by Brian Croasdale
It tells you something about the skill of Martin Dean that he can practice for only two hours the night before and still win the coveted Hard Bat title.
Played at Cromford last week, this was the event that is a throwback to the early days of table tennis when sponge and speed glues had not yet materialized.
Displaying a typically perplexing mixture of imperious control and unlikely hitting, he cruised his way to the title and deservedly won a trophy that is always taken by a player with patience as well as ability. Sixteen enthusiasts entered this one and split into four groups, playing each other on a round robin basis.
Group One contained National League player Andrew Middleton and newcomer Tom Tate from the Whitworth Academy. To everyone’s surprise, neither of these qualified for the second round. Instead it was the unfancied Nathan Hallows and the dangerous Jimmy Redfern going forward. Pick of the matches in this group was the narrow 11-2, 6-1, 12-10 victory of Middleton over young Tom Tate.
Group Two featured a real mixture of talent with former Matlock champion Geoff Gill from Chesterfield playing newcomers David Molyneux and Jacob Poole with only Belper’s Peter Hamshaw with any real league experience.
Although Geoff may join the likes of David Ridgard in the pantheon of brilliant Matlock players, he is attempting to do so under an increasing conveyor belt of talent. Geoff and Peter both qualified, with Peter finding life very difficult against the youngsters.
Group Three was the group of death with the draw putting together Jake Miekle (Chesterfield), Tony Gregory and Pat Thorley (Cromford) and eventual winner Martin Dean (Chesterfield). The first match on was Jake against Tony and we all thought, after last season’s event, that this might be a long match. Needless to say, we were right and, with neither player willing to give anything away, the rallies went on for what seemed like hours. In the end, Tony won 11-1, 17-15 to join Martin in the next round.
Group Four had the talented Graham Morson (Buxton) who was my tip for the title and indeed looked good as he cruised into the next round in first place. Mark Briddon of Division Two side Posties joined him to set up a second round of interesting fixtures.
From the second round, Martin Dean, Tony Gregory, Jimmy Redfern and Geoff Gill all qualified. Tony had put out my tip Graham Morson in three before beating Geoff Gill in three in the semi final. Martin Dean had a win over Jimmy Redfern who had previously beaten Peter Hamshaw in the quarters.
This left Tony to play Martin in the final and with time getting on the prospect of a long final loomed. Martin had other ideas and beat Tony in two straight games to send eveyone home happy but very tired.
It is easy to overlook the fact that Martin does not play regularly in the Matlock League but that would be doing him an injustice. We probably won’t know for a few months if he is going to be a more formal member of the Association but one thing I do know is that he is most welcome at any time.