Mens 2 v Graves (H) - 11/2/13

The Mens 2 took to the stage again against our old foes Graves, who came up with us last season and have already beaten us 7-2 at their place this.

Both sides were missing players, but Graves had the most unfortunate story. They have beaten Beaver Hill at home, but lost away, and the away game had an incident where one of their players received a badly broken ankle. Ouch!
We had kept Rich and Rob together after two games on the trot with winning records. Captain Steve brought in Jethron to play with him, and Ian was playing with Deepak.
The first ends were split, with Ian and Deepak picking up a comfortable win, and Steve and Jethron a comfortable defeat against the best pair, sliding around on the unswept floor to no avail. Rich and Rob then took to the floor against the third pair and dug in fantastically well to take the game to a third end which they won - as it turned out the only defeat for this Graves pair all night, would that prove crucial?
At the same time Steve and Jethron took to the floor against the first pair, and narrowly won the first end, but in doing so had identified a strategy - injure Jethron! At 1-0 in points in the second end, Jethron crashed into the sports hall door, his shoe flew off, and he ended up in a heap with a bad ankle. Graves had sportingly called a let fearing a bad injury, but Jethron dusted himself off and our pair romped through the remainder of the rubber, conceding only 2 points and winning 21-2. It was 3-1 to Ranmoor after the second set of matches.

At this point things began to go wrong.
Ian and Deepak played their second match against the pair that Rob and Rich had just beaten, and despite winning the second end to 11, lost the third with "discussions" between our players at the end being heard in the Combined match on the other side of the curtain! Or was it the sound of the racquet hitting the floor, can’t remember? All three pairs had funny incidents today (funny when the heat of battle has cooled at least) , yes, there remains one to come!
Rich and Rob were polished off by the experienced second pair, so Graves had pulled it back to 3-3, and our guys were straight back on, there is no rest for the third pair playing three rubbers on the trot. We now needed to win two out of three and Ian / Deepak were to play the very good best pair, and Steve / Jethron the pair who had beaten Ian / Deepak. I was starting to get pessimistic!
With Steve trying to pass on some tips to Rob against the pair they had just beaten (mainly involving vulnerability to flick serves and ensuring we dominate the net), the rubber played another classic and went to three ends with Rich and Rob playing some incredible stuff. Deepak and Ian were also to three ends in their final game. It was tense!

At this point though match experience kicks in, and Graves have plenty over many years and some of us much less. Not being used to scoring, our boys started struggling with the score and at 15-17 at a pivotal moment in the third, Rich seemed to inadvertently give Graves two points for a winner (confirmed afterwards), and they served next at 19-15, with Steve and Jethron exchanging glances at the side but duty bound to say nothing due to etiquette! Our opponents of course being the away team are under no obligation to say anything! Our boys did a mighty comeback, but were edged 22-20. 4-3 to Graves.
15....16....17....19....This is harder than it looks!

Deepak and Ian took their rubber with a fantastic win against the best pair, proving a “heart to heart” can work wonders at times! It was poised at 4-4 with Steve and Jethron having sat off for an hour, having to go on with all three other courts now empty. Elbows and ankles were now cold and inflamed, but we were up for the fight. Ranmoor were well clear in the first by about 8 points, but too many unforced errors allowed Graves back, and despite some incredible winners from both, coupled with occasional fist pumps, Graves took the end 25-23, but we won the second. The third end was nip and tuck with all four players playing to their maximum, and around the changeover it was 11-11.

At this level unforced errors prove costly and Ranmoor make too many, we know that. We talk about it enough! A couple of errors too many at the end, and Graves took the rubber, and the match. "The best match I have ever played in" exclaimed one of their victorious final pair, "and played in a superb spirit rarely seen". And so say all of us!

Well done Graves, a narrow 5-4 win. It could have gone either way, but no player of the 12 lost all three or won all three. Man of the Match to Deepak for 2 rubbers and only edging Ian due to him leaving, so the MOTM award is his leaving present from me! All six can be proud of their efforts though! Well done to everyone, and to Graves, and hopefully both sides will do enough to meet again next season.