MCC vs. Architects @ Riding Mill Tuesday 27th May

 Match reporter: Gareth Taylor

 Before proceeding with the account of this week’s game, first an apology to those players who’ve had a sense of suffering from undersized balls this season – no this hasn’t been due to old age shrinkage, but indeed our captain falling victim to the vagaries of ebay seller descriptions (or pressing “buy now” while under the influence of alcohol – and yes we’ve all been there) and purchasing ladies balls for Mallards use. To quote that bastion of accuracy, Wikipedia:

“For men’s cricket, the ball must weigh between 5 1/2 and 5 3/4 ounces (155.9 and 163.0 g) and measure between 8 13/16 and 9 in (224 and 229 mm) in circumference. In women’s cricket the ball must weigh between 4 15/16 and 5 1/16 ounces (139.9 and 143.5 g) and measure between 8.3 and 8.9 in (210 and 225 mm) in circumference.”

Having measured the ball that was provided for the game on Tuesday, it definitely fell into the latter category. A big thanks therefore to Peter Nitsch for loaning the club a proper sized ball and hopefully the matter will be rectified ahead the next game.

Anyhow, onto the report proper. Despite a dodgy weather forecast, heavy rain over the weekend and several last minute drop-outs, Mallards managed to field 11 players (well 10 and then eventually 11) to face up to long-time opponents Architects. For once Architects did not look like they had brought along a couple of Burnmoor first teamers to bolster the squad, however “Ivor the Terrible” was in the squad and immediately made his peace with Leon who was in attendance to spectate and hopefully to inspire young Freddie.

Losing the toss on what was starting to look like quIte a pleasant early summer’s evening, vice captain Tom Browne was invited to field. Taking full advantage of his leadership, Browne elected to open the bowling and for the second time this season snaffled a wicket with his first ball, a short pitched delivery that was well taken by Cox.  However Clinton and number 3 Robinson steadied the ship with a 33-run partnership that was broken by Hunt to a well-judged catch by Buckley. At the end of 8 overs Browne finished with figures of 2 for 24  (snaffling a 2nd wicket with his last ball) and Hunt 1 for 23.

Replacing the openers (and finally with 11 men on the field) Cox continued his run of fine bowling taking wickets with more well taken catches by Kent and Scutt – his figures slightly marred by the late arrival of Ivor (“the terrible”) Harkin who proceeded to swing through the line to hit 2 big sixes to cow corner to leave Cox with final figures of  2 for 33 from his four overs.  Meanwhile at the other end Nitsch provided some excellent tight bowling to finish with a highly respectable 0 for 18.

With Harkin retiring on 30, the score at 101 for 5 at the end of the 16th over – after some generally excellent fielding – Browne turned to Taylor and Scutt to bowl the final 4 overs. Taylor duly delivered 2 wickets in first over mainly thanks to 2 excellent catches by Cox and Hunt, and Scutt also delivered with his 4th ball courtesy of a well-taken catch by Browne. However it was at that point that the wheels fell off, with Scutt’s next 3 balls going for 9 runs. Taylor provided some control going for only 4 more in his second over and bagging a 3rd wicket thanks to a superb one-handed catch by Cox (his third of the evening) to end with figures 3 for 8 from two overs, however Scutt’s last 12-ball over (yes that’s twelve)  was a bit of a disaster, yielding 16 runs to give him figures of 1 for 26 from his two overs and leaving Architects on 135  – probably 15-20 runs higher than the wicket suggested.

Mallards reply was led by Kent and Steel, but in a mirror of the Architects innings Kent perished immediately, misjudging the pace of the opening ball to offer up an easy catch.  Steel and No.3 Nitsch set about laying a solid foundation, but with some tight bowling from Architects openers Smith and Harrison both found it difficult to score runs easily. Steel eventually perished for 5 in the 4th over, finally being caught after being dropped twice.

With the scoring virtually at a standstill,  Mallards lurched to 39 for 4 from 12 overs with Buckley and McCaffery both struggling to find timing on an increasingly two-paced pitch. Following their departures Cox, trying to up the tempo, was well caught on the boundary for a valiant, but short-lived 5.  Meanwhile at the other end Nitsch was content to do his best Chris Tavare impression – although to be fair he was swinging at a fair few only to connect with significantly less, some of which may have been down to one of the umpires not fully understanding the proper way to interpret the wide rule in short-form cricket.

By the 16th over the score had further limped to 57 for 5 and thoughts had turned to just seeing out the overs. However Architects had other ideas turning to Ivor (already top scorer with 39 –after coming back in from retirement), who immediately removed Nitsch taking his off stump one short of retirement for a marathon 17-over 29, only to then waltz through the tail, clean bowling Scutt and Browne for ducks (not to forget Beacock bagging a duck from Lawson’s bowling to make it 4 ducks for the evening). Only Hunt provided a bit of resistance with a spirited 5 before becoming the final wicket of the night, again bowled by Ivor.

The final reckoning: 71 all out, and Mallards first loss of the season. Well it had to come some time and the margin was not as big as the scores made out. Likewise a very good fielding performance by Mallards, 8 catches out of 10 with the other two very difficult half chances.

As usual the Wellington did us proud with Yorkshires, roast potatoes, chips and gravy (the latter providing a big subject of conversation about the etiquette and geography of its use). So onto next week, can winning ways be re-established?