Toby was left somewhat regretting his sporting declaration when a strong Highgate batting line-up chased down our 247 with a few overs to spare.
Pacific were becalmed for the first 15 or so overs of their innings, neither because of their location, the bucolically named Shepherd's Cot Playing Fields of Highgate, nor the soft cottony stuff floating across the playing field. This 'vernal fluff', as described by Kieran and Lawrence lent the atmosphere a dreamy air, as if the match were being played out in a cricket pitch-sized snow globe. It was principally due to the loss of two early wickets. Paul Rajkumar, taking guard on leg stump, was unfortunately adjudged LBW (by Highgate's professional umpire) to a ball which hit his pads and trickled out to backward square, while Riz Siddiqui cuffed a ball to backward point having just hit a maximum. This left skipper Chasseaud and new opener Ireland to set about repairing the innings. With patience and no little skill, the left and right hander quelled the early fire of overseas 'pro' Ramanayake, Toby in particular showing the straight bat and high elbow of defiance, while Tom judiciously played out the tricky flighted seam of Horsler.
Then in an instant, just as the warming sunshine flickered off and on, Pacific's innings suddenly began to gain momentum, Tom in particular starting to find the gaps with powerful, measured and stylishy drives in the V and the cover region, and the partnership rattled along towards 100. Looking to accelerate, Toby sliced a lofted drive to cover, which brought Lawrence de Glossop to the crease. Lawrence gave himself time to adapt to the conditions and then, perhaps influenced by the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight, started to show his very own punch power. Now Tom really started to go for it, using aerial options to pummel seamers for crisply struck sixes into the foliage ringing the playing field. Into the nervous 90s he throttled, and after worrying his supporters with a wide flash almost caught at gully, he struck another pristine shot through the covers to bring up his first century in cricket. Punching his fist in obvious delight, he then played with the unrestrained glee of a centurion, taking apart Highgate's attack, and the much vaunted Ramanayake. In tandem with Lawrence, Sheldon and Kieran, Pacific charged to 247, with Tom unbeaten on 136. This was a new personal benchmark set at an venerable old club on Monday, founded when Winston Churchill was but a boy in short trousers.
Riz and Sheldon opened the attack for Highgate's reply with pace and no little skill, Sheldon coaxing the life out of a fairly lacklustre surface, passed bespectacled opener Williams bat on several occasions, but anything short was seized upon. Likewise Riz produced gilt-edged deliveries against the confident Da Silva, who, having cut and driven a number of balls for four, perhaps got a little bit overconfident with his signature stroke. He soon edged behind to Ireland, who was replacing Jon Brown, who'd unfortunately dislocated his finger earlier in the piece. The slow bowlers were next introduced. Mullens, enjoying something of a breakthrough season with his off spin managed to prise out Williams with a sharp caught and bowled effort. Ahmed continued where' he'd left off on Saturday bowling a controlled spell in a pressure situation, and was deserving of two wickets. Paul Davis, whose run up shortens as the day's lengthen, bowled his best spell of the season, his mixture of spin and accurate seamers proving something of a puzzle even to the skilled Sri Lankan. Sheldon took an awesome one-handed catch at cover to dismiss the portly Shelly-Smith, but Ramanayake, who had hitherto shown a good deal of caution, perhaps worried about being dismissed on his first home match of the season, then released the chains, and hit a couple of fiercely hit straight sixes to take Highgate to a comfortable enough victory.
Team Pacific enjoyed more rice delights from Highgate's amaiable Asian kitchen after the match, several beers, enjoyed chat ranging from fine art to pop art. Ireland's innings was fine art indeed. Onwards...