Mallards v Seaton Burn @ Riding Mill June 30

“Don’t knock the weather; nine-tenths of the people couldn’t start a conversation if it didn’t change once in a while” (Kin Hubbard). Never a truer word spoken for the legion of cricketers in the North East of our green and pleasant land. We are well versed in the daily perusal of the Accuweather app or the BBC weather pages which predict whether (d’you see what he did there? – ed) or not there will be any possibility of play for the Mallards fixture that night. Predictions of rain at 6, just when the teams are taking the field, are discussed and dismissed with casual arrogance.

Mallardians are true optimists when, despite predictions of biblical torrents of rain, they offer the possibility of the Riding Mill microclimate saving the day. Nowadays, armed with ‘state of the art’ pitch covers and an understanding of local mystic weather patterns the feeling is nothing can stop the mighty Mallards …… if only….

The fixture against Seaton Burn was a new venture against an unknown side, although the Seaton Burn club has been around for years in well-established leagues. Despite problems with satellite navigation resulting in a brief tour of the village, the Seaton Burn side arrived displaying a remarkably low average age causing some disquiet amongst the Mallardian old lags. Youth normally equals chasing expansive drives and pulls around the field for 20 overs followed by a low score resulting from being cleaned out by extreme pace.

In light of such reservations, Mallards skipper Steel, on winning the toss, decided to field and in bright conditions took to the field armed with a phalanx of bowling talent. Initial perusal of the team sheet suggested the availability of seven established bowlers – riches indeed! Mallards opened with Browne and Watson who embarked on a miserly spell of bowling achieving a metronomic line and length.

It was clear from the outset that Seaton Burn’s young guns were not going to embark on a run spree. In fact, there were very little signs of aggression at all, the score crawling to 18 for 2 after 7 overs. Rarely could there have been a more controlled start to a match. However, despite their accuracy and regularly beating the outside edge, Browne and Watson both failed to register in the wickets column (going for 9 and 13 runs respectively in their 4 overs).

However, Mallards achieved two breakthroughs via, what could only be described as a contender for the annual swoop fielding award. Kent had relinquished the keeping gloves to allow the return of Beacock to the fold. One can only speculate where Steve was coached in his fielding ability or his Spook-like ability in deception. He started with an intentional miss-field and followed this up by an equally intentional inept throw to the keeper. Having lulled the batsmen into a false sense of security and in combination with the keen keeping skills of the aforementioned Beacock, he ran out both Hoey and Rook deploying his laser like arm and sound ‘on the bounce’ technique. The stuff of legend.

The Seaton Burn run rate increased steadily upon the introduction of the spin twin attack of Bennett and Benson, Bennett having decided to deploy a mixture of off and leg-break bowling as pace was seen as being too much for the Seaton Burn team. It seemed apparent that the introduction of pace from Bennet and Cox on a ‘sporting’ pitch would have proved an overwhelming challenge for the young Seaton Burn team and terms were negotiated with Cox to be the bowler who ‘missed out’ on his bowling spell.

Control was maintained with Bennett having Harvey caught at mid-wicket for 13. Benson remained wicketless but in common with the earlier pace attack conceded very few runs, relinquishing only 15 in his three overs (Bennett conceded only 17 in the same spell). Opening bat McAuley retired on 32 very late in the innings thus narrowly becoming the only player ever to carry their bat under ’30 and retire’ rules.

The arrival of Hayden (interestingly noted as a retard by his teammate in the scorebook) resulted in a marked increase in the scoring rate. He was particularly severe on McGuiness launching him for consecutive sixes in his final over. Dave was rather unlucky having his man dropped twice in true Mallardian fashion. Wisbach, at the other end, also came in for some stick, but was able to maintain some control despite Hayden’s assault, eventually having him stumped by Beacock after several missed ‘swipes’ at his bowling. Wisbach also had Atkins caught for 10 and achieved figures of 2 for 20 from 3 overs which were commendable in the circumstances.

Despite the final total increasing to 106 for 5 off 20, the Mallards team were confident of a successful chase, particularly as Cox (as per on-field negotiations) was promoted to open the innings with fielding guru Kent. However, by this time, the weather had closed in and the Mallards batsmen took to the crease in rather dark and damp conditions, a steady drizzle having descended upon the Riding Mill ground.

Worries of ‘death by pace’ were unfounded as Mallards got off to a rapid start, mainly due to Cox who retired at 30 having smote four 4s and a six. Kent and Steel scored steadily, such that Mallards were well on course for another victory at 59 for no wicket after 10 overs. However, by now, the rain had become more persistent and it was clear the fielding side were struggling to stay vertical on the outfield and the bowlers were finding it difficult to grip the ball.

To their immense credit the Seaton Burn side kept playing as Mallards frantically tried to score the runs required. Steel was adjudged lbw for 11 as conditions worsened. The introduction of Hoey (1 over, 2 for 7) who took two wickets in his first two balls hastened the abandonment of the game as he had the (potentially) fast-scoring Kent stumped for 24 and Bennett caught for 1. McGuinness performed a triple-toe-loop slog for 4 having skidded down the track, making it clear that conditions for play were impossible and the match was sadly abandoned, with the score on 81 for 3 wickets after 13.2 overs. Both teams were in agreement, ably supported by the club despot who was most concerned about the potential comments coming his way from the Riding Mill grounds consultant.

Mallards were confident that the 27 runs required would have been scored in the remaining 6.4 overs. However, despite all of the predictions by Accuweather and the BBC the Riding Mill microclimate let the team down. The Seaton Burn side are a welcome addition to the fixture list. They play in the right spirit and their attempt to finish the match was commendable. However, it was clear the decision to abandon the match was correct.

And so, onwards and upwards. The win / loss ratio is still encouraging and assuming the weather improves (BBC is predicting rain for Tuesday) we will try again next week against Sparta at tropical Riding Mill.