Pacific CC were edged out on Sunday in a nail biting Fairlop finale with just two balls to spare. Shorn of many if its stalwarts in this high summer season and fleshed out with a number of players short of match practice, this writer had been understandably a touch nervous as his central line train curved its way round to Fairlop like a Dermot Reeve slower ball. Last season we'd been comprehensively dismantled by a hungry, youthful Oakfield Parkonians and there was also the news that British Military Fitness trainer Jel Bearder was playing his first match in 25 years. It was an auspicious year though, when Graham Gooch subdued India at Lords with a majestic 333. As Jel's pristine blue BMF van pitched up at Fairlop we knew we were in for a quirky day.
Within minutes the former soldier was padded up and primed to combat the new ball alongside Kieran, showing his competence not just with burpees and star jumps but leg side cuffs too, brutalising a ball square for four. Despite his nous in the field, Jel showed his quarter century cricket vacuum by failing to run his bat in on a quick single. Run out. Moments later Kieran was felled by a straightun, a predicament he was later to suffer in the field. Thoughts of the Greek economy came to mind - surely not another collapse?
The rest of the Pacific XI would have nothing of the sort. As a supine England folded, pacific flourished.Batting around Toby, who anchored our final total with a considered, composed 97 before being run out with a direct hit from cover, they rose to the challenge skillfully and thoughtfully. Guardian comment moderator Jon Briley, playing his first Pacific match in two years articulated his intentions with clarity , treating anything short and wide disdainfully, compiling an expert 23 on his comeback. Pranav, maturing rapidly in his first season of formal cricket, is on something of an adventure, investigating the possibilities of his potential in each innings. Here he played a risk averse support act to perfection, enabling next man Timbadia the freedom to play his strokes in a lusty 33, his highest Pacific total. The remaining batsmen all played their part as Pacific surged to 241. Alex Brown hit a lovely flick square before getting run out, Mark Woodland elegantly essayed his first boundary in cricket. Then PC Phil Smith, clearly revived by a week in Lucca, Tuscany, with the family Smith, showed a zero tolerance to a tiring attack, swatting a six ball 18, including his first cricketing maximum.
Teatime was time to consider whether the artists formerly known as Old Parkonians had the team spine to reach the imposing target we had set them. During our innings the young side, fleshed out by a few old heads, including a profligate begoggled old boy behind the stumps, who bore more than a passing resemblance to the shelled martial arts master Kame Sennin in the seminal Japanese manga Dragon Ball, had appeared disinterested and somnolent in the East London sun. On more than one occasion umpiring Kieran had to collect the ball as some Parkos squabbled while others deferentially called captain Vijay 'uncle'. All rather confusing...
Pacific took to the field just as partygoers were starting to gyrate in the pavilion. The rest of the innings was played out to a swathe of 80s hits, lending the day a 20/20 feel. Parkos, clearly a batting oriented side, came to the party, Kalley and Foley flashing the old ball which we started with, then the new, to all parts of the field. Parkos reached 90 off about 12 overs, and though Shaz managed to send Foley back (after which he was unluckily replaced), it wasn't until Smith and Hussain joined forces in a 20+ over partnership that we were able to exert a modicum of control and started to make wicket inroads. Ahmed commenced his inimitable dance to the wicket as the sounds of Richie Valens were pumped round the Oakfield Playing Fields, and I wondered whether the A bomb should be renamed La Bomba. As zorba song sent the atmosphere soaring to a heady climax, PCC began to show their cricket field moves. For Twist and Shout read Turn and Burn as La Bomba delivered a classic leg break which pitched, spun and hit the top of off, the batsman in a Gattingesque purple haze. Phil, showing admirable line and lengths, delivered control and wickets, with a passion for the cause no more evident than when the dislikeable Rafiq, who'd bullied his own teammates the day long, failed to walk after audibly nicking behind to Briley. His batting partner, the mild mannered Vijay, urged him to do the right thing.
A last throw of the dice, Tamby and K Dog, who might have been brought on earlier on such a slow surface, turned their arms over. Tamby ' s notoriously ethereal loop puzzled the tailenders and he picked up a deserved scalp, but with four left to get off the final over and wickets left, De Silva swatted K over cow. SO, another loss bur this was a valiant effort and a memorable day.
With thanks to Christopher Clayton for scoring and to Juliana for being the official key keeper.