This has been something of a watershed year for the Mighty Mallards – dragged kicking and screaming into a new dawn of youthful promise and modern technology. We have left behind outdated preconceptions – like losing the majority of our fixtures – and stepped into the ‘big data’ age where Dave Cox (aka statto) has furnished us with career statistics. We are almost privy to state of the art facilities at our home ground – lights in the changing room and showering facilities with beer in the fridge – whatever next?
So why the improved performances? The motivation of knowing that another 10 runs will take someone to the dizzy heights of 200 career runs or that another wicket would edge closer to the GOAT that is Andy Dunhill? Is the ongoing development the result of a sound youth policy (someone has to fetch the ball from the farmers field) or a widening of the Mallardian net far and wide to bring in competent players as ringers?
A case in point is the regular fixture with our old adversaries the KSOB. No longer in this new age the fear of a jolly good ‘tousing’ from our friends from Tynemouth. Stories are told by Mallards stalwarts down the years of heavy defeats – of old stagers chasing around outfields and facing ‘kings of spin’ leading to embarrassment. No more was the cry…..
Mallards fielded first – no longer to hide embarrassment of a potential low score to make a game of it. Quite simply, confidence is high and what followed was (perhaps) one of the best all round displays in the field (we all agreed as much!) of all time. The bowling was exceptional and the fielding equally so, both ground fielding AND catching (yes! I repeat, catching).
KSOB openers were Moir and Menton (H), the latter having something of a charmed existence. He tried a range of modern batting theories (ramps, charging pace, pre-meditated sweeping), some of which came off, but others were distinctly lucky in their outcome. However, the old adage of ‘have a look in the scorebook, mate’ applies and he retired having made 32 not out – somewhat astonishing. At the other end there was a steady flow of wickets as a result of an excellent bowling performance – so much so that no other batter scored double figures. The opening bowlers maintained tight discipline with the ageless Cleaver recording 1-16 from his 4, and Cox (he of complex macro fame) 1-18 off 4 (including a maiden).
However, the real ‘coup de grace’ was provided by the middle overs attack of Latif (4 overs 3 for 11) and Malik (4 overs 3 for 18) who wrecked the KSOB middle order. This was achieved through great bowling, but also the support of the fielders. The catch that dismissed Weston (7 ) off the bowling of Latif was a candidate for the Swoop Fielding Award. Weston hammered the ball to square leg and Cox diving down and forward took a brilliant one-handed catch. A worldy (a much overused phrase, but entirely apt in this case)!! There was another catch for Wilson The Younger who seems to be something of ball magnet. He has a growing reputation for reliability in catching and he can run as well – a significant addition from the Mallards youth development plan. (Webmaster note: The report author Steel modestly left out his fine slip catch early on and, more outrageously, a great take by the Webmaster himself low-down at mid-on)
The bowling was effectively completed by single overs from Holland (0-2) and Butcher (0-9) resulting in an eminently gettable score of 81-8 from 18 overs.
Steel and Wood set out at a leisurely pace given the required run rate. They did however resist Gowar, a very pacy opening bowler (2 overs 0-4), and Black (3 overs 0-13), a previous nemesis of the Mallard’s batting line up in an opening partnership of 33. Just as they stepped up the rate Steel (18 runs from 28 balls) decided to ‘take on’ mid-on to increase the run rate but succumbed to a direct hit due to the fielder’s crown green bowling skills. Steel was replaced by Wilson The Elder (7 runs) who struck a fine boundary, but perished caught and bowled to Menton (K).
Unfortunately, Wood, after helping take the score into the 60s, needed to retire hurt (20 runs from 32 balls) due to the aggravation of a long-standing Achilles injury, leaving the youthful Wilson The Younger and Malik to take up the run chase. For a short time, it seemed that Mallards would succumb to the old failings, but not this team! With consummate ease Wilson (7 runs from 7 balls) and Malik (15 runs from 9 balls) strode to victory meeting out severe punishment to the KSOB bowling attack, giving Mallards a comfortable win with 4 overs to spare and only two wickets down. An excellent win for the resurgent Mallards, supported well by superb bowling and fielding and a batter called E.X. Tras who contributed 16 runs to the winning chase.
In these days of new technology, many retired to the clubhouse for a visitation to the fridge for a well-earned beverage – bought by contactless card no doubt. Just wait ‘til they wire up the showers!!