Farnworth on Fire

Little Lever CC ‘B’  5
Hilton ‘C’                     4

Of the 77 points now accumulated by Little Lever, a slight majority (40) have been won on the road. This would suggest that visiting teams take great delight in driving along the aptly-named Victory Road to the Little Lever lair.

Not tonight. Bethany Farnworth is waiting for them like the apoplectic owner of a house about to be burgled. The sleek 15-year-old may appear humble and graceful, yet underneath this deceptive demeanour is a long-limbed warrior, a young ETTA-ranked woman with something to prove each match.

Turning left through the wrought iron gates clasped by the imposing letters ‘LLCC’, you immediately get the sense that you are entering a club with a great history. Indeed, Sir Garfield Sobers played here – as he did more famously with Radcliffe Cricket Club just up the road.

In the shrouded darkness, filled with heavy rain, the weaving track up to the clubhouse could be leading you anywhere – to a country estate, a regal manor or Count Dracula’s castle in the Carpathian Mountains. Lightning doesn’t strike, thank god, when home captain, Paul Tatlock finally skids next to the building in his Citroen C4 at 7.29pm.

We struggle to get inside. One of the bolt locks refuses to budge and so the metal grill cannot be lifted to gain access to the door. Tatlock looks genuinely worried. There is an uncanny resemblance to Bob Parr in both his frame and face. Incredible it would be right now to just get this show on the road.

A second Paul arrives with great mastery of the said lock and sure enough, we are in. It feels like a changing room. It is a changing room, I am told – two of them joined together courtesy of a retreating divide. A terracotta-tiled floor greets the players, along with the feeling that a crazed interior designer with a penchant for red has been allowed inside.

The first match is Tatlock versus Hilton’s impeccably-attired Chris Naylor. The fury of both players is evident: “Oh, no – what’s going on? Come on” “Nooooo!!” “So slow” “Greedy” “Move your body”. 12-10,8-11,11-7,6-11. Tatlock is breathing heavily. This is uncomfortable territory. His Velvet Underground T-shirt is soaked already. The final set leaves him demoralised: 1-11.

Bethany Farnworth (red top) takes her position against Annie Hudson (blue) next. It is the neutral’s showdown with a hint of ‘Merseyside derby’ about it. Their win percentages are 62% and 90% and such stats account for the early Hudson dominance (11-6,11-6); trademark forehands swatting and dismissive. I confess to writing off Farnworth’s chances at this point. She seems a little disparate, not quite the force I had expected.

“Hit it harder,” comes the simple advice from teammate, Richard Simmons. 11-9,11-5. Instinctive backhand returns, great reach and a quiet steeliness get Farnworth back into it. There is, all of a sudden, a Mediterranean-like poise to this girl. Neither player deserves to lose such is the grand spectacle before us, but it is Farnworth who toils with her deadly forehand to the end: 11-9.

“Flippin’ eck!!!!!”

Div One – Top 7      P     W   L     F     A         Pts
Coburg                       16    16   0    96  48        96
Hilton C                     16    10  6     88  56        88
Standish                    15      9   6     85  50        85
Heaton A                  16   10   6     81  63       81
Hilton B                     14     9   5     80  46        80
Nomads C                16     9   7     78  66        78
Little Lever CC B  16    8   8     77  67         77

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