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The Shed: home of Meadow Hill – a mighty place, an intimidating place, an orange-walled palace with the odd loose plank beneath your feet. This is not a venue for the cowardly nor the complacent, nor the capricious. Big players have fallen here – Adele Spibey, David Yates, Graham Wilson, Dave Bevitt, Dave Jones Snr. I could go on.

At full strength tonight, the Meadow Hill line up consists of league secretary, Roy Caswell, the somewhat giddy, Jackie Smith and the finely chiselled, speed merchant Roy Platt. The opposing camp has wily southpaw and elder statesman, Kaushik Makwana followed by ‘Happy’ Haroon Khan and the diminutive, yet dangerous Faizan Bhura.

It is Caswell versus Makwana to start. Too many net points hinder the first game but it is the astronomy-mad Caswell who takes charge (11-7). Makwana swings at the ball sometimes as if scaring off a burglar. His shots can be erratic and overblown – the opposite of calculated consistency. The next game emphasises this: 11-3. He is in trouble and we have barely taken our seats. Hard to believe Makwana beat Lostock’s Adam Francis back in January.

Caswell, new season, new menace about him despite the jovial air doesn’t take long to put Makwana to the sword (11-4) – low, backhand serves, great length and a certain pep to his game all contribute to a sure first win on the night.

Smith, resplendent in white chinos and with a permanent grin doesn’t appear to understand fear. His early shots against Bhura suggest an unmasking of his often too latent ability. 9-6 up and looking solid, but then…where is his tactical nous? There is almost a refusal to wrap up a game without his bombing forehands. Bhura exploits the blind spot, his young mind learning all the time: 12-10, 11-4, 11-4.

Real no.1 (ignore the scorecard), Platt now takes his position. He reminds me of a slightly aloof and well-spoken Roman. In fact, his coordination is that of a chariot racer. There is no dithering from the 68-year-old and his range of shots is exceptional. Khan, in ‘clubbing’ green shirt, feels the pain immediately: 11-3. Ominous forehands from Platt whistle past him. Another 11-3 before Platt saves himself for the later matches (11-8).

Such is the destruction (Caswell 3-0 Khan, Platt 3-2 Bhura, Platt 3-1 Makwana, Caswell 3-1 Bhura), bar the Smith misadventures (two 3-1 defeats), that I cannot look anymore.

By Jeff Weston

Author: via Bolton Table Tennis League
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