Mallards v Umpires @ Bill Quay August 18

Mallards gathered at Bill Quay in fine spirits on a pleasant evening, looking forward to the always warm welcome and a game of cricket played in a friendly manner by our ever amiable hosts Bill Quay, or to give them their Sunday name – The Umpires.

Spirits were further raised by the news that we had international visitors. Mr and Mrs Cox having read (and I am reliably told, enjoyed) reports of Mallards (mis?) fortunes over the past 2 seasons via the wonders of the world wide web, decided to make the 20,648 mile round trip from Christchurch, New Zealand just to watch the Mighty Mallards in action, oh and to see their son Dave while they were here! At this point I should probably apologise to Mr and Mrs C as apparently they particularly enjoy the witty, well-written and occasionally educational match reports. Sadly the clever clogs that normally write the reports are all away or just couldn’t be a**** to write this one so you’re stuck with me doing it – a creatively challenged halfwit with the memory of a gold fish with Alzheimers! I would say thanks to the person who fed me that line on the night, but predictably I’ve forgotten who it was! As compensation I have included an appropriate photo atop this report to alleviate any homesickness that may have allayed our visiting Kiwis. Fortunately the scorebook was filled in impeccably for the Mallards innings, (less so for Bill Quay) so read on for an accurate(ish) account of the nights proceedings.

Mallards lost the toss and were invited to bat first. Steel and Butcher opened the innings and safely negotiated the 1st over with 3 singles coming from it. However Steel, clearly affected by the absence of Kent his usual opening partner, was unable to forge a lasting partnership with Butcher and he took an uncharacteristic swipe at the 1st ball of the 2nd over and was bowled by the fairly rapid (and considerably younger) Clayton for 2. Cox was in next and buoyed by the presence of his watchful parents and keen to impress, started fluently. He was enjoying the fast bouncy wicket and dispatched anything short, his first 3 scoring shots all being 4’s. Butcher was content to watch Cox deal with the pacier Clayton from the other end while trying his luck against the steady but largely unthreatening Hamblett. Cleary he was enjoying watching a little too much as after hitting a four through the covers he repeated the shot and stood admiring his efforts seemingly oblivious to the fielder sprinting round the boundary and Cox charging down the wicket screaming at him to run! Eventually Butcher started running and got lucky as the bowler fumbled a fine throw in from the boundary and another run was added to the total. Sadly he was unable to make the most of his reprieve as shortly afterwards he was comprehensively bowled by a fast full (inswinging?!) ball from Clayton for 6, with the score 29 – 2 at the start of the 6th. This quickly became 29 – 3 as Jordon could only get a glove to a shorter ball from Clayton and was caught behind. McCaffrey then joined Cox and they kept the score board moving with a mix of good hitting and enthusiastic running. Cox was in fine nick hitting 5 fours and a six in his 30 before retiring in the 8th with the score on 45.

Wood was in at 6, lower than usual as the skipper had finally succumbed to weeks of hinting (some might might say nagging) and planned to utilise his “much under-used” (his words not mine!) bowling later on. McCaffrey was batting nicely but was deceived by the pitch as he hit one straight back to the bowler instead of to the boundary as planned and fell for a entertaining 14. Beacock joined Wood and continued his recent run of form despite pulling a calf muscle and requesting a runner. Cox, now a grizzled veteran of the squad, had wisely kept his pads on and was clearly not in the mood for small talk with his parents despite them flying round the world to see him thus volunteered. Wood (who bizarrely also picked up a muscle pull) and Beacock both picked the gaps in the field nicely to bring the score to a healthy 92 – 4 after 14 before somewhat surprisingly Wood picked out a fielder for a fine 20 having helped put on 35 in 5 and a bit overs, despite the pair’s difficulty in running. Thompson and Benson then both fell cheaply, both caught off the bowling of Sweeney to leave the Mallards faltering on 98 for 7 after 16 overs. Beacock finally succumbed to his lack of mobility and was bowled for a very respectable 24 that included 4 fours. Haylock went down swinging a few balls later bringing Cox back to the crease again. With Cleaver picking up singles and Coxy hitting another 6 and 2 more 4s, 20 runs came off the last 2 overs to take the score to a very decent 130 with Cox finishing on 46, a great effort albeit short of the 50 that was mistakenly shown on the fancy electronic scoreboard!

Beacock was unable to take to the field so Wood took up the wicket keeping gloves despite his own  injury, unfortunately b****ing up the Skipper’s carefully thought-out bowling plans! Mallards did take to the field with an unexpected bowling replacement as Bill Quay native Tom Browne, who had been watching, kindly nipped home to change into his whites and sub for Peter but sadly as a sub he was ineligble to bowl [or put another way the captain was too polite to ask the opposition for permission – ed.].

The experienced Cleaver opened the bowling from the greenhouse end (your reporter can still hear the smashing of glass after his bowling was deposited over the fence several seasons ago!) and bowled well, beating the bat on several occasions and inducing a genuine edge through a sadly vacant 1st slip but also going for runs from a decent looking batting duo. The less experienced (at least for Mallards) Benson opened from the road end and was unlucky to see a very confident appeal turned down off his very first ball. Both bowlers had figures of 0 for 9 after 1 over and 0 for 15 after 2 but their fortunes then differed as Cleaver managed to get Howard caught behind by Wood in his 3rd over and finished his 4 overs with 1 – 27 which was pretty respectable in the face of some impressive batting. Sadly Benson took the brunt of some powerful hitting in his last 2 overs including 2 sizeable 6s finishing on 0 for 44 but at least managed to see off Sweeney as he retired on 35! Each 6 resulted in a change of ball, and it was at this point that our club despot, having finally turned up to spectate, elected to rummage in the team kitbag and throw a pink match ball into the ring.

With ball visibility vastly improved, Cox and Haylock took over bowling duties intent on slowing down the run rate, but although Cox cleaned up White with a beauty that had the umpire extolling its virtues, they went for 9 and 10 runs respectively in their first overs leaving Bill Quay on 90 – 2 after 10, seemingly on course for a comfortable victory. Cox and Haylock however had other ideas, Haylock bowling tightly  conceding just 12 runs off his next 3 to finish with 0- 22 off 4 overs and Cox really getting up a head of steam and bowling genuinely fast, beating the bat on numerous occasions in admittedly fading light and getting Little neatly caught behind by the stand-in keeper Wood off a thin edge to finish with 2 – 23 off his 4.  At 116 – 3 off 16 overs with the light getting worse and the big hitters seemingly back in the pavilion the game was still in the balance which had seemed unlikely just 6 overs previously. With Wood behind the stumps and the Skipper unconvinced his own unique brand of ‘even slower’ balls would do the trick, McCaffrey and Steel took over to try and finish the job. Sadly despite some decent bowling and 2 wickets for McCaffrey including a great catch in the deep by Cox (show off!) the Umpires managed to finish in style with a 6 to win by 5 wickets with 7 balls to spare. Special mention must go to stand-in keeper Wood who conceded just 1 bye in the entire innings despite having to keep to the very rapid Cox in poor light, with a couple of balls actually knocking Trev off his feet – top effort.

Unfortunately we were unable to get the win that both Dave Cox and his parents’ efforts deserved but none the less I think it was a hugely enjoyable game played in the right spirit – I know for certain that Bill Quay appreciate our efforts and always look forward to our visit which I think says a lot for Mallards both on and off the pitch. As always we retired to the bar where club despot Gareth did his best to lift everyone’s spirits by dishing out shed loads of crisps and even introducing Mrs C to the epicurian delights of pork scratchings – that’s got to be worth the trip alone!

On a personal note, I am now away on holiday for 2 weeks and will miss the rest of the season (no cheering please!) so would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has played this season and made my first season as skipper such an enjoyable one despite scoring even less runs than usual! Also thanks to Dave McGuinness for sorting fixtures, Pete Nitsch for looking after the Riding Mill pitch, Leon and Peter for financial wrangling, Vice Skippers Glen and Dave C for winning more games than me! and last but not least Gareth for being the glue that holds Mallards together. Apologies if I have forgotten anyone!

Go well for the rest of the season and keep your eyes peeled for news of the ‘Captain’s Curry Night’ to be held in October(ish).  I’ve just come up with the name so no fixed plans yet but pretty sure it will involve the Captain and curry! And I will gladly pay for everyone who comes! [this last sentence may have been edited slightly – ed.]