MCC V Ovingham @ Clara Vale 30 July

We’ve reached the halfway point in the summer, and must now be approaching a new record for the least amount of games called off due to rain, long may it continue.

 On a bright and slightly breezy evening, the Mallards XI, with seven (S E V E N) victories to their name this season already, made the journey along the A69 to Clara Vale, always a popular destination, which may or may not have something to do with the selection of beer on offer at The Boat House post game.  Perhaps this year’s fixture was even more highly anticipated due to new benches being installed at said pub…’s the small things in life…

Ovingham won the toss, and on the greenest of all green pitches, and probably the greenest thing ever seen since Percy created ‘pure green’ on a classic Blackadder episode, they decided to bat first.  Had the decision been the other way, captain Stig was erring on the side of bowling first, so no complaints.

After a lengthy discussion about which end to start from, opener Browne eventually settled for bowling ‘down-the-hill’, and it was game on, with Ovingham opener Derrick taking strike.

A tidy dot ball to start, then Derrick decided to have a go early on, playing across the line and whilst hitting the ball hard, it went high  with Dave Cox in chase and he took an excellent catch.  A wicket with the second ball, perhaps another new record?

Scott (pictured) opened the bowling at the other end, and found a nice line and length from the start, only going for two singles from his first over.  Browne was bowling well, but without reward, a nick down to 3rd man found the boundary, and a very rare “3” is noted in the scorebook. I actually can’t remember the last time I saw anyone run a 3 in our midweek games, the records just keep tumbling.

The new batsman Bowey took a bit of a shine to Browne, hitting 3 boundaries in an over, before Tom regained control and bowled the last two overs of his spell for just 5 runs.  Of course, with this being Mallards, if one bowler regains control, the bowler at the other end will inevitably lose his, and true to form, Scott could no longer land a single delivery on the pitch, some wides, but mainly either full tosses or too full, resulting in his figures going from 2-0-5-0 to 4-0-26-1.  He did however pick up the wicket of Chamberlain, thanks to some sharp wicket keeping from the returning Porteous to have the batsman stumped.  After the two opening bowlers had finished their spell, this left the score on 50-2.

Frasier Haylock was first change bowler, with Bowey nearing retirement and new batsman Pratik both in good touch, a tidy first few overs though, with only 10 coming off them, he was supported at the other end by Cox, who went for 7 in his first over.  This resulted in the retirement of Bowey, and Cox then picked up the wicket of Colin Burt in his second over, bowled for 11.  Haylock’s third over didn’t quite go to plan, with Pratik swinging the bat to launch 15 runs of the over, 87-3 after 13 overs.

Taylor replaced Haylock, and batsmen Marley and Drake kept the scoreboard ticking over with singles, as Mallards fielded well to restrict the boundaries, Browne and Scutt in particular with some diving saves to save some runs.  Cox finished his excellent spell with figures of 4-0-17-1.

With Gareth bowling well, and only going for singles down to fine leg, Perera took the role of death bowler, and bowled two superb overs, getting the ball to turn and bounce of the pitch, only going for four runs from his two overs.  The innings came to a close with Mallards having restricted Ovingham to 114-3.  This was respectable and they left the field confidently, some Mallards were overheard saying “we should knock this off, no problem” – You guys really should know better.

Andy Porteous and Steve Kent were to open for Mallards, with the low evening sun poking through the clouds, and the Ovingham openers were Chamberlain and Derrick, yes, that’s the same Chamberlain and Derrick that opened the batting, but more on that later.  As you would expect from opening bowlers, they were pretty good, both spinners, and kept our openers stuck in the crease, with boundaries almost impossible to find.  Derrick struck with the first ball of his over, bowling Porteous for 1, and started with a wicket maiden.  New batsman Nitsch joined Kent at the crease, and batted with intent, but was unlucky to find fielders with some well-timed shots.  Nitsch perished however in Derricks 2nd over, looking to attack but the ball nipped back off the surface and struck the off stump.  After 6 overs, the score was 12-2, oh dear.

Kent began to find the boundary with some lusty and powerful blows, and Scutt got off the mark with a two, and later launched a 4 back down the ground, all the while though the required run rate was creeping up and up, 10 an over needed.

After the two opening batsmen & bowlers finished their spells, the 3rd bowler was Bowey, who coincidently also batted at 3.  He again started with a wicket maiden, bowling Scutt for 7, and the 4th bowler was Pratik, do I need to tell you where he was in the batting order? I’ll give you a clue, lower down the order than 3, but higher than 5.  Both bowlers continued to keep the pressure on, with very few deliveries that either batsman could have a go at.   Bowey eventually collected the wicket of Kent for a hard earned 17, who had been going for every ball at this point, he had no choice really.  Cox was by now managing to get into his groove, hitting a 6 and a 4 in consecutive deliveries, as the new bowlers came on….

Marley and Drake were next, Marley, being the number 6 batsman and Drake 7.  The only reason why the number 5 batsman didn’t bowl was because that was Colin Burt, the Ovingham wicket keeper.  Cox was able to keep his scoring up, and just about kept Mallards in the game, we could have done without the 30 and retire rule here, as he brought up his 30 with a single and a 2.  Browne was the new batsman, capable of big hits, as anyone who at RGS last summer will testify.  He didn’t disappoint, 6 and 4 from his first two balls, with another 4 the next over.  17 overs gone and the score was 80-4.

Perera, who had come to crease after Scutt was bowled for 7, was stumped off the bowling of Marley, trying desperately to be as attacking as possible, and from there it was sadly a lost cause.  Gareth being caught by Chamberlain for 0.  Scott and Haylock were last men standing, with 23 needed of the final over.  The innings closed with Mallards 92-4.

A decent effort by all concerned though, we certainly never gave up and it was a good game of cricket.  Slightly spoiled though in the opinion of your match reporter by Ovingham’s decision to have their batting line up also match their bowling line up, this resulted in a few of their players not getting to bat or bowl.  I guess that shows why playing for Mallards is so much fun, sure we might not win every week, and are famous for our batting collapses, but no game I have played in has ended with a Mallards player not playing some part in the match, either with bat or ball.  We like to win of course, but more importantly we like to play cricket, as I’m sure some the young Ovingham lads would have liked to have done also.

Naturally, our spirits were raised with a trip to The Boast House.  We also managed to raise the team cholesterol levels to what Stuart Broad would call the “Red-Zone” by washing down a selection of crisps and various flavours of pork scratchings with some real ale, the perfect diet at 9:00pm.