Mallards v Ovington Kestrels @ Riding Mill August 23

The history of mankind, of nations savage and civilised, of democracies and dictatorships, is scarred by violence, armed conflict and the futile waste of good, young, innocent life.

But some scars run deeper and heal slower than others, and none more so than when comrade is set against comrade, brother against brother. The origins of such bitter conflicts are many- territory, ancient grievances, contrived narratives, love, rejection, riches derived from the prolongation of suffering; but always at the centre is a scheming mind which sees an opportunity to manipulate the great powers through manipulation of the most powerless.

And so it was that 23rd August 2016 saw  an Ovington Kestrels side arrive at Riding Mill to face the Mallards, who must have wondered if the generator and lights in the pavilion were working after all and they were able to see their own reflection in the dusty mirror. Here, ranged against the honest, gentle yeomen of the Valley, were such men as Aswini Dasika… Andy Horner… David Purves…  worse still, Brian Taylor… men who had worn a Mallards shirt that very season or who had at least made common cause with these peaceful eccentrics  time and again… and at the head of their snarling ranks, the mastermind himself, the Mallardian Machiavelli, Tony Jordon, the modern-day father of this Cain vs Abel tragedy (pictured)

No Mallard feared the firepower of these men, but the cold and rusty blade of treachery was felt deep before the first ball was bowled, but despite Skipper Browne’s gallant choice to face the traitors down and bat first, the wounded decency of the Mallards would not let them settle, and cost them early.

Scott perished first, lost in the confusion and panic of a burning village to be run out for 3 by the bowler, Terry. Kent was caught by the same man, worked out for 4 by Brian Taylor, who of course knew this place so well from the many warm welcomes it had given him… Kiel looked the part, drawing the sting of the invading horde with a dignified stay at the crease, before being caught off Terry, a man who perhaps did not know what Jordon had made him a part of and, as a result, was able to play with the unaffected decency of the innocent.

But Bennett knew these new-found foes as well as they knew him, and fought back with fury, sending flat, flaming arrows across the sky to record four 4s and two 6s in a rapid surge to retirement. At 44/3 with Bennett to come back, Mallards were holding out.

Hunt perished immediately through a lazy chip to the infield off Terry. Perhaps the fight in him had already gone. But Van Doorn, a mercenary with a conscience perhaps having returned to the Mallards from upriver, combined with Rawley to take the score to 64 before being bullied from the crease by the imposing Purves. Rawley took up the assault, advancing in short charges between periods of cautious accumulation. Cap’n Browne backed his man up with a late flurry, before both men fell near the end of the innings, Rawley cleaned up by the smiling, skidding assassin Dasika, and Browne bowled by the flinty Wallbanks – an honest foe, at least. Hayward and Haylock saw the innings out, and Mallards had set the Kestrels 105.

Taking the new ball, Cap’n Browne was perhaps still unsettled by injustice, conceding 9 off his first over to the marauding Hall and the other Terry, but steadied by a miserly Page at the other end, he found his rhythm. And Browne it was who struck, and twice! In his third over, Kent caught Terry, and the umpire found in favour of the righteous to send Hall packing. 30/2.

But Horner, as thick skinned as they come, patted singles around nonchalantly as though enjoying this dirty business. And then with cruel relish, he set about the last of Page and the nibbling Haylock, hammering two fours and two sixes before leaving the field in disdain for the ragged Mallards. Suddenly they had 82 on the board. Wallbanks had enjoyed himself alongside Horner and after a period of introspection,  decided to finish things before the sun poked between the trees at the bowler’s end. He saw the score to 103 before being trapped in front by Hunt for 24.

Kiel delivered a final blow for peace, honour and the spirit of cricket by bowling Bullock for 1, but the grinning Dasika, who had gone about his business almost unnoticed to make an unbeaten 8, saw the Kestrels home by six wickets in the final over, in the company of Terry, the man who had earlier sown such terror and panic among the Mallards, on this black and dirty day.