Match Reporter: Trevor Wood
A very pleasant June evening saw a re-jigged Mallards team face a strong Davipart XI in our first game at Harton for a couple of seasons.
Late drop-outs had meant a recall for Butcher and the long-awaited return of Stone for his first game in a couple of seasons.
Winning the toss, Wood chose to field, hoping that a relatively strong batting line-up could chase down a total.
Browne once again led the attack and despite conceding a boundary from the first ball started well again with only a wide added in the first over. Davipart’s openers, however, had a touch of class about them and Dunhill’s first over took some heavy punishment, with three ferocious drives peppering the boundary from perfectly decent deliveries as the home team raced to 19-0 from two overs.
To their credit Browne and Dunhill refused to be cowed and continued to bowl tightly, backed up by some terrific fielding from Dickinson, Butcher and Browne, as Mallards just about kept a lid on the scoring and after eight overs the pair had reached 56-0 with Northumberland batsman Ravi retiring on 30.
Veterans Haylock and the slightly reluctant Stone took over the attack and began brightly and tightly both conceding 5 runs from their first overs.
With Mallards refusing to wilt entirely the pressure began to mount on the Davipart batsmen and the visitors claimed their first wicket, Haylock turning the ball sharply to clean bowl the impressive Rawley for 20.
Two overs later the visitors struck again, this time the hugely determined Dickinson was rewarded for his fielding efforts, seeing the languid Vedhara ambling back for a second run, he took aim from some thirty yards and his direct hit found the surprised batsman a yard short.
Mallards purple patch continued in the next over when Stone got a reward for his excellent spell as Steele pouched a fine catch at mid-off to reduce the home side to 97-3 from 15, Stone finishing with 1-21 from his four overs. Haylock finished his equally fine spell with 1-25 from four which could have been even better if Dickinson’s fine catch at point hadn’t been generally considered to have not quite carried.
Part-time bowlers Wood and Butcher took over and the wickets continued to fall as Browne took a very sharp catch from a fierce off-drive in Wood’s first over and the same fielder helped to run out Walters in combination with Butcher in the next to restrict the home side to 118-5 from 18 overs. Unfortunately, this was a 20-over game and throughout this spell Sandhu had continued to bat beautifully and he and Harwood decided to unveil a selection of impressive cover drives as Wood’s next over went for 13 and Butcher’s for 12 with the only saving grace coming with Sandhu retiring for a splendid 30 and Butcher clean-bowling his replacement Gilfillan with the final ball of the innings as Davipart finished on 143-6 from 20 overs, Wood and Butcher both finishing with 1-19 from their two overs.
Despite the late withdrawals of Mussett and Nitsch, Mallards still had a good-looking batting line-up (only in the cricketing sense obviously, their Kelsey Grammer double Mr Haylock excepted) and Steele and Scott took to the field with optimism unchecked until it was, um, checked by the wily Thompson’s first over – a wicket maiden which saw Steele caught low down at slip for 0.
Bad went to worse in the second over as Dickinson’s run of form with the bat continued as he misjudged a drive to be comfortably caught for nought with the Mallards ship stuck firmly on the jagged rocks of 1-2 after two overs. Scott and Buckley steadied things down slightly before Scott was undone by a ball which kept very low as Thompson took his second wicket and the visitors plummeted to 15-3 from 5 overs. Wood joined Buckley at the crease and the pair gradually eased their way into the game with their hitting and blocking policy, Buckley doing the hitting and Wood the blocking. Slowly the score mounted and after 10 overs Mallards had reached 43-3 with Buckley retiring on a well-constructed 30. Butcher joined Wood at the crease and the pattern continued as the former smashed his first ball for four and the run-rate moved upwards with 27 runs coming from three overs until, misguidedly attempting his first attacking stroke, Wood was bowled by Rawley for 5 with the score on 61-4 after 12.
Beacock entered the fray and then exited quickly for 0 in similar fashion to Wood and a brief flurry from Browne produced two boundaries before he perished in the same way as the previous two as Mallards reached 75-6 after 15.
Butcher, however, was maintaining his previous good form and continued to play his shots, hitting two more fine boundaries. Stone came and went, bowled by Ravi’s only straight ball of his spell for 4, bringing Dunhill to the crease.
Despite needing an unlikely 54 to win from the final two overs Butcher gamely tried to force the pace and after reaching 25 drove straight to Rawley at mid-on who took a fine catch giving Haylock a rare moment at the crease. The innings ended with Dunhill sneaking the single needed to take Mallards to a respectable 100-8 from their 20 overs.
Another defeat but having fought back well from difficult starts with both bat and ball a much-improved performance against a very strong side.
A very pleasant pint outside the Harton clubhouse followed, enlivened by tales of Mr Haylock’s surprising double life as an Emmy-winning TV star (see Colin’s player profile for a photo of the hard-drinking, four-times married Kelsey Grammer)