After North Middlesex CC were unable to field a side against us we found this alternative fixture against the NLM & GB Strikers. Last season they were champions of the North East London League and they proved a bit too strong for us on the day, hitting 280 in their 35 overs, as we were left ruing our dropped catches. Catches win matches and the chairman of selectors has now threatened that fielding practice will become a compulsory part of the selection process.
In reply, Pacific could only manage 111, which would leave David Shepherd forever hopping around in the afterlife.
The numbers don’t lie – a Pacific side featuring three full debutants and two playing their second game for the club were comprehensively beaten by our last minute opposition, the skilled NLM GB Strikers, East London League victors last year who scored 280 to our 111.
They also don’t tell the whole story. Cricket is large, it contains multitudes, as Walt Whitman might have said if he’d been a fan of this beautiful game. And the scorecards don’t show at least two catches dropped off NLM captain Altaf early in his innings who went on to reach 83 with his aggressive, opportunistic batting.
Nor the spirited effort in the field by the Pacific XI whose heads never dropped in the face of a lengthy Strikers’ assault. The comically brilliant catch of Aly Duncan, who chested a fearsomely struck ball with all the craft of a centre forward target man before snaffling the rebound, which had ricocheted behind, expertly over his shoulder. The reassuringly smooth glove work of Aravindan. The all round debut by Ben Stockton, whose left arm seam, easy on the eye, was the most taxing of all Pacific’s bowlers for the Strikers’ to get away. The double wicket maiden of Hugh MacPherson’s first over, which included a first ball wicket. The promising pace of seamer and Sausage Roll aficionado John Saunders.
But the special Pacific contribution of the day was reserved for something out of leftfield. We’d been thrown by the slightly baffling no show from Graces' star batsman (career average 45) and Pacific player for the day Sriyal Mendis. So, I’ll admit, I wasn’t optimistic when Hugh’s friend ‘Ben’, who’d answered Pacific’s player S.O.S in the affirmative, rocked up to Wray in T-shirt, slim fit jeans and trainers, which afforded the bewhited Pacific ten a hipster charm in this increasingly cosmopolitan N4. But what about his cricket? Anxieties abated as Ben, not only the standout Ben in a Pacific team liberally sprinkled with them but also its star performer on the day, executed a seamless pick-up and throw to the first ball that came his way. Promising… Admiration started to simmer, when, down in the marshier turf at long off, Ben dived forward to take a superb catch centimetres above the turf to send back the intimidating Imtiyaz (73) to the pavilion. Then another, this one easy. “Fancy a bowl Ben?”, I offered. Affirmative answer. Soon, Ben, steaming in, perhaps the most discerningly dressed fast bowler in Pacific history, showed a penchant for woodwork. splitting in half the left hand bail with a near perfect delivery. He also induced the appropriately named Bham (54 in not many balls) to edge behind.
Then to one of the best teas in recent Pacific memory, whose highlight was Hugh’s homemade Tzatziki. Due to head off at 4, Ben was encouraged to come in and pinch hit as opener. Even the amber nectar (Fosters) he’d been enjoying at tea time couldn’t disturb his faculties. Now, at his most sartorially resplendent, donning a stonewashed denim jacket with aviator fleece collar, Ben timed the ball sweetly and securely from the off, facing the best of the Strikers’ attack in a 62-ball 35 which underpinned our eventual total of 111.
A final thanks for the collective efforts of the Pacific XI, and to all the new players who performed admirably against strong opponents. The club is excited by the influx of talent in 2016, which, once bedded in, will no doubt flourish.