Rarely will there be a more attacking pair than Hilton B’s Annie Hudson (Div 1 – 75%) and stand in, Wilson Parker (Div 3 – 96%). Serendipity has led us here with the withdrawal of regular player, Chris Naylor and we must now feast our eyes on the magnificence about to unfold.
The opposition, Barcroft’s Steve Barber (Prem – 28%) and John Scowcroft (Div 2 – 77%) are worldly-wise – schooled in the finer elements of the game – but I suspect that the handicap system plus Hilton B’s snarling youth will be their downfall.
Scowcroft, lime top tonight, as if about to be plunged into a bottle of Corona, starts off well: a 1-5 lead against the brazenly talented, Hudson. The game plan with John is as it always is – bob around and hurl grenade-like shots; hope the opposing player finds it too much.
Hudson, Women’s British League player, the Joan of Arc of the Bolton Table Tennis circuit, isn’t one to simply bow though and accept the fate before her. The shots and speed of the Butterfly-attired doyenne soon begin to surface. It is 7-7 and she has upped the ante. Scowcroft needs to alter the direction of the ball rather than continue with this toe-to-toe insanity. Too late. 12-10 Hudson.
The 2nd game is another full-whipped extravaganza, a constant barrage of looping forehands and minor, between-shot adjustments to involve the backhand. Scowcroft will not submit. 9-11. He is back in the match.
Such effort had to take its toll, however. Hudson artlessly has that glint about her. She steamrolls opponents with a smile. There are fewer net shot mistakes. 11-8. Despite an unsettling ‘Oy!!’ in the 4th from Scowcroft to signal his displeasure at a piece of bad umpiring (4-5, instead of 3-6 on the scoreboard after a wondrous nick of the table down the left), Annie reels off eight points to confirm the gulf in class. 11-6.
Parker picks up where his teammate left off: 11-7, 11-8, 9-11, 11-6 (a mighty and hopeless task indeed for Barber to restrain this young wizard particularly given the 4-pt handicap each game). The doubles is less of a formality (3-2) but it becomes an impressive 9-4 on the night.
Scowcroft falls to Parker 3-0 and Hudson defeats Premier man, Barber 3-1 in the main event of the evening. It is a bountiful 15-5 from the big lights in Division One and Three.
By Jeff Weston