Mallards v Davipart July 14 @ Riding Mill

There is little doubt that when historians come to review the year 2021 it will go down as one of the strangest in history.  Most books will be filled with stories of lockdowns, vaccines, masks and social distancing. Others will talk of an England football team which unexpectedly won the hearts of most of the right-thinking (left-thinking?) nation with their actions on and off the field. Finally there will be the story of how Mallards CC somehow blossomed into a battling, never-say-die, hardened unit of elite cricketers, claiming victory after victory, often from the slavering jaws of defeat. Then there will be tale of the day they reverted to type. Sadly, this was that day.

Things began brightly. The sun shone, the Mallards golden duck ominously glinting in the light, winking out from eleven pristine white shirts as the home team took to the field, full of confidence.

The first over went well, shrugging off a four from the first ball, Ankush fired down five dots to steady the ship. Stone was a little more costly, leaking ten runs from his first over but again Ankush led the fightback, claiming the wicket of Dhillon (G) for just 4 via another splendid and almost effortless catch from Wilson the Younger.  With only five singles coming from the next two overs as both bowlers found their stride, the opposition were sitting on an unspectacular 26-1 after five overs.  Game on.

In a sign of things to come Stone’s next over saw the nearby football training dispersed as the players dived for cover from two enormous sixes and he finished with 0-26 from three.  Ankush finished his admirably tidy spell of 1-16 from four.

Browne, nursing an injured shoulder, started superbly, his first two overs going for just seven runs and though Latif took some stick in his opening over he struck back impressively in his second, triumphantly claiming the wicket of workmate Vasa – another superbly confident catch by the young Wilson.  Not to be outdone, Brown claimed another wicket in the very next over, this time Latif switching roles to take yet another fine catch in the deep as Ladhar went for 23.  Was this to be another great fightback by the newly resilient Mallards? With Davipart having been held to 83-3 from 13 overs and the middle-order exposed things were looking up.

Unfortunately that middle-order would have been better off left in the pavillion. Two more sixes from Browne’s next over (1-29 from four) and ten runs from Latif’s final offering (1-34 from four) somewhat dampened the home team’s spirit.

The next few overs saw a succession of batsmen retiring on 30-ish, opener Sandhu (S) was the first with 32, closely followed by Dhillon (A) after a rapid 30 as youngsters Holland (T) (0-33 from three) and Wilson (A) (0-22 from two) gamely tried to stem the tide.

Unfortunately, the youngster Azam was now at the crease and after a sketchy start he unveiled a series of huge shots, including four more sixes as he raced to 32 and a quickfire retirement. Davipart more than doubled their score in the last seven overs to reach a mighty 169-3 from twenty.

It’s fair to mention that Mallards fielders in this innings were pretty much exemplary, three terrific catches, some excellent ground fielding and barely a misfield, despite the barrage of big hitting going on around them. Only Browne’s dropped dolly marred the show but, you know, the man’s got an injured shoulder so he’s forgiven. (Something he subtly emphasised by massaging it continuously for the next few overs after the ball hit the deck).  On the downside the wides totalled 23, including two fives.

Ankush and Wood began Mallards reply confidently, undaunted by the distant target and after three overs the home team had raced to 24, almost bang on the required rate. Sadly they had also lost Ankush, plumb lbw to Thompson for 13.  Wilson the Elder came and went quickly, snoozing gently at the non-striker’s end when called through for a single but Lucas came in like a man on a mission and the scoreboard began to tick over again and after seven overs they were on a splendid 47, three runs ahead of Davipart at the same stage. Unfortunately they had also lost Wood in that same over, inside edging the veteran Thompson onto his stumps for a solid 16.

The game changed dramatically, however, with the introduction of two new bowlers, Singh and Marley.  Holland (T) came and went quickly, bowled by Marley for seven bringing skipper Buckley to the crease. One ball later he was back outside the pavillion, polishing his golden duck, a stunning slip catch having continued his recent unfortunate run of low scores.

Holland (S) successfully survived the hat-trick ball but then perished in Marley’s next over for 0. Mallards had dived from a high of 43-2 to 57-6 in almost forgotten traditional fashion.  Browne, however, was having none of this collapsing nonsense and strode to the crease to smash two consecutive fours from the previously deadly Marley. Unfortunately, at the other end, Singh decided to join the party,  removing the sturdy Lucas for an excellent 15 and then providing Wilson the Younger with early membership of the Golden Duck club, bowling him off his pads for 0.  At least skipper Buckley had someone to compare notes with back on the picnic tables – misery loves company.

Latif gamely survived the second hat-trick ball of the innings but 65-8 quickly became 67-9 as Browne provided Marley with his fourth wicket and the game was up when Latif ran himself out for 1, the resolute Stone remaining unbeaten on 4 and the total creeping up to 72 all out as Mallards narrowly avoided a 100-run defeat.

Normal order had been well and truly restored. In future years youngsters Holland (T) and Wilson will fondly reminisce about this match – the day they learned what the Mallards were really all about and the kind of scorecard that started the whole thing off (see above).