MCC v KSOB @ Riding Mill 27 August

The last of the season’s official fixtures for 2014 saw Mallards take on new (but long established) opposition on a cool but bright late summer (or early autumn?) evening. With the light set to go early, winning the toss would be vital, and, for once, vice-captain Butcher correctly called the spinning 10p coin and elected to bat. This may have been because KSOB still only had 8 of their team at the club-house on time and he could loan a couple of Mallards players to help out with the fielding.

With both Steel and Kent injured, it was a new-look opening pair of Nitsch and Buckley that took to the middle. Both players opened their account in identical fashion by blocking 3 then smacking the 4th ball for 4.  After a slow couple of overs the openers however started to find some momentum with a succession of 4s and quick singles. By the 9th over it was time for Buckley to retire on a very credible and greater than run-a-ball 32 bringing McCaffery to the crease, who immediately got off to his usual bustling start.

However it was clear that left-arm bowlerBridge was getting a few balls to bounce off a length and hitting the bat high on the splice. With the score on 72 The Cat received one of them causing him to jar his shoulder and retire hurt on a quickfire 11 with his first injury of the evening. Scutt, in at 4, perished, in what is becoming his speciality of being run-out, for a one-ball 1 due to a combination of slow back-up and losing the will to make ground about 2/3 of the way down the wicket. The first genuine Mallards wicket falling at 72 in the 11th over.

Next in was the big-hitting Cox who provided a perfect foil to Nitsch, reduced by this point to hitting singles, with some lusty hits. A couple of big overs, partly thanks to several no-ball fours hit off young Willet, saw the Mallards score romp along to 106 off 15 overs. The 9th and 10th overs being particularly notable for yielding 28 runs between them and the batsmen benefitting from several lapses in the field that saw singles converted to 4s.

At one point it looked like Nitsch would bat through the innings, however his vigil finally came to an end in the 16th over after at last finding the middle of his bat to get to retirement with a big 6 and a score of 32 not out to help his average. Vice captain Butcher strode out to the crease happy to play second fiddle to Cox, a plan that seemed to be working until it went off the rails in the final over with Cox caught at the deep mid-wicket boundary. With 3 balls to go, Jordan (who would normally have expected to be batting far earlier in the innings) struggled to get the big hit in, finally extracting a single off the last ball of the innings in over 18 to set a highly credible 130 for 2 as the target to beat.

Confident that the total set was eminently defendable – especially with the light set to fade quickly as the sun disappeared behind Broomhaugh House, a buoyant Mallards took to the field. This optimism was quickly deflated as openers Lattimer and Coyne, also obviously sharing similar reservations about the deteriorating quality of the light, set about the run chase with un-seeming haste. Openers Browne and Scott both proceeded to take a pounding through a combination of wayward, and not-so-wayward, deliveries taking a clattering. This was aided and abetted by some fielding that was at times almost as bad as KSOB’s, although to be fair the ball tended to be travelling at a more rapid pace.

By the end of the 6th over the KSOB score was 80 (EIGHTY) for no wicket and Wisbach had replaced a highly self-disgruntled Scott (0 for 28) . McCaffery then sustained his second injury of the evening, pulling his left calf muscle while attempting to compensate for his already dodgy right shoulder. Not wishing to be the subject of even greater opprobrium from Skipper and Webmaster Wood [as long as he doesn’t umpire again he’s fineWebmaster], he manfully insisted on remaining on the field – albeit with the same effectiveness that a tree planted at mid-wicket might have. (Sadly, as seen above, he did actually take root there but at least he’s in position for the next game.)

Desperate to stem the tide of runs and conscious that the light was not great, Butcher replaced the errant Browne (0 for 37 off 3) with Cox from the far lighter one tree end.  While this had some effect, with the score rate dropping to just over 7 an over it was clear that the King’s School lads had clear ideas about getting to the pub while there was still some light left. Cox, while regularly beating the bat, and seeing some fine keeping from Buckley (whose 16 byes belied what was actually a good performance behind the stumps) was unlucky to finish with figures of 0 for 22 off his 4 overs. Wisbach, getting some good turn from the Broomhaugh end was finally rewarded with a wicket – after Taylor took an agonising amount of time to decide that a decent leg-break that pitched and hit batsman Bridge on his leg-stump would have indeed hit off stump.

A consolation wicket, but at the end of the 13th over the scores were level. Needing a change of bowler Butcher suddenly realised that Haylock had not had much of a game. With a hearty “come on lads 6 maidens is all we need” Haylock ambled in and duly saw his first ball hit straight back for 4 and the game over with 29 balls to spare.

The final reckoning, 31 overs bowled, 264 runs scored and just 3 wickets to fall. Simple fact was that King’s School had some very good batsmen and used them to great advantage. A few questions from Kings about how to turn the lights on ensured some welcome participation in the domino card at the Wellington, where Yorkshire puddings and chips were washed down with a pint of beer or 2.

With a definite feel of autumn about it’s almost the end of another season for Mallards. The final reckoning? Well that’ll be a reason for attending the annual dinner in January …