A long trek to Luton (in Bedfordshire!) for the latest Herts league fixture for the Chantry First team. For the first time in over 9 years, Dave Baldwin was back representing Chantry in a special guest appearance. For the extra-nerdy reader – Dave’s last appearance for Chantry was on 13th November 2007 – as string 5 against Harlow, losing 3-2 to Richard Lewis. That was so long ago that the Chantry #1 was Tom Brady and we were still playing to 9!
Still at String 5 after all those years, Dave turned out in all-green leprechaun kit, perhaps in an effort to bring him some of the luck of the Irish in his match against Scott. It certainly seemed to work because he effortlessly outclassed his opponent and ran out a 3-0 winner 15-7, 15-4, 15-10. So one-up for Chantry in double-quick time.
On the other court Paul played the 2nd string early because of late arrivals. Paul was up against 17-year old Sean. In the warm-up, Sean – who had been playing at 1 until now – was showing off his “moves”, cracking cross-courts into the nick. In an unusual leftie vs leftie confrontation, the match started with Sean playing some lovely boasts and drives to build up a healthy 6-1 lead in the first. But Paul starts to mix up his game and gradually pulls it back and sends the game to a tie-break but can’t finish it off with Sean winning 16-14. The second game starts and Paul seems to have sussed out his opponent (who, according to his team-mates, “thinks he’s better than he is”) and is picking him off with boasts and drops as Sean hangs back behind the T. Paul closes out the 2nd game 15-12 and then builds up a healthy lead in the 3rd. But Sean realises he needs to fight back and picks up his game to eat into Paul’s lead. At 12-10, Paul pounces on loose a boast to the front left and is going for a drop when he hears Sean advancing and tries to turn the shot into a drive but puts it in the tin. That turns out to be the turning point of the game and Sean closes it out 15-12. By now Paul is on his last legs and feeling his extra 30+ years and Sean wins the fourth 15-10 to take the match 3-1.
Meahwhile Vinh is up against Irish Terry, who doesn’t have the skill of Vinh but dominates the court and uses his long reach to pick off balls that most people wouldn’t reach. Terry also plays a quite physical game and puts Vinh off his game. The first game is tight with Terry nicking it 15-13, and in the 2nd Vinh starts to get annoyed with his opponent but refuses to adjust his adherence to a pure line and length game – except his length is too long and his line is often not tight enough. It might look pretty but it’s not being very effective and he goes down again, this time 15-12. It’s time to dig deep and Vinh starts to channel some of his anger into playing more aggressively and builds up a solid lead in the 3rd – but then he reverts back to bad habits and Terry fights back, but Vinh holds on for a 16-14 win. Terry is looking pooped so maybe Vinh has now got the upper hand, perhaps he can go for the kill now. Unfortunately not, Terry rallies and niggles Vinh again who loses his focus and loses the game 15-13 for a 3-1 overall loss.
String 3 is Mark vs John. The first game is tight and marked by some long rallies, with both players doing a good impression of being squash players. Mark builds up a good lead and hangs on to close it out 16-14. So first blood to Mark, but it was all downhill from there as John got into his rhythm and began to float around the court effortlessly picking off everything that Mark could throw at him. In only a matter of a few minutes, Mark had succumbed 15-5, 15-4, 15-4 for another 3-1 win for Luton.
Finally, in the dead rubber Carl was up against Craig – the new #1 brought in by Luton when they realised they were playing the mighty Chantry. The match started strangely with the score reaching 6-6 without a rally of any form being played – both player playing killer services returns time after time. The game barely improves as a spectacle but Carl manages to eek out a 16-14 win. The second game follows the same pattern but with Craig managing to play more winners successfully to make it 1-1 with a 15-11 win – and we’re still to see a rally of more than 5 or 6 shots! However, when there is a bit of rally it is Carl who mostly wins them. Perhaps a change in tactics could help Carl?
In the third game there is finally a rally – a whole 8 shots (yes, the audience really had been reduced to counting shots in the hope of spotting a rally!) which Carl wins, but he gives Craig too many opportunities to play his kills and Craig takes it 16-14. Both players clearly tired out by that one rally, the fourth game reverts to type (although we do get one 7-shot rally near the end) and by this time Craig has got the upper hand in the battle of the killers and wins it easily 15-8.
So a disappointing 4-1 loss for Chantry which knocks us down to 4th in the table, with Ickleford jumping from 4th to 1st with a comprehensive win over Gosling.
After a quick shower it was down the road to the local West Indian club for a great plate of lamb shanks. Top nosh – Vinnie has some competition. Carl even got to sample next weeks jerk chicken (although I’m not sure how good it will be by then).
Next week is a top-of-the-table clash with 2nd place Haileybury. But, STOP PRESS, Haileybury can’t get a team out. Do Chantry either offer them a new date or shamelessly take all 20 points on offer? Use the comments below to vote!!