Senior Division 1b report.
In one of the most thrillingly close contests in recent years, Kent narrowly
pipped Warwickshire to the post in Division 1B of the Senior County championships. It
was so close that from rounds 2 to 5, both teams were tied level on points and game
difference, scoring identical results in each of rounds 3,4 and 5!
However it was round 6 that proved significant in deciding the outcome of the championship. Kent defeated
Worcestershire 9-1 – giving them a game difference of 46-14, while Warwickshire scored
an 8-2 victory over Hertfordshire – which made their game difference 45-15. This meant
that when the two sides met in round 7, Kent knew that a draw would guarantee them
Both Kent and Warwickshire had won all their matches up until round 7, and
Warwickshire knew that nothing less than a win was required for promotion to the
premier division. To achieve this, Warwickshire’s team captain bravely dropped their
no.1 player Laurence Sweeney, and this proved to be a masterstroke when Amann Ubhi
(England no. 76) stunned the watching crowd with a sensational 3-0 victory over the
Kent no.1 – England no.15 Lewis Gray. In what was surely the win of his career, Ubhi
blitzed his opponent with a succession of powerful attacking strokes which proved too
much for Gray to handle. Ubhi came through 12-10 16-14 11-8.
Warwickshire edged ahead thanks to their men, as a win each for James Ward,
Matthew Outhwaite and Ubhi (completing his double) put Warwickshire 4-2 up.
However it was Kent’s women, the outstanding Nivedita Sunil and Jasmin Ould, who
saved their team with two wins each. Ould was especially impressive with convincing
victories over Rachel Pilgrim 11-3 11-8 11-3, and Kate Hughes 11-7 11-7 11-7. In fact,
the Kent women only dropped one match between them in the entire weekend, when
Ould was defeated 3-0 by Hertfordshire’s Natasha Walsh. Kent’s success was
undoubtedly built on these two ladies’ exceptional performances, and they will be relied
upon to keep their county in the Premier division next season.
It was left to Lewis Gray to make up for his earlier unexpected defeat, and he
made no mistake this time, as he secured the draw – and promotion – for Kent by
defeating James Ward 3-0. In a remarkable parallel, Ward’s namesake, British tennis
player James Ward, was also on the losing end of a critical rubber in the Davis Cup
against Andreas Seppi of Italy at the exact same time.
The bottom of the table was no less dramatic with three teams hoping to avoid
dropping into division 2 with the already doomed Surrey II. Going into round 7,
Worcestershire were on 4 points, Middlesex II on 3 points and Hertfordshire on 3.
Middlesex II leapfrogged Worcestershire by defeating Surrey II 6-4, and Worcestershire
went down 9-1 to Surrey I. These results meant that Hertfordshire could send
Worcestershire down if they drew with Devon, and they duly managed this when Jimmy
Walsh scored a comprehensive victory over Devon number 3 Rory Harries 3-0 to earn
his side a crucial point. Hertfordshire stayed up thanks to a superior game difference
(28-42) compared to Worcestershire (26-44).
As exciting as all the table tennis was, it was not even close to being the story of
the weekend. In what was a special moment, Hertfordshire fielded five members from
the same family in one match. It was a memorable occasion for the Walsh family, as dad
Jimmy, mum Nicola, brothers Luke and Ethan, and sister Natasha lined up against
Warwickshire. Has this ever happened before in the history of English table tennis? It is
surely one for the archivists!
By Adam Laws
Warwickshire Team 2014 , L to R , Matthew Outhwaite , Laurence Sweeney , Rachel Pilgrim , Steven Moss ( Umpire ) , Kate Hughes,
James Ward and Amann Ubhi.