This weekend saw the crucial bottom of the table clash between Cambridgeshire I and Nottinghamshire III, with both teams needing points to avoid relegation. A win would not be be enough for Cambs, who needed the full 3 points offered by a 10-5 victory to avoid the drop. The usual list of injuries and unavailabilities that has left Cambs in this position was only amplified before this game with just one out of eight nominated players fit and able to play.
With Cambs only regular mens singles player on the injury bench it was left to successful doubles player Neil Place to open up the game. Taking full advantage of his opponent arriving late and missing the warm up Place took he first set but was outclassed as the Notts player got into his stride, beaten heavily in the remaining two sets. Veteran Kevin Barron, talked out of retirement to help with the injury crisis reminded everyone of his quality with very confident straight sets victory to level the match. Natalie Taylor, having missed the first half of the season continued her bid to single handedly save Cambs from relegation with a fantastic two set victory, completely justifying her selection as top singles player. Olga Bryant did not let her unusual position of second singles put her off her game as she too continued her bid to regain full fitness with a comfortable victory giving Cambs at 3-1 lead after the singles.
Barron teamed up with fellow retiree Nick Pratt for doubles and came through a nail biting game to beat Notts second pair, using all their experience to win on setting in both ends. Unfortunately their consistent style of play was not suited for their other game, this time beaten on setting in both games. Place and James Wilson, the most successful parternship of this season played some fantastic badminton, mixing flair with determination winning both their games, making it four out of four in the last two county matches.
The ladies doubles saw Taylor team up with club parter Amanda Godfrey to great effect with one straightfoward win before an extremely tense second game which the Cambs pair just held on to take in the third set. Godfrey once again was very impressive on promotion from her second team slot, coping extremely well with the heavy targeted she received from Notts. The new pairing of Bryant and Liz Salmon did not enjoy the same success- the final match of the season not the ideal time to play as a new pair- as they started strongly but faded and were beaten in both games. The three mens and two ladies wins meant Cambs had won the match but still had a mountain to climb- needing two out of three mixed to pull off a miraculous escape and avoid relegation.
Such was the close matched standard of the players that all three mixed games went the distance to three ends as the pairs of Bryant/Pratt, Taylor/Wilson and Salmon/Place gave everything they had to try to save the county. Disappointingly all three games went to Notts, and while avoiding a cliche the games really could have gone either and whoever lost would have felt hard done by. All three pairs played to their potential, with just a couple of understandably nervous shots costing the team in the end.
So a bittersweet victory for Cambs as they won 8-7 but were relegated to division 3. A good win though over a strong team and the players should take great credit for their performances. It was results earlier in the season that cost Cambs, leaving them too far adrift for recent back to back victories to save them. A lack of consistency- 8 different teams fielded for the 8 matches, with not a single player featuring in every match was responsible for failure this season, however recent results show Cambs are more than capable of competing in this division and after a brief interlude fully expect to be back where they belong in division 2 next season.