After a slightly delayed start while Islington Tribune reporter Amy Smith (much friendlier than her brother James) took pictures of grumpy-looking locals and cricketers standing over the concrete bases that have been sunk into the outfield, our openers faced some rather gentle bowling. The Australian Paul Rajkumar, visibly emotional and teary-eyed on his Pacific debut, struck 34 in a good opening stand with senior pro Jon Thornton – not a bad start after being inserted upon losing the toss. Rizwan Siddiqui hit a somewhat sedate (by his standards) 44. Toby Chasseaud, in his 100th appearance for Pacific, played a captain's innings of 63 not out. When Thornton fell for 67, Chasseaud was joined in a 104-run partnership by Tom Ireland, who finished on 35 not out. All the Pacific batsmen rode their luck, with each of the top three being dropped and Chasseaud and Ireland managing to sky several balls into vacant areas. In a way these lucky escapes were a shame because they meant that six Pacificts didn't get a bat.
This writer was impressed by the royal banquet we laid on, though the chairman of selectors thought it was "rather sandwich heavy". His own jerk chicken, expertly marinated overnight, was a joy, if a little spicy, so a cold beer would have been the perfect accompaniment – but where has the fridge disappeared too!? Speaking of fridges, Toby somehow managed to leave the club milk in his fridge at home but Phil Smith was able to inject some civilisation into the interval by popping home to fetch proper plates and mugs. We were also graced with an unannounced visit by the James "The Nugget" Gleadow as he plays his own match against a tough opponent.
Feeling confident of defending our total of 263, we took to the field. It was good to welcome back Rohan Khurd, who last played in 2013, and Sharan Timbadia, now recovered from an injury that saw him miss the latter half of last season. Both opened the attack nicely and, when both the Royals' openers fell for ducks, we were anticipating an early trip to the pub, but it wasn't to be so simple as several useful batting partnerships took shape, leaving Pacific's first four bowlers with expensive figures. Ahmed Hussain was particularly unlucky as chances were squandered off his leg-spin. After the drinks break, Pacific were able to regroup thanks to tight bowling from Ireland, whose red socks spelled danger for the Royals batsmen, and Kieran Mullens, who, when he wasn't chasing a fox around the outfield, bowled some classical off-spin. Ireland was able to generate significant pace and bounce, first finding the edge of danger man Vishal Agarwal (who, despite lasting only a few balls, said he loved the pace), then clean-bowling Nos 5 and 7. He had No 8 treading on his own stumps as he hurriedly top-edged a pull shot. Rajkumar kept a low profile in the outfield, prompting Siddiqui to wonder whether he is actually an Aussie. When Timbadia returned for a second spell he struggled to find his line and length, meaning that the skipper called his secret weapon Siddiqui into the attack to close the game down. His vicious bounce had the umpires calling no-balls but his two overs for 14 were good in the circumstances, with Timbadia staying cool under a high catch at the death.
In the end, the Royals fell only eight runs adrift so it was a much tighter finish than had been predicted at tea and we look forward to welcoming them back in 2016 with the red-carpet treatment.
A quirky fact: In 2013 Chris Duncan made his Pacific debut against Bloomsbury Royals. In this 2015 match against the same opposition his elder brother Aly "the Alygator" Duncan also made his Pacific debut, doing a good job behind the stumps for the first 15 or so overs, hoping to join the ranks of Angry People in Local Newspapers, and enjoying a pint or few in The World's End after the game.
Thanks as ever to Christopher Clayton for scoring.