After both England and New Zealand convincingly beat the other two teams in the competition, Stephen began a daily summary of the decider...
The lawns were very comfortably paced (probably just less than 10 seconds) and the Atkins hoops, although firmly set in the sandy sub-base, did not present nearly as much challenge as they had in the earlier venues. The lawns are true with very few slopes near hoops. Accordingly, the match will be a test of shooting well and keeping mistakes to an absolute minimum.
The day began brightly for England and by shortly after 1000 we led 1-0 in both the Fulford/Patel v Chapman/C Clarke match (+26tp (Fulford) and the Death/Mulliner v Bryant/J Clarke match (+26). In both cases, the games lasted 7 turns each and the losers did not take croquet. In the Burch/Maugham v Garrison/Westerby match, Jamie took early advantage of a hoop 1 failure by Garrison to get under way.
Unfortunately for England, that was the high point of the day. We then lost the next six games to lose all three matches and trail 0-3. Having said that, there is nothing to choose between the teams in terms of ability and we will attempt to return the compliment tomorrow. It is no exaggeration to say that the score could have been 2-1 to England with only a small change in fortunes.
Samir & Rob could feel a little robbed. In game 3, they were peg & 4-b against 1 and 2 with a good leave and their opponents' shooting had not been particularly impressive. However, Paddy Chapman rose to the occasion, hit an 18-yarder from A-baulk, went to 4-b with a reverse NSL, Rob missed the lift up the W boundary and Chris Clarke completed a standard triple for the match.
In my match, game 2 was a bloodless 7th turn 26tp (Bryant) although the delayed triple turn was far from unadventurous. Greg's K collided with hoop 1 in the croquet stroke to load 3 and approach the hoop 2 pioneer so he had to hit a 20-yard roquet to continue. Then, after running 3-b without a forward rush, his roll stroke to get up to B for the penult peel landed K in the jaws of 6 apparently very close to the eastern upright and wired from everything. Somehow, he "ran" 6 and just nicked B. His approach to 4-b left a nasty angled jump which he pulled off and then he had to rush B into peeling position from 3-yards south of rover. He survived all that and made it 1-1.
Game 3 saw Jenny Clarke round to 4-b first after hitting an 18-yarder to get going. I hit the long lift with Y but failed hoop 1. Greg just missed a 15-yarder at R which allowed me to restart but, with a TPO becoming impractical, I made a 1-b leave for James to do the TPO himself if the sxp failed to go perfectly from the off. Greg missed his 38-yarder with K and James attempted the early peel with a big roll that over-shot B near 1 so that he needed a backwards take-off to approach. This went a little deeper than planned and he failed the hoop. Greg and Jenny then took lunch (!) and, suitably refreshed, Greg completed a triple to take the match.
The Burch/Maugham v Garrison/Westerby match was the only one that finished 2-0 despite some valiant hitting in by Dave in both games.
New Zealand lead 3-0
Today is more doubles: Fulford/Patel v Bryant/J Clarke, Death/Mulliner v Garrison/Westerby and Burch/Maugham v Chapman/C Clarke.
An interesting day in several respects.
The good news is that England went "on the board" at about 1715 when Rob finally closed out a desperately close pegged-out ending in game 3. That match should have ended before lunch - Rob had completed an excellent QP to take the first and had the peelee in rover while approaching 3-b on a routine triple in game 2 when he unaccountably failed to run 3-b from close range. Greg Bryant took full advantage to complete his own triple. It later turned out that the hoop holes had been dressed with liquid clay to firm up the hoops but this had not been generally communicated!
Game 3 began interactively with Jenny failing both 2 and 3 before Greg went to 4-b with a NSL. Samir hit from A-baulk and completed a solid TPO. Suffice to say that the pegged out segment took about 90 minutes and Jenny progressed to 4-b. Rob extracted a 3-ball break but had another close encounter of the wrong kind with 3-b which gave Jenny a chance to set up her own 3-ball break from hoop 4. This progressed smoothly as far as 2-b which she failed. Rob hit her B with R and croqueted it to 4-b while approaching Y near 3-b - at which point it was realised that Jenny had peeled Rob through 3-b at the start of her last turn but had not moved the clip. Replay conceded and Rob took off to Y from where B had come to rest after the initial roquet seeking a rush to 4-b. The approach to 4-b left too long a hoop for safety so R was played to near C3. Jenny then hit R, stopped it to near penult, gained a rush on Y but rushed it into the peg. She produced an excellent approach but only just grovelled through and couldn't get enough mallet on ball to hit Y. This allowed Samir to hit B, send it to the middle of E boundary and take R and Y to near C2. Nothing daunted, Jenny hit Y (4-yards E of C2), take off to behind R in C2 and get a rush to 3-b. This fell 5-yards short, the thick take-off was too generous and she failed a 2-yard 3-b. Rob sent R to C1, Jenny ran 3-b to near C3 but over-hit the lag to 4-b position. Y joined R near C1, B shot and missed and Rob now finished off.
The Death/Mulliner v Garrison/Westerby match was a spectacular affair without any obvious errors. In game 1, James hit a duffer tice in turn 4 and went to 4-b. Aaron Westerby centre-balled the long lift and replied in kind with a NSL which had James's K on 3-b. He lifted that, hit the long lift and laid up for B with R NW of 2, Y SW of 1 and, owing to an unintended contact between B and the peg, with a reverse rush for B pointing to the E boundary. Y went to corner 4, B hit K, took off to Y and played a speculative roll approach to hoop 1 that landed 1 foot in front. Stephen embarked on a standard triple but his approach to 3 was grabbed by a small ridge and fell off to the east. He rammed B through 3 and ended 6-yards S of B in peeling position and Y as escape ball, luckily offering a double. He snicked Y into peeling position and transposed from a TP to a TPO with two balls pegged out, leaving James's K for 4-b and Toby's R for 1. An easy win for England you might think. But read on.
Toby took his lift and played R to position at 1. James took position with K at 4-b. Toby bounced off 1, but into hoop running position. James ran 4-b and, giving a lift, retired to the middle of the E boundary. Toby ran 1 and took position for 2. James played to the W boundary level with rover. Toby ran 2 and took approximate position for 3. There then ensued a series of turns involving wiring which ended when Toby took tight position for 3 and James lagged K to the N boundary 5-yards W of C3 so that Toby could not turn round and hit him. However, Toby could run 3 by a yard, hit the 7-yarder and take off to good position at 4 and run it. He then lagged accurately to 5 but conceded a wiring lift.
This was the first key moment in this phase of the game. If James hit the 12-yarder (played from about 8-yards E of C1 to avoid giving Toby the chance to boost 5 to the N boundary and pick up K), he would have a good chance to close the game out. But he missed and Toby ran 5 with control so that he could run 6 as well and take rough position for 1-b. James now played to outside C3. Toby then ran 1-b but not very far and lagged to 2-b. James lagged accurately to penult but went just too far so that Toby could run 2-b to the boundary and fire back at R. He found the gap between ball and hoop and landed on the N boundary. James ran penult to W of rover and took position. Toby now had a classic dog-shot (DOG = death or glory). If he missed, James could boost rover with K to the S boundary, hit R and finish. If he hit - he was still alive. Toby shot and actually nicked the right edge of K, sending it to the S boundary about 10-yards W of C4. From there he two-balled out for a truly memorable win.
Game 2 was short and sweet - from the Kiwi perspective. I laid a supershot with B, Aaron played Y to E boundary. James missed Y with K from A-baulk. Toby hit the supershot ball, B, and went to 4-b with a dodgy NSL that left a double from B baulk (surviving a 45 degree hoop 2 on the way). I hit R with B, failed to get a good rush on Y to K near hoop 2 and rushed Y to the S boundary below 1 instead. The roll approach was just too strong and so I hit K and laid a wired rush behind hoop 2 - but to no avail. Aaron hit Y with R from 18-yards and completed a risk-free triple to take the game and match.
The Burch/Maugham v Chapman/C Clarke match had some interactive moments but finished with a 2-0 win for the Kiwis.
New Zealand lead 5-1 but nil desperandum
5-1 down is not great and not what we planned. But, traditionally. England is stronger at singles than doubles and we are all capable of dealing with our singles opponents tomorrow. We also recall a recent sporting event where a large Kiwi lead evaporated. So, our motto is - don't forget the America's Cup!
I have started off these reports by saying how well England started the day and then having to comment on how our fortunes generally declined as the days went on. We did it differently on day 3 - starting off with three losses to yield a 8-1 advantage to New Zealand but then staged a decent comeback by taking the next three to close on 8-4. Interestingly, 8-4 was also the high point of Emirates Team New Zealand in the 2013 Americas Cup. Oracle Team USA under Ben Ainslie then won the next seven races to take the series 11-8. We'll happily settle for the next seven matches as well.
Samir and Dave lost in two games to Jenny Clarke and Aaron Westerby respectively. Samir played on Court 2 which had particularly quick patches near hoops 3 and 4 and these proved costly with Jenny winning +17tp, +15. Neither Aaron nor Dave had their shooting boots on and there were plenty of chances on both sides. However, Aaron eventually prevailed +19, +14. Jamie Burch had a very competitive encounter with Toby Garrison. The score of -15tp, +5, -15tp gives a flavour but it was good to see Jamie hit good form for much of the match.
The fight-back was led by James Death who defeated Chris Clarke in straight games despite Chris making a rapid start in game 1 with a ball to 4-b in turn 3. James missed his lift but gained the innings quickly and completed a TPO. Chris made hoop 1 off the contact but failed hoop 2. James then hit, laid a rush to 1 near C1 and, after Chris cornered in C4, finished. Game 2 displayed more interactivity but James was a worthy winner +7.
Rob was also a break down to Paddy Chapman after turn 3 but replied in traditional Fulford style with a 4th turn TPO. Paddy was unable to make any progress and Rob won +13tpo. The second game involved Paddy getting the innings twice but handing it back twice and Rob completed an excellent win by +23tp. The Return of the Bunny, you might say.
The last to finish was your correspondent who also went to 4-b in turn 3 of game 1 after a supershot opening. Greg Bryant missed the lift but the TP did not behave and I had to settle for a break to the peg. Greg missed again and I finished.
Game 2 started brightly for England with a 4th turn break to 4-b and another missed lift by Greg. This time, I failed an angled hoop 1 and Greg hit an 18-yarder to go to 4-b himself. I hit the lift with the forward ball and laid a rush to H1 near C1 but Greg hit a 25-yarder at my balls with B, his hoop 1 ball. This gives Greg the chance of a TP to equalise but, with one peel done, he fails 2-b. I have a standard TP for the match but the ground around 3 is still very quick and the peelee veers to the side. The 4-b peel attempt before 6 suffers from mega-pull and misses the hoop. Back to a break to the peg with an OSL. Greg misses from C3 with K (his penult ball) but my attempt to finish comes to grief when, after a long angled 4-b, I miss a stance-hampered 7-yarder at B. I get one more chance when I hit, rush moderately well to penult, take off to 2 foot position and blob. Greg makes it game all a few turns later.
Greg hit on turn 4 in game 3 and went to 4-b with a somewhat non-standard leave (R 2-yards E C2, Y 16-yards S C3, B and K on the E boundary just N of C4). I lift R, make a double from near C3 and hit K. 4-b with another OSL. Greg takes the short lift and misses. I get two peels of a delayed TP done but over-rush R to rover and have to settle for a leave with Greg's K 18-yards N C1, B 2-yards E peg and R and Y with a reverse rush along the E boundary just N of C4. Greg lifts B and misses K to E of C2. I play with Y (peg ball), trying to rush R to near C3 but cut it off the E boundary, only moving it to level with H4. Y takes off to B, leaves it on the N boundary, puts K to just outside C1 and retires to leave R a 2-yard rush to rover. Greg takes plenty of time to consider his options and finally elects to shoot with B at R and Y, missing in the middle. R hits B, improves the rush to rover and finishes. Sighs of relief in the England camp and a little disappointment evident in the Kiwi benches.
All to play for tomorrow - if we win all the doubles, it will be 8-7 and definitely game on.
As with day 3, the initial move on the England stock chart was down (when James and I lost in three games to Paddy Chapman and Chris Clarke) but then made upwards progress with two wins of rather different character in the other two doubles, one of which required two impasse cycles to resolve. You had to be there to appreciate the intense atmosphere. The net is that England has had her first winning day of this Test and we can take the Shield home again if we win at least five of the six singles tomorrow - which is what the Kiwis did to us at Nottingham in August 2010.
The Mount Mauganui lawns have been developing both speed and character as the week has progressed. The watering has been turned off and the days have been generally sunny. The other factor is the brisk and gusty wind from the north-west which has had a material impact on the length of games. When confronted with a hoop set to 0.4mm (1/64th inch) clearance, a striker is unwise to try and run it when the mallet is waving around!
The quick match took only 7 hours. In game 1, Chapman & Clarke won the toss and laid a supershot. Stephen went to 4-b on turn 4 and the lift was missed. James had some trouble with the pace of the lawn and failed two hoops. The Kiwis played three steady breaks to win +15. In game 2, James made an early break to 4-b and it was Stephen's turn to labour, with a missed hampered roquet after hoop 1 and a missed return roquet after hoop 4. However, James hit in and Stephen extracted a break to the peg from hoop 5 with opponent balls in or near corners 1 and 3 and James finished off to level the match after a mere 4 hours. In game 3, Paddy missed a 6-yard rush after making hoop 1 to allow Stephen in but he over-approached hoop 2 and had to retire to partner. Paddy now hit and went to 4-b. The long lift was missed by the proverbial coat of paint and Chris decided to play to the peg rather than contemplate a triple. James now hit the shortish lift but over-rolled the hoop 2 pioneer by enough to sit on the line near C2. Paddy closed out the match with a competent break from 4-b. 9-4 to New Zealand at 1615.
On Court 5, Jamie Burch and David Maugham had dropped the first by -4 to Greg Bryant and Jenny Clarke and were not looking all that good in game 2. However, by a display of true grit (and frequently-changing innings), they took the second +7. In gam3 3, Jamie raised English supporters' hopes with a break to 4-back but Dave had problems at hoop 4 and 4-b. He was not alone, by any means, and the Kiwis made enough errors of their own to enable Jamie to get to the peg in two goes and for Dave, tension and heroism dripping from every pore, to play a break from 4-b to the peg to take the game + 17 and the Test into day 5. The time was just before 8 pm and there had been almost 11 hours play less the lunch break. It was utterly exhausting to watch!
Next door, on court 6, which was noticeably quicker, Rob Fulford and Samir Patel faced Toby Garrison and Aaron Westerby. Game 1 stretched well past lunch and was finally resolved in England's favour at 1400 by +6. Game 2 was to conclude just over 6 hours later. The conditions, especially the wind, were very challenging for the players and the slower tempo of doubles made it more difficult to remain in touch with the speed of the court which was reckoned to be at least 12 seconds. Suffice to say that England reached 4 (Rob) and rover (Samir) with New Zealand on 4 (Aaron) and 4-b (Toby). Aaron then hit the lift and played a superb break to the peg with a peel and peg-out of Samir's Y and Aaron's B.
For Toby, this was the reverse of the situation he had met when playing James and Stephen two days earlier where he had won from hoop 1 against 4-b. Now he had to try to square the match when for 4-b against 4. Rob made early progress by running 4 and 5 while Toby could only make 4-b and retire because of the lift. However, Rob over-approached 6 which destroyed his positional advantage at the north of the court and, after one brave 20-yard hit and an attempted roll to 6 from C3, Toby was able to run penult and take wired position at rover from Rob's R which had missed to the middle of the S boundary. Game over, surely! Not so. Rob ran hoop 5 with plenty of wire so that it seemed at first as if he would offer K a 2 inch rush to rover. However, R retained just enough momentum to lurch rather apologetically into K. From here, Rob played a roll sending K near the N boundary about 9-yards E of C2 while R took 4 yard position. To great applause, he ran 6, rushed K to 1-b, made 1-b with a forward rush, cut the rush to 8 yards NE 2-b but played a good roll and hoop to gain a sharp cut-rush to 3-b. This was hit on a perfect line just south of 3-b but too hard. The hoop shot over-ran K and the roll to 4-b over-ran the hoop and retired to the middle of the east boundary. 4-b plays rover.
Toby played well to the west of rover. Rob took 4 foot position at 4-b. Toby lagged to 5 foot angled position at rover. Rob ran 4-b cleanly and took 2 foot position at penult. Much Kiwi cogitation and discussion ends with Toby taking on the angled hoop. He had already run penult from a similar distance although rather straighter. This time he bounces back to 2-yards NW rover. Can Rob finish off from here? Sadly, no, but the R bounces back into perfect 4 inch running position. K retires to the W boundary. Rob lags R through penult and, for a second or two, it seems as if it will end just in front of rover. But no, it is very quick near the hoop and R slides by. After much thought, Rob plays R to 10-yards E rover and the players agree that an impasse has developed.
The impasse rules are consulted and 10 turns of Golf Croquet will occur after the balls are removed from the court and played back in from baulk. The Kiwis win the toss and elect to go first. It is a good toss to win but Toby over-hits his lag to position and leaves a 4-yard angled hoop. Rob takes closer position with R. Toby clears R with K but ends over 5-yards from rover. Rob lags to 2-yard position. Toby tries to block but fails. Rob takes in the hoop but misses badly, flicking off the W wire to near C1. Toby takes close position. Rob now clears almost centre-ball and stays within 6-yards of the rover. Toby lags to angled position. Rob departs to the W boundary because Toby can roquet again in turn 11. The players agree a new impasse and this time Rob wins the toss and lags to 2 feet in front of rover. Toby attempts a hard clearance from A-baulk but misses into C3. Rob runs rover and takes 7-yards position W of the peg, just failing to get wired from K in C3. Toby fires from C3 but missed. Rob hits the peg. We've won the day 2-1!
England is now only 9-6 down and there is all to play for on the morrow. It's been emotional!
Wednesday began with the three lower singles (4v4, 5v5, 6v6) and it was essential that we won at least two to keep the match alive.
I lost to Aaron Westerby in two games -17, -25 on court 1 which featured two very glassy patches around hoops 1 and 5. In game 1, Aaron went in and a C2 opening ensued in which he hit on turn 3, took off to C2 and rolled my K into court while retiring to leave partner a rush to K from the E boundary. I hit from C3 but my rush to hoop 1 went gently past the hoop and almost reached the S boundary. A gentle approach skated slowly past the hoop and I retreated to C4. Aaron missed partner near the E boundary from hoop 2 and I missed his in-court ball from near hoop 1. He then produced an excellent pick-up for Y including an accurate take-off into C4 from 3 yards and a perfect rush to hoop 1 to reach 4-b. I narrowly missed the long lift, he tried and gave up the first peel of a delayed TP with R and reached the peg with a DSL in which my B was left rather nearer the W boundary than it should have been. I lifted K by the peg and missed into C4. Aaron only just made 4-b off B, almost croqueted it off the S boundary going to R, failed to get a rush to penult but took off and banged through to NE of rover. He hit R to near hoop 2, took off to K in C4 and then to B due S of rover and then to rover itself. He made it firmly, cut B to near hoop 1, took off to R near H2 but failed to get a rush to the peg. His 7 yard peg out missed, sending R to near H4 and he played Y into C2. I lifted K, hit R and went to 4-b with a NSL but had to lag back to partner and left a double from A-baulk. Aaron made no mistake and finished.
Game 2 was another C2 opening but Aaron hit in turn 4, extracted another break and then failed hoop 3 with R from close range. I hit and made a leave but he hit straight back in and failed hoop 3 again! I hit, rushed to H1 and managed to approach from 4 yards to 9 inches straight. However, the split from S of H1 to H3 and the H2 pioneer went very wide and I managed to miss a gentle 3 yard cut to H2. Aaron now took his R to 4-b and my lift managed to move from centre ball to just missing in the last 3 yards (which was somewhat unexpected given the generally flat courts). Aaron now picked up a break for Y and failed H3 for the third time. This time, a cut rush to H1 looked spot on but faded to just behind the hoop and the take-off moved sharply E. I retired my K to the W boundary level with 2. Aaron retired R to C1 and I missed K with B. Aaron now hit with Y from H3 and extracted another fine break to reach the peg. I missed the lift and he finished. 10-6 to New Zealand.
On Court 2, Samir had had a more interactive match with Toby Garrison which featured several hoops run with Toby's trademark flat-out style. He also had a problem getting a rush to the peg in game 2 and settled for rolling up to the peg from near C2 with Samir on 1-b and 4-b, leaving both his balls on court. Samir lifted to A baulk and hit a firm shot which had "hit" written all over it but somehow managed to graze past. Toby made no mistake with the finish to win +14, +11 and prolonged New Zealand victory celebrations duly ensued.
Jamie Burch produced the sole England win after a gritty recovery against Jenny Clarke, -26, +17, +3. He pegged Jenny out in game 3 and the final stages were rather gripping with Jenny having several long shots. James Death decided to please the crowds on Court 1 by attempting a septuple and achieved five peels with the finish looking odds-on until he failed to take a dolly rush to 4-b, approached a little short and failed an angled hoop. It would have been a superb achievement had he completed it but Paddy Chapman efficiently took the game with a delayed TP. James went for a mere sextuple in game 2 but this also came to grief and Paddy showed his consistency with another delayed TP, winning +7tp, +14tp. The final match to finish was between Robert Fulford and Chris Clarke. Robert never really got going and Chris won quite quickly in two games, +10, +24.
New Zealand came out with clear intent on the final day and thoroughly deserved their victory. The hoops were not quite as formidable as at the earlier venues but, set to 1/64 inch (0.4mm) in drying and quickening ground, they still punished even slightly poor hoop strokes. Fundamentally, that is where the main difference between New Zealand and England lay, especially at the start of the Test when New Zealand built up a 8-1 lead. We took 5 of the next 6 points to bring the match back to 9-6 down and keep hopes alive but, come Wednesday, both Aaron and Toby shot well and played solid breaks to take New Zealand over the line.
There were echoes of 1986, the last time that New Zealand won. They were the first team then to have a uniform and the other countries followed. This time, there is no doubt that their preparation for the Mac was well organised and this, together with a strong team spirit, clearly helped them to perform at or near their best. England was much stronger than Australia and the USA but, despite some very competitive matches in the final Test against New Zealand, did not display the consistency necessary to provide a challenge of the intensity required.
Final result: New Zealand win 13-7 (one unplayed)