It’s been a tough season for the Cambridgeshire second team, struggling for consistency while only fielding the same set of ladies once, and never the same mixed pairings. Another new-look team travelled the long road to Ipswich for the second of back-to-back games against second-placed Suffolk. Having lost 6-9 only two weeks before, and facing Suffolk on their (somewhat illusive) Ipswich YMCA home turf, the second team knew that that they would have to pull off something really special if they were to bring anything home. With the fight for survival at the bottom of the league looking like it will go to the final games, every point counts at this stage.
Having observed the singles competition in the previous match, the men of the team had conferred and agreed that no-one was likely to have the strength to conquer the Suffolk premiere man. Captain Daniel Bates agreed to sacrifice his statistics for the team, and to preserve energy levels for the other men to play the other disciplines. However, while he was beaten swiftly, the youthful trinity of Sam Pickup, Jess Sharman and Molly Carter, all fought bravely. While Jess was overcome, Sam and Molly gave the team renewed hope by winning their singles - Molly battling through to win in two straight games. A superb introduction to representing the County in singles at second team level.
The viewing balcony was a maelstrom of emotions at this point, with the frustrations of selection disagreements swirling intermixed with the heady suspicion that there were vital points to be taken from the match. However, as the doubles started, it seemed like any frustrations were being focused anew into effort in the games. The men matched their previous results, with Sam and Paul Martell continuing a long season of excellent performances and capturing both games. Daniel and Rob Couch struggled to match their consistency, with thundering wins one end being matched by unsettled defeats at the other.
It was the ladies’ results that once again offered hope of some reward from the day, with Lisa Hawes and Sandra Ashcroft applying themselves vigorously against the Suffolk first pair, and coming out winners in the third end. With Jess and Molly also winning against the same pair in an extremely tense grandstand finish (and showing a calmness belying their ages), the ladies also came away from the doubles with two vital games.
That left the match 7-5 going into the mixed, and by that time the team was growing in confidence and spirit. Surprisingly, this seasons Mr and Mrs Reliable - Paul and Sandra, were beaten quickly. Victims of some rearrangement of the Suffolk pairings from the previous match. However, the blending of (very) old age and youth in the new pairings of Daniel and Jess, and Rob and Molly, fought valiantly, and amid much cheering and celebration, took both their games to three ends, leaving the result 9-6 in Cambridgshire’s favour. A terrific result against a strong team towards the top of the league.
This reversal of the previous result is a testament to the effort put in by the team, and the spirit shown. With only two matches left – one of which is against the only team below Cambridgeshire in the league (by three points) – and continuing to face selection difficulties due to clashing commitments, it is that continued effort that the team will need to ensure security for next year. However, with youngsters like Sam, Jess and Molly improving with every game, the outlook for the second team should be bright.