Virtually all the drama that a handicap cup match could possibly produce was wrapped up in Felsted RBL A’s victory over Black Notley G in the Braintree Table Tennis League.
The lead constantly swapped round, seven of the nine sets went to a deciding game, eight games were decided by two points and the match climaxed with an almighty comeback from 18-0 down.
The match had started in fairly dramatic fashion when Adam Clift, from the division three side, found he did not need his 11-point handicap to beat first division’s Ian Butler.
Clift lost the first game 21-17 but swept through the second and third 21-8, 21-7, meaning in effect he led Butler 10-8 and 10-7.
Felsted took the next one as Arthur Geen gave away five points to Paul Martin and sneaked home 14-21, 22-20, 21-19.
Notley retook the lead when Patrick Bugg took advantage of his 12-point handicap to beat Ashley Butler, but Felsted equalised immediately when Geen overcame Clift.
Felsted then went into the lead for the first time when Bugg narrowly failed to get past Ian Butler. He won the first game 21-4, with a 14-point handicap, and got to deuce in the second before Butler got the decisive points and then eased home 21-17 in the third game.
Ashley Butler then emulated his father’s brinkmanship by squeezing home 23-21, 12-21, 22-20 against Martin.
From 4-2 down, Notley hit back to equalise at 4-4 before the ultimate Houdini act.
After losing the first game 21-3 (off 14) to Martin, Ian Butler just grabbed the second game at 21-19, but then found himself down 18-0 in the deciding game.
Somehow he made his way back – ‘everyone had given up on me but my nerve held’, he said – and took the game at 22-20 to put his team through to the semi-final.
It meant that not only did Martin lose all three sets by two points in the third game, but all six games that he lost were by the same margin.
Last week’s league results were tame by comparison.
In division one, champions Liberal A had an 8-2 win over Rayne A, where a surprise defeat for Ian and Peter Hayden in the doubles against Steve Pennell and Ian Whiteside could yet prove costly, and Rayne B beat Notley A 8-2.
In division two, leaders Sible Hedingham brought forward their match with Nomads and found themselves struggling against the wiles of Ken Lewis. His three wins helped his side to a draw.
Hedingham then got back on track with a 9-1 win over Notley D.
Second-placed Notley B took eight points from Rayne E but Liberal C slipped up when their two-man team could only muster four against Rayne F.
Victor Chan and Gordon Fairchild were unbeaten for Notley B and Paul Mitchell for Rayne F.
Notley C overcame Hedingham Lions 9-1 while Notley E had an 8-2 win at Nomads. Kevin Saunders won twice for Nomads but fell to Tim Huxtable.
After losing their lead at the top of division three the previous week, Rayne G dropped another four points against Rayne H.
The set of the evening was between Tony Stredder and Nick Hasler, first and fifth respectively in the division’s averages, which the G team man clinched at 12-10 in the fifth game.
Third-placed Notley G took all ten against Rayne I while Felsted C beat Notley H 8-2 to move within two points of their opponents’ fourth place with a match in hand.
Matthew Laws was unbeaten.