There but for the Graces
Pacific v Graces at HSBC Sports Ground, Beckenham
Sun 30 Jun 2019 at 1pm
Lost by 2 wickets
Middlesex & Essex Invitation League

Pacific and Birch’s Sunday best was not quite good enough as Graces stayed cool under pressure to edge a seesawing MEIL matchup by just two wickets and 11 balls to spare in their debut year in the comp.

This was a near triumph over several adversities, not least because a late change of venue from north to south, Broxbourne to Beckenham, by the sometime Greenford-dwelling Graces, had left us short of numbers and jeopardized our participation. The fine work of match manager Garrett ensured that an XI would honour our league commitment at the beautiful HSBC Beckenham ground.  

The south can understandably seem a distant, mysterious land for a club whose heart beats strongly in N4. Thanks to chairman Haill for stepping in and hotfooting it from a north London fun run down south, to Mutz playing twice in a weekend after substantial negotiations with his better half, Korgy for undertaking the tricky navigation from east to south and indeed the whole XI for making the journey.  

Credit too to Rob Birch who announced to our whatsapp group that he’d arrived by 10:30am, some two and a half hours before play. Having driven up from his hometown of Blackwood (Welsh: Coed Duon), Caerphilly in the Welsh Valleys, where many of the members of the influential rock band The Manic Street Preachers grew up, the real estate man made himself at home watching the cricket in the airport-style lounge of the clubhouse. Presumably he was inspired as openers Roy and Bairstow thrived at Edgbaston.

Rob proved, to coin a new adage, that the early Birch catches the worm, by seizing the day when asked to open the innings with Mullens. The pair accumulated patiently against nagging lines and lengths in the opening passages. But when afforded the opportunity, Birch, resembling more a mighty oak than the thin leaved deciduous hardwood with which he shares a name, combined powerful lofted drives in the V with sweetly timed drives and finessed late cuts.  

After Mullens (30) was out in the over after drinks, Chasseaud (51*) and Birch went through the gears at more than six an over in the last 20, the latter carrying his bat for a sumptuous 121*, his first of what we hope will be many centuries for the club. 215 looked a decent total on a vast, slowish outfield upon which batsmen were often denied boundaries.

After a bland, beige tea had dulled the senses, Mahender Pal stunned us with an opening assault with his very own powerplay. The left-hander cracked anything in his arc beyond the boundary. Graces were 73 off the first nine. The Pacific eleven were briefly silenced but soon responded.

Opening bowlers Howes and Haill adapted by changing up lines and lengths to counter the threat of Pal. Howes was disappointed by the lack of gluten-free choice at tea but showcased his own rich variations by shortening his run-up to trap namesake Sam LBW then bowl Pal soon after.  

Our sense that this was a key breakthrough played out as Graces now progressed more tentatively. The run rate dropped, their Manhattan flattened out to a series of lower rise blocks.

The chairman now found his groove. Having been taken for 37 from his first five, he conceded just six from the next four and came tantalisingly close to a hat trick in his ninth over. This was in no small part thanks to Rob Birch, who dived to his right at slip like a man who has a keen sense of the theatrical to pouch a terrific catch to dispose of Sanjeev.

With president Garrett bowling tidy stump-to-stump off breaks which have taken him to the top of the wicket-taking charts in 2019, debutant Keyana Sapp was brought on and duly unpicked the Graces lock with a wicket in his first over for the club. His rhythmic, fluid action generated slippery pace, seam and swing; two for 30 off 8 on a first outing reflects his obvious potential.

Hussain belatedly entered the action to dramatic effect, bowling Jeshant round his legs with his first ball. Graces were rocking at 155/6, Pacific whooped and hollered. It felt like we were on top and victory was within our grasp.

Though Hussain prised out the adhesive Ari and Keyana bowled captain Stuart, all rounder Newton’s smart 50 finally sent our hopes plummeting to earth. He shepherded his deep tail-end partners home by finding gaps which we were unable to plug.

It was tough to come so close after a wholehearted effort and also a shame that spinners Korgaonkar and Nick ‘Eppy’Epstein didn’t get their chance in a tight contest. Credit to the pair for remaining philosophical and sanguine. Their and Pacific’s time will surely come in the return fixture at Highgate in September. 


Possible Champagne/Mythos lager moments

Bearded Welshman Birch flinging himself full-length to pluck a great catch at wide first slip, topping off an all-round performance that helped to compensate for his golden duck the day before for his hometown club of Blackwood Town CC.

Also when the opposition opener Pal was thrashing shots round the ground but failed to reach a wide bowled by Oli, "We've disovered his weakness, lads!" called Birchy.

Husssain's first-ball wicket. A classic legspinner to bowl Jeshant round his legs.

The HSBC ground's smaller pavilion

An oasis in Beckenham

Pacific v Graces
Pacific innings  R  M  B  4  6
Rob Birch   not out    121  0  0  13  6  
Kieran Mullens   c Wktkeep Scott b Pal   30  0  0  1  0  
Toby Chasseaud*   not out    51  0  0  5  0  
Murtaza Siddiqui†   did not bat    0  0  0  0  0  
Sam Howes   did not bat    0  0  0  0  0  
Aroon Korgaonkar   did not bat    0  0  0  0  0  
Nick Epstein   did not bat    0  0  0  0  0  
Oliver Haill   did not bat    0  0  0  0  0  
Tim Garrett   did not bat    0  0  0  0  0  
Ahmed Hussain   did not bat    0  0  0  0  0  
Keyana Sapp   did not bat    0  0  0  0  0  
 Extras (b 5, lb 0, w 3, nb 5) 13    
 TOTAL (45.0 Overs) 215    
 Fall of wickets:  1-77
Bowling  O  M  R  W  
 Newton   9  0  32  0  
 Ari   6  1  40  0  
 Sanjiv   8  0  28  0  
 Mamun   7  0  17  0  
 Pal   8  1  38  1  
 Sam   1  0  12  0  
 Jessant   4  0  24  0  
 Andrew   2  0  19  0  
Graces innings  R  M  B  4  6
Mahender Pal   b Howes   57  0  0  0  0  
Sam   lbw b Howes   8  0  0  0  0  
Niroshan   lbw b Haill   20  0  0  0  0  
Scott†   lbw b Sapp   8  0  0  0  0  
Sanjeev   c Birch b Haill   0  0  0  0  0  
Jeshant   b Houghton   21  0  0  0  0  
Newton   not out    50  0  0  0  0  
Stuart*   b Sapp   3  0  0  0  0  
Ari   c Howes b Hussain   2  0  0  0  0  
Andrew   not out    2  0  0  0  0  
Mamun   did not bat    0  0  0  0  0  
 Extras (b 8, lb 4, w 32, nb 0) 44    
 TOTAL (39.1 Overs) 216    
 Fall of wickets: 
Bowling  O  M  R  W  
 Sam Howes   7  0  56  2  
 Oliver Haill   11.1  2  54  2  
 Tim Garrett   6  0  27  0  
 Keyana Sapp   8  0  30  2  
 Ahmed Hussain   7  0  37  2  

Other matches:
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 No dis-Grace in narrow defeat, Sun 10 Oct 2021, Hackney Downs, Lost by 3 runs
 No disGrace in a losing chase, Sun 20 Sep 2020, Highgate CC, Lost by 24 runs
 Pacific end MEIL campaign on a high , Sun 22 Sep 2019, Highgate CC, Won by 4 wickets
 Peak Siddiqui provides Mutz more than Graces notes, Sun 20 May 2018, Paulin Ground, Winchmore Hill CC, Won by 3 wickets
 Too soggy in Greenford, Sun 23 Jul 2017, London Marathon Playing Field Greenford, Cancelled
 Sharma special not quite enough, Sun 19 Jun 2016, London Marathon Playing Field Greenford, Lost 44 runs
 It's a wash-out, Sun 26 Jul 2015, London Marathon Playing Field Greenford, Cancelled
 Golden Brown 'nearly' brings up his hundred (wickets), Sun 27 Jul 2014, London Marathon Playing Field Greenford, Won 5 wickets
 Cricket 0 Football 1, Sun 13 Apr 2014, Wray Crescent, Cancelled
 Pacific cook Graces' goose in the blazing sun, Sun 07 Jul 2013, London Marathon Playing Field Greenford, Won by 8 wickets
 Pacific see off battling Graces, Sun 14 Apr 2013, Wray Crescent, Won by 11 runs
 Sub-zero hero, Sun 15 Apr 2012, Wray Crescent, Lost by 1 wicket
 Good Gracious Atkin Wins Honour Back, Sun 19 Apr 2009, Wray Crescent, Won 3 wickets
 Smashing Darren Gives Graces The Breaks, Sun 20 Apr 2008, Wray Crescent, Lost 2 wickets
 Hi & Lo Notes for Webley as Shofiq steals Show at Graceland, Mon 27 Aug 2007, Broxbourne Sports Club, Lost 3 wickets
 And Yours is no Disgrace, Sun 28 May 2006, West Essex Cricket Club, Won 79 Runs
 Graces Win Due a Whyle !, Mon 17 Apr 2006, Wray Crescent, Lost 25 runs
 Double 100s ! Batters Reign in Grace with Fervour, Sat 28 May 2005, Wray Crescent, Drawn
 Skippers Secure Success!, Sat 17 Apr 2004, Wray Crescent, Won by 2 Wickets
 Pacific Draw Gracefully, Sat 03 May 2003, Wray Crescent, Drawn
 Faisal & Duthie recapture form, Sat 27 Apr 2002, Wray Crescent, Won by 5 wkts
 Wilkinson makes hay, Sat 28 Apr 2001, Wray Crescent, Drawn
 Fri 21 Apr 2000, Wray Crescent, Cancelled