Pacific failed to crack the Squirrels' nut on Saturday by the merest of margins as a last-ball thriller was played out under blue skies at Wray Crescent. Skipper for the day Giaco won the toss and unsurprisingly elected to bowl. Squirrels captain Joe "Clappers" Clapson produced a ball of dubious oxblood colour (lethal at a screen-less ground against a background of trees, houses and lunatics) and challenged his opposite number to do something with it.
Do something, he did, Bridgett's fourth ball enticing the Rodents' curly-haired opener to edge through to Firoz at second slip. Unfortunately though, Firoz's rise from a crouching position did not match the pace at which the ball was approaching, the Pacifist succeeding only in palming the ball over his head. Taking an already cracked ball, Nomaan fired in a tremendous first over of spicy pace, beating bat, pad and stumps on several occasions as the batsmen appeared indecisive in either playing a shot or keeping themselves free of bruises.
It soon became apparent though that our intrepid bowling attack would receive no help from the cherry, as the overs passed and the ball deteriorated into something resembling a suede beanbag. This only aided the oppo as the harder Nomaan tried to make the ball do something, the easier Squirrels' (batsman #1) picked it out, producing two huge sixes in Nomi's last over and punishing the earlier dropped catch with an innings of 60-odd. Things were happening for our heroes, however (thanks to J-Roy producing two stunning catches at gully), and Yatin was shrewdly introduced to change the pace, which he did with great effect, garnering several unsuccessful appeals for stumpings. Super spells from Ravi, Rohan and Toby kept the runs down on a largely unhelpful wicket and a competitive 196 was posted by our tree-dwelling oppo.
At tea time it soon became apparent that just about everyone had taken advantage of Tesco's discounted pork pies, Justin's inspired choice of half a huge watermelon providing a juicy and refreshing light at the end of a long, cartilegenous, pastry-covered tunnel. Ben and Toby took the crease in familiar fashion, Boormski (ha! really) looking to drive and pull wherever possible, and TC playing very correctly and taking no chances. As both batsmen became frustrated by a slow outfield, Ben perished trying to force one too many deliveries down the aerial route and providing a straightforward caught and bowled for 29. Oli carved out a useful innings for a similar score (having earlier frustrated the nut-munchers with an outstanding display in the field) before making way for young Ravi Patel. Ravi's six-hour pre-game net session seemed to have taken its toll on the financial consultant as he fell quickly, edging through to the Squirrels' keeper.
This provided an opportunity for promising debutant, the man with the bionic arm, Simon "Larry" Lawrence, who proved equally as talented with the bat as in the field, slapping a quick-fire 32. The new boy fell after dispatching a loose delivery into the neighbouring estate, and failing to acknowledge that it was consequently replaced by something round, shiny and generally resembling a cricket ball. Attempting to treat the next delivery with similar disdain, he was found wanting as the ball wobbled slightly in the air and cleared out middle and off. With one fast-scorer departing, and Toby playing the familiar anchor role, it was imperative for incoming batsman Rohan to keep up the pace. He set out his stall appropriately, immediately despatching the ball to the undergrowth at the estate end to the delight of a growing home crowd.
With a tasty finish looking likely, the wind was taken out of PCC's sails as Toby perished, gallantly attempting to kick on at the expense of yet another 'not out'. As the game reached a nail-biting climax, Rohan was charged with scoring 3 from the last ball. The bark-bothering visitors set an appropriately defensive field, and a dot ball secured the victory for the lads from the south-west. It was smiles all round though, as both sides congratulated each other on such an exciting, competitive yet friendly game, and drinks were taken at the World's End near the station, where Larry's past as a Hampshire schoolboy cricketer was exposed. Footnote: it transpired that Justin helpfully filled in the visitors' scorebook, rather than our own.