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2003/04 County Championships

Dan Hawkins & Seb Cooley report:

Qualifying Round - Eton Sunday 16th November 2003

Kent, Sussex, Warwickshire, and an amalgamated Suffolk/Essex team were represented at the County Championship at Eton on Sunday. Although several counties were absent, in part due to the rugby world cup semi-final involving England, there was a full day of fives as all-played-all in best of three game matches.

It was nice to see some schoolboys from Lancing playing for Sussex. Warwickshire fielded a very strong team and qualified for the final comfortably, conquering all and dropping only one pair against Suffolk/Essex. Kent defeated Suffolk/Essex 2-1 to secure passage into the final.Kent beat Suffolk/Essex 2-1, Sussex 3-0, Lost to Warwickshire 0-3

Suffolk/Essex lost to Kent 1-2, Warwickshire 1-2, beat Sussex 3-0

Sussex lost all three matches 0-3

Warwickshire beat Kent 3-0, Suffolk/Essex 2-1 and Sussex 3-0

Warwickshire 1st - Won 3 Lost 0

Kent 2nd - Won 2 Lost 1

Suffolk/Essex 3rd - Won 1 Lost 2

Sussex 4th - Won 0 Lost 3

Final - Eton Sunday 18th January 2004

On Sunday 18th January 12 hardy fives players representing Kent and Warwickshire found their various ways to Eton to contest the final of the County Championships. Warwickshire were without Robin Mason due to injury and almost lost Courtney Friend to spectacular (as he recounted it) mechanical trouble, but a swift phone call and a diverted car en route from Birmingham and all was well. Kent, for their part, played Matt Wiseman at third pair as he was recovering from a hand injury. So the teams lined up to do battle. Howard Wiseman and James Toop played Jamie Halstead and Seb Cooley (the lightest ever first pair in this competition?), Dan Hawkins and David Mew took on Richard Tyler and Courtney Friend at second and Matt Wiseman with Ed Sanderson met Jo Seelig and Neil Curtis.

Third pair was the first to finish, Kent being simply too strong across six players. They won 12-1, 12-8, 12-5. At first pair, the scores were close throughout, neither side managing ever to take a lead of more than four points. It was characterised by numerous very long rallies, often at key moments. It is very rare to see either Howard or Seb in shorts and t-shirt by the second game, but both were! Halstead and Cooley held the first game 13-12 after several game points each way, then they took the second 13-10 and the third 13-11 after Wiseman and Toop had rallied from 11-7 behind. The fixture therefore hinged on second pair. Tyler and Friend took the first game 12-9, but Mew and Hawkins fought back to win the second 12-7. The match was so long that both other pairs watched most of the third game, in which Warwickshire kept their noses in front and which they managed to win 12-7. The fourth game was much the same; Kent forced long hard rallies and often won these, but they would then make one or two mistakes and give away any advantage that they had gained. Friend and Tyler proved too determined (at one point Courtney is rumoured to have sprinted from the back of the court to the top step in an effort to retrieve a loose ball) and finished the game, match and fixture with a 12-7 victory.

Warwickshire beat Kent 2-1

J Halstead & S Cooley beat H Wiseman & J Toop 3-0 (13-12, 13-10, 13-11)

R Tyler & C Friend beat D Mew & D Hawkins 3-1 (12-9, 7-12, 12-7, 12-7)

J Seelig & N Curtis lost to M Wiseman & E Sanderson 0-3 (1-12, 8-12, 5-12)