Dateline: 25 April 2015
What a fantastic evening of table tennis! An appreciative crowd of 30 spectators plus the 6 players witnessed the Final of the Liverpool & District Table Tennis League's Frank Murphy Veterans Handicap Cup played at Marine on Wednesday 22 April. The match featured two Bath Street teams, the current cup holders Bath Street Marine 1 being challenged by Bath Street Marine 2, who also happened to be the runners-up last season. The presence of Mrs Marjorie Murphy, the widow of Frank, and other members of the family, who sponsor the trophy, added to the sense of occasion. Blue Jacket umpire, Graham Rollinson, officiated on behalf of L&DTTL. And what a match it proved to be, with some high class table tennis, great excitement, tension and many crowd pleasing moments.
Mrs Marjorie Murphy (centre) and other family members, the sponsors of the trophy, pose with match official Graham Rollinson and the players. But trust Club President Billy Clayton to get in the picture too!
When these two teams met in the Final of the same event last year the team now named BSM1 (captain Barry Davis, Tony Kendall and Ted Cramsie) started with a handicap advantage of 43 points over the team now named BSM 2 (captain Ken Jackson, Ricky Brown and Darren Taylor) and finished up winning by just 2 points in a most dramatic match. This year however the handicap difference was just 17 points in favour of BSM 1, it was therefore going to need a monumental effort from BSM1 to keep the trophy in their hands. On paper each team looked evenly matched; each featuring a division 1 player, a division 2 player and a division 3-4 player. And few of the knowledgeable crowd were sticking their necks out with a positive projection of the outcome. It was again going to be very close. On a toss of the coin by match official Graham Rollinson, Ken Jackson decided that BSM2 would be the away team giving them the chance to determine which of their players would appear in the opening set. And no surprise here, Killer Ken selected himself!
In the earlier rounds of the competition Ken, or Killer Ken as he has become known, has been totally dominant crushing his opponents from lower divisions. But right up to almost the eleventh hour there was a question about whether Ken would be fit for the final, having sustained a knee and hamstring injury which had kept him out of league play for a short while. In the end Ken declared himself fit for the match and sporting a new knee bandage showed right from the off that he was totally determined to do all he could to prise the trophy from rival captain Barry's hands. His opening opponent Ted Cramsie. The first end passed in a flash, at least the flash of Ken's devastating back hand flick, as he cruised through 6:21. Ted fought back at the start of the 2nd game moving into an 8:7 lead. But Ken held his nerve and slipped away again using all of his skill and experience to win 14:21. This meant that by the end of the first set the handicap deficit had been eradicated and BSM2 led by 43:48 points.
The next set, featuring the two division 2 players from the same league team, Barry Davis and Ricky Brown, looked to be one of the key games of the night. Barry has been in superb form in the league of late, but Ricky is an experienced fighter quite capable of confounding the best with his tenacious chop, sharp counter punching and clever use of the black pimples on one surface of the bat. In the first end Barry just didn't seem to get started, like a rabbit caught in the headlights he just didn't seem to be able to take any action to stop the persistent chop or protect himself from some smart counter blocking. First end to Ricky 9:21 a serious set back for BSM1. A much better display from Barry in game 2 but a vital missed smash at 9:13 which followed some great recovery shots from Ricky resulted in the game slipping away too 18:21. The crowd were gripped, this should have been a much closer set but in the end 27:42 in favour of Ricky meant BSM2 pulled into a 70:90 point lead.
On the night Tony Kendall, for BSM1, matched his first division team mate Ken Jackson point for point. In the end Ken dropped just 1 point fewer than Tony with the points in favour for each of the two players being identical - showing just how evenly matched these two sides were. So how would Tony fare in his first set against Darren Taylor? An edgy opening gave first advantage to Darren 2:3. What followed was real drama with some show-stopping crowd pleasing table tennis with Darren battling and making some tremendous recoveries from way behind the base line. But Tony powered through 21:9. Darren again started well in the second moving 2:3 ahead. More drama, when Darren somehow pulled back to 14:11. Once again Tony powered back to take the game 21:15. a fabulous set with a few missed opportunities and some tremendous points; the crowd were in raptures. The 42:24 score-line in favour of BSM1 meant the gap between the two teams was now just 2 points in favour of BSM2.
The two captains were next to the table. At first it looked as if Ken's relentless back hand flick was going to prove unstoppable. But a much improved performance from Barry saw him battling for every single point, but in the first end the few errors still seemed to be his; 16:21 to Ken. In the second game Barry started to match the relentless back hand, and when Ken actually missed a serve a passing thought wondered if he might be losing his nerve? But just as Barry seemed to be edging back into the game his own missed serve effectively ended it; 18:21 to Ken. But this time it was just 8 points to the good for the BSM2 team taking them into a 146:156 lead.
Set 5 featuring Ted Cramsie against Darren Taylor was to prove to be another key battle and possibly the decisive one. Ted needed to win this set if BSM1 were to retain the trophy. Dashing Darren started well immediately moving 1:4 ahead. Ted fought back to take a 9:6 lead. After that it was nip and tuck. Some tremendous recovering from Darren and some real missed opportunities from Ted who too often fell foul to Darren's high recoveries just 'popping' up with the effect of the top spin leaving Ted too close to the ball for an effective shot. First end 19:21 to Darren, an upset was on the cards. But a good start in the 2nd saw Ted move 5:2 ahead but Darren was not going to give in and there followed some real crowd pleasing play with some superb defence from way back by Darren and far too many missed winning smashes from Ted. In the end it was Darren who prevailed 18:21, and although just 5 points separated the two it was a vital contribution taking BSM2 into a 183:198 lead. There looked no way back for BSM1.
As large crowd witness spectacular match
In a set of real contrasting styles the BSM1 No.1 Tony Kendall now faced the BSM2 No.2 Ricky Brown. If BSM1 were to retain the cup this had to be the moment to secure it. At first Ricky matched everything Tony threw at him, with some tremendous blocking on the half volley. A change of game was needed, and made, Tony taking some of the pace off the ball trying to force Ricky into having to attack. The change paid off with Tony taking the first end 21:13. But Ricky is no quitter and making some clever use of the pimples he was able to match Tony early on in the second. Then just as it seemed as if Tony might be pulling ahead a few basic errors allowed Ricky back in and almost let the end slip away. But Tony recovered well finishing up 21:18 ahead. The 11 points gained once more closed the gap between the two teams 225:229.
The third key battle of the night was captain Barry Davis of BSM1 against Darren the underdog of BSM2. Showing a real 'never say die' spirit Darren set about forcing errors from his senior ranked opponent in the first end with his trademark lofted top spin recovery shots from the back of the court. The surprise was that they did force errors! With Darren securing an amazing 14:21 win in the first end - this was not in the script! Barry knew he had to do something and finally he seemed to achieve the breakthrough with a tremendous finish to take the second 21:9. However, overall this was just 5 points advantage for BSM1 but it did mean that BSM1 moved into a 1 point lead for the first time since before the start of the first set! Game on!
Ted would need to match Darren's tenacity in the next set to keep BSM1's hopes alive facing his senior opponent Ricky Brown in set 8. A great start by Ted saw him pull into an early lead with a couple of his hallmark back hand attacking shots. But perhaps trying too hard to force the play he then allowed the early lead to slip back to 10:10. And as Ricky got into his stride Ted simply couldn't sustain the consistency necessary to stay with him, first end 13:21 in favour of Ricky. Although the next end was again close it seemed that Ted had lost his way and that the fight was gone, "you could see it in his eyes" remarked one very knowledgeable spectator! In the end Ricky even slipped in a couple of deceiving rolled forehand shots off of the pimples before winning out 17:21. By now BSM2 were again 11 points ahead with just 1 set left to play.
Up stepped the two No.1 players for the final showdown. First Division teammates Tony Kendall and Ken Jackson now faced each other once again for the trophy. But this time Tony needed to win and by 11 points to force a decider. What a fitting finale this proved to be. Tony came out like a bullet out of a gun forcing Ken into using his forehand which he did with great effect for 3 clean winners. But with some of the best forehand and back hand attacking shots of the evening Tony forced Ken to concede ground for the first time in the match taking the first end 21:12. Exactly what was needed, more of the same and the trophy would be retained. But had the bubble burst? A few indifferent points by Tony at the start of game 2, and although pegged back, were followed by some unforced errors as Ken saved his very best play for the final game pulling out all the stops to match his opponents first game achievement 12:21. This left the scores even between the two 33:33 and the trophy had passed into the hands of Ken Jackson and BSM2 323 points to 334.
A magnificent match, very well appreciated by the large crowd and played in an excellent spirit throughout as befits club colleagues. Man of the Match? In the eyes of most spectators one would have to say Darren Taylor. There was no doubt he was a crowd pleaser and as the lowest ranked player in the two sides dropping just 18 points over his 3 sets was a magnificent achievement which ensured that the advantages gained by his senior team mates were not lost.
Following the presentation of the trophies an excellent buffet was enjoyed by all in the Marine Social Club - and of course a well earned drink. A great night out.
The Winning Team - BSM 2
Darren Taylor, Ken Jackson and Ricky Brown
The Runners-Up - BSM 1
Barry Davis, Tony Kendall and Ted Cramsie
Match Official Graham Rollinson with the two teams