In Division 1, Team 1 hosted Edinburgh International 2 in a top of the table clash at Ladywood. Having not played for a few weeks, Iain Johnstone came in for David Melrose as he joined Greig McDonell and Colin Green. There was much to play for with both teams knowing that promotion would virtually be secured by a victory. The match was evenly poised going into the doubles at 3-3 but when Greig and Colin suffered a rare loss, the pressure was really on Team 1 at 4-3 down. Colin faced Babu Valaguruvan and simultaneously Greig faced Andrew Mannion. The unthinkable became a real possibility as both Greig and Colin lost the opening ends of their matches. Colin had lost to Babu in the first half of the season, however his determination to not let the same happen again saw him fight back for a 4-end win. Meanwhile Greig was in a real dogfight! Confidence gone, it looked like he couldn’t hit a high ball if his life depended on it. His attacking abilities having disappeared Greig reverted to type as one high push followed another in an ugly comeback to win the next 3 games at deuce in each end. The ugliest of wins secured the fifth victory on the night and at least a point for the hosts. Toby Waterhouse ended the night with a straight sets victory and honours were even. A point a piece was probably a fair result and paths the way for both sides to finish in the top two.
Team 2’s survival hopes in Division 1 were given a huge boost by their terrific victory over North Merchiston 3 in Week 24. They were, however, brought back down to earth with a bump as they travelled to take on third placed Haddington 1. After arriving at the Corn Exchange to find it closed, Team Captain Krzysztof Laszkiewicz made some frantic phone calls to be directed by El Presidente to the Aubigny Centre – oops Haddington weren’t playing there either. Eventually the venue was found but his hectic start to the evening seemed to carry on in to his play as he was winless on the night as was Chris Markey, playing up from Division 2 in place of Charlie Brindley. Gary McDougal provided the solitary win on the night for Team 2 as they fell to a 9-1 defeat. In fairness, this match was never going to decide whether Team 2 avoid the drop or not – that will no doubt be decided over the next two weeks with their matches against West Lothian and Fife.
In Division 2, Team 3 welcomed back Ian Hislop after a few weeks away and he showed his class, dropping just one end in singles play against Edinburgh University 3. James and Abby Wighton both won 2 singles, somewhat annoyingly losing to different players. James and Ian combined in the doubles but never really got going as they lost in straight sets. A 7-3 win for Team 3 sees them close the gap to two points on their University opponents who sit third in the table. This Division is already decided though with the top two a mile clear – it looks certain that the Division winners will be decided in a couple of weeks when the top two, Murrayfield 6 and Ed Int 3 meet.
In Division 3, Team 4’s chance of finishing 3rdin the Division has been taken out of their control after their match v Murrayfield 8. Julian Taylor, Tony Brentnall and Sonny Taylor had a topsy turvy game in which there was never more than a game in it. 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3 down, the Penicuik trio kept fighting and after a win for Tony was followed by a five-set win for Sonny, the visitors took their first lead of he night as they held a 5-4 advantage. Julian took on his opposite number and when he won the first end 11-3 two points looked a possibility. The Murrayfield player, however, stormed back to win the next 3 and a 5-5 result ensued.
In Division 4, Team 5 faced a home match against Edinburgh International 5. With the unavailability of Craig Johnson, John Bald was joined by Stuart and Millie Bennett in what, on paper, looked like it should have been a straightforward win for the hosts. Nothing seems to be that simple for Team 5 recently. Before their opponents arrived, it became clear that John wasn’t going to be able to play – an injury to his back causing him to be unable to move freely! Oh dear! Fortunately, Team 7 also had a match at Ladywood on Wednesday – given Team 5s promotion hopes, a quick meeting resulted in George Wilson being told on arrival that he would need to abandon his team and play for Team 5! And it was a good thing he did as he went through the night undefeated in singles play. Millie looked a little out of sorts but crucially won her first match of the night whilst Stuart had two good wins which secured the victory for the hosts – a doubles win for Stuart and Millie made the final score 7-3. Team 5 will be slightly worried by the fact that their last couple of matches against two of the bottom three clubs in the division have only yielded a game difference of + 8. In such a tight division where there is a distinct possibility that game difference may come into play, let’s hope those six games lost (two 7-3 wins) don’t come back to haunt Team 5.
And finally in Week 25, Team 7, on a busy night at Ladywood, hosted Murrayfield 10. With George snatched from them, Kristian Skotzen and Hannah McDonell were left as the proverbial lambs to the slaughter as they had to play a man down. A 3-0 deficit before a ball was hit and given that in the reverse fixture Kristian and Hannah had only managed 3 wins between them it looked as if this match was likely to be over quick. But hold on – this pair have improved as the season has worn on and perhaps galvanised by their underdog status, not only did they keep the match alive but after 4 successive singles victories, they took the lead! It was decided to play the doubles last and when Hannah won match 8 on the card, she secured at least a point for the hosts. Not to be outdone, Kristian then proceeded to secure the victory with his third win of the night before the pair combined for a doubles victory! Who needs a third player? Who needs George? A terrific 7-3 victory for Team 7 cements their place in the top half of the Division 4 Table.
And so, to our Player of the Week Award for Week 25. This week’s undefeated players were Colin from Team 1, Ian from Team 3, George playing up for Team 5 and Kristian and Hannah from Team 7. Given the importance of the undefeated singles night for Colin, he’s got to be favourite this week – but wait, he lost the crucial doubles which could have secured the win – what does he mean it wasn’t his fault? It certainly wasn’t his doubles partner’s responsibility. Ian was keeping a count of the errors seemingly and says Colin made more! George didn’t play the doubles and he abandoned his teammates - who cares that he didn’t have any say in the matter! Ian H played well but he also lost the doubles and according to our nicest Team Captain, James, Ian’s play in the doubles was poor and his movement was non-existent - that’s a bit harsh James! And so it’s a straight fight between Kristian and Hannah. Although Hannah won the Player of the Night Award as she didn’t drop an end, we can’t really separate this pair so well done to both – joint winners!
And finally, our controversy of the Week section.
Team 1’s match was a tense affair. Edinburgh International’s best player was undoubtedly Babu, as he was in the first half of the season when he played up from Division 2. What was he doing in Division 2 in the first place? Well it appears what he was doing was winning 42 games out of 42 played and ensuring promotion for EI 3 whilst picking a few games to play up for Team 2 in Division 1. It appears, although it’s perhaps just a happy coincidence, that once promotion was secured, EI then got him committed to Team 2. He’s now played 27 games for his new team and remarkably has won 23 of these games. Other than a slightly bizarre loss to bottom of the table Corstorphine 2, the only Div 1 players he has lost to are Greig and Colin (although he has also beaten both of them) and ex Scotland Internationalist Pete Lugton! That’s some record for a Division 2 player! Is this an abuse of the playing up rule? If he plays the last two matches for EI he will have played 75 games this season? That must be some sort of record? Didn’t something similar happen a couple of years ago with Babu’s teammate, Toby? Not to the same extent but there were certainly complaints about where EI had initially placed him given his playing strength. Now in fairness to EI, in terms of ratings there was absolutely nothing wrong with their team composition at the start of the season and maybe this issue is just skewed a little as a result of player improvement – there can be no doubt that Babu is playing at a far higher standard than he did when our Team 1 last encountered him – and as we pointed out to him on Wednesday, he is playing some terrific TT.
Also in Team 1s match there was an issue raised by EI about “coaching” not being allowed during a game. During one of Colin’s matches, Greig said the word “backhand” to him, probably as a result of Colin having got himself out of position a bit by playing forehands from wide on his backhand corner. No coaching is allowed in this League came the comment from a seated EI player! Really, came the response! The Addendum to the rules does talk about coaching being limited to one minute at the change of ends in a match so it was probably a valid comment! What amounts to coaching in such a situation? There may be a fine line at times between encouragement and coaching! We will often hear said things like “concentrate”, “take your time”, “Come on good serves” – is that coaching?? We’ll be on the lookout next time we’re at Bathgate for Mr McCulloch’s coaching (we mean encouragement) from the sidelines!
We’re getting near to the end of the season and it’s been a while since we’ve had lots of controversies in one week, so let’s keep going….
Staying with Edinburgh International 2, they were under pressure from Haddington 1 who were coming up fast on the rails in a late push for promotion. The match between the two sides last month was going to be crucial – a win for Haddington would have given them a real chance of overtaking their Edinburgh opponent’s. Haddington’s number 1 and top of the individual averages, Carsten Giebeler was on holiday at the scheduled date so Haddington sought a postponement – for such a crucial match what would we have done? The decent thing, arguably, would be to allow full strength teams to battle it out. Realistically though we’re not sure many of our teams would have agreed to a postponement – you would take any advantage you could, wouldn’t you? Their best player is missing – excellent! No surprise then to learn that the request was refused, Haddington played without Carsten and a draw ensued – and with that, their chances of promotion diminished significantly. In the end of the day, it’s back to our old point – whilst many think it’s great to have the ability to postpone matches, it only generates ill feeling between clubs and players when postponements are refused.
Surely that’s enough? Last one! In Team 7s match, a very experienced umpire took a phone call from one of his team who seemed to be struggling to find his way to Ladywood. Nothing wrong with that – well if he hadn’t been umpiring at the time it may have been ok! Kristian had just taken the initiative to go 2-1 up, the players were ready to play and the umpire stayed on his call. El Presidente just happened to be passing at the time – not one to shy away from issues he couldn’t resist pointing out that the umpire needed to get off the phone! The opposing team umpire acknowledged the bizarreness of what was going on but kept talking and kept talking and kept talking. On about the fourth occasion it was raised as being ridiculous, another team member then took the phone to carry on the conversation! The missing player eventually turned up about an hour later than the scheduled start time – in the good old days we could be writing about claiming his games – no such rule now – players can turn up whenever they like and the only sanction is if the match can’t be finished by the venue closing time any unplayed games would be forfeited. Bring back the half hour rule is what we say – we miss it!
Tensions are rising as we approach the end of the season – we love it!