next over without having much chance to get bat on ball.

With the light fading rapidly batting was becoming tricky and some of the deliveries from the Victorian’s bowlers were a little lively.  Lucas was their main target, first softened up with an eye watering blow to the upper groin before being tasered in the buttock with a rising delivery.  This rather dry match report cannot do justice to the fabulous sound effects that accompanied Lucas’ discomfort, a high pitched squeal (ooooh) followed by a blood curdling yelp (aaayyyyee).  The sympathy on the boundary was palpable as Lucas’ comrades fought back tears and shouted, ‘count ‘em Chris’ and ‘some pay good money for that’.

With the premature demise of Scutt, the wounded Lucas was joined at the crease by Cox.  However, batting was becoming a lottery in the deepening gloom and overs 10 and 11 passed with the score only nudging along to 68.   After manfully putting his body in the line of fire, Lucas perished for a hard-earned 17, lofting an Amar delivery to a waiting fielder.  Next up to bowl for Victorians was Javed (normally to be seen opening the bowling at pace for Ponteland 1stXI).  Javed at first decided to dispense with pace and try some spin.  Cox responded to this generosity by smashing a fine 4 and a big 6.  After this impudence Javed returned to plan b and send down some fast & accurate bowling off a short run-up.

Despite Cox’s best efforts the game was beginning to slip away as Mallards had ended the 12 over on 82 needing 42 off the last 2 overs to win. Next in, to keep Cox company, was the pugnacious Mr Nitsch.  Peter was a little perturbed at the speed of Amar and particularly Javed’s bowling in the failing light and had already politely suggested to the Victorians elder statesmen that they might want to ask the bowlers to moderate their pace before someone gets hurt.  Peter left for the crease muttering, ‘if he’s still bowling that fast when I get out there, I’ll chin him!

Nitsch began as impressively with the bat as he had finished with the ball, belying the poor light to hit a pair of boundaries in a defiant attempt to steer the Mallards to an unlikely victory. Cox chipped in with some useful runs before perishing in the final over bowled by Javed for a battling 16. This left debutant Ruecroft to see out the final balls of the innings with Nitsch, the innings finished with another Nitsch boundary and a single but the game had long gone and Mallards finished on 103-4 off their 14 overs.

Sadly it wasn’t to be and once again the Mallards had undoubtedly fought well but had ultimately fallen a frustrating 20 runs short in chasing down a challenging target.  However, as always the Mallards had given their all and in truth winning would have been a bonus.

Which brings us back to our opening quotations. De Coubertin would be a massive fan of the Mallards, with its’ ethos of being all about the taking part, the camaraderie and the crack.  And what could be more symptomatic of fostering a ‘generous humanity;’ than allowing your opponents to win most weeks? Sadly Vince Lombardi was unavailable to comment as he’s long dead. Who’s the loser now eh, Vince?

Most of the squad (except Lucas who headed off to seek out a local S&M club for another good beating with leather!) headed to the Welly for the post-match team debrief. Whence the club despot created a buzz of excitement by announcing that he had been successful in his attempts to lure,  Tony ‘the hatchet’ Cleaver back from exile in South America to bolster the Mallards attack in the next game against the Umpires.  Could the man with the golden arm (see above) be the secret weapon that drives the Mallards towards that elusive victory?  Stay tuned you won’t have long to wait to find out….