Albany TTC 0
Meadow Hill 9
“What a shot!!….Yes!” It was not so much the words from Albany’s Terry Cross, but rather their tone and stout defence, their necessity in the face of a beleaguered assault by a canny opponent. Having nicked the table twice in the 4th set – a huge but unavoidable sin in the table tennis world – you could sense the glee and wild abandon in him. No hint of an apology (the usual raised hand and “Sorry”) – just a jig of sorts, a celebration, the renewed belief that the match was still alive.
It was refreshing really – seeing a member of the league’s newest team completely disregarding etiquette or perhaps having no concept of such old-fashioned protocol. It was the golfer failing to rake the bunker, the darts player shadowing ‘bunny ears’ above the darts board, and yet it brightened the evening and provided a crucial spark to the procession-like beatings.
This was match no.5 – ‘the centre of the chocolate’. Albany were already 4-0 down against former Division Three outfit, Meadow Hill. They were praying for something – a crumb, a minuscule reward for turning up, for their fighting spirit, their unorthodox use of the bat.
5-11, 11-5, 8-11: Cross was on the ropes, looking a little dazed before the luck set in. His second nick (side left) allowed him to take command at 8-7 in the 4th. David Brownlow (46%) wondered what was happening. Cross (16%) was playing as Albany’s no.1 seed, but it was clear from the stats and the rhythm – however marginal – that he was their no.3.
11-9. Cross was jubilant. It was the 25th November all over again; another five-setter with the stern but schizophrenic, Brownlow. I say ‘schizophrenic’ only because there are two Brownlows. The first is Meadow’s unrelenting, simmering, anger management player. The second is the man without a bat in his hand – pleasant, courteous, perceptive and cordial.
He took this match in the 5th (Cross bowing out 5-11) in a similar vein to four months ago. As he trooped off, I made a point of asking him: "Do you enjoy it?" I expected a tirade, a volley of expletives, a ‘mind your own business’. He appeared to be one of the sulkiest players I had ever seen. But then Brownlow the saffron angel, without his dark guise, without his ‘on court’ Green Goblin persona emerged. “Very much so.”
We all change, metamorphose into someone else when playing, but Brownlow is the extreme. Laced up in Hi-Tec Squash trainers and Puma joggers, there is a rugged intensity to the man, a ‘have to win’ prevalence. Then the switch flicks and he is normal again.
Meadow won this encounter handsomely; their ‘double Roy’ attack – Caswell (71%) and Platt (69%) – engineering a methodical, if at times, careless conquest.
For now, Albany will play second fiddle in this division. They will struggle and struggle again. What a beautiful venue from which to play though – up there with the Hilton Centre in terms of lighting, Butterfly divides and meticulous flooring (not forgetting the Kettler table).
The irrepressible Terry Cross, stately Barry Atkins (19%) and merry Stuart Cross (24%) – no relation – will have their day soon.