On Saturday 7th November Cambridge University Eton Fives Club took on the Jesters at home. Doubtless aware of CUEFC’s strength, the Jesters brought three experienced pairs to the University Sports Centre.
Cambridge’s high-powered 1st Pair of Riki Houlden and Tony Barker faced Jurgen Hutter and John Saunders. With lashings of flair between the four players – and more than a few good years of Fives experience – the game was exceedingly watchable. Spectators were treated to long, high-quality rallies and some exceptional retrieving by both sides. The humidity and heat of the indoor court was felt by all four, but the Cantabs pushed through for a relatively comfortable 12-4, 12-2, 12-6 victory.
At 3rd pair, Cambridge’s veteran Sudhir Balaji teamed up with baby-faced fresher Nathan “Naifun” Turnbull against Jesters Sam Basu and Joss Knight. As is often the case with Fives, the set plays of cut and cut return determined the outcome of the first game. The Cambridge boys’ youth and vigour perhaps gave them the advantage here, and they swept through for a 12-1 victory. The second game was much more closely-fought, the pressure mounting as both pairs’ points stacked up, but the Cambridge lads took it 12-10. Perhaps deflated by the loss of the first two games, the Jesters conceded the last game 12-1. But an ever-enjoyable match for both sides.
The Westminster partnership of Alistair Stewart and Ben Merrett, separated at Cambridge by gap year, took on the Jesters’ 2nd Pair Illingworth brotherhood (Will and George, also OWW and Cambridge). The parallels of identity seemed to match the on-court action, as the Illingworths – successfully adjusting to the new Cambridge courts and employing their long limbs to dominate the top step – very narrowly took the first game 14-12. Their pride stung by this setback, Stewart and Merrett decided to take the game to their older analogues and ran through them 12-2, 12-2, 12-6. The cut return and consistency of play were the two crucial ingredients of the just deserts the younger Cambridge lads served to the Jesters.
All in all, Saturday saw a thoroughly enjoyable Cambridge victory against a decent Jesters side. As 2015 rolls into 2016, we look forward to ever more drills and matches under our dear leader Houlden. Things are looking up!