Depending on how closely you read the sports pages you may or may not have noticed that earlier this week the cricket match between Yorkshire and Northamptonshire was abandoned because of rain, not long after the captains had tossed for the start of play. No result. Or technically no result – in practice, Yorkshire were able to qualify for the final stages of the competition in question, with Durham, who had no game, joining them simply because Northamptonshire had been deprived of a match. Not only that, but Northants themselves failed to make the final stages, despite being on a roll after winning their previous five games.
What has all this to do with bowls? The weather link, and the way that in some sports (generally ones that started in Britain!) the result can be totally determined by the weather.. After our loss to North Shields last week, caused in all likelihood by the arbitrary shortening of the match, we were told on Tuesday afternoon that the Wallsend Park green was unplayable so that that match would now have to be re-arranged, almost certainly at a time when our complete triples team is unavailable. The frustration is increased by the fact that it is precisely Wallsend Park “B” who presented our Hexham House rivals with a walkover and eight easy points when they failed to have enough drivers to get here for a game earlier in the season.
In contrast, when we were offered the points by Wallsend Park “A” as they struggled to raise a team we said we would re-schedule – and when that match was played on Monday we duly lost 0-8. Although the triples came close, just failing to get the count they needed on the last end, the other two rinks all suffered, so that not everyone was heart-broken at not having to go back the next night.
By Wednesday we were perhaps a little fresher for the home game against Throckley. The pairs started slowly, and near the half-way point were just 7-6 ahead. In only a few ends this had gone to 17-7, however, and the result was no longer in doubt. This was just as well, as at one point the rain began to be so heavy that another early finish was in prospect; for a short while there was as much focus on the clouds as there was on the green.
The triples were even more intent on insurance against a Duckworth-Lewis decision, reaching 24-0 after 11 ends en route to a 36-4 win; for some reason the ladies don’t like playing on rink three, but the triples could do it with their eyes closed. The fours did their usual balancing act, going 16-10 ahead, and then contriving to lose a one and a three so that there was just a two-shot lead going into the last end. Fortunately Alan Thompson then bowled his best two woods of the night, and the resulting four shots made the win look easier than it was. The final score on shots was 78-28, which our statistician Brain Norman pointed out was exactly the same score we had in the reverse fixture at Throckley.
Earlier in the day the ladies had struggled against a powerful Burradon team with several County players. Not all the Elvaston players were intimidated, however, and there were some good scraps – Betty Boaden’s rink lost by only six shots despite losing a five and a seven. The overall loss of three rinks meant another “nul points” return, so that everything now hinges on next week’s game against Amble. A good win could mean continued Division 1 status next year, but it’s very much in the balance.
Finally, and back with the Nines, the re-arranged game with Hexham House took place on Thursday night. (Although it was a home game the visiting supporters outnumbered us eight to one. We had the one.) Despite our moans about the end-result of other postponements, we would have to say that Hexham House were very good in agreeing to bring this one forward as we have several players away next week. This one definitely worked in our favour.
The fours had a good start but faded a little in the middle to go down to a 10-15 loss. Here as on all the rinks there were a lot of really good heads and close calls. The triples went the other way, down 1-5 after a few ends but playing well enough to limit the early damage, and once they scored a four to go into the lead they accelerated through the evening gloom to win 20-10. This game marked a fine début in the Nines for John McArdle. The light faded really quickly, and the Pairs, who hadn’t dawdled, were last to finish in almost total darkness – but we could all see enough to realise that losing a one on the last end mattered not, as the final score was 14-10. You may not have been able to see the detail of this game, but with a pumped-up Darren playing against Clive Knott you could follow the progress just by listening to the shouting. “Cleeeean!”. “Drop!!”. “Oh man, I don’t believe it!”.
But at the end of the night we really could believe it – a 6-2 win had put us in guaranteed second place, with a chance of overtaking Hexham House at the top if we win the fixture against Wallsend Park B. That’s as long as the weather doesn’t intervene…