Mens 2 v Graves (H) - 12/5/14

Ranmoor Mens 2 played Graves on a neutral venue at Concord Sports Centre in an attempt to avoid 24 straight defeats for our two mens teams this season. Mens 2 had been handicapped this season by the loss of key players from last season such as Alastair and Nathan, plus unavailability this season for players such as Ben, Deepak, Rich and Arun (combination of injuries and working away). So we have found it tough but we always have classics against Graves.

Our opponents needed to win to have a chance of staying up, which they will do if Beaver Hill lose their final game against Abbeydale. They came with probably the strongest team they have ever put out against us, two regular pairs and a third pair with one player coming back from a serious injury who we have faced before.

Graves are a side who destroy anything mid court, have a brilliant defence and make few errors, but, like us, can lift to mid court from the back. The side picked was one who could create the chance then put it away. That was the theory anyway!

Steve and Rob took on the strongest pair first, only Deepak and Ian last season managing to beat these two, in three tight ends. We shared two tight ends to 17, and led 11-7 at the changeover in the third before a series of errors let Graves in and they won the rubber to 16, all four players patting each other on the back for a fantastic game. Shiraz and George formed a new partnership and did well in their first rubber, but lost to 15 and 15.

Steve kept Arun and Prithvi together despite misgivings about putting too much brilliance (let’s be honest, on form they have plenty of it!) in one basket. They played a tight three ender which when combined with Steve and Robs looked like time would be our biggest enemy in our short 2.25 hour evening. Having lost to 19 and won to 18 our boys then came through to 15 in the third to retain hopes not just of a spot in Mens 1 next season, but also of winning Steve’s uniquely statistical Player of the Year at Captain’s Night!

Arun and Prithvi then went straight through with no break, winning their second game against the best pair to 10 and 18 – our first straight ends victories against these two in two years. Easing aside the third pair to 6 and 14 they took a 100% record from the night.

Steve and Rob then tossed away an end, distracted by the need to coordinate an imminent court change for our men and women. After finally sorting out when this was to be we focused on the game and played out another tight end, sadly losing it on tie break. George and Shiraz lost to 9 and 10 in their game. That meant Graves were 4-3 up with two games to finish, which were both against their same pair, but the clock was ticking and only 40 minutes left to play!

Needing one rubber to (maybe) stay up, Graves insisted on keeping to scorecard order which meant George and Shiraz played them next, and our guys played a superb rubber but were pipped to 18 and 19 which won Graves the match! Well done to our two guys though for some brilliant play in an enforced new pairing. After a 45 minute break Steve and Rob, the latter playing some lovely shots on the night, had to play the final dead rubber in 15 minutes, and a game of rapid speed badminton ensued, both sides knowing there was only time for two quick ends. In the end this hilarious game finished 21-17 21-17 to Graves with 30 seconds to spare, the sports centre guys racing on to set up the 5 a side footie!

Well done Graves, a pleasure to play them as always, and they deserved some luck with Ranmoor having a much changed team than turned up to play them a month ago to find exam chairs in the sports hall. Our fears materialised from September when we knew two unstoppable teams were coming up into our division, and an inability to get a consistent team out hasn’t helped, so let’s now make it a single season visit back to Division 4 and hope everyone is stronger for the experience.