Match Reporter: Trevor Wood
Another lovely summer evening saw Mallards coming up against an unfamiliar-looking Durham staff team for the first time this season.
Mallards batted first to enable three of the opposition team to head off early to break their Ramadan fast, perhaps an early indication that the visitors were a bit hungrier than the clearly well-fed home team?
Another new opening partnership of Steele and Hayward began the fight and got things off to a very rapid start off some pretty erratic bowling with 25 coming from the first three overs. The run-rate continued to fly along in the fourth though it also saw the first wicket full, Steele slightly unfortunate to pick out the square leg fielder with a full-blooded pull, the first of several decent catches by the visitors.
Cox joined Hayward at the crease and showed his intentions with a four from his first ball as the rate continued to mount rapidly, with the Kiwi hitting 15 from his first four balls and Mallards reaching an impressive 62-1 from just seven overs. Hayward, who had seen little of the strike after a quick start, perished in the next over, bowled by Metcalf for 15, but the scoring rate continued to rise with Nitsch smashing his first ball for four and the score rising to 71-2 from eight.
The ninth over was equally eventful with a boundary and two wides being followed by two wickets in quick succession, Cox departing on the verge of retirement for a hard-hitting 29 and Nitsch, out to a similar lofted shot but better catch for 4.
The new pair of skipper Butcher and Scott settled things down briefly with the former also getting off the mark with a boundary and after 11 overs the home side were sitting on a very healthy 87-4, a rare incursion into the 150s looking highly possible to even the most pessimistic observer.
Unfortunately, Durham’s bowling stepped up a little at this point and Butcher perished in the next over to the always tricky Metcalfe for a lowly 5 (by his standards this season that is, normally that’s about par!)
Taylor then came and went quickly, bamboozled by the very impressive newcomer Wallace and his left-arm over wizardry to make it 95-6 from 13. Scott continued to chip away at the other end and with his new partner, the ever-steady Beacock, the collapse was halted though the run rate necessarily slowed a little and after 16 overs the home side reached 109-6. Wallace claimed his next victim, Beacock, in the next over, the batsman surprised by the bounce, lofting the ball towards a short square leg to bring Browne to the crease, an event that always sees the spectators flock out of the pavilion to witness and he didn’t disappoint. Several huge swishes saw three boundaries quickly follow and a mighty lofted drive which endangered a passing satellite and caused the only dropped chance of the innings in the deep. Scott was caught and bowled in the final over for a useful 13 and the innings finished with Browne unbeaten on 16, Hunt on 1 and a useful if slightly disappointing 129-8 on the scoreboard.
Durham began their reply facing the new ball pairing of Browne and Hunt and it was the latter who began the brighter, bowling beautifully to cartwheel the stumps of Wrede in his first over. Browne was more expensive but after four overs the pair had restricted Durham to just 15-2. Browne’s next over was shaping up well until a wide seemed to inspire new batsman Arshad and the next two balls disappeared for a six and a four. Hunt, however was bowling a great line, and another tight over left him with figures of 1-6 from three overs and Durham on 32-1 from six.
This is the moment where things began to change as the first sign of the wheels falling off appeared, perhaps the faint aroma fo the poat Ramadan feast awaiting him drifted in on the slight breeze but Arshad suddenly decided he was in a hurry and his formerly leisurely contemporary Sathar also decided to join the party. Browne’s next over went for 14 and even Hunt’s figures suffered as his final over disappeared for 16, with Arshad retiring on 34 and the score rushing on to 62-1 from 8. Browne finished with a hefty 0-37 and hunt a very respectable 1-22. Haylock’s first over managed to put the brakes on slightly but Cox’s opening over then disappeared for 15 with Sathar retiring on 30, leaving Durham suddenly sitting comfortably in the driving seat at 83-1 from 10, having added 51 runs in four overs.
Cox gave the home side a glimmer of hope by removing Whitfield for 4 with Butcher pouching the catch after a slight juggle and Haylock built on this, bowling the newcomer Clarke around his legs for 0. Unfortunately, the third of Durham’s fasting trio, Yasir, was in an even bigger hurry than his compadres as the dinner bell rapidly approached and took another 10 runs from Cox’s next over to take the visitors to a very comfortable 117-3 from 14 overs, needing just 13 to win from six overs. Haylock finishing with 1-21 from three and Cox on 1-35 from four. The introduction of Nitsch slowed the scoring down a little, though Yasir’s early retirement on 27 undoubtedly helped, and Cox’s final over also applied the brakes but the inevitable end came in the 18th as Taylor’s first over saw Durham skipper, the aptly-named Swift, crash a four to the boundary to apply the coup de grace, the visitors ultimately winning comfortably by seven wickets.
As we have many elderly readers of these reports I thought it best to draw a veil over the Mallards fielding as we can’t afford any more casualties this season.