Cambs IInd team faced the return match against the Leicestershire IIIrd team on Sunday 13th January at CRC, in another tiffin-fuelled nailbiter.
Starting with the singles, the match followed the identical pattern of the away leg, with Paul Heads and Stephen Pickering picking up the mens singles, while Katie Morton and Laurel Bennett struggled to apply pressure against a much-changed Leicestershire side.
Going into the levels, Paul and James Wilson continued to develop the understanding in their partnership, winning in straight sets. However, it was a shock to see the new pairing of captain Daniel Bates and Stephen Pickering beaten in two ends despite a late rally, victims of poor touch and consistency. Thankfully, the ladies had more success this time, with Katie and Jessica Sharman combining well to win their game, although Laurel and Louise Tarbit (struggling with a ill-advised netball injury) lost in straight sets.
The second round of doubles followed exactly the same path. James and Paul kept their heads(!) to win despite losing the first end, Daniel and Stephen failed to capitalise on a mid-game turnaround, Katie and Jessica stayed strong to win another three-end marathon, and Laurel and Louise found the final winning handful of points difficult to grasp.
That left the match absolutely in the balance, 6-6 going into the dramatic final mixed round. Paul and Katie had established a strong lead in their first game, but half-way through the second the Leicestershire player suffered a debilitating attack of cramp, and eventually had to withdraw. In second berth, James and Louise struggled to find their consistency, and lost the first end quickly. Despite ratcheting up their effort levels, they also lost the second end, albeit to 19.
That left the entire hushed hall, watching rapt as Daniel and Jessica went into their third end. Having lost the first end closely to 19, they had upped their pace in the second and won comfortably to 15. They established a good lead, and then finally, with Jessica serving in an atmosphere where you could hear a pin drop, they closed out the game, and the match.
Once again, it had ended 8-7 to Cambridgeshire. Cue exhausted smiles, and a completion of the remaining tiffin rations.
Voting for Player of the Match (MVP) was completed by early evening - a record - and was awarded to Jessica for her all-round performance and cool head in the final reckoning.
An oddly laid-out fixture list now sees the IInd team face Staffordshire again, before two double-headers against Northants and then Ulster.
The team: Daniel Bates (c), Katie Morton: Hurst Badminton Club / Paul Heads, Louise Tarbit, James Wilson: Ely Victoria Badminton Club / Jessica Sharman: Court Badminton Club / Stephen Pickering, Laurel Bennett
More information about results of the Cambs II team is available on the Team Page.