When: Wednesday, 10 May 2017
Where: Regents Park, Pitch 16
Result: Havas 13 - 19 Pearlfinders
The Competition: Havas "Hit"
The word is out. Pop the corks. Light the beacons…Pearlfinders is up and running in the 2017 LASL season. Given the grim first few rounds, both in terms of weather and results, the first warm-weather match of the season was always shaping up to have somewhat of a festival atmosphere and duly delivered with one for the ages down at Regent’s Park. Excitement for the sun down at the pitches was further buoyed as we boasted a monster squad, with a high of 16 players, including debutants Kitty, Gerald and Nathan, plus the return of stalwart Mike. Despite Ainslies’ best efforts we all made it to the pitches before the oppo for the first time to get a bit of practice in and listen to Geralds’ thoughts on tactics before taking to the field…Sluggish out of the gate we immediately drew a blank with the bat and were punished by some massive hitting and weak fielding as Havas raced out to five run lead after one innings. This pattern continued for a few overs as we struggled to get to grips with the bat in hand and had a few howlers under the high-ball, and before we knew it we found ourselves 8-2 down with three innings left of the seven. Lesser teams may have looked at the score card and mentally given up the ghost, haunted by memories of earlier losses this season.
However lesser teams don’t have the talismanic figure of Mike Thorne to lead an unlikely fightback, and this is exactly what happened as he stepped up as first batter to send a cultured sliced drive soaring into the deep right field. While this drew cheers from the team, little did they know at the time it was the start of a potentially record PF innings with the bat that saw 12 runs notched as the girls consistently got on base and a few big hitters cleared the decks time and again. After dropping to two outs it seemed the innings would be a brief fight against the dying of the light, however despite the pressure of knowing one more out would see us likely down and out unlikely heroes Lisa, Gerald, Killip and Kitty all got bat to ball to make it round for their debut runs of the season. Supported by some big hits from Mullan, Barnard and Phil the mammoth innings dramatically swung the match in our favour and you could feel the energy rising in the PF team as we took the field. After performing heroics with the bat the team then tightened up the field in every aspect to limit the oppo to scratching around for the odd run here and there. With Havas realising they were set to be merely a footnote in a Pearlfinders epic their heads dropped in the face of constant pressure and some tidy work in the field struck the final nail in their coffin to seal a 19-13 win! It was a great all-round performance from the squad with everyone contributing in some way to give us our debut win of the season, hopefully igniting a hot streak which sees us soar up the table.
Man of the Match: Tough call this week as the aware could have gone to any number of players in an all-round strong team performance. The debutants acquitted themselves well and the old heads of Mike and Killip rolled back the years to score some important runs, but a special mention needs to go to Emily. She falls just short of the prize this week but as you will see later that is down to a Herculean performance elsewhere rather than any gaps in her game. After threatening to do some damage with the bat in recent weeks we finally saw everything just click and she sent the inner field scurrying around chasing her hits every time she faced, getting onto first base with every go at bat. If it wasn’t for some unfortunate hits from batters following her playing her out she would have been one of the top scorers for the day, but regardless this was a performance to be proud of.
In any other week she would have taken the gong but this Wednesday one man made such a mark on his first return to the team this season it was impossible to ignore. Stand up Alex Mullan after he showed no signs of ring rust on his 2017 debut, initially keeping us at the races during the rocky opening segment of the match before exhibiting some incredibly intelligent batting just as the PF team was reaching fever pitch, bringing home countless runners to score and also notching a few cheeky homeruns for himself. One of the greatest skills a batter can master (a skill maybe only one or two of the team can actually pull off) is the opening up of the body to slice a shot right into the deep right field. Everyone knows this is where the space is but getting the ball to fly there when your body should be heaving it the other way is no mean feat. Luckily Alex has been putting in the hard yards down at real tennis and the transferable skills were evident for all to see. While not the biggest hitter he always seemed to find the gaps in their creaking defensive line to contribute a huge percentage of the runs scored this week. Chapeau…
Catch of the Match: Although Rich did his best to take a clean sweep of awards here with a ridiculous go-go-Gadget-arms dive to stop an overthrow in the field this week saw the first Hollywood catch of the season. Following his DOTD award last week Jamie Barnard had a lot to prove and immediately set about ensuring he was an early favourite to return that award with two horrible botches early on. Making the rookie mistake of running a few steps towards soaring shots into the deep field before being left in no-mans-land as the ball sails over his head was bad the first time, especially considering how finely poised the day was. The second time was unforgivable.
While many were questioning the wisdom of leaving him exposed in the centre of the deep field, Jamie hit the mental reset button and refused to consider taking the easy way out and changing positions. What happened next came right out of the Barnard book of fielding tricks as their big hitter, a beast of a slugger who was killing us with homer after homer, slapped another soft pitch skywards with a venomous crack off the bat and a knowing grin as he again expected to saunter round the bases to glory. At a time when there were only a few runs in it and the bases were loaded it is not exaggerating to say it could very well have buried the PF team if someone didn’t step up to pluck the ball from the heavens. As the ball reached the pinnacle of its trajectory and began its ever-accelerating descent it became clear that fate would once again leave Jamie put to the test. A shuffle to the right, a shimmy to the left and then total silence as he thrust his mitt skywards and hoped. This time the ball stuck into the very meat of the glove itself and with that he had dismissed their talisman and stopped the rot in the field. They simply never recovered and the match was ours.
Dick of the Day: Seems harsh this week after such a great performance, plus I’m running out of time. Phil, you and your terrible throw can count yourself lucky this week. Same with Geralds’ first rabbit in the headlights moment in the field.
Well done again everyone who came down – for those that haven’t so far please sign up for the big clash next week to see if we can really get this juggernaut moving.