Westminsters Into Their First Ever Barber Cup Final
04/05/21: The Old Westminsters made history at Eton on Sunday as they qualified for the final of the Alan Barber Cup in association with Advanta Wealth for the first time in the 56 year history of the competition.
This year's competition has obviously not been played in ideal circumstances, with little opportunity to practise or play regular competitive Fives. The Old Salopians - finalists in nine of the last eleven years - clearly struggled with this lack of playing time and with Tom Cox injured and Sam Welti absent, the up and coming Westminster team took their opportunity impressively.
The Westminster top four of Laurie Brock, Riki Houlden, Hugo Young and Sahil Shah had managed to get a lot more court time under their belts in recent weeks than their opponents and were all sharp and focused on the job in hand right from the start of their matches. Riki & Laurie took on Ed Taylor & Rex Worth at first pair and barring a slow start to the second game were always in control of their match, their speed around the court and their retrieving and accuracy of shot too much for their opponents, whose attacking game landed occasional blows but not enough to fully impose themselves on the relentless Westminster pair.
The third pair game saw Ed Rose & wild card selection Ismail Salim up against the experienced T Walters & Henry Blofield. This was an enthralling match with frequent momentum shifts, which eventually came down to the Westminster pair's ability to convert at sudden death in both the first and third games. Small margins.
A similar story was happening at second pair in what turned out to be an even closer encounter. George Thomason for the Salopians and Hugo Young for the Westminsters are two of the most exciting players to watch on the circuit and their personal battles, especially on top step, were thrilling to watch. The "support acts" were also pretty impressive, Chris Hughes for the Salopians fighting hard and battling for every point and the hugely improved Sahil Shah proving to be a model of steadiness and accuracy, confirming the good impression he made when winning the Universities title back in October. As with the third pair match, this came down to who could get themselves over the line at the sharp end of each game and again it was the Westminsters who managed it, winning the first two games 15-13 and 14-13. George & Chris did hit back in the third to win 14-13 but by that stage the result of the tie overall was done and dusted and the pairs called it a day at the end of three hugely entertaining games of Fives.
Unsurprisingly, the Westminsters' opponents in their first final will be the Olavians - winners in 19 of the last 21 years - who were made to work hard for their place in the final thanks to a determined display by the Cholmeleians. The evergreen James Toop & Matthew Wiseman (there was double satisfaction on the day for Matt thanks to his long-term role as coach at Westminster School) were too strong for Jonny Ho & Matt Kovar at first pair, although the Highgate duo did get into the match more the longer it went on. Second pair initially looked like business as usual for Seb Cooley, playing alongside Prajeeth Sathiyamoorthy against Guy Chapman & Chris Blackaby as they took the first game to 2. The next two went the distance, however, and both went the way of the Cholmeleian pair. With the third pair match poised at 1-1 and going all the way in the third, there was a short period where Highgate hopes of a major upset were raised. No sooner were they raised, then they were dashed, however, as Seb & Prajeeth raced through the fourth game 12-0 before finishing off 12-7 in the fifth.
At third pair, Emily Scoones & Abs Bhattacharya - having levelled at 1-1 against Howard Wiseman & Josh Ravi - lost the key third game 14-13 and with that their chance had also gone as the Olavian third pair closed out the match 12-5 in the fourth to complete a 3-0 win and confirm yet another Olavian appearance in the final, which will be played at Eton on Saturday June 5th.
Alan Barber Cup 2020/21 Semi-Finals
Old Westminsters beat Old Salopians 2-0
R.Houlden & L.Brock beat R.Worth & E.Taylor 3-0 (12-7, 12-10, 12-3)
H.Young & S.Shah were leading G.Thomason & C.Hughes 2-1 (15-13, 14-13, 13-14 match unfinished)
I.Salim & E.Rose beat T.Walters & H.Blofield 3-0 (13-12, 12-7, 13-12)
Old Olavians beat Old Cholmeleians 3-0
J.Toop & M.Wiseman beat J.Ho & M.Kovar 3-0 (12-5, 12-1, 12-7)
S.Cooley & P.Sathiyamoorthy beat G.Chapman & C.Blackaby 3-2 (12-2, 11-14, 12-14, 12-0, 12-7)
H.Wiseman & J.Ravi beat Ab.Bhattacharya & E.Scoones 3-1 (12-8, 8-12, 14-13, 12-5)