A Member of Croquet England
The Pavilion, Lammas Park, Culmington Road,
Ealing, London W5 5JH
Football may have the Community Shield, but for true sports aficionados the most prestigious curtain-raiser of the season is the annual Ealing v High Wycombe croquet contest for the Lloyd-Pratt Mallet. The match celebrates the ties of friendship between the two clubs, dating back to when Ealing hosted High Wycombe members when their lawns were out of action.
With the 2020 edition cancelled due to the Coronavirus lockdown, this year’s staging of the event was even more eagerly anticipated than usual. And with Ealing only having emerged victorious on one previous occasion, they were particularly keen to redress the balance – especially as the 2019 encounter had to be settled by an extra-time shoot-out at the peg. There were even rumours of Ealing players being seen practising during the preceding week.
The weather certainly played its part, with a chilly morning developing into a gloriously sunny day, which allowed Ron to play his stopping bisque by discarding his track suit bottoms to reveal his knees at a key strategic moment.
The usual format was observed, with two GC and two AC doubles pairings playing morning and afternoon matches.
The Ealing AC pairings of Tony & David and Carole & Simon managed to win both morning matches, against Richard & Roger and Alan & Michael respectively.
Honours were even in the morning GC matches, with Annie (partnered by Stephen) compounding her treachery in turning out for the opposition by playing a miracle shot to deny Ron & Charlie victory in the deciding game. Bridget & Jane won their decider against Don & Keith, enthusiastically supported by Crunchie on the sidelines.
Ealing were able to enjoy their picnic lunch in the sunshine with a greater appetite, sitting as they were on a 3-1 lead. The first of the AC reverse doubles in the afternoon saw High Wycombe captain Richard skilfully shepherding his 15-year old partner Roger round to claim a memorable victory +4T. We very much hope this will encourage Roger to continue his rapid improvement, and look forward to seeing him compete at a high level ere long.
With Bridget & Jane winning their game against Annie & Stephen 2-0, Ealing were on the brink of reclaiming the Mallet. Victory was secured when Charlie & Ron won the third game against Don & Keith.
In the other AC game Tony & David conquered Alan & Michael; Tony recovering from a bout of food poisoning on Friday night – that had led to him having to withdraw from the second day of the Surbiton Easter Tournament – to play the decisive break. So Ealing emerged as winners by a 6-2 margin.
An array of socially distanced tea-time delights were provided at the close of play, accompanied by Richard recounting a highly entertaining precis of the colourful and indeed scandalous career of the eponymous Bryan Lloyd-Pratt.
A thoroughly enjoyable day, which it is to be hoped will mark the start of a much more normal summer, where we will all have the chance to enjoy the competitiveness and camaraderie that croquet provides.