NCL (South) at Cippenham, January 29th
Tom Williams made his debut, as one of 16 players who have represented Oxford this season.
Those who played on this occasion were, in ranking order:
A: Todd Stanmore, Kiarash Shaddel, Oliver Keen
B: Rafe Fleming, Bertie Anstis, Jamie McNeil
C: Dylan Morgan, Pelin Karabulut, Cooper Whitford, Edward Davis
D: Toby Dow, Scott Campbell, Tom Williams, Miles Davis
The A team began the day, knowing full well that a top performance would be needed to remain in the elite company of Division 1. Immediately they received manna from heaven from Cippenham A, whose best player, Shae Thakker, failed to appear! Kiarash set the tone for the day by beating Pranav Gudipati, and Todd followed up with his first ever win over Douglas Claridge-Hansen, who also succumbed to Ollie. With a weak no 3 Cippenham seemed shell-shocked and we were able to transform an earlier 7-2 defeat into a 6-0 victory under the new County Championship format.
Reality soon struck home against Crusaders A (1-5): we competed well with some close matches, but ultimately relied on Todd to save the whitewash by beating Angus Norman at 11-9 in the 5th. Next up were the promoted team, Ashford A, who have clearly strengthened Division 1 by replacing the relegated St Albans A. This was a battle royal, effectively contesting 3rd place on the day. While Federer and Nadal were producing an epic gladiatorial showdown in Melbourne, our own local mini-heroes Todd and Charlie Cunningham, were slugging it out in Slough, with Todd taking a 2-1 lead by virtue of an edge, but eventually losing out 6-11 in the 5th. Ollie Keen came into his own in this match, enjoying the role of no 3 player, with two excellent wins and with Todd also beating Giacomo Giarola we led 3-2, only for Kiarash to lose another fine five-setter at the end. The final match pitted us against table-topping Crusaders B: here Ollie scored his 5th win of the day, reversing an earlier defeat against Oliver Maric-Murray, in another 1-5 defeat. Overall the team competed extremely well, even in the matches we lost, and will have a chance of finishing 3rd in the final standings, which are accumulated over the whole season.
The B team continued to experience mixed fortunes, well beaten (1-5) by two strong Crusaders’ sides at the top of Division 2, but then registering a 3-3 draw with St Albans A, who had been relegated from Division 1, and ending the day with a 6-0 victory over Ashford B, which consigned Ashford to relegation and left us in a respectable 4th place. Credit to Rafe, Bertie and Jamie for keeping up their morale in the face of adversity, which included Jamie forgetting to bring his bat, which had to be fetched from Oxford!
It was a similar tale in Division 3, with one win and three defeats for the C team, managed by Cigdem Karabulut. Here too we were well beaten by the top sides, with Dylan Morgan striving manfully to keep us in the running. Pelin and Cooper competed well and are clearly benefiting from this level of competition. It was good to see the multi-talented 11 year-old Edward Davis back in action, deserting his beloved football for once and giving notice once again of his undoubted potential in this, his 4th (?) best sport! The final tally saw our team in 4th place.
The D team had a string of three victories, brought to a resounding end by Warren Spring C, who will thus be promoted next time round, while we finished 3rd. Toby Dow went through the day unbeaten and Scott Campbell gave strong support as no 2 player. It was pleasing to see how much Tom Williams has improved in a short period – he has now developed a powerful FH drive. Even more delightful was a first ever competitive win for Miles Davis (11), who went the distance in two other matches: he has improved since I last saw him in November and it was particularly gratifying to see what joy his success brought to both father and twin brother: Miles has made amazing progress, after undergoing treatment for a life-threatening illness in his infancy.
Toby Dow was Oxford's only unbeaten player, looking ready to move up from Division 4.