Mallards v Ovingham @ Riding Mill June 9

After Tuesday night’s disappointing showing against a supposed scratch side which turned out to be Nitsch’s Secret Army, Mallards took to the field again just two days later determined to put the record straight.

The opponents this time were the mighty Ovingham who, in recent years, had drafted in a lot of young blood and improved immeasurably – a template for the future Mallards perhaps?

The game marked the return of two stalwarts, Mexter and McCaffery, who would respectively add height and volume to the team as well as a level of inury-proneness. The medics were put on standby.

Seasoned Mallards scanned the team-sheet, declared to a man ‘plenty of bowlers’ and looked around the dressing room, desperate to find anyone who looked like they could hold a bat,  new signing Zurawlew failing to duck in time and being singled out as a likely lad.

Stand-in skipper Steel lost the toss and we were batting with the skipper leading the way, aided by the ever-able Kent.  Worries about the depth of batting became more pressing when the skipper perished for 1 in the second over, taking on the arm of the man at square leg and losing to a direct hit.

This early setback brought Zurawlew to the wicket earlier than hoped but the pavilion’s concerns were set to rest when he got off the mark with a cracking four.  With Kent settling in at the other end, the new man continued to lead the way, hitting two more fours from the next over, taking a liking to the pacy Hall’s bowling. Despite some decent looking bowling the runs continued to pile up and by the end of the fifth over the score had reached a very satisfactory 36-1.

Giddy with the growing total, Kent then played out a maiden over before Zurawlew was surprisingly bowled by Hall for a rapid 26 to bring Wood to the crease with the score on 40-2 after seven overs. A period of stabilisation was clearly the order of the day but the new pair turned such expectations on their head, taking 23 runs from the next two overs, the equally pacy but more erratic Mapleston coming in for particular punishment, with both batsman finding the boundary off his wide-ish deliveries. At the other end Marley was proving equally expensive, his first two overs costing 19 runs as the score mounted rapidly to leave Mallards sitting pretty on 96-2 from just 12 overs, some fine running and hitting being heavily supplemented by a hefty bout of extras as three lots of four byes were added to the score.

Inevitably the scoring was to slow a little as the bowlers wised up but when Kent finally retired on 30 in the 15th over, with the total on 108, the pair had still added 68 runs in just 7.5 overs .  Mexter now joined the fray, and in the next over, Wood finished his innings with a flourish, a four and a two taking him to 30 as he retired, having hit four boundaries (that’s FOUR BOUNDARIES) to be replaced by McGuiness. Mallards were now sitting on the rub-your-eyes-it-can’t-be-true-total of 116-2 after 16 overs.

Mexter immediately took up the cudgels, cracking two excellent fours in the next two overs to take the score up to 131 before he was bowled by Drake for 11.   As the clearly-rusty Jordan settled himself in, McGuiness sacrificed himself for the cause, taking on an almost impossible run to try and keep the scoring rate going but being run out for five to bring another debutant, Benson, in with Mallards hoping to reach 140 for the first time this season. The new man didn’t disappoint, a two and a four being followed by a quick single as the home team finished on a mightily impressive 140-4 from 20 overs.

Mallards took to the field with a confident strut but dreams of a comfortable victory were brought down to earth in Cleaver’s first over as Lee carved 11 runs from it. Browne, however, at the other end was in no mood to be thwarted, his first ball clipping the leg stump to send the dangerous Lee straight back into the pavilion. An impressive wicket maiden ensued.  The other opening batsman, Hall, was in impressive form but a series of fine cover drives brought him little reward as he continually hit fielders, Wood, in particular, being this week’s ball magnet. With Cleaver settling down after his worrying first over, the pressure began to mount, Kent narrowly failing to hold on to a nick behind in the fifth over, which finished with the opposition on 28-1.  The unlucky Browne also saw a catch go down behind the wicket in his next over as the two batsmen began to pick up the score again and after eight over they had reached a respectable 46-1, Browne finishing with 1-20, Cleaver 0-23.

Dunhill and new boy Benson took over with the latter, in particular, starting well, taking a wicket in his first over as Lintern charged down the wicket, only to be clean bowled for 12.  After an expensive first over, Dunhill also hit his straps, only conceding seven runs from his next two as the pressure began to tell on the opposition, especially with Hall retiring for an elegant 30.  After 14 overs they had reach 79-0, needing 62 from the last six for victory

The veteran Wallbank was now at the wicket and looked in fine form, finding the boundary twice with fierce drives but he lost his partner Mapleston in the 16th over, Benson again taking the wicket with Kent finally managing to cling on to a catch, much to his relief, the bowler finishing on 2-23. Dunhill finished his four overs with 0-23. Worryingly, for Mallards the wicket brought Drake to the wicket, a man who had plundered the Mallards attack for 25 very quick runs just two days earlier.

With four overs to go the opposition were just about still in touch, needing 45 to win but skipper Steele had two aces up his sleeve in the forms of McGuinness and Mexter and the former wasted no time making his mark, bowling Drake with his second ball for 1 and only conceding two runs from the over, a feat matched by the returning Mexter in his first over. The game was almost up, Ovingham now requiring 39 runs from just two overs. McGuinness’s second over went for 8 leaving Mexter to finish the innings off. The treasurer made sure he closed the account, another fine over finishing in style when he bowled Martell with the last ball of the match to leave Ovingham on 115-5, giving Mallards a magnificent victory by 25 runs.

The beer at the Wellington somehow seemed even better than usual as one of the best all-round Mallards performances in recent memory, indeed probably one of the best ever, was celebrated.