2006/07 County Championships

Dan Hawkins reports:

Qualifying Tournament at Eton - November 12th

The qualifying tournament for this year's County Championship had a real buzz about it. It was good to see many players making their debut alongside some really experienced players including four Kinnaird Cup winners. The competition also allowed the university teams from Cambridge and Oxford to take part in a three pair competition - a great opportunity to test their strength and try out different pairings in advance of the Varsity Match.


The seven counties entered were split into two groups and battled it out to make it through to the semi-finals in January. The group of four (Kent, Middlesex, Oxfordshire and Shropshire) played matches over 2 games while the group of three (Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Warwickshire) played best of three games.

The standard of fives was very high and there were some extremely close (and long) battles. In the group of four, Kent won all their matches dropping only 2 games on their way to finishing top. It was hard to separate the other three teams and in the end Middlesex and Shropshire both finished on 3.5 points. However, Middlesex qualified for the semi-finals by virtue of their victory over Shropshire.

In the other group, the first match between Warwickshire and Hertfordshire was so close that all three pairs went to three games and didn�t finish until gone 1pm. The finale of first pair match (Warwickshire: Courtney Friend & Richard Tyler vs Herts: Peter Cohen & Mark Herring) attracted a big crowd. With Richard and Courtney prevailing Warwickshire won 2-1 overall and they eventually went on to qualify in first place beating Cambridgeshire 2-1 in another closely fought contest. The final game between Herts and Cambridgeshire was also extremely close but just after 6pm Peter Cohen and Mark Herring victory at first pair secured the remaining place in the semi-finals for Herts.

Finals at Eton on January 14th

The Hertfordshire team had even gone to the trouble of getting t-shirts made especially for the occasion, which perhaps demonstrates that the County Championship is greatly enjoyed by those who take part. It throws different players together and encourages new combinations that brings some freshness to the fives calendar. The fives is also of a high standard with many of the top players in particular enjoying the possibility of teaming up with university friends or rivals for a change.

In the first semi-final, Kent was just too strong for Hertfordshire. With James Toop and Matt Wiseman leading the way at first pair, Kent won all pairs and progressed comfortably 3-0. The other semi-final was more evenly balanced. Ross Bryan and Ed Rose battled hard against Warwickshire's top pair Richard Tyler and Jonathan Mole but eventually lost to the more experienced pair. Warwickshire also won at third pair to secure victory and move forward into the final against Kent.

In the final Kent fielded the same pairings: Matt Wiseman and James Toop, Dan Hawkins and Howard Wiseman, Tom MacDonald and Charlie Jewkes. With so much strength at first and second, Warwickshire was unable to stop Kent regaining the title it lost to Middlesex last year. Tom and Charlie also won at third to make it 3-0 to Kent.

Group results

Kent 1st 8 points

Middlesex 2nd 3.5 points

Shropshire 3rd 3.5 points

Oxfordshire 4th 3 points

Warwickshire 1st 4 points

Hertfordshire 2nd 3 points

Cambridgeshire 3rd 2 points


Semi-finals

Kent beat Hertfordshire 3-0

Warwickshire beat Middlesex 2-1


Third-place playoff

Hertfordshire beat Middlesex 2-1


Final

Kent beat Warwickshire 3-0