Division One: Bolton University ‘A’ 1-8 Hilton ‘B’
A can of Dr Pepper lingered on the umpire’s table tonight. Had it been a doctor of medicine or psychology – as opposed to carbonated cola – then we might well have had a different outcome.
As it was, Bolton University’s Graham Clayborough, Sam Evans and Kirit Chauhan fell away in the second half of this eagerly sought encounter; their belief shot through a little, their Division Two skills from last season not quite making the grade in this higher league.
Hilton, their opponents, are a curious proposition: Dave Scowcroft, the northern mauler; Eddie Simon, something regal and chic about him; Alan Ingerson, southpaw maestro when his energy levels allow.
Clayborough opened Bolton University’s account with a cagey, yet decisive 3-2 win over Simon (7-11, 11-5, 11-9, 9-11, 11-5) but any thoughts of it being a harbinger of success were painfully dashed.
Evans, Aztec shorts, black top and Stiga trainers certainly looked the part and his loose grip of the bat had the wondrous effect of arching the ball from his favoured left-side of the table at times.
Against Scowcroft though, the man staring him down, things are never simple. With only one straight-sets loss so far this season (versus Bethany Farnworth), Scowcroft – even on a relatively off-night – displays the bounce and vigour of a young greyhound. There is a conspicuous upping of the tempo when he comes to the table. If he was on a sinking ship, you sense that he’d be first to the lifeboat – circumventing the “women and children first” protocol.
An 11-7 and 11-2 start for Scowcroft suggested this match was going with form until Evans’ deep, ripping forehands and fine-length loops unsettled the Hilton man (11-13, 8-11). The story had to inevitably end with a Scowcroft win, however – his trusted backhand dispatching Evans in the final set 11-6.
Ingerson followed this up with an equally shaky performance in what was billed the ‘Little and Large Show’ – Chauhan giving up one foot in height. 11-2. 5-11. 11-13. 11-7. The Hilton giant appears, at times, too dependent on his cranking top spin, but then the bewitching blocks mix up his game and he somehow ends with a smile (11-7); the weary, mopping of his face before the 4th managing to galvanize him.
The climax was a subdued, yet rich victory for Hilton: Evans 1-3 Simon, Graham 0-3 Ingerson, Chauhan 0-3 Scowcroft, Evans 0-3 Ingerson, Clayborough 0-3 Scowcroft, Chauhan 0-3 Simon.