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Garland Cup 2020

Every January before the Garland Cup, I receive a Mexican immigration alert from the Hon. Secretary. We should, he pleads, discuss and adjust the handicaps of a number of members who might defeat him at some stage but they will, of course, remain nameless. It’s always a tricky conundrum but as in life generally the status quo is maintained. So in the absence of major handicapping surgery, would it be another case of ‘same old, same old’ in the closing stages of the tournament?
The box matches failed to throw up many major surprises only a few amusing moments: for example, when ‘Pablo’ Smith, attired with deep red sombrero, felled Martin Trees who, when rushing forward to take a ball in the hazard, tripped and fell. To finish the job off in style he hit himself on the head with his racket: weekend injury number 1.  The self-same Smith managed a rare occurrence when he won a game against Mark Maclure without hitting a ball – thanks to his opponents’ two consecutive faults!

In the first round of the knock out matches, improving Hugh Antrobus showed little concern for a fellow MMTCC member of the Medics’ circle, ending John Strachan’s hopes 5/3. Another improver Peter Lewis took Stewart Hodges to 4 all 40 all and had to beat chase 3. His return was about to fall short on chase 5ish at which point with professorial absent mindedness (he would argue lack of ability) Stewart spared the professorial marker from having to make a decision as he essayed a return, only to dump it into the bottom of the net… (A third professor Steve Watson had bottomed out of his box the day before) so the fourth professor of this paragraph, Murphy, handicap 49, was in action against the pleading Hon. Sec. John Miller. In some pain after his hand made forceful contact with the wall - injury number 2, Murphy looked down and out at 1/ 4 down. Once patched up, however, the Hon. Sec. applied the mercy brakes and allowed the professor to engineer his way to a 5/4 victory over MMTCC’s celebrated Spanish Archer - ‘El Bow’. But ‘surely if you are 4/1 up the ensuing loss isn’t due to the handicap difference’ was the universal cry! For his game against the Chairman ‘Pablo’ Smith emphasising his national heritage, left his sombrero ostentatiously in the winning gallery. He soon removed it. The Chairman ground his way to a 3/1 lead but owe 40 rec 30, Neanderthal ululations, a Mexican assault on the dedans, at times intended, at other times not, proved too much and the Chairman could but retire to the kitchen and commune with the nearest teapot. You may think that David Harris was on the Hon. Sec’s hit list: I couldn’t possibly comment but he was certainly out of sorts against George K who, taking time off from his culinary duties, romped home to a 5/1 victory, with a frightening blitz on the dedans. How would Tony Branfield cope against his coach and mentor Bernie Spratt? Quite well as it happens as Bernie achieved a big O. History doesn’t relate how many he chalked up in his cricket career. Craig Swallow and Jon Lambdon traded a number of exciting rests but Jon proved too strong and such was Craig’s disappointment that after the final shot he threw his racket onto the back penthouse. Coaxing it down didn’t work. He had to swallow his pride as Tom brought him a ladder to climb up and rescue his racket with the court-cleaning broom – to much hilarity and needless to say much social media presence. In the final match of the round, Jonny Miller found being allowed only one serve too daunting a prospect against Club Vintner Mark Savage who has a strong showing of Mexican white wines on his list.

The first quarter-final was an interminable affair, in the main due to Peter Lewis hitting himself above the eye with his racket, a horizontal cut caused by his goggles and a vertical cut by his racket: injury number 3. His opponent, retired anaesthetist Hugh Antrobus, went to offer his professional advice and concern only to be greeted with the Branfieldian comment: ‘He’s not a proper doctor you know but he’ll put you to sleep’! Er, the sort of thing Branfield does to one in the Bar … (A case of revenge for a comment on Twitter (social media for our older readers) which has received 1000’s of ‘likes’. After a 10 minute delay, both players edged to 4/4  40 all with Lewis eventually providing the coup de grace and marker Tom stating through gritted teeth that the match had been ‘high on quantity’, a bon mot or two which young Lambdon lay claim to. I’m afraid that poor ‘Pablo’ had to untether his horse from the front of the building and make his sorry way back to Stoneleigh after a painful return to earth with a 5/2 defeat at the hands of John Murphy, chiding himself and correctly pointing out that he needs to win a tournament soon before it’s too late. Tony Branfield ended George K’s hopes with a 5/2 victory and Jon Lambdon found Mark Savage in surprisingly crisp and fruity form, going down 3/5 and tweaking a hamstring in the process: injury number 4!
So it was, as predicted by the Hon. Sec. a case of ‘Same old, same old’ in the semi-finals. Murphy swept aside Lewis 5/2 and Branfield (winner of the 2019 Moreton Shield) proved too strong for Savage, whose play now appeared somewhat ‘corked’, taking the set 5/2.  

The final was an excellent contest with only a few handicap points’ between the two players. Professor Murphy roared into a 3/1 lead which soon dissipated when Branfield belted a loose serve into the dedans to level matters at 3/3. Having won the next game, Murphy was badly hit below the eye when the ball cannoned off his racket: injury number 5. With a lack of ice to hand he was offered a cold can of lager to ease the pain which clearly did the trick although not immediately, as Branfield pulled back to 4/4. To prove that the handicapping system may not be as out of kilter as some losers suggest, appropriately enough the match reached 5/5 but the denouement lacked a 40/40 finish due to pugnacious play by Professor ‘sporting a shiner’ Cassius Clay.
As ever the Garland Cup provided us with an entertaining and amusing weekend strewn with not so amusing injuries and physical contact with walls and the floor. Perhaps if there is a lesson to be learnt, it is that we should consider wearing goggles?? And surely it’s time for a match between the Club’s two biggest societies- the Professors vs the Medics? And how lucky we are that George is at hand to provide a sumptuous lunchtime repast and his menu choice was suitably apposite, in keeping with the Club’s recent Mexican heritage, of …  enchiladas!
Without wishing to labour the point any further …. but nonetheless I will …a final comment about some handicaps: it has been noted that I am considering building a WALL to keep the Mexicans out of Moreton Morrell! ‘I’m gonna to build a wall, yes I’m gonna build a wall.’

I’m pleased to announce that battered and bruised John Murphy has pronounced himself alive and kicking in a selfie he sent this morning – such pain to go through to win, deservedly, the Club’s oldest tournament, fought over since 1922.

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