There was heartbreak again for the Cambridgeshire senior IInd team on Sunday, when they were pipped to the Badminton England Inter Counties Championship (ICC) Division 5D playoff spot by a single game. To add insult to injury, the Lincolnshire team were led by England International prospect Harley Towler - the same player who two years previously almost to the day had won the games in the match which condemned the IInd team to relegation from Division 4.
Going into the game on Sunday, Cambs II and Lincs I were tied at the top of the table, level on both points, and games for and against. It was apparent from the outset that it was going to be a tough match, as Lincs had supplemented their squad with two other strong players: Rodger Annis and Chloe Sidwell. In the singles, Tom Li (j) battled manfully against Towler, but was beaten in straight games, as was Mindaugas Dabasinskas despite mounting a spirited second end which he lost 24-22. Molly Carter (j) also suffered her first singles defeat of the season in straight games against Sidwell, so it was only Katie Morton who took points, with a confident straight sets 21-14, 21-7 victory.
Cambridgeshire went into the doubles resolved to turn the tide of the game, and while the ladies prevailed, the men found the going much harder. Captain Daniel Bates and James Wilson went into the game against Towler and Annis hoping to begin the fight back. After a thrilling first end which they won 27-25, they were unable to maintain their momentum, and lost in three. Molly and Liz Salmon were also enjoying a marathon match, mirroring the men by losing their first game 25-27, but then taking the rubber. In the other doubles, Tom and Paul Martell lost in straight games 21-12, 21-15, while Katie and Jessica Sharman (j) won 21-14, 21-19.
The reverse doubles saw very similar results, with both men's pairs losing in straight games, while the ladies both won, despite a mid-game dip by Liz and Molly.
That left the score 7-5 to Lincs going into the mixed, and with Towler ranked 19 in the country at mixed, the need to win all three seemed a stretch too far for the Cambs team. James and Katie, and Tom and Molly showed Cambs' traditional mixed class, by winning in straight games 21-19, 21-15 and 21-17, 21-15 respectively. Daniel and Jess started with a concerted effort to cut Towler out of the game, but found that this only served to confuse their strategy, and they lost 21-2. In the second game, they resolved to play for pride and took a more creditable 21-12, but with that result the match - and the playoff hope - was lost.
For the first time in years, the Cambs IInd team has enjoyed a season where the squad has been settled, and high hopes of a playoff spot were only dashed by sharing the group with a very strong County Ist team. With the Cambs Ist team looking likely to be relegated from Division IB this year, the only ray of light for the season is now likely to be the IIIrd team, who have won their Division 5 group and head into the playoffs at the end of April.
Daniel Bates (c), Paul Martell, Katie Morton: Hurst Badminton Club
Thomas Li: Pearl Badminton Club
Molly Carter, Liz Salmon, Mindaugas Dabasinskas: St Ives Badminton Club
James Wilson: Ely Victoria Badminton Club
Jessica Sharman: Court Badminton Club
More information about results of the Cambs II team is available on the Team Page.