Easter is approaching and it must soon be time for the ICT, that annual pilgrimage to Nottingham University in search of the elusive trophy that our area has only won once, back in 1987. We had no realistic hopes of such success again this year but the team headed down there to build on all the work done at the Performance Centre – and to have a good end-of-season experience.
There had been a couple of scares with ankle injuries to two of our girls but the team was as initially selected and was –
Charlotte Graham, Ellen Davison, Lucy Dodd, Natalie Ho, Sarah Bambrick
Arif Alam, Finlay Smith, Melvin Cherian, Tim Bodani, Vikram Nayyar.
And they were supported by the management team of Richard Taylor, Alison Thompson, Martin Fagan, and Karen Davison, backed up by several visiting parents – many thanks to them all.
The first group had us playing one of the top eight seeds, Surrey, and two of the middle-ranking seeds. Surrey dispatched us 10-0 with little difficulty and we only reached double figures in four of the twenty ends. Against Oxfordshire, however, things looked up with a mixed win for Sarah & Melvin, level doubles wins for Tim & Vikram and Sarah & Natalie and a magnificent three-end, top singles win for Lucy, not yet 13 years old. There were also two other three-enders in this close match which was lost 4-6. Derbyshire were stronger and we lost the evening match 8-2 but there were good wins for Tim at singles and Melvin & Finlay at doubles. Two other matches were close three-enders. So all in all, it had been a pretty satisfactory first day, giving considerable hope for day two.
The second round matches brought us two more, close 4-6 losses against Cornwall and Gloucestershire. Finlay had a good singles win against Cornwall and there were several successes in all the doubles disciplines. That brought us to the evening match against neighbours Cumbria. We were led off in fine style by the two mixed pairings of Charlotte & Melvin and Ellen & Arif with straightforward wins but the best match here saw Tim playing Alex Dalton at top singles. After a great tussle Tim came home 15/13, 11/15, 15/12. There were strong performances all round resulting in a resounding 10-0 victory, which meant that the team would now move into a group playing off for positions 25 to 28. That was pretty much what we would have expected for our young and relatively inexperienced team.
Apart from the win over Cumbria, the highlight so far had to be the imperious form of Tim Bodani, an Under 16 who always seems to have time on his side. Six straight wins on day two, and a record of eight victories from 11 matches thus far, was as good as anything from our players in recent years. Supporting him, senior players Sarah Bambrick and Melvin Cherian had each contributed six good wins and every one of the team had chalked up a victory which, before the end of Day Two, was more than satisfactory.
Day 3 saw the team build on the Cumbria result with another good win over the Isle of Man by 7 matches to 3. Particularly satisfying here were the wins by Natalie & Vikram at mixed doubles and Ellen at singles, both wins coming by very small margins in the third end after long, tight matches. We knew that the second tie, against Wiltshire, would be tight and so it proved – 5 all on matches, 11 all on games won, losing only by a measly 5 points. A little more strength was needed in the girls singles and maybe that was a managerial error. The day finished with a night out at the Ten Pin alley (where the Manager amazed everyone with his expertise) and was topped off with pizza.
And so, onto the last day when we had to play Herefordshire. We were pretty sure that a win would see us top the group to finish 25th and we hoped that late adjustments to the selected team would see us get there. Weakening the mixed pairs slightly while strengthening the girls singles seemed to have worked out well initially as both mixed pairs of Charlotte & Tim and Ellen & Arif took their matches comfortably. Sarah fought back well at top singles before just losing 13/15 in the third end but Lucy was putting in a great effort against a much bigger, stronger opponent and took her match 15/13, 15/6. An excellent win. That left it 3-all going into the level doubles. Tim & Melvin won theirs in fine style and Sarah & Natalie, having lost a close first end, fought back brilliantly to win their doubles and make it 5-4 to us. That left the rest of the team cheering on our youngsters Ellen & Lucy, who responded to the pressure with an excellent 15/11, 15/12 win, giving us a very satisfying 6-4 overall victory.
It had been yet another memorable four days at Nottingham and the management team were delighted with the way the whole team had performed. Sarah, Arif, Melvin and Vikram will be too old next year but there should be good competition to replace them. Another great experience awaits those who make the team for 2020!
The management team would like to thank the players for all the hard work that went into this year’s event. They did themselves – and their parents – proud. And many thanks also to the travelling supporters. It is almost impossible to hear them – but great to know that they are there!