Sheffield beat Chester 6-1
Spring, that delicate dream of recent weeks, has awoken. And it is wonderful. Sheffield took the drive over Pennines, all fresh green and shimmering in the warmth, to Bury and their opponents Chester, the 2022 champions.
The lawns were true and fast in the bright sunshine. Glorious conditions for croquet.
Chester brought a powerful team of low handicappers, but it was Sheffield who made the strong start. In the doubles, the new boy Dean Morton (20 handicap), partnered the experienced Mark Simmerson (4.5) against Mark Lloyd (1) and David Boyd (5). Dean, playing with a calm assurance that belied his inexperience, and with judicious use of bisques, took his ball to rover. Neither of the Chester pair settled into their game, Mark and Dean easing to a 26-12 win. The main excitement of the game was Mark's blue ball jamming in hoop six due the heat. Surely a first for Lancashire.
Over on the other lawn, Sheffield's skipper Mags Crossland (12) took on the excellent Richard Smith (-1) and was delighted to take the game 26-13. In the final match of the morning Sheffield's Adrian Simmerson (12), returning to competitive croquet after several seasons away, was very pleased to hang on to the lead over Brian Walton (6) 21-17 at time.
Lunching at 3-0, Sheffield couldn't but think back to last season's semi-final at Chester, who then dined at 3-0 up against Sheffield and yet only just hung on to win the match. There's no complacency in croquet.
However, Mags stormed round against an out of sorts Mark Lloyd, quickly winning 26-7 to seal the win. Mark Simmerson soon followed, beating Richard 26-4. Dean went to time against Brian, but held on to win 21-19 as Brian hit in repeatedly late in the game. Chester captain David completed a consolation win for Chester 19-12 against a weary Adrian, but it's Sheffield who go through to meet Nottingham in the quarter-finals.
Thanks go to the hosts Bury for loaning their excellent facilities. After weeks of slow, bumpy lawns and cold, miserable weather, to play on such good was a delight to gladden the soul.
Mark Simmerson and Dean Morton beat Mark Lloyd and David Boyd 26-12
Adrian Simmerson beat Brian Walton 21-17
Margaret Crossland beat Richard Smith 26-13
Mark Simmerson beat Richard Smith 26-4
Margaret Crossland beat Mark Lloyd 26-7
Adrian Simmerson lost to David Boyd 19-12
Dean Morton beat Brian Walton 21-19