The Ember Croquet team travelled over to Caterham-on-the-hill on Saturday. Our team was admirably led by Roger Stearn for the first time, who was well prepared with a copy of the AC rules, and abreast of the new B League format. Simon Charrington provided horsepower plus refreshment at both ends of the day, though sadly no bacon bap at breakfast, he redeemed himself with a slice of Coop ginger cake in the evening. The third Ember player was Steve Edney.
The B league format this year is thus: 3 players, A,B and C, per team; six 14-point games of which three are singles and three are doubles. All players must have a handicap of 10 or over. As our form player Simon (handicap 12) played Matt from Caterham in the first singles. Matt has only played the game for two years but, as a rapid improver, his handicap was 11 when the fixture was arranged and 9 on the day. Having said that Simon should have won but could not quite get to grips with his split rolls and rushes, both of which are normally his strengths. Matt came back and pipped him 8-6.
Meanwhile on the other lawn, captain Roger and Steve were paired against Frank and the elderly Ron. Frank is a 12, the same as both Ember players, whereas Ron now plays on 14, having been a 6 back in the day. Roger nursed jittery Steve round to peg but couldn’t find much form himself running three hoops, but that was enough to beat Caterham 9-5 in the allotted 90 minutes.
In the second set of games, Roger was keen to find some form from the start in his singles game against Frank, using a bisque with his 3rd shot to create a good set up and a further bisque after a mistake at hoop 1, he proceeded almost faultlessly to take his first ball to peg. Frank then tried to emulate Roger’s effort but used all 3 of his bisques in running 2 hoops. Shortly afterwards with Roger having run a further hoop he found it necessary to use his final bisque to separate Frank’s balls in the corner at hoop three. Roger took a ‘punt’ on going for hoop two while doing this, which was made. With everything then going well and some adventurous play Roger continued with the 3 balls in play (leaving Frank’s corner ball at hoop three) to run hoops three and four after which he was unexpectedly able to continue peg out and win the game 14-2.
In the doubles it was a tense and extremely close affair, with both Simon and Steve jittery and no skipper to calm them down. It was level, 7-all, at the bell and the game went into sudden death. Steve held his nerve, by getting a good rush of Matt’s ball out of the corner towards hoop six, just beyond the peg. He summoned Simon on to the court, and they agreed Steve should not take Matt’s ball over to the hoop but instead do a take-off. Thankfully, Steve’s five yard shot to the hoop was well judged and it was reasonably straightforward to run the hoop and win 8-7.
At lunch, Ember were up 3-1, and highly likely to win thanks to Roger’s big points difference win.
In the last singles, Steve played Ron who used his bisques well to make a good start. Steve continued some good form around to hoop five with his first ball, but, to ensure he ran a difficult hoop shot, sent his ball way past hoop six, with Ron’s balls too close together. Steve fell apart and wasted bisques. Sensing Steve’s despair the wily Ron picked away at him and the hoops eventually winning 12-7.
In the final doubles game Ember’s Simon and Roger played Caterham’s Matt and Frank. Matt attempted the first break, using bisques, but found himself slightly overrunning position in front of hoop. The Ember pair then agreed use of the first of their three bisques and Simon got going in two innings to run five hoops (including using a second bisque) when he then absent mindedly attempted to roquet again the ball he’d just roqueted, ending the turn left on hoop six. Roger then sparred with Matt and Frank for position and hoops, in his inimitable and relentless way, and made turn by turn progress on hoops, while keeping Caterham at bay through to the end of the 90 minutes, running hoop six on the last turn of the game, resulting in a victory for Ember, 11-4.
So Ember managed to win the match 4-2. It was a very enjoyable day and Caterham were tremendous hosts.