MCC v The Dedanists’ Society, Lord’s, 10 February 2018

About a month earlier, Mr Thirlwell and I entered the Lord’s dedans a few minutes before our scheduled gladiatorial hour, quite by chance to encounter Messrs Snitcher and Leigh planning the teams for the MCC v The Dedanists’ Society.

“Would either of you gentlemen possibly be available to represent the club on 10 February?” we were asked.

Both of us replied that we would check our heaving social calendars, but, each of us coincidentally suspected that the afternoon of 10 February might just be a tiny window of opportunity for the club to co-opt our services.

Mr Thirlwell relaxing in the dedans gallery after doing battle – with thanks to Janie for all of the photos and the videos

An hour later, as Mr Thirlwell and I were dragged off the court kicking, biting, punching and yelling at each other…

…as usual…

…yet another draw for the real tennis on-line score book…

…Messrs Snitcher and Leigh looked at each other and exclaimed in unison, “yes indeed, these two will be ideal canon fodder for our friendly match with The Dedanists’ Society.”

The Dedanists’ Society is a group of real tennis enthusiasts who raise money for good works in the sport – click here for further details.

Janie and I had enjoyed a Dedanists’ Society evening event only a few months earlier – click here or below for the story of that evening:

Drinks and Nibbles With The Dedanists’ Society, The Estorick Collection, Islington, 5 September 2017

So Janie needed only a little persuasion to join us on 10 February for lunch and to watch her boy (me) in action. By then we knew that I was scheduled to partner Mr Snitcher himself, for the first time in a match since my very first attempt at a doubles match some 18 months previously – click here or below for that tale of derring-do:

MCC v The Wanderers, Real Tennis Match, Lord’s, 10 September 2016

Janie and I planned, on the morning of 10 February, to play an hour of modern tennis before heading to Lord’s for lunch. But as there was still frost on the cars when we planned to set off to play, we postponed that fixture. All dressed up with no place to go for physical preparation, I resorted instead to psychological methods:

Preparing spiritually for the big match against the Dedanists

Janie and I arrived in good time for lunch; getting to see the end of the second rubber and chat with a few people before the all important business of chowing down.

The grub was good. The centrepiece was a very tasty chilli-con-carne with rice and vegetables, supplemented with some tasty nibbles, a brightly-coloured soup (carrot and tomato I should imagine) and an elegant cheese platter. Washed down with plentiful wine for those who had already done battle and a thimble-full of wine for a combatant-to-be, like me.

In truth, this particular fixture must be one of the friendliest matches in the whole of the global real tennis calendar. Most MCC members who play in the fixture are also members of The Dedanists’ Society. Most of the players on the day were members of both clubs; so much so that, at times, during play, we were struggling to work out which team was which.

Mark (the nominative deterministic gentleman who marks the matches), Mr Snitcher and yours-truly – let the battle commence

Soon enough it was our chance to play. The last rubber of the match – surely the highlight of the fixture. So much so that some of the people who had done battle earlier in the day simply couldn’t take the tension and left Lord’s before the game. Still, a good dozen or so people remained, hardly any of whom were having an afternoon snooze.

Mr Snitcher and I had spent many seconds preparing our tactics for the match. We agreed that I would do most of the running, so I should not expect to hear the call “yours”, I should only expect to hear the shout “mine”, at which point I should leave the ball.

Here’s an example:

Somehow it seemed to work out…

…as did my serve on the day; most but not all of the time:

…even my volley worked a bit better than usual…

…as one kind gentleman pointed out to Janie, I was in the zone…

…which is a polite way of saying that I was not really keeping track of the score, much as some people struggle to walk and chew gum at the same time.

Tony and Mr Devlin watched with rapt attention – it was that sort of match

Even Tony seemed full of glee at the end of the match. He told me and Mr Snitcher that we had excelled ourselves on court. He also said that we should be delighted with the progress we are making…

…at least I think that’s what Tony said. To be honest I wasn’t listening; apparently none of us ever do.

Joking apart, all the participants had spent a thoroughly enjoyable day at Lord’s and raised a few bob for The Dedanists’ Society in the process.

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