Originally written for the Middlesex CCC website...
From the paw of Pinky the Panther!
7:00 – Pinky Towers
Waking up bright and early at Pinky Towers. Normally I don’t have to get up until the afternoon (as our home T20 games start much later), but today I’m awake and ready for Finals Day!
8:00 – Leaving Pinky Towers
After washing and brushing my fur, I’m all set to head down from Pinky Towers (just next door to Lord’s) to the Rose Bowl in Southampton. I’ll be taking the Pinkymobile down the M27 to Southampton – the furthest he’s ever been! Normally he either goes to Lord’s or Uxbridge, and for the T20 game at Richmond I got a lift with Gilly, so I hope the Pinkymobile has enough petrol!
8:30 – On the motorway
I take a quick stop off at the services to check all of my messages on my phone. I’ve had messages of support from all of the Middlesex players, and loads of the fans. Thanks! I hope to do you all proud!
10:30 – Arrive at Rose Bowl
After a small bit of traffic around the Rose Bowl, I finally get inside the ground to find my own designated parking spot next to the other mascots. I’ve been told to meet everyone else at the Golf Club (at the top of the hill) at 1.15 for pre-race preparations, and I’ve been given my tickets for the members’ area in the pavilion. I’m really pleased with the great service and care of the Rose Bowl staff – although I expect nothing less after working at Lord’s!
11.30 – First semi-final starts
Although it is raining (not good for my fur), the first semi-final between the Essex Eagles and the Hampshire Royals starts at 11.30. I want Essex to win this one, as my good friend Alastair Cook is playing. I often bump into Cooky when he is around for test matches at Lord’s so I hope he goes well!
1.15 – Meet up for pre-race briefing
As arranged, all the mascots have to meet up for an explanation of the obstacles in the race. On my way from my seats, I bump into Steven Finn, who’s talking to Nottinghamshire’s Alex Hales! It’s great to see Finny, and both he and Hales wish me good luck for the final. Hales even said he preferred me to Nuts the Squirrel (Notts mascot)!
1.20 – Pre-race briefing
After meeting all of my fellow mascots, two people from the ECB tell us about the race. It starts with us being released in five groups – based on our performance in the time trials earlier in the season. Sadly I was so fast at Lord’s I will be amongst the last to leave in the handicap race! The obstacles we have to deal with are; a giant cricket bat that we have to jump over, a ball pit, a giant wicket we need to clamber through, a giant ball we need to run around, and an army assault course net we need to scramble under! Sounds tricky!
1.30 – Pitchside
After our briefing, we’ve been given an hour to spend to ourselves. A few of us try to watch the last part of the first semi-final between Hampshire and Essex by going down the tunnel to the pitch. However, after we sit on the boundary edge, the groundsmen tell us to go away! Boo! Now we don’t know what’s going on in the game! Harry the Hawk (Hampshire) and Eddie the Eagle (Essex) look really disappointed.
1.45 – At the golf club
We all begrudgingly return to our golf club base until we’re needed for the race. While Caesar the Lion (Surrey) tries to chat up the Friends Provident Girls who will be helping Bumble with the race, I sit and chat to Lanky the Giraffe (Lancashire). He tells me that he’s been really training hard for this one, as he’s been in the gym with Andrew Flintoff who’s been battling back from injury. However Lanky says he doesn’t like the look of the scramble net – it looks very close to the ground for his massive neck!
While I’m talking to Lanky, out of nowhere pops Iain O’Brien! OB is working for BBC Five Live today, and has got some time off to wish me good luck for the race! After having his photo taken with me, OB has to dash back to the commentary box where he is on with our own Shaun Udal! OB passes on the message that Shaggy is also rooting for me. Really good to have such great support!
2.15 – On the way to the pitch
With such a tight schedule on Finals Day, our race starts directly after the Essex v Hampshire game finishes, so we need to be ready and waiting near the tunnel as the final ball is bowled. This means that we have to wait next to the practice pitch at the side of the Rose Bowl while the game is going on. Imagine my surprise when I see loads of faces I recognise! All around the ground are dance podiums, where cheerleaders and street dancers are celebrating boundaries and wickets. Taking a short break from their work as cheerleaders are the Middlesex Pantherettes! After catching up with the girls, they also pledge their support to me! Thanks! With OB, Shaggy, myself and the Pantherettes all at the Rose Bowl, it’s a real shame that the team didn’t make it – but with so many Middlesex people around it really feels like Lord’s!
2.30 – End of first semi-final
While we’re still waiting outside, the first semi-ends, with Hampshire winning with four balls to spare. As we all have to wait in our race ordered rows, I am ironically alongside Eddie and Harry. Eddie is obviously upset, but he and Harry share a friendly handshake in commiseration (and congratulation). It’s great to see such friendship amongst the mascots who have known each other years!
2.35 – Rain!
The semi-final ended just as it started to rain, which means our race is delayed. We’re all really upset, as we all just want to get out there and run! As it is my first year in the race, I am really nervous, but Hugh Bear (Warwickshire) gives me some tips. Hugh won it last year, and has been in every mascot race, so knows what he is talking about! His main tip is to stand up as much as possible, because if you fall over, it may take ages to get back up again!
2.45 – Still raining!
Frustratingly it’s still raining here in the tunnel. Luckily we’re not getting wet, but the longer the rain goes on, the less chance we’ll get to run. Some people are even running around asking to cancel the race! We’re all understandably upset as we all want to get out there!
2.55 – Rain has stopped!
The weather has abated and we get the nod to get out there! Sadly we don’t have much time to prepare, and are thrust straight to the starting line. I take my first step onto the Rose Bowl surface and… splash! My paws are soaked! I trod straight in the biggest puddle on the pitch. Silly me! That’ll really hamper my chances in this race, but I’m still confident I can win. I guess I’m just used to the excellent drainage at Lord’s where I don’t have to worry about puddles! Us panthers don’t like water!
3.00 – And the race has started!
I’m in the third row, and there are five second delays between each row starting...
3.00 and 10 seconds
As I’m in the third row, I’m not ready or expecting to go until the third klaxon is sounded. However, on the second klaxon, all of the other mascots from behind me barge through! They’ve cheated! I’m so stunned and surprised I don’t react until too late and they’ve all raced off miles ahead. I guess I’ve got a lot of catching up to do!
The giant bat
I manage to catch up with everyone by the time of the giant bat, and while some other mascots are struggling with it’s size, I jump straight over and move into fifth place!
The ball pool
I jump quickly into the ball pool after overtaking Stumpy the Dragon (Somerset) before… DISASTER! Stumpy, the 7 foot dragon, falls straight on top of me, and can’t get up! I’m pinned beneath Stumpy as all the other mascots stream past me. And even worse – my head has fallen off! This is the worst possible thing to have happened. And because it’s raining, the ball pool has become filled with water so am now drenched. This really isn’t going well!
The giant wicket
I fineally emerge from the ball pool in last position, as everyone else is far far ahead. However, using my panther speed, I overtake a few people on the approach to the giant wicket, and speed past a few more whilst clambering across. Come on! While I know I can’t win anymore, I am just hoping to get a respectable position!
The giant ball
I approach the giant ball still well behind many of the other mascots, but race round quickly to find…
The scramble net
The low lying net has already trapped a few of my competitors, but it is no match for me! I emerge from the net in twelfth position with only the final straight to go. Come on Pinky!
As I run down the straight, I can see the other mascots tiring and spot my chance. I overtake the old enemy Surrey’s Caesar, as well as Ellie the Eagle and Hugh Bear on the line. I’ve finished 9th!
While I was obviously aiming to win, coming 9th was a great achievement, especially considering that I was in last position at a few stages of the race! And with a couple of mascots being disqualified for using the wrong footwear, I was awarded the position of 7th – not bad!
3.15 – Golf club
After the race, we all congratulate Lanky the Giraffe for a great win. Lanky led all the way around, and deserved to win it. Max Mynah (Yorkshire) came second, with Sid the Shark (Sussex) pipping Nuts for third. Well done to all of them, they ran a good race! Looking back at my own performance I can take some learning into next year’s race, and hopefully come on stronger. Personally seventh was disappointing as I came to the Rose Bowl to win, but I hope that the Middlesex fans who saw my performance were proud of it! I definitely hope to come back to Finals Day next year and win it!
All the mascots say their goodbyes to each other, as many of them are travelling home. However, I want to watch the cricket, so Bomber the Spitfire (Kent) and myself retake our seats and enjoy the action. Tired and sore after the race, I am lucky to watch two great games between Somerset and Notts, and Hampshire and Somerset. Despite rooting for ex-Middlesex men Murali Kartik and Nick Compton’s Somerset, Hampshire steal victory by virtue of wickets in hand after a tied score! Wow!
1.00 (next morning) – Pinky Towers
I return home after a really tiring, but amazing day. I’d like to say thanks to the Middlesex fans who sent me their well wishes either via Facebook or in person at the Rose Bowl. Sadly I didn’t win this year, but hopefully we’ll be able to celebrate a double victory at next years Finals Day – a win in the mascot race for me, and a win in the T20 for Middlesex!