Mallards v Benwell and Walbottle June 6 @ Riding Mill

After a comprehensive defeat against a very strong Benwell and Walbottle side just a few weeks ago Mallards hopes of redemption were hardly raised when we arrived at the ground to find a youthful looking opposition already being put through their paces in the outfield.

Thankfully it appeared a few of the league players from last time had better things to do this time around although we were reliably informed by our man in the know Micky C that they had a couple of very handy County youngsters instead!

Having lost the toss and been invited to field, evergreen Cleaver opening the bowling with a maiden followed by a tight over from Standring going for 2. A great start that got better as TC bagged 2 wickets in his second over, G Robbie (Robbie snr) who had reached his retirement score with ease a few weeks ago, clipped the ball into the grateful hands of Standring at square leg and Marrow edged behind to wicketkeeper Ankush even though TC didn’t hear the nick – fortunately everyone else did, including those in the pavilion!

Standing kept it tight at the other end and took a catch off his own bowling in his third over leaving B&W on 12 for 3 off 6. Regular readers will know not to get too carried away just yet and so it proved as young S Robbie (Robbie jnr)) was now at the crease and started to get his eye in, taking a particular liking to Standring’s last over to turn brilliant figures of 1 for 4 off 3 in to a still very respectable 1 for 22 of 4 while TC finished with 2 for 14.

Bell and Edge took up the bowling mantle and both went for around 6 an over with Tedge cleaning bowling Nanu (older readers can insert their own Mork and Mindy gags here!).  B&W on 77 for 4 off 14 with young S Robbie now safely back in the pavilion retired on 34 but not before he hit an Exocet like off drive that Butcher managed to stop with his knee to audible gasps from as far as the pavilion as the sickening thud echoed round the ground. Cleaver’s suggestions that he should have used his hands were met with a “ that’s what I was f****g trying to do” through gritted teeth!

Rumours that young Master Robbie’s older sister Margot was going to make an appearance were sadly unfounded which isn’t surprising as I just made it up and it’s probably for the best anyway as being an Ozzie she would no doubt have knocked us round the park and given one or two of the older Mallards a heart attack in the process (for those readers who don’t know who Margot Robbie is or what the fuss is about, just watch The Wolf of Wall Street although maybe not with your wife/partner or even worse in young Alistair’s case, parents!)

Latif bowled the 15 th  and took a wicket with his first ball in somewhat  fortunate fashion as Dickinson who had batted well up to then for his 21 smashed a ball straight at his batting partner at the non strikers end who only manged to succeed in knocking it gently up in the air off his arm for a slightly bemused Liaquat to claim a simple catch. Fortunately the umpire knew the rules (which is more than can be said for most Mallards) and as the ball hadn’t hit the non strikers helmet, correctly gave the unfortunate Dickinson out.

Collins bowled quickly from the other end also taking a wicket with his first ball, this time  a more conventional caught behind and continued to beat the bat on numerous occasions (and the keeper on one of them as well!). Latif took 2 more wickets in his 3 rd  over to finish with a fantastic 3 for 8 off 3 to leave B&W on 93 for 9 off 19 overs and hopeful of keeping the target below 100. Unfortunately the late flurry of wickets had let Master Robbie back to the crease and he continued where he left off hitting a couple of 6’s straight down the ground, albeit one of them was nearly miraculously caught by Wilson (Junior, in case you were wondering!) who ran about 15 yards and then launched himself superman style through the air to get his finger tips to the ball but sadly couldn’t quite cling on to it, very nearly catch of the century! Robbie finished on an impressive 48 (no surprise to here he plays for the county although more surprising to hear later on that he is mainly a bowler) to take B&W to 109 for 9 off 20. A few more than we had hoped but still very gettable and a great bowling and fielding effort.

Skipper Hamid and Ankush opened Mallards reply with Ankush off to his usual rapid start but unfortunately falling for 6 at the end of the first over, beaten by a fast ball that maybe kept a bit low. Wilson junior was up next hitting his first ball for 2 and tried to keep the run rate up, swinging lustily and running hard, surely a winning combination. Hamid started to accumulate steadily and after WIlson had fallen for 5 at the end of a chaotic over of aerial bombardment from Draper the score was 34 for 2 off 7, in comparison to B&W’s 18 for 3 at the same stage. Again regular readers will know not to get too carried away and again they would be proved to be right as the scoring rate slowed dramatically in the face of some rapid bowling from  Robbie (jnr) and some fine leg spinning from Nanu. Robbie accounted for Collins who had been denied both bowling at and batting against Draper much to his disappointment and Nanu kept it tight from the other end regularly beating the bat with prodigious turn. 16 runs ahead of B&W score after 7 had become 16 runs behind after 12 as Butcher and Hamid struggled to score fluently. The run rate then climbed as Draper brought himself back on and again struggled to find his line (and occasionally the batting strip) allowing an invaluable 12 runs off the 13 th. Another good over in the 15 th  saw Hamid retire on 31 after hitting a great 6 but he was soon followed back in the pavilion by Butcher, Wilson (snr) and Bell all bowled by balls keeping low (or so they all said!).

Standring had now joined Latif at the crease and kept the scoreboard ticking over, hitting a fine 4  in the 18 th  over to leave Mallards on 89 for 6, still a tall order but 1 ahead of B&W at the same stage. The order got taller as Robbie then bowled a maiden to finish his 4 overs with 2 for 8 to go with his 48 not out – a very talented young cricketer.

So 21 needed to win off the last, surely too much even (or should that say especially?) for the mighty Mallards. Standing, unhindered by the baggage of previous Mallards campaigns clearly didn’t think so, smashing Bateman for 6, and then after a scampered single, a 2 and a bye he then knocked the 5 th  ball out of the ground as well! Down to the last ball which had looked unlikely after 12 overs and even after 19. For those of you who have lost count, 5 needed to win, 4 to tie, he couldn’t could he? Again regular readings will know……..etc, etc. To young Bateman’s credit he held his nerve and bowled a full ball which Laurence who had advanced down the crease could only fend off, meaning your valiant Mallards lost by 4 runs. A fantastic effort by all and especially Standing against a good side and an exciting end to a great game of cricket. A special mention must go to our old friend Mr Extras who was joint top scorer with Hamid on 31.

Both sides stayed to use the excellent Riding Mill facilities and conduct the usual post-match post-mortems while partaking of  the usual post-match beers. Unfortunately we couldn’t make the third game against B&W in a few weeks a decider but Mallards  pride is still very much intact and with the pre season  youth development policy looking like it’s paying off there is much to look forward to for the rest of the season.

Nanu Nanu fellow Mallards