2001/02 County Championships
Jamie Fleming reports:
It's a great shame (and troubles me to admit it), but the County Championship remains a marginalised tournament.
It is without a doubt the least well attended competition on the calendar and gets a distinctly luke-warm reaction every year. Why this should be remains a mystery. Playing for your county should be an honour, but what with the sheer number of matches teams and individuals play these days, it is treated more as an inconvenience. This may have something to do with the fact that county teams are just thinly disguised league teams given a different name. The lure of county fives should be the chance to play with other partners. Instead, the same players play together once again - making the thought of yet another competition less appealing.
Anyway, rant over. Seven counties entered the 2001/2002 County Championships this year. Reigning champs Kent, were up against the individual mights of Suffolk, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Middlesex, Warwickshire and Berkshire. Late drop-outs came, rather disappointingly, from Sussex and Oxfordshire. Shropshire didn't enter as they had arranged a league game on the same day. Again, proof if proof were needed, of the kind of commitment given to the competition.
The teams gathered on a hand-numbingly cold Sunday 18th November at Eton, to play the first round. Middlesex, due to a mix up, ended up with a disgraceful one pair, effectively giving all the other teams they played a bye. Only Cambridgeshire managed any sort of fight, narrowly failing to get through to the finals despite a valiant display.
The final, on January 20th, took place on one of the wettest days of the New Year. As the rain fell continuously, the semis were hard fought affairs, with Kent battling it out with Suffolk and Warwickshire up against Berkshire. The Suffolk first pair took the first game against Kent before M.Wiseman had to concede the game through injury. Reynolds and Caudle at two, narrowly lost in their best of three, losing 14-15 in the final game against D.Hawkins and C.Cooley. At third, the battle was even more intense, going to three games, and Suffolk's Boughton and Woolfries winning 2-1 against Kent's Marriot and Mew. Suffolk triumphed 2-1 over the 2001 Champions.
In the other semi-final, it got even closer. Warwickshire's J.Mole and S.Cooley just beat Berkshire's M.Moore and A.Illingworth, in a thrilling final game that went to 15-11. Tyler and an in-form C.Friend beat the younger Bailey and Dixon in straight games, while in third pair, Berkshire (Dawson and MacKenzie) staged a comeback, winning convincingly in the third game against Purkis and Cox.
Berkshire v Kent for 3rd and 4th place
Suffolk v Warwickshire for 1st and 2nd
Berkshire and Kent had a tightly fought (and very, very long) battle at first pair, with Berkshire eventually conceding to Wiseman and Mew as the other games had already decided the result. Berkshire won in straight games, taking 3rd place.
A Warwickshire, strengthened by the late arrival of Robin Mason, took an incredibly strong side into the final, beating Suffolk 3-0.
Six Counties took part. A round-robin was played, allowing every County to play every other in a match of one game (usual settings). Results based on matches won - if equal down to games and then points if necessary.
1st - Kent with 5 points: winning all their 5 matches 3 - 0, only dropping 1 game to Berkshire.
2nd - Warwickshire with 4 wins. They dropped 1 game to Middlesex and Berkshire.
3rd - Berkshire with 3 wins. They dropped 1 game to Middlesex and Suffolk, losing to Kent and Warwickshire.
4th - Suffolk with 2 wins. Dropped 1 game to Cambridgeshire. Lost to Berkshire, Kent and Warwickshire.
5th - Cambridgeshire. They lost to just about everyone except Middlesex so narrowly missed going through to the final round.
6th - Middlesex. Confusion on the day meant they only managed to supply one pair. Despite winning 3 games they were not going through.
Suffolk beat Kent 2-1
K Rudman & M Graves beat M Wiseman & H Wiseman 2-1 (6-12 ret)
J Reynolds & J Caudle lost to D Hawkins & C Cooley 0-2 (8-12, 14-15)
P Boughton & S Woolfries beat M Marriot & D Mew 2-1 (12-6, 11-13, 12-6)
Warwickshire beat Berkshire 2-1
J Mole & S Cooley beat M Moore & A Illingworth 2-1 (12-9, 8-12, 15-11)
R Tyler & C Friend beat Bailey & Dixon 2-0 (12-6, 12-7)
S Purkis & N Cox lost to T Dawson & H MacKenzie 1-2 (11-12, 12-10, 2-12)
Warwickshire beat Suffolk 3-0
J Mole & S Cooley beat K Rudman & M Graves 3-0 (12-1, 12-9, 12-9)
R Tyler & C Friend beat J Reynolds & J Caudle 3-0 (12-7, 12-9, 12-8)
S Purkis & R Mason beat P Boughton & S Woolfries 3-0 (12-3, 12-3, 12-3)
Third Place Play-off
Berkshire beat Kent 2-1
M Moore & A Illingworth lost to H Wiseman & D Mew 0-2 (14-15, 7-12)
M Williams & T Dawson beat D Hawkins & C Cooley 2-0 (12-8, 14-13)
H MacKenzie & S Stephens beat J Lawrence & M Marriot 2-0 (12-4, 12-4)