Mallards v Davipart August 25 @Riding Mill

The Mallards are a team of cultured disposition: a distinguished collection of gentleman players. They are resolute, nay courageous, in the face of superior odds yet modestly restrained in their celebrations should fickle fate ever turn in their favour. Theirs is not to resort to wild cheering should an opponent falter. Not for them the triumphalism of England’s Lionesses. No, as Kipling advised, the Mallards can meet with triumph and disaster (particularly the latter) and treat those two impostors just the same. They are a team for which the ethic of the summer game rules supreme. Playing in the right spirit is our aim. Should Davipart gain success by some hefty batting and, heaven forbid, by scampering about in the field to deny Mallards scoring off some noble strokeplay, then so be it. Moral victory is ours.

At first the sun shone brightly as our opening batsmen, Cox and Wood, strode out from the pavilion. And noble strokeplay was not to be denied by even the most fiendishly athletic of the opposition: slow donkey-drops from opening bowler Thompson were quickly despatched to all parts as soon as our pair had ‘got their eyes in’. Cox retired on 33, Wood selflessly supporting him by stalling any temptation to lash out, gaining the odd single (two, actually) and picking up a wide and a leg bye. Next in came Ankush who, after blocking a couple and adjusting his sights, smacked the first six of the day. More boundaries followed and he soon retired on 32, the score now standing at 71 for nought; Wood continuing to block allcomers and give unselfish support.

Having established moral superiority, the Mallards were now content to play with straight bats, gain a single here and there and offer up the odd wicket or two to appease their opponents. Wood was eventually bowled by Manav for the heroic score of 3 (yes, three). Pradeep, similarly stone-walling, was caught out for one.  Stig came and went – run out without facing – (what noble sacrifice) which left captain Hamid and old-timer Stone – he of the 80s flashing blades – to finish the innings not out with 9 and 7 respectively. Eighteen overs in all for a grand total of 89 for 3. Excellent achievement. Hurrah!

Davipart now sent out D. Rawley and Dhillon, two devilishly strong batsmen, but were the Mallards discouraged? Not a bit. Cleaver and Dobson opened the bowling and soon got into their rhythm. Unfortunately, so did the batsmen. Dobson was rudely hammered for 27 off two overs. Cleaver gained revenge after a couple of boundaries by bowling Dhillon, and then in his next over, as Rawley uncouthly attempted to hoist one over the ropes he was caught by Cox at long off. Rye was next man in. Cleaver kept him quiet for a couple of balls and then struck him on the front leg as he was attempting to pull. Was that lbw? Cleaver should have appealed because the final ball of the over was despatched for six, only for the umpire to whisper that, yes, he would have given him out, had anyone shouted. Cleaver finished with 16 for 2 off three.

Rye was joined at first by Sandhu, who in facing Si Holland seemed frozen at the crease. Holland’s looping deliveries completely mesmerised him. Holland eventually finished with 0-7, off three overs. Sandhu came out of his stupor against Stone – only to top-edge a wily full toss into the hands of Cox, waiting on the line at mid-wicket. Y Rawley was next to partner Rye on the greensward. Both scored rapidly and would have continued plundering runs, Rye especially, off the bowling of Stig, Stone and Ankush, had not the latter removed Rye’s middle stump as he top scored with 27. Finally, Seth came in to watch Y Rawley as he finished clubbing Stig into the rough – Davipart thus reaching 91 for 4, in the 14th over.

It was a contest that, for the Mallards, see-sawed between victory and, alas, eventual defeat. It was a distinguished display throughout, nonetheless. As always: memorable performances. A special mention for Ramsay who neither batted nor bowled but fielded with distinction and nary a moment of complaint. Sublime! Magnanimous. After the close of play, in the dressing room and then in The Duke of Wellington (see above), the Mallards could smile and rest assured that Kipling would be proud of them. This was yet another, ahem, moral victory