In the Southport League they have the Anon Cup, which is a scratch cup competition with no handicapping, so a real David versus Goliath encounter. Formby are from the 1st division and our Synergy team is in the 3rd division.
First two games came and went without incident but incredibly a 3/0 win each for Andrew Melding and Alan Baron. 2/0 up, game on! Next up Nick Roberts (on away teams choice) their No1 seed versus our No2 seed to try and get a toe hold in the match. What a match! Nick played the game of his life so far and dispatched Ned 3/1 in a very high quality game.
As the game was nearing its end the cameras caught Cappy (me) leaning across to Andrew hand across mouth to thwart those piercing lip reading cameras trained on the team dugouts - "you know what Nick is playing out of his skin l think l am going to play him again in next game as he is running white hot". Andrew nodded in agreement. Nick agreed so with Synergy 3/0 up battle recommenced.
Nick was playing Brian. A real gentlemen of elder years but obviously a seasoned veteran of the game with now obvious mobility issues - what a player he must have been in his pomp. He called for a fielding ball boy due to not being able to bend down to pick up the ball. Ball Boy Barron (BBB) duly obliged - he was really good at this task and may have found himself his real niche at the club?
Battle commenced. It was like watching one of those American docu-soaps where they speed the play up slow it down and also play it at normal speed all in quick succession. Brian receiving the ball from a dutiful BBB at normal speed, Brian stepping 6 paces back at slow speed, pausing, thinking, then shuffling forward and then as if suddenly electrified fires out a serve at super speed. Nick being the agile athlete that he is responded in kind - superfast return, back and forth till point won. Back to normal speed. BBB did his duty and got the ball for Brian and battle rejoined. So the cycle continued for what seemed like an eternity. The crowd where enthralled and captivated. Age versus Youth, Beauty versus a glowing elder statesman, Brains versus Brawn, Tortoise versus Hare.
They slugged it out and we are now in the fifth set 9 all. At stake was a potentially unassailable 4/0 lead for Synergy against a potentially still in the game 3/1 lead. Brian called for the ball from BBB. BBB sensing the gravity of the situation stepped forward, heels together, bolt up right, right hand perfectly poised like a Hitler youth salute but with ball in hand, the ball delivered with an accurate one bounce on floor to Brian's bat. BBB stepped back, Brian cocked an eye towards Nick, tapped the ball 6 times on his horizontal bat. He shuffles forward in slow motion, cocked his eye again at Nick to check his position, Bang the serve came in, bang the ball went back, bang the the ball was blocked to to the opposite corner, bang Nick returned, deftly Brian pushed Nick around the table, Bang Nick went for one of his trade mark cross table smashes, clips the net and agonisingly just misses the table. 10/9 to the brains of the match. BBB does his duty and the action returns to slow motion. Speed up - the serve comes in and the return is in the net. It is all over. The crowd went berserk with applause and admiration for both players who had truly put on a magnificent performance. 3/2 to Brian. 3/1 to Synergy in match.
Would Synergy now wobble and crumble or are they made of sterner stuff? Next up BBB versus Ted ...
Well after the excitement of the previous match this was an anticlimax. First division class and guile shone through and BBB had to accept defeat 3/0. Synergy wobbling 3/2 up.
Synergy’s choice for next match.... Cappy took the responsibility and called for Seed 1 versus Seed 1. My concentration levels where high due to the importance of the match and to be honest the game flew by and so l cannot give you a description of the match. What l do remember is getting the adulation of my team mates for a well executed match. Cappy 3 Ned 0. Synergy 4 Holy Trinity 2. Synergy getting tantalisingly close to the winning line ...
Next up Andrew playing Brian. Does Brian have the energy left after his tumultuous battle with Nick? Can Andrew raise his game to the required first division standard? Sadly for Synergy Brians 74 year career memory bank (he told us this in the players lounge after the match over a couple of beers) shone through despite being dead on his feet. 3/0 to Brian the game delicately poised 4/3 to Synergy.
Cappy steps forward to play Ted. Now Ted is a real student of the game and came to the table with a plan having watched Cappys first game. As it turns out he has an antique "anti loop" dodgy bat - we learned this at the post match debrief in the players lounge. Digressing for a moment to tell you the story ...
He played this young lady in Liverpool some time ago and took a fancy to her. She had the rubbers he had the inclination. He kept the rubber as momento and put it on his bat. Well this bat is now knackered. The best way l can describe it is that it is older than a WW1 ground crew aeroplane hand parking bat. But in Teds hands what a tool he has!!
The match was a one sided affair with Ted chopping viciously using his vintage bat and trophy rubbers. Ted 3 Cappy 0. Match tied 4/4 with only the doubles remaining.
Nick and Cappy versus Ned and Ted - think of the two Ronnies without glasses. A Little guy and a rolly poly average sized guy. What a team though! They both knew each others game and executed some much practised and used set ups for each other and despite a great close first and last game Cappy and Nick went down 3/0. Synergy’s dream of winning against a first division team was now becoming a night mare. Formby hit the front for the first time 5/4 up. One game of doubles left. BBB and Andrew due on table.
What happened next though was truly astonishing ...
At this point your narrator is going to have to make an admission - never let the truth get in the way of a good story. Let me explain ... what l have been keeping from you is the fact that Formby had turned up a man short so Alan and Andrews first games were walkovers!
Andrew and Alan were good to go in the doubles, but what of the opposition? To say we had an incredibly gentle discussion over what to do about the next match would be an understatement. What are the rules? The old rules say this. This years new rules say that but can be interpreted to mean this. The twists and turns in the discussions were more tense than the Brexit negotiations - but I hasten to add held in a most convivial atmosphere. The room was tense, the camera focused on faces and lip readers installed by the TV coverage. The crowd where getting subtitles on the big screen
They knew what was being said and the gravity of the situation. What to do? Tossing a coin was discussed and dismissed. Finally Ned being the gentle man that he is conceded defeat on the last doubles game making it a five-all draw. The match now goes to count back on games won. Ned adds up, Nick adds up (Cappy at this point has abdicated his captain responsibilities and summoned Sue to get the beers in). They get differing scores. Do it again ... and again. recount after recount. The official recorder stands next to the microphone. The cameras focus in on everyone's facial twitches, smiles and downturns of the mouth to try and pre-empt what is just about to be announced. The crowd falls silent. Count back reads Synergy 17 Formby ... wait for it ... 16 ... Synergy win!
Cue rapturous applause and singing by the crowd that went something like this ... “We shall not ... we shall not ... just like a team that's gonna win the Anon cup we shall not be moved" ... etc.
The commentator drew his thoughts together in the box and said "some people are on the pitch they think its all over" and at this exact moment the camera caught Ned signing the score card "it is now!"
Well done Synergy.
Written by Paul Melling (aka Cappy)