After a couple of rain-soaked weeks Mallards finally got to play some cricket on a lovely sunny evening at the splendid Jesmond Cricket Ground in what turned out to be a cracking game with a nail-biting finish.
A galaxy of Mallards stars turned out, so many that the teams decided to play with 12-a-side, Boyes being added to the Mallards XI and Dunhill guesting for RGS.
RGS won the toss, chose to bat and got off to a flyer with 19 from the first two overs, Browne’s rhythm somewhat disrupted by some rather over-zealous no-ball calls and Cox unlucky to see a thick edge fly for four.
The runs continued to flow as the batsmen seemed intent on going for their shots but in his second over Browne began to find his range, clean-bowling Devlin for 12 and after four overs the home side were handily set at 29-1.
Things then started to get really frantic. Firstly, Browne struck again, bowling the other opener Devlin for 4, then the incoming batsmen Davidson struck two more boundaries before Browne finished the over off by clean-bowling Walters for 0. With Davidson looking in fine form 11 runs came off Cox’s next over to leave RGS in charge with a hefty 52 runs from the first six overs though three batsmen were already back in the pavilion.
Despite the run-flow Mallards had been fielding well, with several good stops in the field and the pressure was starting to tell as RGS suddenly found it difficult to get the ball away. Browne capitalised on this again, taking his fourth wicket, trapping Loxley right in front of his stumps and in the next over, the unlucky Cox finally got his reward by clean-bowling Edwards for 0. After eight overs RGS were in the less impressive position of 59-5 with Browne finishing his spell with a brilliant 4-25 and Cox taking 1-21. Taylor took over at the pavilion end and struck immediately, bamboozling Broadbent with a straight ball to make it 59-6 as the runs really began to dry up. Wisbach replaced Cox and also started well, unlucky not to have the hard-hitting Davidson stumped first ball. With Davidson retiring on 30 the bowlers really began to dominate as RGS limped to 71-6 from 12 overs, Mallards display only tainted by a fumbling dropped catch by skipper Wood and a half-chance missed as the ball flew rapidly through McGuiness’s hands at square leg, both from the unlucky Wisbach. With the batsmen becoming increasingly bogged down they decided to take some chances but chose entirely the wrong fielder to take on as Dickinson’s throw from the boundary and Buckley’s clean take saw Sneddon run out for 1.
With Taylor keeping things very tight at his end, Wisbach finally got some reward for his efforts, bowling Burton in his third over and then seeing Wood make amends for his earlier howler by safely pouching Watkins in his next over to reduce RGS to an under-achieving 87-9 after just 16 overs.
Cleverly, RGS chose not to allow Dunhill to bat (perhaps they’ve seen him play before) which brought the previously-retired Davidson back to the crease with Taylor and Wisbach having finished their excellent four-over spells with 1-12 and 2-13 respectively.
Wood chose to bring himself on to bowl at Davidson, a decision which looked thoroughly misguided when his first ball was smashed for four and his sixth ball was smashed to cow corner. Fortunately the lurking Cox had anticipated this and took a fine catch running round the boundary to end the RGS innings at an apparently very- gettable 93 all out in just 17 overs.
With a seemingly strong batting line-up Mallards were confident of continuing their unbeaten run, a confidence that was slightly dented when Mussett thick-edged straight to a deep point for 0 in the first over from Dunhill, casting grave doubts on the selector’s decision to leave out the ever-consistent bowler.
Dickinson then joined Steel at the wicket and set about matching the RGS style with some extravagant strokes mixed with suicidal hacks. He moved quickly to 13 but was dropped three times before someone finally managed to hold on to a catch in the sixth over to leave Mallards on a solid 30-2.
Nitsch came and went very quickly, caught behind for 1, to bring Boyes out to join Steel who was progressing steadily, if unspectacularly, at the other end. The pair succeeded in steadying the Mallards ship but found it difficult to really get on top of the bowling and after 10 overs they had crept along to a cautious 45-3.
The contrast with the RGS innings was stark as Mallards continued in the same careful vein for another four overs with Boyes striking a rare boundary but otherwise finding it difficult to find the gaps and after 15 overs they had moved things on to 69-3 to leave Mallards needing just 25 to win from the final five overs.
Regulars to these match reports will understand that despite the seemingly strong position this was no foregone conclusion and this game was to be no exception to that rule. The next over saw Steel finally perish for 21, a fierce drive well held at the second attempt at mid-off and the unfortunate McGuiness claiming the famed golden duck, clean-bowled off a faint inside edge for 0. The normally phlegmatic Buckley came to the crease to finish things off but unusually he also disappeared quickly, clean-bowled for 2 in the next over as Mallards scrambled to 81-6 from 17 overs with 13 needed to win. Wood joined Boyes at the crease but their partnership was also short-lived as Boyes finally ended his vigil, also on 21, clean-bowled by RGS skipper Edwards to leave Mallards needing 10 from the last two overs to win.
Wood and Wisbach decided to get them in singles and with the field set back they picked up five in the next over to leave five required off the last six balls.
With another four runs off the first four balls the match looked over but then Wisbach failed to get the fifth ball away and the game had reached the last ball with Mallards needing one to win.
With the field in very tight Wisbach manage to get his pad in the way of the final ball and as the fielders scrambled desperately to pick the ball up Wood and Wisbach sprinted the final leg-bye to win the game.
A splendid match was enlivened further by some very pleasant beer and chat outside the pavilion as Mallards celebrated their unbeaten start to the season in the fading evening sunshine.