Match(es) of the Day ...Day 5: impressions from Wellington
Friday (crunch day for the 16 players left in the Knockout) is cooler and overcast with scudding clouds, fleeting glimpses of an anaemic sun, and blustery showers which has the 16 National flags standing at attention.
In the first game on Kelburn's lawn 1, the World No 1 Reg Bamford gains the first innings against NZer Toby Garrison, and proceeds to set up for the sextuple - BUT his rush on yellow from hoop 6 was wandery and after some evidence of disgruntlement (flapping of arms, slapping of thigh) he aborted the sxp and proceeded to 4-back with a diagonal spread (which however turned out to be more of a rhomboid - perhaps in keeping with his mood) .
Toby strides onto the battlefield, considers his options and prepares to shoot down the E. boundary at Bamford's balls N. of hoop 4 with Black on the boundary. After waiting for a few wandering spectators to settle down, the crowd holds it's collective breath, the sparrows on the lawn hold theirs, as he winds up his swing ...and shoots. It misses narrowly, having been hit too hard and slightly on the right of the mallet face.
Meanwhile on lawn 5 Bob Jackson(NZ) and Phil Cordingley (England) proceed with their first game in a slow, deliberate (though' not quite funereal) pace towards the Abbey.
Whilst back on lawn 1, Reg now cuts blue into corner 4 and starts his hopeful triple. Having put the yellow as escape ball at hoop 3, it is so close as to hamper black's attempt at hoop 3. The referee officiates officiatingly, hoop 3 is made, blue peeled through 4-back and black cut-rushes yellow to corner 4 where red waits only a few inches infield. Red is rushed E. of hoop 4, stop-shotted towards 5 and itself makes 4 to pick up yellow.
Suddenly, the clouds clear momentarily, the lawns are bathed in sunshine and a kind of smile twitches the corners of Reg's mouth. Reg has a hampered shot after hoop 6, but successfully completes the penult peel and sails along under spinnaker with black completing 1 and 2 back, and peeling blue through rover going to 3- back; and finally heads to the finish line to peg out to a respectful round of applause. One spectator (presumably a Garrison fan is heard to remark "it's early days yet ! "
On lawn 2, Andrew Johnston (Ireland's single-handed answer to the All-Blacks) battles the late Denis Bulloch (this morning he is only half an hour late!) and completes a mediocre couple of turns to get to 4-back, and make an even more mediocre leave, with Denis's red 2 yds W. of hoop 2 and clearly visible from B Baulk.
However Denis disdains this and shoots his yellow at Johnston's balls on the E. boundary near hoop 4. He misses to a long ooooooh ! from the enthralled crowd - notably the Thames Valley contingent. Johnston shoots at Bulloch's yellow .... and ....misses the 8-yarder, to an even louder ooooooh ! from the crowd, a couple of whom have their hats blown off in the process.
Back on lawn 1, Reg Bamford playing yellow and red in the second game, again attempts the sextuple leave and this time succeeds, though' with some slight hiccup accompanied by some head-shaking. Toby, shoots (slowly this time) at the 35 yd Tea Lady in corner 3, and ... and ... and ...it...HITS ! ! to loud applause and war whoops from the growing crowd.
He makes hoop 1 by a few inches and essays a hampered sweep shot which just misses his own ball waiting N. of the hoop.
Reg lines up his yellow (3 yds S. of 2) and hits the black smack in the middle. There is a kind of silence in the crowd ....as Reg walks slowly towards his ball he starts clapping himself, and the crowd hoots with laughter and joins in. Even Joe Hogan, waiting patiently in his shelter on the opposite side of the field, gives him a hearty clap and raises his mallet.
Bamford then puts black on the left hand leg of hoop 1, and picks up blue which he splits to 2 yds ESE of 5 (brilliantly wired from black) going to red (which he then carted into corner 3) for another sextuple leave attempt.. ....... Toby elects to shoot the Tea Lady slowly with black and, as it trundles across the lawn (which seems incredibly risky, given the blustering wind) the expression on his face changes from querulous, to uncertain, to sorrow, to hope and FINALLY to a delighted smile as it hits the red.. More war whoops from the crowd.. He makes it to 4- back but the leave is unimpressive with yellow 2.5 yds E of the peg, red 5 yds W of the peg and his own in corner 4, and 7 yds up the E boundary.
Reg picks up the red and shoots at yellow from the S. boundary - the crowd waits -he shoots - he misses, and ends in corner 3 as the crowd settles back and breathes normally. Toby then misses the 7 yarder and Reg fires from corner 3 and hits ....it's all on again !
Meanwhile it is 10.42 and on lawn 3 a smattering of applause heralds a Fulford win over Openshaw 26tp-0, 26tp-9.
Reg makes hoop1 BUT only by about 2 inches, is unable to hit the black pioneer, shoots for yellow, 2 yds E of the peg .... and ...MISSES. Toby shoots at yellow himself with blue, hits, and approaches hoop 1.
On lawn 2, Johnston has failed his triple, with black blobbing 3-back, whilst blue sits in the jaws of rover.. Denis Bulloch peels him through' rover and sets up his own balls in corner 4 near Johnston's hoop ! !. Johnston hits blue, says thanks for the rover peel and carries on round to the pegout 26/10
We return to lawn 1, where Garrison sets the black in front of 4 back going to 4, and rush peels it after 5 but only by one inch. The referee watches a roll shot going to yellow 2 yds N of 6 but Toby ends up blocking himself from yellow and has to execute a delicate little jump shot to hit it..
By now the wind is piping 25 to 30knots, the players hunker down in their wet-weather gear (there is no shelter except for the outplayers in their cabins) and the rain showers sweep across intermittently.
Toby fails to make the penult peel after 6, attempts to go back to black after 1-back but wires himself and has to make do with roquetting yellow, thus getting a rush on black to 2-back, after which it is rushed back close to penult again and the break continues, with no pioneer at 4-back. He elects however to make the penult peel with a split shot going to yellow which is 5 yds SSW of 4 back. The penult peel goes through to 2 yds in front of rover. A delicate cannon with yellow after the rover peel and a peg out to sustained applause. Garrison 1, Bamford 1.