Mallards v Benwell & Walbottle @ Walbottle Campus July 12

Right, let’s try this again shall we? Last time we travelled to Walbottle Campus we just about needed snow chains, so a repeat fixture was arranged for the height of summer. So on a cool and overcast day, and with the odd shower floating around, we gathered gradually and it wasn’t long before last week’s outstanding result at Burnmoor was being dissected in minute detail. Confidence was high in the camp and it was with a bounce in his stride (or maybe he was just jogging because he was late), Skipper Stig strutted out for the toss. Which he lost. Nevertheless, Mallards took to the field in great humour, mainly thanks to the sight of Hannibal Beacock in his brand new gimp mask (see above).

2.3 overs later, and with opening bowlers McGuinness and Watson now in the foetal position and twitching alarmingly, opening batsman Black was walking off retired on 33. We had seen a brutal display of hitting, two fours, four sixes and a solitary single – a leading edge that had dropped agonisingly close to Jordon’s outstretched hands at short cover. If there was more of this to follow we were in for a long 20 overs.

Once again scorebook details are a little sketchy as ours hadn’t been filled in for their innings, but I can tell you that things settled down a touch after that, the score ticked along from 38/0 after just three overs, to 67/0 after eight. Still a fair clip but the rate was coming down. Watson (4-0-31-0) and McGuinness (4-0-29-0) recovered well from the early onslaught but neither were able to find the breakthrough.

The fielding was tidy on a difficult outfield; a short boundary on one side, and a long downhill slope on the other. Cox gets special mention for a brace of fine diving stops on the short boundary (and because he’s writing the article), as does Jordon for several sharp stops in close. As a reward for biggest grass stain, Cox was brought on to bowl, with Wisbach at the other end. The run rate continued to come down but the breakthrough eluded us.  Singh reached 31 and retired, but then Wisbach struck. Wood, who is enjoying a most un-Mallardly competitive contest with McGuinness for most catches in a season, pouched one at mid-on, complete with a trademark unnecessary tumble, claiming Robson for 2.

Wisbach struck again in his next over, with Robbie caught and bowled for a duck. After 16 overs, the score was 103/2, Wisbach’s figures (4-0-26-2), spoiled by an expensive last over. Cox finished wicketless but was frugal (4-1-9-0). B&W’s other opener, Harrington who was the ice to Black’s earlier fire was harshly retired for 15 at some point around now.

Wood (2-0-10-0) and Butcher (2-0-11-0) were given the responsibility of closing the innings out and did so admirably, as the innings ended on 125/2. A much less intimidating score than what could have been.

Kent and Steel took up the reply, after their magnificent opening stand in Burnmoor, but immediately it seemed like tough going. Timing the ball seemed to be a struggle, in fact the first ball that Steel got out of the middle went straight to cover and he was caught for 2. Cox came in at three, looking to move things along, but also struggled, dropped twice early on. However he and Kent did manage to rotate the strike well until Kent misjudged a single and was run out for 16, with the score at 43 in the 10th over.

The run rate was becoming an issue, but the batsmen seemed unable to do much about it, perhaps it was the pink ball, as some theories suggested. Cox continued to swing but without much success, before being stumped for 24. Wood followed shortly after, bowled for 4 with the score at 58/4 off 13.

Stig and Thompson set about the rebuild, starting to find a bit of freedom and getting the score to 90 before Stig was bowled for 16 in the 18th over. Jordon was bowled for a duck, bringing Beacock to the crease. Unfortunately there was not enough time to chase down the remaining runs and the innings closed at 96/6, with the not out batsmen Thompson (16) and Beacock (3).

In the end it was their early run explosion that was the difference, and fair play as we weren’t able to match it. Never mind, our fixtures list this year ensures that there’s a chance for redemption just around the corner.