2014/15 Season

Thurston Spitfires 7 v 3 Lawshall : 16/03/2015 : Colin Baxter

Only one of the games in this fixture was won in straight sets. Stewart Blakey (Spitfires) playing his first season in the top flight this year, had a convincing 3-0 win over Graham Pettitt (Lawshall). Blakey however, couldn’t repeat this against the experience of Clive Grimwood and Dennis Morgan (Lawshall) going down to both 3-1.

Mark Cracknell (Spitfires) came up against an in form Grimwood in his first game and also went down 3-1. Cracknell then produced some great play himself to beat Morgan in what was the closest game of the night, winning 11-7 in the deciding set. These two always put on a close entertaining game and this time Cracknell came out on top before then going on to beat Pettitt 3-1.

The star man of the evening was Paul Evans (Spitfires) who won all three of his games 3-1. His best performance was against Morgan, beating him with a combination of great defensive shots and controlled attack. To put the icing on the cake, Evans then teamed up with Cracknell to beat the formidable pairing of Morgan & Grimwood in an entertaining doubles. Evans & Cracknell won 11-4 in the deciding set, which led to Spitfires winning the match with an impressive 7-3 victory.

British Sugar 10 v 0 Thurston Spitfires : 11/03/2015 : Bob Harman

The Sugar Sweet Report

Every win is sweet for the Sugar boys but this latest one particularly so, as it was enough to seal a third consecutive championship title and with three games to go before the season ends next month. Luvly Jubbly!!!

The Match Report

With Colin Baxter absent once again due to an arm injury, the Spitfires were in truth a little short of their usual firepower, but there were still plenty of good matches, most notably Paul Evans’ humdinger with Mark James, which went all the way to the wire, with both pugilists looking like they had been locked in a sauna for three hours together come the end of the game. Mark managed to scramble home 12-10 in the fifth, having saved two match points at the death.
As some of you might know already, Paul is an artist of some renown and most of his ping strokes are pretty individual, much in line with his classy produce on canvas. I don’t know if he has ever painted a gazelle, but he was springing around the court like one for most of the night, and arguably deserved to win the game, given Mark had his share of luck with more than just a few nets and edges going his way, not that Paul made an issue of Mark’s good fortune. A few experienced players, who really should know better, could do themselves a favour and not dwell on others’ perceived luck during a match. We know who you are!!

Rally of the Night

In a handy segway, Clive Grimwood, Lawshall’s head honcho, just happened to be playing against the Vulcans on the other table and I have no hesitation in nominating the rally of the night as coming from his game against the affable Gordon Meadows.
In truth, the point in question went on for so long that I can’t even remember who won it, but it didn’t actually matter as the standard was simply superb, with both players launching themselves around the court in a mixed display of aggression and defence that two rutting deer would have been proud of…more is the pity Paul didn’t have his sketch pad with him to capture the moment forever, but I think he is more into still-life anyway - cue Gordon’s team-mate and male model extraordinaire Sean ‘Gridlocked’ Gridley, whose total and utter lack of any sort of footwork on a table tennis table frankly beggars belief. Just for the record, in-form ‘Flash’ Gordon won the match in five, but that point will be remembered for a long time by those of us fortunate to have been there and witnessed it.

The cupboard was bare but the promise was there…

Colin’s replacement, Stewart ‘I ‘ate you Butler ’ Blakey, has improved beyond all recognition from even a couple of months ago, and can look back on this match with some pride, despite not securing a leg all night. It wasn’t for the lack of trying though and he posed a real threat in any number of games. Unlike his namesake from ‘On The Buses’ this quietly spoken Scot has found life in the fast lane of Div.1 somewhat challenging to date, but I can see him landing a few decent wins before the season is out.

Was 10-0 a flattering scoreline?

Mark Cracknell is usually a tricky customer with his combination bat, but he didn’t really fire on the night, and with Paul admitting candidly afterwards that he didn’t really believe he would win against Mark, even at match point, it was probably the right result on the night.

Thank you & goodnight…

Good luck all at the forthcoming Bury TT Championships, it’s good to see there has been a record entry for it, bring it on!!!

British Sugar 5 v 5 Stowmarket Jaguars : 21/01/2015 : Bob Harman

The Sugar Sweet Report

The top two teams in terms of current League positions this season battled out an honourable draw in a well-contested affair with some quality table tennis on show. A match that threw up more questions than answers in the bar afterwards as we reviewed our night’s work - Farage style

Digitally enhanced?

Please someone tell us who on Earth taught Will Hall to hold his bat with two fingers on show across the blade rather than the usual one? Harvey Smith perhaps? I would like to meet him or her and castigate him or her for making Will’s lot on the table tennis table more difficult than it really should be. There’s an old saying that two heads are better than one, which is actually fairly debatable in itself, but there is absolutely no debate on whether two fingers are better than one, particularly in the case of holding your weapon on the table tennis table.
Generally, using one finger is more than enough for most people (I know you shouldn’t do it, but if you do point at people or objects, you don’t do it with two fingers do you? that would be really bizarre). As proof of this, I suggest Will on his next trip to Giraffe in Bury should take time out from his mobile and check out the assorted groups of fit young persons - possibly even friends of his already – strutting their stuff on street corners whilst pointing at the passing Bury public with just the one finger raised (usually the middle one I have noted). Perhaps Will should take a leaf from their book, test the water and see how rewarding and satisfying this can clearly be. I have a feeling once he reads this, he might be doing just that when I next see him…

New Blood & The Blame Game

Let me introduce Malc Collins to our Bury brood. Malc, who hails from Ipswich, is perhaps less defined and arguably less pleasing on the eye than good old Joan was in her heyday before her latest incarnation in the Snickers ads - which I’m assured pay for her poodle’s vet bills not to mention her yacht in Cannes. Neverthless, as Count Dracula used to once say, we enjoy fresh blood and the talented Malc is most definitely a very welcome addition to Stowmarket’s burgeoning battalion of players.
However, his belated presence in Div 1 begs the question, has any team in Bury Div 1 ever fielded more players in a season than good ol’ Stowie? I blame the Premier League, which has created mass delusion of the prime importance of systematic rotation among ordinary team managers? I can’t think of another reason for not fielding your strongest team especially in the toughest games whenever humanly possible, can you? Don’t they fine managers in certain cases the Prem for doing just that? Correct me if I am wrong, but we do only play once a week in the Bury League don’t we?

The Match Itself

It was undeniably a corking and well-contested draw (for full details check out the match card on our wonderful website, thanks to all concerned) which had thrills and spills, spats and bats, frogs and logs, and anything else you can think of, it had EVERYTHING.
Strangely, the match ball survived the whole evening unblemished, perhaps it will be knighted in the next Honours’ List (arise Sir Match Ball of Toad Hall?), or maybe even replace Prince Andrew as our international business rep or whatever it is he does - our trusty celluloid friend was after all very rounded, trustworthy, solid and extremely dependable and looked as fresh as paint despite getting a good hammering, which is probably more than can be said of the aforementioned after a night on the tiles across the Pond!

Just one last question - he didn’t do it, did he? No, it was Cock Robin…

Thurston Spitfires 8 v 2 Bury Crusaders : 17/11/2014 : Colin Baxter

These two teams met in the opening match of the season which Spitfires won 7-3. This time Spitfires went one better with an 8-2 victory.
Mark Cracknell and Colin Baxter (Spitfires) both looked comfortable winning all their games and also teamed up to win the doubles. In the proceedings Alan Brafield managed to take a leg off Cracknell and Paul Seabrook took a leg off Baxter.
Stewart Blakey (Spitfires) was involved with the two closest games of the evening, with both of them going the full distance. In the first he managed to beat Terry Thompson 11-5 in the deciding leg but was unable to repeat this against Brafield. In the deciding leg Blakey held a 9-7 lead, before Brafield fought back to take it 11-9. Crusaders other win came when Seabrook looked impressive in his game against Blakey winning 3-0.

Thurston Vulcans 9 v 1 Bury Crusaders : 10/11/2014 : Sean Gridley

The first match of the night was between Gordon Meadows and Terry Thompson. Terry started strongly using his tricky serve to set up his backhand attack, this matched with some excellent touches to give Gordon the run around, but Gordon's excellent retrieval and blocking skills wore down Terry's attack for Gordon to win in three, 8, 10, and 7.
Game two pitted Sean Gridley against Paul Seabrook. Sean won the serve and immediately took the lead, but Paul was very consistent in his attacking play winning many points with his backhand attack, unfortunately for Paul he struggled with Sean's serve and this was the real story of the game as Sean always had the upper hand and maintained the lead with reaction blocks to win in three, 6, 6, and 8.
Next up was Andy Janes vs Alan Brafield. In the past it's been good to face Alan early in the match as he improves as the evening wears on, but Andy was overwhelmed by Alan's early onslaught and almost faultless three ball kill, and even though Andy soaked up much of Alan's attack he was unable to contain him for Alan to win in three, 9, 6, and 7. Sean vs Terry was a tight affair, Terry was managing to open his attack a bit too often for Sean's liking, but Sean held on and Terry made too many mistakes in the first two rubbers, from here Sean found his range and started to consistently attack to win in three, 9, 8, and 6.
Gordon took the first rubber against Alan, but Alan then started to play as he did earlier in the evening and managed to go 2-1 up and looked very confident, but Gordon rallied and produced a tenacious display of defending even managing to curl a winner around the net post to win in five 7, -9, -8, 8, and 3. The next set was another five game affair, between Andy and Paul, Andy started well and contained Paul's attack in the first two rubbers and take a 2-0 lead. Paul then fought back well, using his backhand to good effect to level at 2-2, the fifth rubber went appropriately to 10 each, both players nervously throwing away serves at crucial points to get to that score, only for Andy to hang in to win, 6, 11, -7,-9, and 11.
Sean vs Alan started well for Alan, using a couple of tricky serves to set himself up for sharp attacking winners down the line after forcing Sean out wide, but Sean managed somehow to win the first rubber, in the second rubber, at no time did Sean look like winning despite this he clung on to win, the last rubber wasn't so hotly contested as Alan's form started to dip, Sean winning, 9, 10, and 8. In the eighth game of the night Andy was moved around by Terry's touch and backhand attack for Terry to take the first rubber, Andy then found his range to take the next three rubbers with aplomb making it look easy with confident backhands and a solid defence, -10, 7, 8, and 6.
The final singles game saw Gordon and Paul tightly contest the first two rubbers, Gordon having the advantage and going 2-0 up. A lack of concentration then saw Gordon lose the third rubber easily, but he managed to fire himself up to win the fourth and the game, 9, 13, -5, and 8.
The doubles was a clash of styles with the advantage changing for alternate services, the Thurston pairing of Andy and Sean just edging the win against Alan and Terry, -8, 3, 9, and 9.

British Sugar 4 v 6 Bury Vikings : 29/10/2014 : Bob Harman

For the faint-hearted among us, there is something strangely unnerving about ghastly ghouls and assorted demons dangling down the walls of the Sugar Club hall ahead of the weekend Halloween gig. Whether that played a part in proceedings I couldn’t be sure, but there was a definite edginess about the early exchanges as the two teams vied for supremacy.

Guest of the night – Normally an easy call, our esteemed League Chairman Phil Sinclair with pint in hand enjoying the craic as ever, but on this occasion having Sugar Defender’s Pete Kemp coming to watch the match, looking as well as could be expected following a recent heart op. We all know how far Pete has progressed as a ping player in a very short time, and on last night’s showing, it looks as though Pete is well on his way to winning his own very personal battle.

Story of the night – On a tough night for the Sugar boys, they did at least make the most of an uncharacteristically out of touch John ‘Troubled’ Waters, who blamed three weeks inactivity for his lack-lustre performance on the night – a spell of Zumba which precedes the evening’s fare here at the Sugar Club could be the answer!

Whinge of the night – A draw would arguably have been a fair result on the night, had Bob ‘Brainless’ Harman not squandered a 2 sets and 9-5 lead against the ‘Mildenhall Muncher’ Tony West. Probably the best player to grace Bury TTL in recent years, Tony simply refused to give up what looked a totally lost cause in the third leg and found his form in the nick of time to battle through this and his other matches in workmanlike fashion, both in 4 sets.

Picture of the night – Will Hall showing off his picture on his trusty and overworked mobile phone of the stunning Italian Camila Giorgi he took at the US Open in New York recently.

Rally of the night – Dave Unwin & Dom Melero produced a rally of stupendous forehands with equal amount of topspin and sidespin – exhibition stuff! Dave just had the edge in that particular rally, which typified his evening’s work.

Player of the night – simply has to be unbeaten Dave Unwin, who planted himself all night in his favoured backhand corner and produced some quality table tennis, arguably playing better than ever. The Muncher ran him a close second though, given he is virtually playing on one leg right now!

Thurston Spitfires 6 v 4 Bury Vikings : 06/10/2014 : Colin Baxter

This re-arranged game saw most of the players looking fitter and healthier than they did two weeks previously when the game was called off.
Gabriel Storey (Vikings) having his first season in the top division showed signs of promise taking a game off Paul Evans (Spitfires) before losing 3-1. Evans found the pace of David Unwin (Vikings) too hot to handle with Unwin looking sharp and winning 3-0. Evans did however come out on top against John Waters (Vikings) in one of the best games of the evening. Evans took a 2-0 lead, before being clawed back to 2-2. Evans however got a good start in the decider which he won 11-3.
Mark Cracknell and Colin Baxter, both of Spitfires won two games each with victories over Storey and Waters and both gave a good account of themselves against Unwin, but just came up short. Baxter went 1-0 up against Unwin and the next two closely fought legs went the way of the Vikings player before he dominated in the fourth to win 3-1.
The doubles proved to be the most entertaining game of the evening. Cracknell & Baxter took the first against the run of play before Unwin & Waters levelled the score. With Cracknell & Baxter up 2-1 and a healthy lead in the fourth the writing was on the wall for the Vikings pair, but alas they had better ideas. With good consistent play they levelled the score at 2-2 and then went on to win the decider.

Bury Vikings 7 v 3 Bury Crusaders : 30/09/2014 : David Unwin

This very local derby between Bury clubs Vikings & Crusaders was played on two tables, with a spell in the umpire's chair being a welcome chance to take a well earned rest.
Vikings secured bragging rights on this occasion, earning a hard fought 7-3 victory, including a first win of the season for Gabriel Storey defeating Paul Seabrook in four sets. For Crusaders, Mario Raczynski was playing well, winning two out of three singles, including a tight four setter against John Waters. Terry Thompson recorded the third singles success for Crusaders, defeating Gabriel 3-1, courtesy of some massively spinny serves!
David Unwin was on form for Vikings, recording three straight sets victories to give Vikings a 6-3 lead with just the doubles to play, where Gabriel and John teamed up against Terry and Mario. It was the Vikings who came out on top, 17-15 in a tense fourth set to end an enjoyable evening at KEGS.

Lawshall 2 v 8 British Sugar (venue British Sugar): 24/09/2014 : Bob Harman

Net profit & loss – has Lawshall’s finest played her last game?

It could just be a comfort thing, but Div 1 stalwarts Dennis & Clive have kept faith with their trusty net for many long years. So it must have been quite a shock to them to lose not only their home venue for the foreseeable future to flooding in last week’s storm, but also those precious points that the loose lady of Lawshall has granted them over the last few decades in return for a good home & a slack time. Dennis did let it slip that the old girl is unsurprisingly the subject of a preservation order, so come Hell or even higher water, she should be back to earn her keep, just as soon as the village hall can be returned to its former glory.
Now it seems that the Lawshall lads are also keen to preserve a Steve in their fold, following the shock announcement by Steve - their no.3 of the past couple of seasons – that he is turning his back on table tennis for now to take up ballroom dancing with ‘er indoors instead. However, frantic efforts to acquire the services of two other local ping-playing Steves have so far drawn a blank, so it was left to new boy Graham to add a bit of sparkle to proceedings, playing in his first competitive match for a number of seasons.
A world-ranked billiards player, Graham did look particularly dapper warming up in his rhinestone waistcoat, and it has to be said was fairly on cue for his return to the ping scene. To his credit, he did play extremely well without managing a ‘W’, despite appearing more than a little confused on court at times by cries of ‘Come on Steve!’ coming from the cheap seats…

Story of the night - Mark and Bob scored comfortable maximums and teamed up to win a competitive doubles against Dennis & Clive. The latter duo, with Dennis looking in particularly good nick in the singles, took good advantage of a rather out-of-sorts Will to gain two well deserved points to get Lawshall up and running on their first 'away' home night of the season.

Shot of the night – plenty to choose from, all being downed by the pumped Petanque squad over in the Sugar bar, enjoying an end of season awards gig

Shout of the night – Come on Steve!

British Sugar 7 v 3 Rougham Lions : 17/09/2014 : Bob Harman

"Rusty" : When you have not done something in such a long time that you are not as good as you were before
'man, I haven't played table tennis in so long, I'm like wicked rusty'

Methinks all six of us out jousting last night felt the effects of rust, but importantly we didn’t forget bonhomie, pride, humility, passion, grace - well, Dosh, bless him, deffo ain’t graceful but his impression of a multi-faceted spinning top with octopus arms was good enough to bamboozle the Bury lads into submission, before he said his farewells well before the doubles was played, shame cos he missed a cracker there.
Never seen twins look less alike than Rougham’s Alex and Sam, who hail from Haverhill, but they share plenty of positives in their manner and are a credit to Rougham. ‘Nice shot, well played, good rally’ - us older gnarled penny farthings can learn a thing or two from these gracious guys, who are a pleasure to play against. They might have come up short in the plus column in terms of wins, but it wasn’t for the lack of trying, I blame rust…
The champions are unlikely to relinquish their collective crown based on this gritty showing, even allowing for a serious dousing of the red stuff – bring on the ice bucket!! It doesn’t matter how much you practice, in Dom’s case NOT ENOUGH (note to Mrs Melero), nothing really prepares you for a full on match.
Inordinate amount of edges last night for some peculiar reason and lots of deuce games – the latter less unexpected due to rust I s’pose - but most went Sugar’s way. A 7-3 win for the champs in truth was a tad flattering, Mark’s doing his impression of the Big Bad Wolf blew two houses down but failed to flatten Andy D’s abode. Bob played like Little Red Riding Hood most of the night, but spun gold against the Haverhill gang of two, and Dom was as ever like the will o’ of the wisp, he might eat for England, but never puts on an ounce it seems…rust might put a halt to that if he hops onto the scales this morning…

2013/14 Season

Thurston Spitfires 4 v 6 British Sugar : 31/03/2014 : Colin Baxter

This top of the table clash produced a lot of hard fought games, with 8 out of the 10 going to 4 sets or more and six of the games could easily have gone the other way. Mark Cracknell (Spitfires) had his best night of the season with some steady play beating Dominic Melero & Bob Harman. Mark James (British Sugar) however stopped Cracknell getting the clean sweep with some good all round play and also dealt with Paul Evans fairly comfortably. James also could not get the clean sweep as he lost to Colin Baxter in a long gruelling game of attack and defence. Baxter had leads in both his other games including match point against Harman when a freakish rally changed the game. Baxter was unable to capitalise and lost to both Melero & Harman. Evans also lost to Melero & Harman making the score 6-3 and nobody winning all 3 of their games. Cracknell & Baxter then played James & Melero in the doubles which looked a very even contest at 1-1 before Cracknell & Baxter went on to dominate and win 3-1 making the match score 6-4  to British Sugar and a very late finish.
British Sugar were already Division one champions before this result and with Spitfires getting 4 points from this fixture they now only require 3 points from their last game to make certain of runners up spot.

Thurston Spitfires 7 v 3 Stowmarket Jaguars : 20/01/14 : Colin Baxter

This match started with a very close game between Paul Evans (Spitfires) and Sandra Balaam (Jaguars). Balaam took the first leg with some tight controlled play, before Evans came back to take a 2-1 lead. The fourth leg could have gone either way with Balaam finally taking it 16-14, but Evans came back again with some good backhand attacks to win the decider 11-9.
Lee Balaam (Jaguars) despatched Mark Cracknell and Paul Evans comfortably winning 3-0 against both, with some dazzling serve and attacking play. Cracknell (Spitfires) however, came back with some good form himself, to win his other two games of the evening with a 3-0 victory over Sandra Balaam and a solid 3-1 win against John Leith with some good consistent attacking play.
Evans was unable to match his team mate and went down 3-0 to Leith, who mixed his game up really well and showed great touch play to confuse his opponent.
Colin Baxter (Spitfires) had three very different games during the evening, showing his versatility in dealing with different opponents. The first game against Leith was very tense. Baxter, playing with painkillers after his back injury the previous week was struggling with any control and was reduced to just keeping the ball in play. Leith, who is also a master at keeping the ball on the table made the rallies long and hard. The game finally went to a fifth leg decider with Baxter showing some tactical awareness to win the deciding leg 11-2.
The second of Baxter’s games was against the unbeaten Lee Balaam, who had a record of 25 wins out of 25 games for the season before this one. With Baxter beating Balaam three times in the last 3 seasons, this was always going to be a dangerous game for Balaam. Baxter could not control Balaam’s attacking play in the opening leg, which Balaam won 11-7. Baxter then started to get his game going, winning the next leg 11-8. Balaam then stamped his authority on the game yet again winning the third leg 11-4 with his serve and smash being lethal and looking like he was going to keep his 100% record. Baxter then stepped up a gear, with his back pain easing and started to contain Balaam’s explosive shots and varied the game to start putting Balaam on his back foot. With consistency of good defensive and attacking play, Baxter took the last 2 legs 11-5, 11-3 and therefore broke the last remaining unbeaten 100% record of any note in the first division.
Baxter continued his winning ways with solid defensive play to beat Sandra Balaam 3-0 and then teamed up with Evans to beat the Balaam’s 3-1 in the doubles, making it an impressive 7-3 victory to Spitfires against a very strong Jaguars team.

Thurston Vulcans 5 v 5 British Sugar : 06/01/14 : Sean Gridley

The first match of the new year would be a tough start for the Vulcans against league leaders British Sugar. The first game saw Sean Gridley take on Mark James, previous fixtures usually see cagey games with this pairing, only for Mark's consistency and sharp forehand to win the contest. Tonight would prove to be different, Mark won the first rubber but Sean then came back and capitalized on strong backhands and topspin forehands to Mark's backhand to force mistakes, from a somewhat under the weather Mark, to win; -8, 4, 7, 9. Next up was Andy Janes and Will Hall, Will started slowly and his lazy style appeared to show that Andy had the upper hand but then went on to consistently hit lines with his forehand, stretching Andy's defence to its limit. Andy went on to win the third rubber but Will recovered to win; 7, 8, -7, 5. In their last match-up Sonja Talbot beat Dominic Melero, and Sonja started well winning the first rubber as Dominic struggled to even hit the ball on his forehand. In the next three rubbers Dominic found his range and attacked the corners of the table and Sonja's defence was found wanting on her usually consistent backhand block handing Dominic the win; -9, 7, 8, 4. Andy vs Mark; Andy started strongly soaking up Mark's attack to win the first rubber, in the second Andy attacked Mark but was forced into too many errors and lost. The start of the third game was similar but Mark was seriously flagging and was unable to attack at all, this left Andy to take as many opportunities as Mark reluctantly offered, for Andy's biggest scalp so far, winning; 8, -9, 5, 9. In the fifth game of the evening Dominic's timing looked suspect again as he lost the first rubber to Sean, but as against Sonja his timing came back to him to take a 2-1 lead. Sean then found some inspiration from somewhere to force a decider, and leading at the change of ends just managed to hold on with some fortunate nets to win; 6, -7, -6, 5, 8. Will then played Sonja one of his team mates from the IDTTL Premier division, in their previous meetings Will has had the upper hand in very close encounters. Tonight was no exception and Sonja seemingly had the measure of her opponent with a 2-1 advantage going into the fourth rubber, but again Will re-grouped to start hitting the white lines with great consistency to win; -8, 8, -3, 6, 8. With scores that belied the closeness of the match Dominic beat Andy three straight but was challenged well by Andy when he consistently soaked up Dominic's relentless attack, only for Dominic to unleash too much power for Andy to contain. Dominic wins; 8, 7, 7. After a period of rest Mark faced Sonja, from a spectators viewpoint it should have been an easy win for Sonja as Mark was clearly struggling physically earlier in the evening. Mark had other ideas, so after winning the first two rubbers it was obvious that the spinach had taken effect for Mark to win in four; 10, 9, -6, 5. The last singles of the night was again team mates from the Ipswich Premier division, Sean and Will. Will had looked very strong in his earlier encounters but Sean, perhaps knowing his team mates Achilles heel made it hard work for Will who was unable repeat his earlier feats, for Sean to win; 8, 7, 8. A lot of laughter ensued around the doubles with Ipswich team mates Sean and Sonja taking on their other member Will with Dominic as his partner. Despite the laughter it was the difference between a win for Sugar or a draw for Vulcans and Sean and Sonja showed why they are going well in the doubles averages by taking another victory and getting the draw; 6, -8, 12, 8.

Thurston Spitfires 3 v 7 Bury Vikings : 02/12/2013 : Colin Baxter

Tony West (Vikings) loves the facilities at Thurston Table Tennis Club so much he never wants to miss a game there. This time was no exception, with him getting off the injury table prematurely to be there. What a joy it must be to play against the Thurston trio of Evans, Cracknell and Baxter.

The first game of the evening was Evans against Unwin (Vikings), which the latter won in 3 sets. Unwin then went on to beat Cracknell in 4 sets before defeating Baxter in 5 sets, which as predicted proved to be the best game of the evening. Baxter went into a 2 sets to 1 lead before Unwin won a close fourth and then romped away in the decider. There were some exhilarating rallies with Unwin’s attack against Baxter’s defence.

John Waters (Vikings) found the Thurston lads too hot to handle, only taking the 1 set during the evening against Cracknell, but still coming off second best.

As for Tony West, the Thurston trio decided to take pity on him with his injury. Both Evans and Cracknell were very kind allowing him to win in straight sets. Baxter however, did take a set off him just to prove a point, before letting him win. West did however play some audacious shots with his hard bat which showed why he is one of the best players in England, if not the world, with this type of bat. Unwin and West went on to win the doubles, giving Vikings a 7-3 victory.

Thurston Vulcans 5 v 5 Lawshall : 14/10/2013 : Sean Gridley

The first game of the night was between Andy Janes and Dennis Morgan. Andy was successful in opening up Dennis with his short backhand topspin but was unable to capitalize on Dennis' high return. Dennis remained steady and attacked when prudent to win 7, 8 & 9. The next game looked to be a much closer affair with Sonja Talbot winning the first rubber against Clive Grimwood. This changed in the next three rubbers with Sonja opening attacking opportunities but unable to get through Clive's solid defence for Clive to win -12, 6, 3, 10. Next up was Sean Gridley vs Steve Blackman, in a cagey affair of who blinked first Sean managed to keep Steve's counter hit too long, or beat him cleanly to run out the winner, 6, 2, 9. Sonja vs Dennis started well with the first two rubbers shared and no clear advantage to either player. Sonja repeated Andy's trick of opening an attack with a flicked backhand only for Dennis to soak up the subsequent attack and win 6, -5, 7, 8.

Andy then faced Steve, and again the first two rubbers were shared. Steve then found his feet and although Andy's topspin attack was effective Steve was able to block with ease and catch Andy on the return, Steve's confidence built and he made the most of his own topspin attack to win 7, -6,7, 9. Next up was Sean vs Clive, unsurprisingly Clive was out of the blocks quickly and soaking up Sean's attack to win the first rubber. Clive was unable to keep this pace however and became more frustrated with his game for Sean to win -7, 4, 2, 6. Sonja then took on Steve, from a tentative start in the first game Sonja produced too much power to render Steve's counter hitting ineffectual to win comfortably 8, 6, 5. Sean then returned to the table to play Dennis, this pairing always get value for money and tonight was no exception. Dennis soaking up the attack to leave Sean looking flat footed and slow, leaving Dennis 2-1 up after three. Both players cursing themselves for silly mistakes for the rest of the match with Sean edging the win; 9, -8, -9, 9, 8. After seemingly losing composure against Sean it looked as though Clive was going to struggle against Andy with the first two games shared at deuce Andy could see a way to win. At this point Clive changed tactics dramatically to win the final two games with ease; 11, -10, 2, 4. In the doubles the mixed pair of Sean and Sonja played the experienced Dennis and Clive. The different receivers demonstrated the weaknesses of each pairing with the scores being even after four games. This meant that Sean and Sonja were determined to start well in the
fifth but were unable to pull away from their opponents. Despite this they managed to secure the win; -9, 5, 9, -9, 9.

2012/13 Season

Thurston Spitfires v Bury Vikings : 25/3/13 : Colin Baxter

If you are going to turn up with just 2 players then it might as well be the best 2 players in the league this season. Vikings fielded Tony West and David Unwin, the two finalists and top seeds at the league championships the day before this game took place. Tony West (league champion) won all his 3 games in a controlled fashion. With him using a Hard bat the rallies were certainly longer and more entertaining. In one game in particular he managed to skilfully use the net to his advantage getting 5 to 6 points in the process. His other shots were not bad either.
The Thurston trio of Colin Baxter, Mark Cracknell and Paul Evans would have another chance of picking up a game, this time against David Unwin. The most likely would be Baxter who the day before at the Championships took Unwin to the wire, losing 11-9 in the fifth and deciding leg after being 2-0 up in the Quarter Final of the Men’s Championship. This time it was Unwin who took the lead taking the first leg 11-7 and looking good for a win, but Baxter battled back winning 11-6 to bring things level. Baxter then took a commanding lead in the third leg and went on to win it 11-4. The fourth leg started the same way with Baxter going into a 7-2 lead only to find himself a few minutes later 10-8 down and maybe his chance of victory gone with Unwin showing the quality shots he has in his armour. Baxter however, kept his cool and his nerve and stuck to his game plan and took the next four points to win 12-10 and a fine victory.
This was Spitfires only win on the evening with Cracknell and Evans battling hard against Unwin but coming out second best. In the doubles it looked like at one stage the Spitfires pairing of Baxter & Cracknell could cause an upset against the leagues Men’s Doubles Champions by taking an exciting first leg 16-14 and then going 9-5 up in the second. West & Unwin however had other ideas and stepped up a gear winning 11-9,11-6,11-5 and giving Vikings a 6-4 victory.

Thurston Spitfires v Stowmarket Jaguars 04.02.13
Stowmarket began this encounter in determined fashion as Sandra Balaam played a steady and consistant game against Paul Evans to win. The next game saw Ray Zhu following in Sandra’s footsteps also winning 3-1 against Nick Anthony, giving the Jaguars a 2-0 lead. Thurston then took control of the match winning the next six games with Colin Baxter winning his three games, Nick Anthony beating both Sandra Balaam and Martin Chamberlain and Evans also defeating Chamberlain. In the ninth game Evans had no answer to the spin and craft of Zhu who then paired up with Balaam to win a convincing doubles, not for the first time against Spitfires. The end result meant that on all three occasions these teams have met this season Spitfires have won 6-4.
Thurston Vulcans 4-6 Stowmarket Jaguars 28.01.13
The first game of the evening pitched Gordon Meadows against Ray Zhu. Meadows put up a great defence against Zhu's consistent topspin in the first and second rubbers - which both went to 10-10, only for Zhu to just pull out the winners in both. Zhu then went on to take the third even against some inspired attacking from Meadows to win 11, 10, 7. Next came Sean Gridley versus Lee Balaam, after some debate it was decided that play would take place with an orange ball. Gridley made a decent start in the first (at which point Balaam asked to return to the white ball) only for Balaam to turn on the style and win comfortably, in the second Gridley was pegged back easily. Gridley made an excellent start in the third and Balaam was struggling to concentrate as Gridley took a 9-5 lead, only for Balaam to re-group and not allow Gridley another point to win 8, 6, 9. Andy Janes then took on Martin Chamberlain, in the first rubber Chamberlains big forehand was too much for Janes and his touch was also very consistent, in the next two rubbers Chamberlain was still doing damage with the big forehand but Janes was containing this attack for the most part only for Chamberlain to hang on and win 6, 10, 10. Gridley then took on Zhu; Gridley was totally bewildered by Zhu in the first, unable to control Zhu's slow loop, but managed to hang on for the win 14-12, Gridley continued to struggle with Zhu's spin but did manage to win in four; 12, 9, -8, 8. Meadows then took on Chamberlain, in this contest Chamberlain was looking to claim another win using his big forehand only for Meadows steady defence and unpredictable touch to frustrate Chamberlain into too many mistakes. Meadows managing to win a close fought game; 8, 7, 6. Janes was then up against Balaam, in a match with a fair amount of banter Balaam was just too strong and won with ease; 7, 2, 4. Gridley versus Chamberlain has produced some close contests in the past, but this proved not to be the case this evening with Chamberlain unable to unleash his forehand too often which allowed Gridley to control the games to win; 5, 8, 14. Janes against Zhu saw Zhu's consistant attack give him the first two rubbers, Janes then rallied to win the third and in a close fourth in which Janes saw a glimmer of the fifth rubber Zhu managed to run out the winner; 11, 7 -8, 9. Meadows against Balaam is always an entertaining and noisy affair and the outcome is similarly predictable with Balaam winning; 5, 0, 5. The pairing of Janes and Gridley took on Balaam and Chamberlain and in what seemed to come as a surprise to both pairings Thurston won the doubles convincingly; 8, 9, 8.
British Sugar v Bury Vikings
In this top of the table clash, Division 1 runaway leaders, British Sugar, visited current champions Bury Vikings, looking for revenge over the only team to have defeated them this season.
Both teams were at full strength, with Vikings including Tony West, fresh from his recent exploits with a sandpaper bat at the World Championship of Ping Pong, and Sugar fielding Bob Harman who had recently been in good form reaching the semi-final of the Britannia Top 12.
The first match saw David Unwin beat Dominic Melero 3-0, although Melero was unlucky not to have taken it to a fourth leg, losing a 7-1 lead in leg three. This was followed by Harman comfortably accounting for John Waters 3-0, to level the match.
West, using a traditional hardbat for the evening, then faced Mark James, who started well taking the first leg. As the second leg progressed West appeared to become more familiar with his hardbat, and duly took the leg 11-8, followed by the next two 11-3, 11-2 to take the match.
Waters then fell victim to Melero's high spin and fast attack, losing in straight sets, and Unwin accounted for James 3-1, to move Vikings into a 3-2 lead.
West v Harman was eagerly anticipated, and the match did not disappoint with some tremendous rallies and excellent attack and defence by both players. West seemed to have completely mastered his unorthodox bat by this stage, and ultimately proved too strong for the tireless Harman, winning 11-6, 11-6, 11-8.
James pulled one back for Sugar, beating Waters 3-0, before West restored Vikings' advantage defeating Melero by the same score.
The final singles was another closely contested affair, a battle of Unwin's topspin against the impressive defence and occasional fast loops of Harman. Always an evenly balanced match, this time it was Unwin who got the upper hand, winning in three tight games 11-8, 11-7, 11-9 to put Vikings into a 6-3 lead.
West & Unwin overcame Melero & Harman 3-0 in the doubles to end the match with a repeat of the scoreline from earlier in the season, 7-3 to Vikings. This is only Sugar's second defeat of the season, and they still have a comfortable lead at the top of Division 1.
Thurston Vulcans vs Rougham Lions played on 19-11-12 at New Green community centre.
Thurston Vulcans 6 - 4 Rougham Lions.
The first encounter of the night was Gordon Meadows against the sometimes inconsistent Max Boulter. The first rubber saw Boulter unable to develop winners on either hand with the relaxed Meadows defending well and hitting an occasional winner. The second and third rubbers saw Boulter find his form to drive down both wings and overwhelm Meadows easily, the fourth rubber saw Boulter lose his concentration to set up a close fifth in which Boulter set up an early lead (5-1 up at the change) only for Meadows to launch a comeback to level scores at 9-9, now Boulter abandoned all caution and won 11-9. Next came Sean Gridley and Will Hall, in a set that never looked like going Hall's way the Suffolk Junior player was unable to get into his stride with Gridley putting Will off in an incorrigible way winning in three close games. Arriving a little late Sonja Talbot was pitched against Will Woods, Talbot's lack of warm-up was evident in the first rubber losing 14-12. In the next three rubbers Talbot's form steadily improved using her trademark forehand to overwhelm Woods and consistently turn around Woods' attack to her advantage and run out the winner  -7,-6, & -2. Gridley then played Boulter, in a match that normally goes Gridley's way a sharp turnaround saw Boulter easily beat Gridley, only dropping one rubber in an impressive display.  Meadows then took on Woods in a close scorecard Woods' relaxed style down both wings was too much for Meadows blocking style for Woods to win in three. In her next game Talbot was up against Hall, both players now thoroughly warmed up; but Hall now playing with much more vigour and movement using his running forehand to good effect stretching Talbot's backhand, much to her frustration. Hall winning in three. Then came Woods vs Gridley, Woods had the advantage; beating Gridley in their last two encounters, this time Gridley's timing was much improved and Woods counter-hitting was letting him down for Gridley to win in four. Next at the table was Talbot and Boulter, again Boulter looked strong in the first game winning it -9. Talbot then found her place and soaked up Boulter's strong forehand with measured backhand blocks and her forehand proved more reliable to win the next three rubbers in a close match -9, 8, 8, 9. Meadows then faced Hall, in the first two rubbers it looked as though Hall was going to continue his previous form, as against Talbot, but Meadows simple and consistent defence just proved too much for Hall's urgency with Meadows winning in five; -8, -5, 7, 2, 6. The doubles started in a similar fashion to other games of the night with Talbot/Gridley losing a close first game. They then rallied and the comical pairing of Woods/Hall collapsed into defeat, -10, 8, 6, 5.
Bury Sugar vs Thurston Vulcans 31/10/2012 Match Result 10-0
The Beet Goes On – A Halloween Horror Show For Vulcans
The Thurston trio of Gordon, Sean and Andy must have sensed a feeling of impending doom as they tottered into battle, with the ceiling and walls of the Sugar hall gloriously bedecked ahead of a Saturday night Halloween gig with all manner of ghastly ghouls, wicked witches and a huge Black Widow spider, literally hanging over them like spectres of the night. It wasn’t going to get any better for the vile villagers as their night of horror progressed...
The axe fell firstly on the affable Gordon ‘Sunny’ Meadows, who was cut down to size with the minimum of fuss by a rampant Bob Harman, who created hell for the genial giant from the get go. It was all Gordon could do to try and confuse Harman by switching from spectacles to presumably contact lenses and then back again between games, but Thurston’s master of disguise had only a haunted look on his face by the end of his trial by spin.
Next up Mark James kept the Sugar pot boiling against Andy ‘The Joker’ Janes, carving his opponent up in four close games. A more mature Mark is developing more of an all-round game as veteran status approaches, and using more than a touch of guile and a hint of devilment, he saw off the jovial Janes in four games to extend Sugar’s lead.
Sugar’s Dom ‘Corleone’ Melero is beginning to find his feet after a slow start to the season, and ripped the heart from the talented Sean Gridley in a closely-fought duel. Dom’s exquisite short backhand loop took stunned Sean by surprise throughout the match and the win was sealed by an increasingly confident Dom, who looked to be back to his very best by the end of the evening.
The merciless executions continued unabated as Sugar’s night got sweeter and sweeter as the Vulcans were one by one grounded by a massive Sugar rush, which culminated in a straightforward victory in the doubles for Mark & Bob. This sealed a night to forget for the vanquished Vulcans, who descended into a pit of human despair as the pendulum swung back and forward over them, the whitewash duly completed.
British Sugar’s season goes from strength to strength - this was Sugar’s sixth successive wide-margin victory of the season and even at this early stage, it will take a Herculean effort from their main rivals and current title holders Bury Vikings to peg them back.
Player of the Match: A close call but has to be the monstrous Black Widow Spider, whose footwork was particularly impressive throughout the evening - Gordon’s many attempts to change his appearance in order to bamboozle his opponents ran the old girl a very close second though.
Rally of The Match: The final match-clinching point of the Gridley/James match was maybe the point of the night, both players contributing to a 30 stroke sizzler won in dramatic style by Mark, as he cart-wheeled across the floor to hit a screaming backhand winner over his shoulder with his back turned to the table, and all this whilst clutching a pint of his beloved Guinness in his free hand – pure genius as they say!
Bury Vikings v Stowmarket Jaguars 09/10/12
Bury Vikings hosted Stowmarket Jaguars at King Edward School, the home team consisting of Tony West, David Unwin and Ross Slade, with the visitors fielding Lee Balaam, Sandra Balaam and Martin Chamberlain.
The first three matches were all decided in straight sets, Unwin defeating Chamberlain, Lee Balaam levelling matters with a win over Slade and then West restoring Vikings advantage by beating Sandra Balaam.
Slade and Chamberlain then had an exciting five set encounter, Slade going 2-0 up only for Chamberlain to fight back to 2-2. In the deciding set, Slade built up a 5-1 lead at the halfway point and pressed home his advantage to triumph 11-4.
Unwin and West then recorded victories over Sandra and Lee Balaam respectively, before Sandra returned to the table to record another Jaguars win against Slade, and West put Vikings 6-2 ahead with a comfortable win over Chamberlain.
Another five setter followed between Unwin and Lee Balaam, the Vikings player squandering a 6-1 lead to lose the first, before levelling by taking the second 11-8.The next two sets were shared to take the match into a deciding fifth set. Balaam went into a strong 5-1 lead at the change of ends, but this time it was his turn to let the lead slip, Unwin coming back to level at 9-9, and then take the next two points and the victory.
West and Unwin wrapped up the match with a 3-0 doubles win to leave the final score 8-2 to Vikings.
Mention must be made of the “shot of the evening” by Sandra Balaam, who “counter-smashed” a full blooded smash from Unwin whilst she was standing only a couple of feet back from the table!
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