England Home Internationals Team 2014 (Photo: Samir Patel)by Samir Patel at Surbiton Croquet Club
England won the 35th Home International Championship, losing only eight games en-route to regaining the Frank Cooper trophy
The tournament started after a slight delay while team orders were agreed. Jack Wicks [Eng] was a late substitution for England, replacing the injured Robert Wilkinson. Another late withdrawal Ireland found themselves unable to field a full team on the first day. Charlie Von Schmieder [Ire] was the late substitute, but he would be playing his first ranking game since 2007 and was only available on Sunday. To compound Ireland's woes, Evan Newell [Ire] suffered multiple car-hire related problems and arrived 2.5 hours late.
England v Ireland was the first match out of the random draw, making England the beneficiaries of Ireland's predicament; two walkovers for Pete Trimmer [Eng] and Samir Patel [Eng], left England firm favourites to revenge 2013's 4-1 defeat. A pair of 26tp results traded between both Jamie Burch [Eng] and Simon Williams [Ire] led to the two players agreeing to Super-Advanced laws for game three. This created the expected interaction, with Simon eventually winning +11tpo. Danny Johnston [Ire] won a fairly error-free match over David Maugham +26tp -26tp +26. This left Jack Wicks [Eng] to secure the final point +19 +13tp over Jane Morrison [Ire]. England 3, Ireland 2.
Wales and Scotland fought out a much closer match. Chris Williams [Wal] gave Wales an initial lead beating David Magee +26 +19, before Jonathan Kirby [Sco], playing in his first Home Internationals since 2008, levelled the test by beating Ian Burridge [Wal] +20 -4 +25tp. The other matches were slower affairs with chances for both sides, with points shared after David Walters [Wal] beat Duncan Reeve [Sco] and Campbell Morrison [Sco] beat Garry McElwain [Wal], both 2-0. The final match continued well into the afternoon, with Martin Murray [Sco] finally victorious over John Evans [Wal] +2tp -17tp +17. Scotland 3, Wales 2.
The lawns at Surbiton were in great condition, but suffered from overnight rain, supplemented by a further heavy shower during Saturday morning (which curiously was significantly heavier on laws 4-7 than on 1-3). This meant that the hoped-for lawn speed (measured at up to 12 Plummers on Friday) was cut down to a much easier 10 Plummers. The rain also meant that the hoops became much softer. This combined to make the afternoon much more of a shooting and peeling completion; something that suited the England team who ran out 5-0 winners over Scotland with triple peels in 11 of 12 games (the twelfth was a +1 result).
Ireland, still one player down won the first competed point quickly; a Simon Williams [Ire] +26tp +15 win over Ian Burridge [Wal]. But Wales won enough of the other matches to secure a 3-1 win in front of a large crowd who were enjoying Surbiton barbecue and the croquet in equal measure. The fifth match, between Garry McElwain [Wal] and Jane Morrison [Ire] was left at 1-1 overnight and never resumed.
The most unusual moment of the event occurred during this match when Ian Burridge [Wal] claimed relief from a hoop cross bar that was impeding his swing. This was denied and during appeal to the RoT appeared to try to claim that a significant proportion of the hoops in use worldwide were outside specification. After this was also turned down, he then resorted to cutting a piece of his mallet grip away in order to have an unimpeded swing. This dedication to the cause secured him a break, but he went on to lose the match. It subsequently became clear that this piece of grip was the part required to protect the mallet shaft from contact with the hoop during hoop strokes, prompting some emergency repairs to restore the grip.
The overnight scores left England very much in the driving seat, but the overnight pundits who spotted that 5-0 wins for Wales and Scotland could still leave England in third place were quickly scuppered by Pete Trimmer [Eng] dispatching Chris Williams [Wal] +26tp +25tp. Jamie Burch [Eng] put the Championship beyond doubt after a +7 +13 (super-advanced) win over Ian Burridge [Wal]. This meant that match-count would put England ahead, even if Wales won the remaining three matches. However, England showed no willingness to sit back on a tournament win, and won all three remaining, but closer, matches. David Maugham [Eng] beating David Walters [Wal] +1 -26 +26tp, Jack Wicks beating Garry McElwain +5tpo +14 and Samir Patel [Eng] beating John Evans [Wal] +26tp -26tp +7tpo.
Ireland v Scotland was a closely fought affair, notable for Charlie Von Schmieder [Ire] beating Martin Murray [Sco] +2 +17 in his first ranking games since 2007. Campbell Morrison [Sco] beat Jane Morrison [Ire] +11 +5 as the day turned to evening, and some-time later David Magee [Sco] drew level with Evan Newell, with that match drawn at 1-1, and leaving the test drawn at 2-2.
One match between Scotland and Ireland was unfinished, leaving that test 2-2.
One match between Wales and Ireland was unfinished.
The table above indicates these unfinished games/matches/tests as 0.5 for each country, although final finishing positions cannot be decided.
Jamie Burch lost to Simon Williams -26tp, +26tp, -26tp
David Maugham lost to Danny Johnston -17tp, +26tp, -26
Pete Trimmer w/o Evan Newell
Samir Patel w/o Charlie von Schmieder
Jack Wicks beat Jane Morrison +19, +13tp
Jonathan Kirby beat Ian Burridge +20, -4, +25tp
Duncan Reeve lost to David Walters -7, -8
David Magee lost to Chris Williams -26, -19
Martin Murray beat John Evans +2tp, -17tp, +17
Campbell Morrison beat Garry McElwain +19, +19
Jamie Burch beat Jonathan Kirby +17tp, +26tp
David Maugham beat Duncan Reeve +16tp, -5tp, +24tp
Pete Trimmer beat David Magee +25tp, +3tpo
Samir Patel beat Martin Murray +3tp, +17tp
Jack Wicks beat Campbell Morrison +1, -26tp, +17tp
Ian Burridge lost to Simon Williams -26tp, -15
David Walters beat Danny Johnston +12tp, +26tp
Chris Williams beat Evan Newell +26, +22
John Evans w/o Charlie von Schmieder
Garry McElwain drew Jane Morrison +26, -7
Jamie Burch beat Ian Burridge +7, +13
David Maugham beat David Walters +1, -26, +26tp
Pete Trimmer beat Chris Williams +26tp, +25tp
Samir Patel beat John Evans +26tp, -26tp, +7
Jack Wicks beat Garry McElwain +5tpo, +14tp
Jonathan Kirby beat Simon Williams +26tp, +26tp
Duncan Reeve lost to Danny Johnston +26tp, -26, -17tp
David Magee drew Evan Newell -3, +6
Martin Murray lost to Charlie von Schmieder -2, -17
Campbell Morrison beat Jane Morrison +11, +5