Mallards v Riding Mill July 24 @ Riding Mill

At some point over the course of the season, someone decided that our regular fixtures with Riding Mill should take the form of a trophy. There’s been no actual evidence of said trophy materialising, but it has been suggested that it should be called the Wellington Cup, or Plate, or Shield, accounts differ. Only slightly more unanimous was the decision that when it actually appears, it will take the form of a bowl of chips, or maybe onion rings.

Putting such details to one side, the most important thing was that the teams were locked at one-all heading into the decider. Thus there was just a hint of tension in the air in the lead up to the fixture. Matches with Riding Mill are also a rich vein for Friendly Fire trophy candidates, though frankly if this year’s award goes to anyone other than Ben Stokes the awards committee needs to take a long hard look at itself.

Playing as the away team, and with the opposition warming up in a thorough and dedicated manner, Mallards started the mind games by turning up without a captain. Rarely in this day and age are arguments fought with such passion as a group of Mallards trying to avoid the captaincy. Eventually, and mainly because he’s a member of the club’s committee, Leon was pushed out of the changing room to go and have a toss. He promptly lost the toss, then used his captain’s powers to delegate the skippership to Cox, who was momentarily distracted and unable to defend himself.

Mallards were bowling first on a pitch that had been on the wrong end of a few thunderstorms in its recent past. Browne took the new cherry and opened proceedings on a glorious sunlit evening. With Stone operating at the other end, the game began in a balanced fashion. The breakthrough came when Browne bowled Zuraliew for 9 in the third over. That was the only wicket for the opening bowlers, batsmen A Watson and James built the score steadily but without ever really breaking free. Stone in particular was very effective at applying pressure, his four overs going for just 11.

Someone called M. Maxter is recorded as coming on at first change, and he bowled quite well for someone who doesn’t really exist. Mexter and Hamid continued to contain the batsmen but were unable to break the partnership. Looking for wickets, Cox turned to the experienced hand of Haylock, with himself at the other end. At some point in here, both Watson and James retired to bring in two new batsmen. Haylock took advantage and found a breakthrough, courtesy of an excellent reflex catch by Latif at point off the first ball of the 16th over to make it 87/2.

That was the start of a flurry as Cox struck twice in the 17th over (his second), first bowling Bowman for two then Mussett caught Frazier for 0. This is about where I get confused and the scorebook stops being much help. Either Nitsch or Mayfield was run out in the next over by I’m afraid I can’t remember who. Coming to the final over, with the score at probably 104/5, Cox trusted Haylock to close things out, and close things out he did. Three wickets fell, one to a well judged catch by Wilson under a steepler, and two to runouts. Once again, I’ve failed to recall the circumstances of one of these, but Mexter’s (which may have been the first or the second) sticks in the mind for being one of the more suave and casual direct hits you’re ever likely to see.

So that was the first innings done, or not as it turned out that among all the carnage the final over only contained five balls. However nobody seemed particularly bothered and it was decided that the Mallards would also only face 19.5 overs. The final score was 110/8 which, on a low and slow pitch wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.

Mussett and Wilson started things off with a great deal of positivity, 16 runs coming from the second over. However, Wilson fell at the end of the third over with the score at 22. Hamid was in at three and continued the momentum, and for a brief while there was some glorious stroke-making as the ball went to and over the boundary repeatedly.

Mussett inevitably retired and that was pretty much the end of the fun. Cox, at 4, was unable to find much timing and ended up chipping one to mid-wicket when trying to force the pace. In the next over, Hamid did well to get bat on one that shot along the ground only to see a superb return catch snaffled by bowler A Watson.

Holland and Latif looked to reset things, the run-rate still under control; timing had been a problem for most batsmen and so it continued. The resistance didn’t really last as a trickle of wickets became a torrent. Holland was caught off the bowling of Mayfield and Latif was bowled by B Watson. Mexter was bowled behind his legs, also by B Watson. 45/3 had become 64/6 and things were about to get worse.

Despite timing the ball well, Beacock struggled to pierce the field before becoming B Watson’s third victim. Browne tried to hit us out of trouble but was stumped without scoring and Haylock decided he’d contributed enough in the first innings. 64/6 very quickly had become 68/9 and the Mallards were in familiar and unpleasant territory with 6 overs still to go.

The upside was that Mussett was now able to return and immediately looked to take the long-handle to anything on offer. Stone did a good job of holding things up and even chipped in with a boundary of his own. A few foolhardy types began to believe as the score had progressed to 91/9 with one over remaining. The 5-ball over had been dealt with earlier so we had a full six balls to get 20 runs. Unlikely but possible, and just a little bit more tantalising after a wide off the first ball. However, it wasn’t to be as Mussett was bowled off the third ball for a brutish 46 and a final score of 92. Better than it had looked a few overs earlier but disappointing nonetheless.

As always, chips, beer and in-depth analysis followed in the Welly, on a beautiful Northumbrian evening. Still no sign of a trophy though.