Division Three: Lostock 7 – 2 Hilton ‘K’
There was a moment tonight around the start of the penultimate match (Mike McKend Vs Brian Young) when Lostock’s John Nuttall and Arfat Khan burst down the clubhouse stairs to be with a couple of adoring female fans. In many ways it was timely – a micro-VE Day; not quite the capitulation of Nazi Germany, but more to do with an unfortunate Safron Newhouse foot injury.
It wasn’t a conscious celebration but it did coincide with an ‘over-the-line’ 5-2 lead. The whooping gaiety, whilst not exactly on a level with the noise generated by the May 1945 Piccadilly Circus crowds, was poignant nonetheless (Nuttall, strengthening his Churchillian reputation after each campaign and Khan, languid yet surprisingly lethal).
I had entered this curtained cove knowing that there were a couple of serious IDC gunslingers present – Hilton’s Mathew Fishwick (newly-crowned Division Two champion*) with his ‘bionic’ right arm and Lostock’s Nuttall (Division Three champion) with something of the amphetamine-laced Speedy Gonzales about him.
Both had early matches which should have consumed a good portion of their dominant spirit, yet with the exception of Fishwick/Khan (3-2) this was a cakewalk, a channel-changer, a lumpen no-show.
Brian Young, blue and white Hilton top proudly clinging to his chest, was the first faller – a nondescript, out of character performance producing a mere eight points against the unforgiving Nuttall (11-1, 11-4, 11-3). Khan – fight and humour ever-present – succumbed to Fishwick’s battle-hardened game (11-3, 6-11, 11-5, 9-11, 11-5). Newhouse, inhibited by the damage to her tendon, allowed Nuttall another free ride (11-6, 11-2, 11-2). McKend – commendable huff, puff and valour but insufficient to halt Fishwick’s finely-tuned splendour (11-6, 11-9, 11-8).
Other battles played out: McKend, a slight scare versus Newhouse, before chugging home (13-11, 2-11, 11-7, 12-10); Khan comfortable (11-9, 11-13, 11-4, 11-5) with Young…the latter’s right knee bandaged, his surname now a misnomer; Khan more impressive against Newhouse – his doggedness toughing it out (11-9, 13-11, 13-11) although Newhouse missed set point with a free smash in the second when 11-10 up; McKend compounding Lostock’s lead (6-2) with a 3-0 thumping of Young.
And so came the Nuttall/Fishwick showdown on the rickety Dunlop table. I had hoped for something to enliven the evening, something to hook me like a good film. Enter “the fastest mouse in all of Mexico (or Bolton)” – no mercy, no fear (11-7, 11-2, 11-7). Rare to see Fishwick so lost.
* Exception made – eligible for Div2 IDC due to declined promotion from Div3