It was a cold and gloomy morning as the new-look Cambs II team met to kick off their 2013-14 ICC campaign. Indeed, activities were almost thwarted at the offset, with the team skipper almost laid low with a nasty tongue injury courtesy of the Wild Bean Cafe, and the team being separated early on by a late arrival (Brampton...Brampton Hut... What's the difference?).
However, these initial difficulties were overcome, and the team arrived to face a Warwickshire III team fielding a very familiar face, as Cambs' own Hannah Sharman had been drafted in as opposition.
Leading the line, Stephen Pickering and Neil Place began the singles. Having to harshly tip extremely fast shuttles, both struggled to establish dominance and fell in straight sets to the Warks men, albeit with Neil's traditional never-say-die attitude leading to a 21-23 loss in the second end.
Cambs II ladies were new-again-but-familiar faces, as Kate Marshall and Vicky Norris both returned to the fold after seasons away. However, the Warks players were again too strong, and both also lost in straight sets.
It was clear that it was going to be a struggle to extract points from the match. However, Cambs applied themselves with renewed vigor to the doubles. Neil and Daniel Bates were annoyingly pipped in the third end of their first doubles, losing 19-21 after failing to establish a lead throughout the game. Stephen and debutant Abu Kaher had almost identical games against the same pair, but managed to bring that third end in with a nail-biting 23-21. The other mens doubles were more comfortable, although still took three ends for Cambs wins.
The ladies doubles was a straight balance. Katie Morton and another debutant Adele Woodhams (ex Sussex) showed good understanding for a new pairing, winning both their games. Kate and Vicky found the going harder, and lost their games, despite some promising points and winning the first end of their second game.
That had resulted in a Warks carrying a 7-5 lead into the mixed. Cambs still harboured the silent (hah!) hope that they might sneak a victory in classic mixed smash-and-grab style. Sadly, Neil and Katie found the first Warks pair simply too fast and powerful, and were defeated 12-21, 14-21. With three courts in play by now though, the others were unaware. Stephen and Adele - having only met a couple of hours before - fought a tough game and came out winners, 23-12, 14-21, 21-19. Daniel and Kate finally secured the honour games, winning 21-13, 21-23, 21-16 and leaving the final score 8-7 to Warks.
This was a tough start for a team with many new and returning faces against a team relegated from a higher division last season (plus Hannah!). However, there are many positives to be taken. There is good strength in depth in this Cambs II squad, a lots of potential. With more experience, they should make great strides in their division this season.
The team: Stephen Pickering, Neil Place, Abu Kaher, Daniel Bates (c), Katie Morton, Adele Woodhams, Kate Marshall, Vicky Norris.
More information about results of the Cambs II team is available on the Team Page.