Surbiton names first
SN Mulliner & TJ Wilkins lost to RJ Brown & DR Foulser -18
CJ Patmore lost to DJ Kibble -26tp
S Patel lost to DL Gaunt -9
Mulliner beat Brown +24
Wilkins beat Foulser +7
Patmore lost to Gaunt -26tp
Patel lost to Kibble -12qpo
A solid Cheltenham team proved too strong for Surbiton. Slowish lawns and "Nobly" firm hoops punished inferior hoop approaches but, to home team chagrin, this was mainly a Surbitonic characteristic.
Kibble made a quick start for Cheltenham with an 8th turn TP against Patmore. The doubles started well for Surbiton with Wilkins hitting on turn 3 after a supershot opening and making hoop 1. Sadly, that was as far as he got and Brown went to 4-back on turn 4. Foulser found the firm hoops a challenge and failed hoop 1. However, Wilkins failed hoop 2 and Foulser got back in only to get hampered after 3 which allowed Mulliner to attempt a TPO. However, he was hampered after 1-back with two peels achieved and Brown sensibly went to the peg and laid a cross-wire at 4. Wilkins missed the 30 yarder into corner 2 by nothing and Foulser made no mistake in his break to the peg.
Patel and Gaunt had an interactive game which lurched in Cheltenham's favour when Samir, having peeled 4-back with a take-off going to 1-back, made 1-back, rushed back to N boundary and played a magnificent split loading 3-back and getting SB to within 6 inches off the peelee at 4-back. Sadly, there was the little matter of 4-back itself interposing itself (just) and SB could see nothing apart from corner 2. Don took heart and Samir did not take croquet again. Cheltenham 3-0. Tricky position for the home team.
By now it was 12 noon and the finishers (other than your author who is strictly TT until lunch and regards lunch as meal taken at 1 o'clock) were keen to see the bar open and, breakfast being only a couple of hours old, to sample Anna Noble's magnificent braised chicken. However, that was not to be ready until 1 p.m. anyway so Mulliner and Brown kicked off. It looked like 26tp to Mulliner until he elected to deal with a straight rover peel by croqueting it second and going to an escape ball. The peelee stuck, the bombard worked and the bombardier stuck on the wire. Great. The jump failed and Brown was in with four balls round rover. He too found the hoops a challenge and failed at 3 whereupon the match was soon over. Cheltenham 3-1. Surbitonic hope continue to flicker.
Given that Gaunt had played less than perfectly against Patel, had not completed a TP all season and had now turned 65 (so was a "fully-fledged" pensioner as he put it), it was inevitable that Patmore would not take croquet in that match either. Chris was naturally thrilled to learn after the game that Don's TP was his first in 2004 and his first as a fully-fledged OAP! Cheltenham 4-1.
With the match decided, Kibble decided to enliven his game against Patel with an elegant QPO. Samir made hoop 1 off the contact with a 3-4 yard hoop and a longish roquet but then missed a 7-yarder near hoop 2 and that was that. While this was happening, Wilkins and Foulser had another "interactive" game in the hot sunshine that saw the hoops as the clear winner and Tim just edge Dave into third place.
Final result Cheltenham 5 Surbiton 2 and the visitors were worthy winners. Memo to George - let's try the 4 inch hoop strategy next time!
Cheltenham make the final for the second successive year and the third time in four years.