Mallards v Benwell and Walbottle May 24 @ Riding Mill


No poet would mind being locked-up, since he would at least have time to explore the treasure house of his memory (Rainer Rilke In James, Clive. 2020.  The Fire of Joy.  London, UK: Picador).

Rilke, like most poets, was a bit of a prick.  Locked-up (down) for the best part of 15 months with little more than Fred Trueman’s Table Top Cricket for company, Mallards were in no mood to recall the difficulty of communion with the ineffable in an age of disbelief: they were ready for cricket.

Enthusiasm wasn’t dented by a few signs of rustiness: Wood claiming to have forgotten how to set a field and Cleaver knocking over Holland’s (S) carefully constructed scoreboard.  The latest in qa long line of novice captains Latif strode to the middle with purpose.  Toss duly lost, he strode back to report that Mallards were to bat first.  Some suggested that batting on the pudding-like pitch might be tricky.  Nerves were calmed by Latif’s deep knowledge of German-language poetry: ‘Keine grosse kunst wurde jemals gemacht, ohne das der kunstler die gefahr gekannt’ (‘No great art has ever been made without the artist having known danger’).  Naturlich, skipper.

The Schloss Duino that is the new clubhouse being off-limits due to pandemic restrictions, the socially distanced Mallards gathered along the football pitch boundary to watch openers Ankush and Steel.  Suitable artistry was displayed by the former, a series of boundaries flowing as Cochrane and fellow opening bowler Hays struggled with the muddy run ups.  Steel brought similar skill, albeit fewer runs (i.e. zero) to an innings stymied by the similarly bemired pitch.  He squelched his way off after spooning a catch to square-leg off Cochrane.

At 17-1 off three overs, Wood sought to sustain the early run-rate: he failed, adding a couple of singles before being caught off the increasingly accurate Cochrane.  Comfort was found in his returning knowledge of field placings, his joy at being (briefly) back at the crease and his love of lyrically intense Austro-Bavarian prose: ‘In der Riding Mill CC, bin ich daheim’ (‘I am at home at Riding Mill CC’).  Wilkommen zuruck, Trevor.

Holland (T) brought some impressive technique to proceedings when he joined Ankush at 23-2.  Unfortunately, a ball from the diminutive Haseem didn’t so much as keep low as tunnel its way into his leg-stump via the quagmire on a length at the Jon Robb benches end: 35-3 after Holland (T) had added a brave 6.  The talismanic Ankush became Haseem’s next victim, falling for an impressive 24 after Thompson took a smart catch at mid-off.  36-4 off eight overs.  ‘Grosse scheisse’, as Rilke might have said.

The run-rate was now to become as stodgy as the pitch, with Wilson plodging his way to the middle and failing to trouble the scorers (bowled by Haseem).  Das Karussel continued as Lucas fended off some determined deliveries and mud-splatters before falling for another duck to Hays, returning to bowl from the picnic tables end.  42-6 off 12 overs didn’t bother the implacable Latif: his advice to new batsman Green to ‘Lass dir das leben passieren.  Glauben sie mir: das leben ist immer im recht’ (‘Let life happen to you.  Believe me: life is in the right, always’) seemed reasonable.  Green’s reaction to Draper’s bowling was less rather less sanguine, charging down the wicket and then charging off the field, stumped by Smith for 7.

Flights in and out of Newcastle Airport had now been grounded by Draper’s extraordinary donkey-droppers, the parabola of which had not been seen since Taylor’s last appearance for Mallards.  Latif sought to balance the need to see out the 20 over-innings with increasing the run-rate.  He achieved neither, fifty-odd for 7 became something or other for 8 after he was distracted by the contradiction of Rilke’s transitional position between the traditional and modernist oeuvres, a ball from Draper falling out of orbit to plop its way past his bat.  Solace was provided by the symmetry of also being stumped by Smith for 7, with the skipper suggesting that ‘Ruhm is nur die summe der misverstandnisse, die sich um einen namen sammeln konnen’ (‘Fame is only the sum total of misunderstandings that can gather around a name’).  Gut gesagt, Liaquat.

Hopes rose as new batsmen Holland (E) brought superb energy and no little skill to splash his way to 5, including a superb four off Bateman.  Hopes fell as Bateman got his revenge with a jaffa, bowling Holland (E) from the Jon Robb benches end.  Cleaver put aside his postmodernist critique of Rilke’s juxtaposition of Ovidian transformation and biblical allusion in Sonnets to Orpheus to join the redoubtable Holland (S).  Battling their way to 2 not out and 5 not out, respectively, they saw off some accurate bowling from Haseem and Bateman.  The score crawled its way from sixty-odd for 9 to close at 73-9 off 20 overs.

Undaunted by Benwell & Walbottle’s plan to ‘knock this off in ten overs’ but faced with defending a somewhat modest total, Mallards were buoyed by Steel’s words of encouragement: ‘Das schicksal selbst ist wie ein wunderbarer breiter wandteppich, in dem jeder faden von einer unaussprechlichen zarten hand gefuhrt wird’ (‘Destiny itself is like a wonderful wide tapestry in which every thread is guided by an unspeakable tender hand’).  Well, that and the prospect of an early start at the Wellington.

Cleaver opened up from the picnic tables end, keeping things tight and periodically shedding layers of clothing until the increasingly burdened Steel declared himself to be ‘Tony’s clothes-horse’.  Or was it ‘Tony’s wankenstander?’  Holland (E) worked up some good pace from the Jon Robb benches end, showing great commitment in the face of sound defence from openers Harrington and Smith.

Remarkably, both bowlers began to extract some bounce from the pitch and, particularly by Holland (E), some movement through the air.  Buoyed by the efforts of their opening bowlers and the changing conditions, Mallards sensed that the muddy tide might have turned.  ‘Der fruhling ist zuruckgekehrt.  Die Erde ist wie ein kind, das dedichte kennt’ (‘The Earth is like a child that knows poems’) remarked Wilson.  Cleaver’s suggestion that Wilson was ‘sprechen verdammte blodsinn’ proved to be correct: the reality that batting might, in fact, be made easier by the drying pitch and the setting sun (previously dazzling when trying to pick up Draper’s astonishing loopers from the picnic tables end) began to be borne out.  A few from some became rather more from a few more as both batsmen began to score steadily, with boundaries being added to frequent singles.  Cleaver and Holland (E) fashioned the occasional chance, with Harrington somehow keeping out a superb yorker from Holland (E) and TC being unlucky that ‘keeper Wood was so enraged by his failure to detect the obvious eye-rhyme in the fourth line of Geschicten vom Lieben Gott that he contrived to drop a (difficult) chance off Smith.

Spirited work from Wilson, Lucas and Holland (T) in the field helped to contain some of the scoring.  England’s Euro 2020 (2021) squad can only benefit from Wilson’s footballing skills; Lucas’s athleticism may well secure a place in the GB 2020 (2021) Olympic diving squad; Major League Baseball surely beckons for Holland (T), with one laser-like throw nearly decapitating a surprised Ankush.

Skipper Latif, tiring of his copy of Letters to a Young Poet, brought on Holland (S) and the just about intact Ankush.  The former’s right-arm darts and the latter’s accurate medium-pace slowed the run-rate, but could not prevent the inevitable: both openers reached the compulsory retirement score of dreissig runs and left to well-deserved applause from Mallards, team-mates and from Dunhill, recently arrived to lock-up the Schloss Duino.  Checking CricViz’s win predictor, Dunhill suggested that with Benwell & Walbottle on 71-0 (2 retired) off 12 overs, Mallards might still be in with a chance of a win.  A 1.28% chance, but still a chance…

Given fresh impetus by Dunhill and by Cleaver’s dramatic reading from The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, Latif set a ‘ring field’ and implored his fans of Teutonic mystical lyricism to ‘show some verdammte Hoden’.  Testicles duly (but metaphorically, thankfully) displayed, Mallards set about new batsmen Mail and Mowbray with renewed vigour.  Holland (S) got one of them out at some point in the 13th over, although the scorebook fails to disclose which: Benwell & Walbottle’s scorer, no doubt, taking issue with Cleaver’s failure to develop an effective synthesis of Rilkean and Brechtian modes of analysis.  Brecht, being a Marxist and, therefore, a right fotze, would have approved; Holland (S) did not.  Another batsmen came in and scored the winning single by just about clearing the despairing Holland (T) at short mid-wicket.  ‘Die einzige reise ist die innerhalb’ (‘The only journey is the one within’) said Steel.  ‘Falsch’ (‘Wrong’), replied Cleaver; ‘Who fancies a pint in the Wellington?’