Mallards v Sparta @ Riding Mill July 5

Sparta have become somewhat of a bogey team for the Mallards over recent years so the question was could the revitalized Mallards of 2016 vintage break the hoodoo?

For those of you who aren’t fans of the lengthy Mallards match reports, a clue to the outcome of the game can be found in Peter Nitsch’s post match remark, “well aa’al the Sparta lads are cricketers!” (Peter can be hired for motivational speaking – just contact the bar staff in the Welly)

Anyhow back to the game.  Glenn (balls of) Steel was standing in for Butcher as captain and with Beakers having a fitting for his new mask. Steve (cymbals) Kent was behind the stumps.  The book doesn’t record whether Mallards won the toss, but the end result was that Mallards would have a bowl. Steel turned to the dependable Dunhill and the Blyth Bullet (Watson) to open the bowling.  If you can be arsed to read on, this pair emerge as the starring players in this match report.  Sparta’s opening batsman (Nelson) decided he was in no mood for messing around and quickly set about Dunhill hitting 6 runs off the first 3 balls.  However, the wily old fox {or is that ferret? – ed.} struck back with his 4th ball pouching a sharp caught and bowled effort to knock Nelson off his column.

At the tree & chair end Watson’s first over was steady but produced no further breakthroughs.   So back to the wily old fox who instructed McGuinness to drop to deep mid on for the start of his second over.  The field change produced instant results as Pearson holed out to McGuinness (for his 6th catch of the season) reducing Sparta to 12 for 2.  Could Mallards be about to break the Sparta hoodoo? Please, read on….

The Blyth Bullet (poor man’s Ashington Express) piled on the pressure but could not quite make the breakthrough and at the end of the 4th over Sparta had moved on to 23 for 2. Spratt had been causing Mallards plenty of problems but in the 5th over he became Dunhill’s 3rd victim, clean bowled for 15.  Watson’s third yielded just 2 runs as Sparta nudges into the thirties and  Dunhill’s final over was notable for what could have been.  First Dunhill failed to keep hold of a fierce caught and bowled chance and then the usually dependable McGuinness spilled a steepler on the boundary.  Sadly a very rare Mallard’s five wicket hall had slipped from Dunhill’s grasp, however, his figures of  4 overs 3 wickets for 10 runs were still mighty impressive. Could the evening get any better for Dunners?

Watson finished his spell of 4 overs with no reward for 25 runs.  Sparta stuttering at 39 for 2 from 8 overs.  Mallards were in need of a strike bowler, Wood had been whirling his arms like a newly installed wind turbine but skipper Steel had other ideas turning to the ace up his sleeve Aly Hall.  Hall was joined in the attack by Kiwi Cox.  Hall’s and Cox’s first overs both went for 6 as Sparta began to go through the gears. Marshall was particularly punishing and took a liking to Hall’s swing bowling. At the end of the 11th over Sparta had moved on to 65 for 3.  The Mallards were desperately in need of a wicket to break the Sparta momentum. And, on cue, up stepped (Dickie Hadlee) Cox to bowl Douglas and then Simpson in successive overs slowing Sparta to 66 for 4 off 12 overs.  Hall (3 overs 0 for 22) was given the hook by Steel and on in his place came Joel ‘Big Bird’ Mexter.  Mexter started with a canny over which conceded 5 runs.   At the other end Dickie Hadlee (Cox) was really hitting his straps and causing the Sparta batsmen all kinds of problems but sadly his spell had to come to end (4 overs, 2 for 10).  Steel began to scratch his head, who could join Mexter to finish the innings?  Wood by this point was whirling his arms like a windmill in a force 10 gale but Steel once again ignored , the eager ex-skipper, opting for the Mallards {allegedly – ed.} leading (but slightly expensive) wicket-taker McGuinness.  Langley took an instant liking to McGuinness’ buffet bowling, whacking him for 16 quickfire runs before McGuinness caught him ‘rope a dope’ style – plum in front lbw. At the other end ‘Big Bird’ Mexter began to bound in to the calypso beat, first Langley (6) and then Hunter for 0 were dismissed, both caught by Wood, who performed his customary ‘I have been shot by a sniper’ roll on the floor for both catches).

The scorebook begins to dry up at this point but Sparta ended their innings at around 115 runs from their 20 overs with the impressive Marshall unbeaten on 36 after returning for another go at the tiring Mallards attack. Mexter finished with the impressive figures of 3 overs 2-14.  McGuinness’ figures are frankly as embarrassing as they have been most of the season but he did manage to snaffle his 10th wicket of the season (blatant self-promotion).

Mallards strode out to bat, chasing a gettable total somewhere between 115-120, (thanks to the lackadaisical scorekeeping).  The spring in the Mallards batsmen’s step did not last long as Langley bowled majestically removing Kent with the 3rd ball of his opening wicket maiden.  Cox joined Steel at the wicket but runs still proved hard to come by and despite doggedly hanging around for a few overs Steel perished for 1 in the fourth over driving straight to a fielder (like a bullet out of a gun – according to the skipper).  Mallards were rocking on 14 for 2.  Cox had managed to eke out a few runs but was not at his fluent best.  Next in was Hall who also found scoring runs against the miserly Sparta attack tough. Sparta by this point where using the opportunity to give the whole team some bowling practice, switching bowlers every 2 overs, unfortunately, for Mallards it seems the whole Sparta team can turn their arm over.

Cox eventually began to find his radar and hit a few good boundaries. He was ably supported by Hall as they steadied the good ship Mallard.  By the 9th over Mallards had managed to grind their way to 46.  However, Hall perished in the next over for a useful 12.  Swiftly followed by Wood who was run out by a direct hit for 1 whilst trying to up the scoring rate.  Next in was Lucas who managed to keep Cox company for a while and also score 2 lusty boundaries. Sadly Lucas was caught in the 12th over going for another big hit.  Cox was also soon to retire after a persistent innings of 30.  Next at the crease and bound to strike fear into the Sparta attack were new batsmen, Jordan and McGuinness at the wicket.  Jordan wasted no time in going for a quick/kamakazi single which resulted in his innings ending, run out for 0. ‘That’s another fine mess you have got me into Stanley’, Jordan was heard to utter as he trudged from the crease.  McGuinness faired little better and struggle to pick Marshall who couldn’t decide whether to bowl spin or medium pace. He rapidly dispatched McGuinness for another duck (McGuinness obviously not giving up the Mallards Duck Award without a fight).

Mallards were really in the soup now, the scorebook {again, grrrrr – ed.} is a little hazy but it looks as a flurry of wickets left them at 74 for 7.  Next in was Mexter who survived possibly the plumbest LBW shout of the century thanks to Wood’s myopic umpiring only to fall a couple of balls later for 2.  By this point it was looking hopeless for Mallards. The defiant Watson managed to thump a rare boundary but runs were proving increasingly hard to come by for the Mallards’ tail.  With Cox eager to return to the fray Watson set off for a very ambitious single which left Dunhill stranded in the traps.  The usually phlegmatic Dunhill proceeded to explode, grinding to a halt, hands on hips in the centre of the wicket and bellowing at Watson, “Are you f%@!ing stupid????”.  This grossly un-Mallardian conduct puts Dunhill neck and neck with another Mallard (who shall remain nameless) for the Strop of the Year Award.  Despite successfully getting Cox back to the wicket Watson now struggled to hit the ball to get the Kiwi All-star back on strike.  Watson was then caught off the bowling of Roe for 4 and the Mallards innings petered out with a whimper.  The scorebook is very ropey and it appears the Mallards innings ended on somewhere around 95 a good 20 to 30 runs short of the Sparta total – whatever that ended up being….

Both teams headed for the Wellington whilst Dunhill headed home for his tomahawk as Watson cowered in the changing rooms fearing the murderous glint in Dunhill’s eye.  In truth, Mallards were outplayed by Sparta but who cares, we play for the fun, the camaraderie and amazing gongs at the end of season do!  Long live the good ship Mallard and all who sail in her!!!