Comb 2 v Wisewood 1 (H) - 11/11/13

Combined 2 started off their season with a much changed team against old rivals Wisewood 1, who were pipped to promotion by ourselves two years ago but secured it at the expense of Sheffield Forum last season. Wisewood included their club’s top three male players, currently top of Mens Division 2, so were an incredibly tough challenge, and to compound the problem have an average age of (we are guessing) 22 years compared to the more likely 42 years of Ranmoor (reduced somewhat by the puppy fat of Ben, our only sub-40 candidate!).

We were hopeful given the skill of their men that our ladies would counter it by having the edge in that category, but as it turned out the ladies were also decent players and on a level with ours.

The level doubles kicked off the evening, beginning with Ravi and Ben taking on Wisewood’s most experienced man alongside his young colleague who next year will be playing for Yorkshire. Our boys battled hard but lost to 11 in each end. Cat and Jane took on the ladies equivalent pair, and despite taking the first end to a tie break lost to 19 and 14. The second set of levels saw normal league partnerships resumed as Mens 2 captain Steve and his normal league partner Ben took on Wisewood’s top league pair, the two young gents who have beaten Ranmoor on a number of occasions. Our boys started well but again couldn’t get past 11, before pushing much closer in the second end before a late rally saw Wisewood win to 17. The ladies saw stand in captain Lesley begin her campaign with Cat, playing against probably the two strongest Wisewood ladies. On this occasion though, our ladies had too much power and craft, winning to 19 and 16. It was therefore 3-1 to Wisewood after the level doubles and we were starting to feel pessimistic.

If the levels were the starter, the mixed turned out to be the main course, with 5 classic rubbers in which the losing team got to 19 at least once in each rubber. This six from Ranmoor all possess grit, nerve and a hatred of losing, and this was epitomised in all 5 rubbers with titanic battles against classy opposition, many of whom could hold their own in Division 1.

Ravi and Jane started in a new pairing at the same time as Steve and Lesley played together in a match for the first time, 12 years after joining Ranmoor and 11 years after their marriage! Despite the dire premonition of the level doubles, both games were nip and tuck classic affairs, with lengthy rallies particularly among the gents, back and forth, corner to corner. Ravi and Jane came off court just before Steve and Lesley finished with a despairing floor slide after a Wisewood drop sat on top of the net at match point, before slowly dropping down the Ranmoor side. Both matches had identical scores, losing to 18 and 19, that final lucky drop from Wisewood securing the match and a 5-1 lead.

The consolation rubbers proved just as tight, with Ben and Cat out first and fighting bravely before going down to 19 and 17, Ben unluckily playing the imminent county player in all 3 games. Ravi and Jane finished next, yet another tie break going against us with a loss to 13 and 19. Finally, Steve and Lesley suffered from post-flapjack fatigue (thanks to Sam’s mum and to captain Dave for the invisible biscuits!) with a slow start going 12-1 down before rallying but losing to 9, before a second end saw us way ahead ourselves from point 1, losing three game points but still winning to 16. The only third end of the night then concluded proceedings, with Steve and Lesley again ahead all the way, following Ravi’s good advice for how to play this pair, but then a series of Wisewood shots found the line brilliantly before digging in further to defend 2 match points before turning the tables and Wisewood winning 23-21.

A classic evening of badminton and well done to Wisewood for winning 8-1, and for being a really friendly bunch who are always welcome at Ranmoor. Definitely not relegation contenders on that showing and probably happy to consolidate whilst Venturers and the two relegated sides in all likelihood contest the top 2 places. For Ranmoor, some fantastic play by all six players with the scoreline not reflecting the night, and boding really well for the games ahead.