Way back in the mists of time (well June) the Mallards were in what can only be described as a ‘hot streak’ of form. A passer-by walking their dog asked for an account for such unprecedented success cited the activities of local Riding Mill witches. Through a barely decipherable Northumbrian accent allied to local historical research (painstakingly put together over months by your intrepid match reporter) the tale that emerged was that this was a result of various ungulate crossroad-based deals being made with half-naked Mallards Captains (on this occasion Buckley) at the eponymous Witches Wood. Twisted Willow, representative of the coven, speaking from her cavemouth entrance claimed “Rumours that we are in any way related to Gareth Taylor are scurrilous and we refute any allegations that we have any relationship to any of the strange behavioural rituals at the so-called cricket field. Anyone making such slanderous accusations will be hearing from our lawyers Low, Bounce and Stumped”. Well, that’s that cleared up then (or is it?). Let us examine the evidence and dear reader (if you are still with us) you can make up your own mind.
So it was on a Sunny evening the gentlemen of Belmont Knights CC arrived to play Mallards. Captain Buckley winning the toss elected to bat and the home team entered the field to the enchanting late afternoon sounds of the Northumbrian countryside – a few birds, sheep and the roar of a motorbike past the ground. Kent, who it was said was in the middle of a good run of form, and Steel opened the batting and faced some tight overs from the Knights. Kent swiftly departing muttering incantations for a duck caught off the bowling of Gimpic bringing in Stone who quickly returned to the pavilion after a flashing four (bowled Madley) followed by Wilson who made 2 (bowled May).
First blows to the Knights. Steel who had found the ball initially difficult to get away was joined at the crease by Avtar and after a short period of settling in mayhem broke loose with a truly extraordinary passage of play the ball flying to and over the boundary at all angles. Avtar leading the way retiring with a fiery 31 from 19 balls. Steel who had got his eye in began to get in on the act having` been joined by Cox. A veritable tonking of the first and second change Knights attack continued with bowlers Green, Power, Hall and James all on the end of an unheralded sequence of Mallard scoring – Steel retiring for 31 from 21 balls and Cox leathering 32 from 16 (including two sixes from his last two balls). And although wickets fell the pace continued with Hall making a quick 4 (bowled) Buckley 9 (run out), with McCaffrey contributing a corking 17 not out joined at the death by Potts who made 5 not out from 3 balls. Along with a fine contribution from extras of 27 Mallards total was a spellbinding 156.
Was there any way even Mallards could lose with such a titanic total? Knights took up the gauntlet and bravely took to the field to face a bowling attack led by Cox and Potts. Cox, who was in fine all-rounder form, taking the wicket of Gimpic, caught by Latif from his third ball and finishing with 1-8 from 4 overs. Potts was equally miserly with 0-11 from 3 overs. First change brought in Stone and Latif who maintained the pressure with Timblin for the Knights struggling to get the ball away and eventually also caught by Latif for 4 off Stone’s bowlign. Bradley, who did move the score along then departed for 29, also bowled by Stone. The loss of his wicket signalled the last meaningful resistance from the Knights whose batsmen faced a thicket of fielding wizardry from the Mallards, notably Buckley stumping from the bowling of the tricky Latif who also conjured a third catch from the bowling of Hall. Knights finished on a total of 90 which on a different occasion might have been relatively competitive but were lanced by a combination of a bowling and batting performance not seen in many a long weekday evening (or perhaps ever in the Mallards history) indeed possibly enough to win two matches.
This is one contibution to the cauldron of a successful season which some passers-by have attributed to witchcraft, statisticians have politely described as an outlier or a ‘dipstick’ outcome, or what Nitsch might argue as careful shepherding of the fixture list. The reality is that this sort of ‘form’ has contributed to wider questions about the governance of the gaming industry by HM Government particularly around spot betting.
Is the explanation our Captain’s cavorting in the local Woods or Mallards players on their mobile phones to darkened speakeasies across the globe leaking improbable match events to incredulous gamblers (Retirements and Catches rather than Run Outs and Ducks) during games? Whichever it is we need to be mindful of the price to be paid when winning in such a fashion at that magical game of the leather, cork and willow… we may need to change our club name!