REPORT ON THE JUNIOR PREMIER DIVISION MATCHES PLAYED ON SATURDAY/SUNDAY 17/18 MARCH 2012
The second round of Junior Premier County Championship matches was held at Wednesbury, the home venue of Desmond Douglas, on the weekend of Saturday/Sunday 17/18 March with two matches on both Saturday and Sunday. After the first round of matches last November the Essex team were second bottom and in need of points to avoid relegation from the Premier Division.
However Essex’s problems started well before the first point was played. Jared Patel was unavailable for the Saturday matches due to his need to study for exams and there was no transport to get him to Wednesbury for the Sunday matches. Ifunanya Okafor was required to attend a School Assessment on the Saturday morning and therefore could not play. Jane Li, who was playing for the Essex Cadet team at Warwick on the Saturday and stayed in the midlands with the Team to play for them on the Sunday. One final problem was the breakdown of Paul Collier’s car during the journey on Saturday morning. However a mobile call to Neil Brierley gained Greg Crouchman’s mobile number and he was able to divert from his route to pick up the stranded players. Thus the team arrived just in time for their first match.
Their first match was against leaders Middlesex who had won all their three matches at Cippenham 6-4. With only one Essex girl Middlesex would start the match 2-0 up. First on was Alex Holland who lost his first two games to Adam Reed 7 and 8. He then won the next two 8 and 6 to set up a nail biting decider which he clinched 12-10. Next on was Jason Yung, who has had such a good season in the Colchester League, and for his initiation to the County match format he had an even closer match with Omar Khassal, scraping through 10, 9, 15. With no number two girl next match on was Brandon Crouchman against the Middlesex No. 1, Gabriel Achampong. A strange scoreline with Brandon losing 6, 1, -6, -1, 6! Ella Patel lost both her matches to Hiba Feredj and Sushmita Limbu 3-1 and Jason lost his subsequent match to Adam 3-2. Alex beat Gabriel 3-0 and Brandon finished with another match going the full distance, defeating Omar 11, -12, 7, -5, 9. So a 6-4 defeat and no points.
The late afternoon match was against Cleveland, the only team below Essex at the start of the day but who had beaten Berkshire 10-0 in their lunchtime match. Brandon, who had gone 2-0 down to Alec Ward came back to win the last three games 10, 9, 6 but Jason just couldn’t quite do the same against Sam Hitchen losing the decider to 8 after pulling back a 2-0 deficit. Ella managed to beat Elenor Davidson in a fluctuating match 9, -7, 5, -10, 8 for Essex to go 2-1 up. Alex then lost to Billy Forster 3-1 and with the girls match conceded Essex were 3-2 down. Then came the match of the match with Brandon coming back from 2-1 down to beat Sam 10, -6, -8, 13, 16. With the second girls match conceded and Alex losing to Alec 3-0 Essex were 5-3 down. With Ella beating Kayleigh Forster 3-1 and Jason winning the last match against Billy also 3-1 a draw was achieved. Results of other matches now gave Essex a chance of avoiding relegation if they could beat Berkshire Sunday morning. Defeat for either team would mean relegation.
Come Sunday Essex had two girls and were surprised to find that the Berkshire team had only one girl. Brandon lost the opening match to Daniel McTiernan 3-1 but with Jason beating Leo Long 5, 7, 10, the girls concession and Alex beating Hanson Xu 3-0 Essex had a 3-1 lead. When Jane Li was 8-2 up in her second game after winning the first to 8 against Bijun Tang things looked good. After playing so well things went wrong and she lost the second game 14-12 and almost the third after being 9-5 up. However a now more confident Bijum going for her shots won the next two easily. Brandon beat Leo with ease 3-1 and the second girls concession put Essex 5-2 up. Alex then lost to Daniel 8, 7, 11 after being 7-5 up in the first game and Ella, after being 6-3 up in the second game against Bijun having lost the first only won one more point to be 2-0 down. She then won the next two games with ease but struggled in the decider to lose it 11-9. All now relied on Jason winning his match with Hanson as it was doubtful if Essex could get any points from the strong Sussex side who were challenging Middlesex for the title. In a fluctuating match Jason had us all biting our nails eventually winning -9, 3, 9, -4, 7 for a 6-4 team win. This win relegated Berkshire and the other relegated team would come from the match between Warwicks and Cleveland. As only one of these two Counties could overtake Essex on either points or games difference, Essex were safe for another season.
As feared the Sussex team were much too strong, romping in to a 7-0 lead before Alex managed to get the better of Bryan Kwan 6, -6, 8, -8, 9 although the 8-3 lead in the decider seemed to be slipping away. For Ella and Jane, Yuki Wat and Lois Peake won their matches with some ease. Essex were unlucky not to pick up a second win when Alex Forshaw took the last two points from 10-10 in the decider with unplayable nets.
Middlesex managed to take the title after being 4-2 and 5-4 down to Kent with a deciding game win to gain a draw.
Looking back at the weekend’s matches the two girls matches conceded by Berkshire, Jane Li’s presence being vital and Jason’s final match win in that match were essential in preserving Essex’s Premier Division status
Alex 4 from 8, Brandon 4 from 8 Jason 4 from 8, Ella 2 from 7 and Jane 0 from 3.
Thanks must go to Paul Collier for coaching the team and to the team players themselves when Paul was not available or watching daughter Evangeline playing for the Senior Team in the other room. Also Greg Crouchman for transport and the “rescue” of the team on Saturday morning.
Arthur C. Clark
Essex Junior Match Secretary.