Mighty Birch stands up to Colwill's Chigwell
Pacific v Chigwell at Old Chigwellians Club
Sun 19 May 2019 at 1pm
Middlesex & Essex Invitation League

Were a casual observer to attend a handful of randomly-selected MEIL games, it would be hard to explain to them that Pacific v Chigwell is one of the oldest and most fierce rivalries. It's tricky to paint a picture of grudges bordering on Spurs v Arsenal or Gatting v Shakoor Rana  when your palette is provided by one of the most amiable forms of organised sporting endeavour outside of a charity tiddleywinks tournament, and they might fall to wondering whether it must all stem from some match twenty years ago in which someone committed a terrible violation of etiquette, such as failing to cut the crusts off the sandwiches.

Whilst everyone is just a little keener than usual to do well in this fixture, by and large the needle rarely exceeds the level of gentle micky-taking, and occasionally a slightly lawyerly insistence on observing the baroque league regulations. As we know from many past encounters, there is one unfortunate antipodean exception, however, and discovering he had been made captain did little to dispel our expectations of an afternoon of big-fish-in-a-small-pond hyper-competitiveness. Sure enough, we were treated to 45 overs of largely humourless banter and unneccessary aggressiveness, including one particularly high-handed incident in which the laws, precedent and good manners were summarily dismissed to bring a fielder back mid-over.

We lost the toss and were put in on a hard but slightly tacky pudding of a wicket. Chigwell's attack was shorn of some of its livelier regulars, but actually slow-medium proved pretty hard to get away on this pitch. Jas carried on in his newfound niche as an aggressive opener, and John's luckless weekend continued its slide from the previous day's match against Fulmer, both falling to the canny Hannant, who has clearly followed England's wily use of mints in the 2005 ashes to identify the brand of baccy to roll up in your fingers down at fine leg that will maximise the swing of the ball the following over.

Enter the burly and beardy Welshman, Rob Birch. Identified from an early-season Lord's net as a likely Proper Cricketer, he underlined his credentials by smacking several vicious straight drives and generally looking in such command of the bowling that he was furious when he mistimed a catch. This set a pattern for the innings, with a powerful line-up all getting in and getting out without anyone going on to a really meaty score. Sumeet was looking particularly ominous when he fell, having just hit the highly competent Rob Orange out of the attack. Sumeet's fan club - the Sharmy Army (of which the present writer counts himself a prominent member) - started to get nervous when Nick Allum's glacially slow non-turning offies were introduced, as the Sharmanator has a habit of getting himself out trying to hit 8 off every ball against that style of bowling, but it was an attempt to sweep a dipping full toss from the returning Hannant that was his undoing.

Toby had calmly compiled 25 when he called Arsalan for what he considered a routine single just behind square on the leg side, only to reach the other end and find his partner unmoved and unshakeable in his determination not to venture a millimeter outside his crease and be run out. Whilst opinions were divided on Arsalan's view that the ball had been in front of square and it had thus been his call, Chigwell were utterly united in their belief that Toby was the one to be run out according to the laws. They were unfortunately correct, but at least Arsalan ignored the rather witless attempts to mortify him into also getting out and smacked a brisk 35, including two sixes bashed over square leg in a stand with the equally big-hitting McGinnigle.

A combination of having been kept tied down and finally suckered out hiimself, coupled with general irritation at the excessive combativeness of the Chigwell skipper, seemed to have fired the normally competitive Riz into a state of ruthless single-mindedness. Having led a fielding drill that would not have disgraced a first XI (in approach if perhaps not totally in execution), he then partenered McGinnigle in a miserly, disciplined opening assault, backed up by alert, aggressive ground-fielding. Having scalped Rob Allum early on, Riz gave an unflattering and unrelenting commentary on the techniques of Colwill and Macfarlane as they crawled along off the first 15 overs, such that keeper Stevenson was heard to ponder on the sidelines that he appeared to have wandered into a Saturday league game by mistake.

Sam Howes was equally economical in his marathon spell, and Rob Birch impressed everyone (and only slightly wounded the egos of the seamers) by standing up to everyone and letting virtually nothing past him. James Soden struggled a little for rhythm, which allowed Macfarlane - hitherto in danger of rigor mortis - to spank a slow loopy long-hop for six over the short long-leg boundary, but he then tried to pounce on another drag-down and inside-edged onto his stumps. Having found the wicket-taking length, Soden went for the full toss by way of variation and gleefully snaffled a return catch from Colwill.

Stevenson arrived to find the ambience had been mysteriously reset to Sunday Cricket with the demise of his skipper, and while there was plenty of chat and eagerness to do well both as teams and as individuals, it was tempered with humour and an appreciation of opponents' success as well as rueful acknowledgement of our own failings. Some might say that's as things should be.

Coming on at the start of the last 20, Hussain found generous turn and induced a lot of playing and missing from the tail without quite landing enough knockout blows. The baleful presence of the Chigwell skipper had returned to the field as square leg umpire, and promptly induced much muttering by refusing a stumping. In fairness, however, Rob had awarded A-bomb a rather generous front-foot lbw that was probably less close than some of the ones he went on to turn down. Riz 'Dyson' Siddiqui returned in his customary role, hoovering up much of the lower order, including a spectacular twenty-yard sprint and diving catch by Sumeet to bag the dangerous Hannant.

Ordinarily this would have been comfortably the fielding highlight of the day, if not the season, but an honourable mention must go to Arsalan's demise - fumbled by one of the men at deep cow only for the rebound to be grabbed by the other. Credit where it's due, because the skipper instructed them to carry on going for the win almost to the end, only shutting up shop when Nick Allum arrived with about 4 overs to go. Sadly, he just held on, despite surviving (correctly) a huge shout when he padded up to a googly off the penultimate over. 

Ultimately, two straightforward missed chances off Stevenson (including one by the normally infallible Riz) proved costly, as he otherwise played a blinder, his long reach and willingness to use his feet negating much of the spin threat, and managing to keep the target within reach while shielding most of the tail.

Pacific v Chigwell
Toss won by Chigwell
Pacific innings  R  M  B  4  6
John Deighan   lbw b Hannant   1  7  4  0  0  
Jasbir Basi   c Stocker b Hannant   13  27  19  2  0  
Rob Birch†   c Kelly b Marlon   34  34  33  6  0  
Toby Chasseaud*   run out Lewis    25  67  37  3  0  
Sumeet Sharma   lbw b Hannant   38  40  33  5  1  
Arsalan Syed   c Kelly b N Allum   35  55  48  3  2  
Rizwan Siddiqui   c Johnny b Hannant   5  24  18  1  0  
James McGinnigle   st Stocker b Marlon   28  40  26  2  1  
James Soden   c Colwill b N Allum   2  6  5  0  0  
Sam Howes   b Orange   5  7  5  0  0  
Ahmed Hussain   not out    0  7  9  0  0  
 Extras (b 6, lb 2, w 1, nb 0) 9    
 TOTAL (44.1 Overs) 193    
 Fall of wickets:  1-5 [Deighan] , 2-32 [Basi] , 3-53 [Birch] , 4-114 [Sharma] , 5-122 [Chasseaud] , 6-133 [Siddiqui] , 7-184 [Syed] , 8-187 [McGinnigle] , 9-191 [Soden] , 10-193 [Howes]
Bowling  O  M  R  W  
 R Hannant   12  2  58  4  
 Marlon   12  0  46  2  
 R Orange   4.1  0  25  1  
 N Allum   12  1  36  2  
 Stocker   4  0  30  0  
Chigwell innings  R  M  B  4  6
W Macfarlane   b Soden   21  0  59  1  1  
R Allum   c Birch b Siddiqui   12  0  18  2  0  
D Colwill*   c & b Soden   17  0  38  2  0  
J Stevenson†   not out    51  0  66  6  0  
F Kelly   c Siddiqui b Howes   12  0  15  1  0  
D Lewis   lbw b Hussain   0  0  5  0  0  
N Stocker   lbw b Howes   6  0  25  0  0  
R Hannant   c Sharma b Siddiqui   3  0  7  0  0  
M Hayes   b Siddiqui   2  0  11  0  0  
R Orange   c McGinnigle b Siddiqui   6  0  9  1  0  
N Allum   not out    4  0  17  1  0  
 Extras (b 8, lb 5, w 13, nb 0) 26    
 TOTAL (46.0 Overs) 159-9    
 Fall of wickets:  1-17 [R Allum] , 2-53 [W Macfarlane] , 3-68 [D Colwill] , 4-87 [F Kelly] , 5-88 [D Lewis] , 6-114 [N Stocker] , 7-128 [R Hannant] , 8-135 [M Hayes] , 9-142 [R Orange]
Bowling  O  M  R  W  
 James McGinnigle   8  2  21  0  
 Rizwan Siddiqui   10  3  14  4  
 Sam Howes   12  2  33  2  
 James Soden   5  0  37  2  
 Ahmed Hussain   10  2  37  1  
 Toby Chasseaud   1  0  4  0  

Other matches:
 Sun 05 Sep 2021, Highgate CC,
 Sun 16 May 2021, The Paddock,
 Burnham’s 49 isn’t enough as Stevenson tons up, Sun 06 Sep 2020, Highgate CC, Lost by 67 runs
 Early declaration leaves Pacific stumped by weather forecast , Fri 14 Aug 2020, The Paddock, Lost by 4 wickets
 If only both teams lived in the same house, Sun 17 May 2020, The Paddock, Cancelled Covid-19
 Tim's hat-trick brightens dull draw, Sun 08 Sep 2019, Highgate CC, Drawn
 Sharma blazes century to see off Chigwell, Sun 09 Sep 2018, Highgate CC, Won by 9 wickets
 Chasseaud ton in vain as Chigwell coast to victory, Sun 19 Aug 2018, Old Chigwellians Club, Lost by 7 wickets
 Curse of The 'Strong Batting Line-Up' Strikes Again, Sat 09 Sep 2017, North Middlesex CC, Drawn
 Golden Chigwell chance spurned, Sun 07 May 2017, Old Chigwellians Club, Lost by 8 wickets
 Victory is sweet in last-ball thriller, Sun 11 Sep 2016, Alexandra Palace, Won 2 wickets
 Burnham sees red as runfest unfolds, Sun 08 May 2016, Old Chigwellians Club, Drawn
 Another tight finish, Sun 30 Aug 2015, Old Chigwellians Club, Lost 5 wickets
 PCC realise Chig ambitions , Sun 31 May 2015, Alexandra Palace, Won 7 wickets
 Plucky Pacific hang on for draw, Sun 31 Aug 2014, Old Chigwellians Club, Drawn
 Pacific 'Chig' deep for victory, Sun 25 May 2014, Alexandra Palace, Won 19 runs
 Pacific on top, Sun 01 Sep 2013, Old Chigwellians Club, Won 7 wickets
 Scores level in last-ball thriller, Sun 28 Apr 2013, Alexandra Palace, Drawn - scores level!
 To Mankad or not to Mankad? Scores level despite skipper's heroics, Sun 02 Sep 2012, Old Chigwellians Club, Drawn - scores level!
 Sight screens as rafts, Sun 29 Apr 2012, Broxbourne Sports Club, Cancelled
 Could not raise team, Sun 28 Aug 2011, Old Chigwellians Club, Forfeited
 If you thought South Africa choked ..., Sun 31 Jul 2011, Broxbourne Sports Club, Lost 8 runs
 Perfect April As Draw Sanctuary for Chigwell Removed, Sun 25 Apr 2010, Wray Crescent, Won By 117 runs
 Allum the key for Chigwell, Sun 26 Apr 2009, Wray Crescent, Drawn
 The Fairest of Draws, Mon 06 May 2002, Met Police Grd, Drawn
 Marathon spell from Mileham seals it, Mon 07 May 2001, Away, Won by 3 wkts