Mallards BBQ and Cricket Fiesta

It is often said that the sun shines on the righteous, which means that the Mallards and assorted friends must be very righteous indeed as this year’s annual BBQ and Cricket Fiesta was blessed with perfect conditions, blazing sunshine, tons of burgers and, most importantly, a full chest of ice-cold beer (and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks!).

The growing popularity of the event saw around 30 players, young, old and decrepit turn up for a game, along with many families, out for a day’s sunshine and some increasingly inept cricket as the beer took hold. Three teams were handpicked by Mallards despot Taylor (G) who coincidentally surrounded himself with a strong-looking side. A round-robin structure was agreed with each team playing twice, 12 overs an innings and some arcane restrictions on both bowling and batting to prevent the handful of half-decent players around having undue influence on the results.

Team B went out to bat first against a youthful-looking Team A, notwithstanding the veteran opening bowlers Cleaver and Taylor (B).  The game started sluggishly, an early drop from Taylor (B) setting the tone for later, equally sloppy drops by Gardner M and Kent S.

Fortunately the first of these drops proved insignificant when the culprit quickly made up for his error by bowling his namesake Taylor D for just 2. Bennett soon followed him back to the pavilion for 8, bowled by Cleaver.

Bullock, however, took advantage of the second dropped catch by becoming the first of many of the day’s batsmen to retire for 20 before Cleaver showed the others how to catch the ball to remove Hunt for 7. Kent then quickly made up for his dropped catch, from his own first ball, clean bowling Scutt with his next effort for just 2.  B team captain Airey and Elliot managed to prevent further loss as the innings ended on a below-par 66-4 from 12.

Team B Captain Cox led from the front in his team’s response, rattling off a quickfire 22, including three fours and a six – more boundaries than the opposition had managed between them.  He was ably supported by Gardner M, who added another three boundaries to the total in his unbeaten 20.

In between those fine knocks Green S (the senior Green) compiled a painstaking 6 and an early victory was prevented by a late flurry of wickets as Gardner R fell to Airey for 5 showing no mercy to the junior element, Wilson was bowled by Hunt for 2, Cox P (who had travelled all the way from Christchurch to play) was run out for 3 and Cleaver was stumped from his first ball for 0. Despite this late drama, Team B cruised to victory with 4 balls remaining, reaching 71-4 at the close.

After a brief break, a weary Team A crawled slowly back on to the field to take on the refreshed Team C (refreshed by a few beers while waiting to start that is.)  McCaffrey, who seemed more ‘refreshed’ than most (possibly mixing something non-alcoholic but similarly narcotic with his diet coke) swung heartily to little avail as the innings got off to a slow start, only 5 runs coming from the first two overs. Wood’s slogged four from Hunt in the third over got things going however and the scoreboard ticked over a little quicker before McCaffery finally succumbed to Wisbach for 8. Buckley’s arrival saw the scoring rate quicken and when Wood was bowled by Gardner B for 16 in the 7th over it had reached a respectable 43-2.

The arrival of Dasika to join Buckley speeded things up further as the pair moved through the gears adding 29 runs in the next three overs before they both retired on 20 and 23 respectively, an unusually scratchy Van Doorn and Benson seeing the innings to its conclusion on a very healthy 83-2.

Team B started like a team whose fate was already sealed, captain Airey and Gardner B finding it hard to get after bowlers Watson and Dasika and after four overs the scoreboard had crept along to just 12. Things were about to get worse. New bowler Benson hit his stride immediately, clean-bowling Airey and Wisbach from successive balls. Buckley bowling at a pace that made Club Captain Stig’s ‘even slower ball’ look rapid, also started well having Haylock caught for just 1 to leave the B Team in deep trouble at 17-4 at the halfway stage. Fortunately Taylor D was settling in nicely and averted a total collapse, gradually moving the score up through the thirties and forties before retiring for a well-made 20. Bennett joined the patient Gardner B (who had somehow survived having his bail clipped by a quick ball from Green S – a controversial selection to bowl when acting as a sub fielder which drew howls of protest from the pavilion) Gardner saw his long innings finally came to an end with a run out as they managed to reach 63-4 to lose by 20 runs, their second defeat in a row.  On the plus side they now had first dibs at the burgers from the now fully lit barbecue carefully positioned so that the smoke was blowing directly towards the wicket and not forgetting beer (or other refreshments) as the two winning teams now had to play-off in what had become a final.

For the second game in a row Team C batted first, this time with bowling hero Benson opening with Van Doorn. Things got off to a sticky start when the latter was bowled for 0 by Green D but the arrival of Nitsch (complete with a runner) got things moving. The injured batsman’s stand-and-hit policy paid off immediately as he carved a couple of boundaries away to get the innings going – albeit batting with marginally less foot movement than usual gave him an excellent opportunity to test out his protective equipment (and recent hernia op scar) with one delivery from Green Sr. Ably supported by Benson the pair started to ensure that Team C would at least have a decent target to defend. More boundaries came from both batsmen as Nitsch retired on a rapid 21 to bring Taylor to the wicket, his innings starting with a fine drive from the much-feared opposition captain Cox. Benson finished his innings with a flourish, another boundary in a well-made 23. New batsmen Watson and McCaffrey perished for the cause, both chasing quick runs, the former bowled by Gardner M, the latter caught and bowled by Wilson. Wood joined Taylor G at the crease and the pair saw the innings home, a respectable 77 with Taylor G, 12 not out.

Team A sent out Cleaver and Kent E to try and win the game, and thus the competition, the latter’s innings quickly ended by Van Doorn, who despite captain’s instructions to bowl wide of the crease, clean-bowled the youngster for 0 (an identical delivery to an earlier ball that had had been belatedly called no-ball, mostly by the fielding side.) Green D joined Cleaver at the crease and the game went into a strange stalemate, the batsmen unable to get the ball away, and the bowlers bowling just wide enough to get away with it. Something had to give as the scoreboard slowly reached 19-1 from 7 overs, 59 required to win from just 5 overs.  Green D was then run out for 8, brutally sacrificed by the harsh Cleaver, and brother Green P quickly followed, caught behind by Wood off of Benson. Kent S was sent in to try and raise the scoring rate but quickly became the second run-out victim, a diving direct hit from the excellent Benson giving umpire Wisbach little choice but to reluctantly raise his finger. Taylor B now joined the fray but with 44 runs required from the last two overs things were looking bleak.

Cleaver, having tried to break new records by batting through the innings without reaching double figures, just failed in his bid, bowled by Nitsch for 8 to bring the team’s last hope, skipper Cox to the crease. Even for him it was a forlorn cause, after carving a four and a huge six from Wood’s first three balls he perished trying to repeat the trick, top-edging the ball high into the air to be well-caught by Nitsch for 14. The final ball of the innings saw Taylor B run out for 6 as Team B finished on 52-7, Team C running out comfortable winners by 25 runs.

Technically Team C won the day, but only thanks to a suspiciously biased team selection policy by the Club Despot, however it was all academic. The real winner was a great afternoon’s cricket, played in a good spirit by all, with everyone getting their chance to shine. Special mention should go to the Gardners – all three of the male members of the family managing to take a wicket for their troubles – but the individual Man of the Day award must go to Team C’s Benson, leading wicket-taker with 3, the only man to take two wickets in a spell, an unbeaten 23 with the bat and a direct run-out to boot.

Thanks to the many people who contributed to making it a fabulous day, particularly to Julie Gardner, Ellie and Holly who took on sorting the pile of burger buns and organising the food distribution (plus also the local Riding Mill team member whose name we all managed to forget for also taking on some of the barbecuing duty); Peter N for getting the food and the drink; Johnny B for his last-minute pitch mowing and, last but not least the venerable Mr Heslop for his excellent umpiring. And most importantly not to forget all the families who came and supported the event – hope they enjoyed a lovely end to the season as much as the players clearly did.

However even though the sport fixtures are over, don’t forget that we do run a social calendar.  This will include the Captain’s Curry Night (which Captain Stig has generously offered to pay (look at the last line of his report!) for everyone’s spicy repast) sometime during this autumn and, of course, the Annual Dinner which will be held towards the end of January where season stats will be revealed and those much coveted awards will be given out.