In the Company of Kings

Premier Division: Nomads B 1- 8 Ramsbottom A

History has walked before me when it comes to witnessing the games of Ramsbottom’s Michael Moir and Richard Lightowler. Both are proven masters – Top 75 ETTA-ranked players in 2012.

I feel like a fraud and bounder in their company, a Division Two scrapper who needs weaning off his basic table tennis rubbers.

It is Nomads’ Paul Brandwood up first against the polish of Moir’s game; Brandwood, deadpan expression – drier than a case of American Ginger Ale; Moir, stubble-faced, unaware that he has conceded just two sets this season.

They are privileged to be playing on the Cornilleau 740 – the finest table for miles. Brandwood, unemotional, strips down to his 1980s shorts. He must mean business. His form this season has been erratic, but with Ramsbottom in town, perhaps there has been some pre-match meditation, a transcending of his normal mindset.

11-9. The first set to Moir. 11-2. A crisp, angled forehand to compound matters. This isn’t looking good. One question has always been asked of Brandwood: Can his innate skills thrive in matches or – to quote Ian Botham – “Is he just good in the practice nets?”

Seeing him close hand, you know he could play blindfolded. Nonchalance would be an understatement. 3-0 down though. He is nearly on the canvas. But then… something radiates his game. Brandwood refuses to bow out. 9-11. Finally, he has summoned up a little nerve and put his pride on the line.

Moir compliments him but knows his own stash of energy will be too much. Indeed it is. 11-6. Serves with a little extra sauce on them. Early backhand returns. Nobody completely beats Brandwood – defeats are often self-inflicted.

Nomads’ Dennis Collier is next versus Andrew Jackson. Collier is the chopper extraordinare – a defensive guru. He often runs out of space such is his tenacity. His enemies tend to be stray storage heaters, fire extinguishers, chairs, radiators. Every inch is essential to his game.

He begins well. 11-6. 17-15. Each point is operatic – wondrous to watch. Jackson then unsettles him – mixes it up (9-11, 14-16). “Ohhh!” Collier feels the drudgery, the heaped effort but brings it home: 13-11.

Lightowler now. The Dewsbury beast. He looks like a man who has returned from four wars, who feasts on 16oz steaks, tosses cabers for fun and wrestles with his cousins pre-match. Too strong for Sean Toland (3-0) and symbolic of Ramsbottom’s superiority.

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