D2: Bolton Uni ‘B’ 3 – 6 Hilton ‘E’
This was supposed to be the Wilson Parker Show. Hilton’s young gun didn’t disappoint and neither did his teammate, Roy Alty, but in terms of upping one’s game and playing at a new level no.3, Jean Smart firmly stole the show. One point only to the red, Stiga-attired table tennis queen yet the fight and resurgent play behind this seemingly meagre number was immense.
Bolton Uni took an early lead in this match through the compact and wily, Kirit Chauhan. With his knees bandaged to the hilt, Chauhan demonstrated that one’s mastery of the game is still superior to fitness. Visible to the crowd was him feeling his way back into the sport after a year out, and his safe serves and acute top spins slightly edged the bombing forehands of Roy Alty (11-9, 12-10, 11-7).
16-year-old Parker, next up in his dazzling lime-green top, berated himself with an early verbal tirade: “Get your head together!” More followed in later matches: “Stop stretching – get to the ball!”; “This is rubbish!”; “Lift it!” Opponent, David Jones, clearly not in the same bracket, yet improving steadily, frustrated Parker in two of the three games; his anti-static bat spray assisting but failing to overwhelm his young opponent (11-7, 11-3, 13-11).
Smart, seen rushing into the car park for this match at 7.09pm after a late call up, admirably coped following some early nerves. Her initial opponent, Andrew Gregory – commencing his 3rd season in the league – has a powerful, if energy-sapping serve and a high success rate when stepping heavily into his shots. 11-4. 13-11. It looked ominous for Smart, but then came the increased belief, the autopilot, lollypop backhand and her willingness to turn defence into attack. 9-11. 8-11. Extra authority from Gregory in the 5th set though – five consecutive points – helped this one home: 11-6. (Cruel, but deserved.)*
The next three matches (Jones 0 – 3 Alty, Chauhan 3 – 0 Smart, Gregory 0 – 3 Parker) left the evening precariously balanced – Bolton Uni and Hilton each with three wins. Smart’s magnificence then returned, her unforced error rate tumbling from around 30% to 10%; incredible consistency and tantalising, angled chops from the Bolton-born, Hilton
doyenne in her demolition of Jones (9-11, 13-11, 11-5, 11-4).
One more win for victory. Alty obliged: 3-0 against Gregory. Parker completed the torment by burying Chauhan psychologically: 11-8; 11-5; 11-9.
* Result expunged. Gregory unpaid ETTA subs. Revised match result: Bolton Uni ‘B’ 2 – 7 Hilton ‘E’
By Jeff Weston