Mallards v Durham Staff @ Riding Mill July 13

And so, with political turmoil all around, this season’s festival of cricket continued. It was a chance not only to banish the previous nights memory of Benwell and Walbottle but also repay the visitors for their early season 50-run victory – grey towers, massive piles, the odd black eye and all. Could the 13th be lucky for Mallards or would we end adrift of the run rate, like a Mallardian Boris Johnson suspended mid-air on a zip wire, podgy midriff garrotted by a safety harness.

With captain Stig not present, tossing duties fell to Glen ‘Deputy PM’ Steel. Mallards were down to bat first. He ordered his Cabinet and strode out statesmanlike with Kent to open. The scorebook records an austerity start (more dots than braille?) in the first over supplemented by some unforeseen tax receipts courtesy of a couple of extras. However, the sun was shining (ish) and the duo set about fixing the proverbial roof before Kent fell for 14 (bowled Boothroyd S) and Deputy PM Steel was caught off Costello for 9.

Roofwork duty was duly taken up by Messrs’ Cox and Bennett. Together they ensured a solid measure of fiscal probity before the next deficit in the wicket column. Cox was the victim, bowled by Gillespie for 18 in the 14th. This included a mahoosive 6 that initially threatened the actual clubhouse roof before sailing clean over it. Chief whip duties then passed to Bennett who retired shortly afterwards on 31.

With the score at 85 for 3 at the end of the 15th the batting order had sufficient depth left to unleash some capital expenditure. Secretary of State for Fixtures (Home Sec?) McGuiness connected his blade for a fine 4 before being caught shortly afterwards for 5 off the bowling of Gillespie. This was followed by a partnership between Bateman and CLucas – well I say partnership the former scored some free flowing runs while the latter toe-ended a couple of singles and tried to keep running between the wickets while realising how unfit he was.

At 109 off 19 the Mallards Cabinet realised more would probably be needed and started to make some calculated spending pledges. The markets reacted with volatility. First Bateman departed off Boothroyd (S) for 16. This brought in club Chancellor Mexter who was also bowled while swinging at one for the team. Browne faced the hatrick ball but nonchalantly saw this off before dispatching the next for 4. The last ball saw another Browne connection and a frantic attempt to maximise runs by returning for a third. This just thwarted when CLucas was run out due to the juxtaposition of a direct hit and being knackered.

The Mallard balance sheet recorded a total of 121 for 7. Would our credit rating be sufficient? Had the roof been fixed enough? The exit poll was in doubt given Durham’s previous 134 against us earlier in the season. However, that was in the vicinity of their massive piles and the pollsters had been wrong before!

After a swiftish turnaround and some watering of the Thames, it was the opposition’s right of reply. Deputy PM Steel set out his manifesto on the field with Browne and a fired-up Cox first out of the battlebus to bowl. However, Durham came out fighting and had 25 on the board by the end of the third. Cox then drew first blood, trapping English LBW for 14. English initially attempted to drown out the opposition cries before quickly remembering he was not in the Commons and departing with an apology.

Browne completed his spell (3-0-20-0) and was replaced by Bateman in the 7th who quickly claimed the next scalp – Gillespie for 17 – caught by Home Secretary McGuiness who was delighted to bag another contribution to his ‘perfect palms’ catching battle with Poet Laureate Wood.

The end of Cox’s spell (4-0-22-1) saw Cleaver enter the fray to complement Bateman. The scorebook fell a bit short of the Hansard standard at this point but a couple of things were evident and dimly remembered:

* the free scoring Whitfield retired on 30
* Cleaver removed Verna for 19 (caught by Cox), Wastell for 0 (caught by Bateman and appears to have finished with figures of 3-0-10-2
* Watson bowled Boothroyd (S) for 17 – and finished on 3-0-16-1
* Party Chairman Taylor arrived to check on progress and cheer us on
* Wrede was run out for 2 by a Mexter Cleaver combo

*Cox made a stunning two handed diving catch attempt that slipped from his grasp at the last together with a Spumanti nomination. Alas all he had to show for it was a very creditable entry for stain of the year award (grass!!) – sponsored by Vanish.

Over and above all of this was the fact that Durham’s initial run rate had been slowed by excellent Mallards teamwork. This meant that with the opposition requiring 7 off the last over to win, it was tight and close, even tighter and closer than Lycra on an overweight middle-aged man struggling up a hill on a billion pound bike one Sunday morning.

The honour of closing out fell fittingly to Iron Chancellor Mexter. We had fixed our roof but theirs had developed a hole. Could we piss through it? Four singles and a dot ball meant it was last ball do or die. The Iron Man had it. Ice in his veins he delivered on target and Boothroyd (I) was unable to get a clean strike away. In their desperate search for run he was dispatched by a swift Bennett throw and stumping from Kent (who had chosen to take to the field spurning the now trade marked Hannibal Beacock keeper gimp mask).

Mexter finished on 2-0-18-0, Mallards had won by 2 runs and the sound of satisfied Mallardian banter filled the home dressing room. All was well in the world – until 5 minutes later when we found out Boris Johnson has been named Foreign Secretary. Yes the real one, chauffeured car and everything. One is tempted to say that rather limits future photo ops of mid air zip wire suspension. Then again…