Mallards v Nitsch’s Black Book of Cricketers XI June 7

Someone once said (or should have said) cricket is a simple game made harder in the minds of those who play it (now I have said it). Those gathered to play against Nitch’s little Black Book of Cricketers XI were to re-discover this (again) like a forgetful Father Time waking from a cricketing dream where Mallards had already won three times before the start of July.

With Butcher skippering, the Mallards ventured onto the field looking for the wicket. They managed to find it eventually, only locating it by the presence of the stumps next a strip of green grass. Various cricket thinkers ventured that the evening’s entertainment might be uncomfortable for batsmen. Butcher, in an unguarded moment in the changing room, ventured that we should win as the visitors (suspiciously occupying the Home Changing room) did not appear to know each other names (or who could bowl/bat or not). They mostly looked like young cricketers to the rest of us. Opposition selector Nitsch lurked with a dog on the boundary attempting to plot Mallards, downfall by a series of secret signals.

So to the game and the visitors’ opening batsmen Drake (shouldn’t he be playing for us?) and Kiel (now he does, or did!) strode to the crease to face McGuinness. The facing batsmen were soon into their stride against some decent bowling from McGuinness and Watson with the ball zipping around the ground from the bat of Drake in particular (who later retired for 26n.o – we should sign him). Kiel fell for 12 from a lofted drive off McGuinness and a fine overhead catch from Lucas.

Batsmen number three entered the field of play and Bateman and Dunhill were brought on by Butcher as the first change of the bowling attack. The ball continued to find the boundary from the bat (and as byes from the green pitch),  including awards by Nitsch now acting as third umpire declaring Wilson’s outstretched toe end boundary edge intervention a four. Despite some tight bowling from Dunhill and Bateman, the latter finishing his spell of three overs for a miserly five runs, the Black Bookers were making good progress.

Who does a captain turn to at such times of desperate need – well the ex-Skippers panel of course (which is nearly the whole team sometimes). However, on this occasion it was Taylor and Wood who entered the bowling attack as third change. And it even worked as Gibbons (another deviously-recruited Mallard), who had moved swiftly onto 20, holed out to a smart catch from Wood off the bowling of Taylor with Wood striking in the following over, Wilson managing to hold a catch without having to use his feet.

Unfortunately the flow of runs was barely stemmed and the Bookers progress continued relatively unchecked albeit with some valiant catching attempts in the deep. Scraping the barrel, Butcher called on Wilson who much to everyone’s surprise (including Nitsch who had not accounted for this in his grand plan) took two quick wickets a towering catch by Bateman and a feather edge snaffled by Kent. Sensing the Blackbookers on the ropes Butcher cut his losses bringing back McGuiness and introducing Green (who appeared to run in to bowl from the vicinity of the pub) for the final two overs. To no avail the Blackbookers completing their innings on 135 for 5.

As the humidity rose even further the Mallards took to the field with Kent and Taylor as the opening pair. It was a quickie divorce as Taylor left the field in high dudgeon, run out having not faced a ball. Lucas soon followed caught out for 1 to bring Wood to the crease.

Some tight bowling from the Blackbookers saw able seaman Wood put down his anchor whilst Kent began to open his shoulders with one boundary in particular surprising the scorers via the pavilion roof.  Kent retired (25 n/o) replaced by Butcher.

Wood was out soon after,  lbw to Drake from a looping full toss (7), a wicket which heralded a minor collapse. Green (1) and Bateman (0) both fell to Kiel in the following over. Mallards were in trouble with 5 down, the required run rate ballooning and Butcher and Wilson at the crease.

With nothing to lose (except the game) they swung the bat against some tight bowling and rode their luck (albeit Wilson refused to run a fourth communicated via some suitably industrial language) with Butcher clattering two boundaries before he was caught on 15.

McGuinness entered the fray, making a sprightly 11 n.o. and sharing a partnership until the last over with Wilson. With 35 needed from the final over Wilson thought better of it,  hit a four over mid-on and retired on 25 n.o. looking like he’d been caught in a shower. Watson kept his shiny bat clean and wicket intact in the final three balls with the Mallards finishing on 107 for 6.

Reflecting over a pint in the Wellington afterwards it was clear that although we had been well beaten by Nitch’s Black Book XI the fact that we had got a game was what really mattered. Thanks to those who contribute to the running of this fine institution and play in the spirit of gentleman’s friendly cricket (most of the time!)