Thumb down as Fives make easy fist of it
Pacific v Fives at Highgate CC
Sun 03 Jun 2018 at 1pm
Lost by 8 wickets
Middlesex & Essex Invitation League

On a beautiful June afternoon, Pacific strode out at Highgate to take on the initially misplaced Fives CC. The away team won the toss and chose to chase, and in stifling conditions, nine of the Pacific players headed into the safety of the pavilion whilst Mark Woodland and James Soden braved the heat.

Woodland looked comfortable in the first handful of overs, playing countless drives that couldn’t quite penetrate the off side ring. There was no such conviction from Soden however, who was trapped in front LBW by the dangerous ‘Sid’ just second ball.

Sumeet Sharma arrived at the crease, but not long after he had reached the middle, Woodland had had enough of the marriage between heat and occasional pea-shooter, simply chipping one to mid off from Sid’s bowling.

At 10-2, Pacific look troubled, with Tom Ireland too not favouring the conditions. It was not the humidity that was his undoing, nor the unforeseeable bounce of the wicket, but this time its lack of traction. A dangerous single was denied by his partner Sharma, and in the process of turning back to his crease, Ireland, like a felling tree, keeled over in the dust and was gallantly short of his ground.

A rebuild was deeply need. Ben Stockton arrived to a scene of disarray, with 28-3 on the scorecard, but he and Sharma changed the tide. The pair saw off the last few overs of the new ball, and once they had got settled, took the game to the opposition. Negotiating the sharpest of the Fives attack, the spitfiring Chaitu, was no easy task, but when the more conventional slower bowlers came into the attack, Sharma and Stockton pulled no punches.

Boundaries were being struck every over, and toward every crevice of the ground. Sharma and Stockton put on over 130 for the fourth wicket, with both men achieving their half centuries with handsome strike rates. Both fell later in quick succession, and at 170-5 the remaining batsman still had a job to do to force Pacific into a commanding position. 

This was led by the wonder from Down Under Jim Davies. His 39 of 35 balls proved invaluable, forming sharp partnerships with Bing Stanley, Alastair Pusinelli and most impressively Oli Haill (21 of 12).

With the score rattling along, skipper Ahmed Hussain sent the message out at the 40 over mark, ‘five left, chaps’, as the tail pushed the score up to beyond 260 and losing the ninth wicket on the stroke of 45 overs.

Fuelled by the trifecta of fried rice, sausage sandwiches and chocolate donuts, Pacific took to the field with a healthy score behind them, but perhaps also seeing England secure victory over Pakistan during the interval distracted them from the task at hand.

Stockton and Pusinelli took the new ball, and it was clear that the opening batsman were going after the target from the get go. The opening bowlers struggled for consistency, as Rocky and Chaitu laid into any loose delivery with fast hands, clattering the ball to the boundary frequently.

A moment that would later prove to be pivotal was a sharp chance that came to Haill at cover off Pusinelli. A mis-timed but powerfully struck drive flew low to Haill at cover, but the best that the ‘floundering veteran’ could muster was sustaining a blow to the thumb, bringing an early end to his afternoon, and ruling him out of the bowling attack. Luckily modern legend Ben Burnham was supping a pint on the boundary and was easily persuaded to step into Haill's blood-stained shoes, quite literally. 

Rocky and Chaitu saw off Stockton and Pusinelli with aplomb, and after an initial adjustment to the medium pace of Davies and Ireland, they continued their march towards the target. A few monstrous sixes off Ireland were lauded in by the Fives supporters, but not so much from the tennis players who had missed out on French Open qualification. 

This opening pair had safely and quickly saw past their half centuries, and Fives were hot favourites for the victory. Hussain brought himself on in search of the breakthrough, but the less said about his four overs, 0-60, the better. A tough chance did come off Ireland’s bowling, but the ball was blasted to Stockton in the covers, who looked more akin to a sniper’s target than a fieldsman attempting to catch a ball. 

The two batsman were now both approaching three figures, but it was the decision to bring Soden into the fray that at least made things a bit more interesting in the final 20 overs. Soden started with a maiden before going on to dismiss the powerful Chaitu (89), and a few overs later he had the new batsman Sid caught by Ireland.

The aptly named Rocky deserved his century, going on to make 117 not out, batting for 33 overs in a truly match-winning innings. For Pacific, after battling so hard following the early collapse in their innings it was a hard one to take, and a case of what might have been. Had one of the tough chances been taken, there were various skied efforts which would have been remarkable grabs, and there was the mystery of what Haill would have added to the fray had his opportunity to bowl not been so painfully been taken away from him. 

It must be said when looking at the scorecard, that of the six Fives bowlers, four of them made up the top four batsman. (We can almost see where Fives get their name from.) While this under-used five were not given the chance to strut their stuff with bat nor ball, at least all 11 Pacific men were put through their paces and earned their post-match tipple. Albeit with heads firmly scratched.

AP (not Associated Press)

Pacific v Fives
Toss won by Fives
Pacific innings  R  M  B  4  6
Mark Woodland   c Mid Off b Sid   4  13  15  1  0  
James Soden   lbw b Sid   0  5  2  0  0  
Sumeet Sharma†   c Deep Cover b Rakesh   80  102  73  11  1  
Tom Ireland   run out ?    5  22  13  1  0  
Ben Stockton   c Deep Cover b Rakesh   72  89  65  8  2  
Jim Davies   b Suri   39  35  34  7  1  
Bing Stanley   b Sujan   13  12  8  3  0  
Alastair Pusinelli   c Long Off b Sujan   14  15  15  3  0  
Oliver Haill   st Keeper b Sujan   21  0  12  3  1  
Rob Dinsey   not out    3  0  2  0  0  
Ahmed Hussain*   did not bat    0  0  0  0  0  
 Extras (b 4, lb 1, w 1, nb 0) 6    
 TOTAL (45.0 Overs) 262    
 Fall of wickets:  1-1 [Soden] , 2-10 [Woodland] , 3-28 [Ireland] , 4-162 [Sharma] , 5-170 [Stockton] , 6-193 [Stanley] , 7-223 [Pusinelli ] , 8-250 [Davies] , 9-262 [Haill]
Bowling  O  M  R  W  
 Suri   8  0  47  1  
 Sid   10  0  43  2  
 Chaitu   5  0  22  0  
 Dinesh   7  0  39  0  
 Sujan   10  0  72  3  
 Rakesh aka Rocky   5  0  35  2  
Fives innings  R  M  B  4  6
Rocky   not out    117  0  0  0  0  
Chaitu   c Sharma b Soden   89  0  0  0  0  
Sid   c Ireland b Soden   24  0  0  0  0  
Suri   not out    18  0  0  0  0  
 Extras (b 9, lb 3, w 2, nb 2) 16    
 TOTAL (33.1 Overs) 264    
 Fall of wickets:  1-193 [Chaitu] , 2-235 [Sid]
Bowling  O  M  R  W  
 Ben Stockton   5  0  30  0  
 Alastair Pusinelli   6  1  41  0  
 Jim Davies   5  0  29  0  
 Tom Ireland   4  0  39  0  
 Rob Dinsey   1  0  14  0  
 Ahmed Hussain   4  0  60  0  
 James Soden   6  1  26  2  
 Bing Stanley   2  0  13  0  
 Mark Woodland   0.1  0  4  0