It was all a world away from the frenzied hype of Euro 2020 that gripped the nation. But on five beautifully manicured and manicured lawns at East Dorset Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in peaceful surroundings and baking heat, England already took home a trophy earlier this week.
And ahead of the highly anticipated clash against Scotland at Wembley on Friday night, the main event has been marked by the hammer-wielding England Five Lions.
While hundreds of thousands made their way to the nearby beaches of Bournemouth and Sandbanks, the English croquette team in Poole competed with Scotland, Wales and a hastily convened ‘Bombardiers’ team of Under-25 players, with Ireland unable to overcome the travel restrictions for a Home Internationals challenge.
The hazy silence was occasionally broken by the wooden thump of ball after ball, and from further away the drone of tennis balls disappeared before those trying the clay disappeared to watch Novak Djokovic demonstrate how it was done in the French Open. -final.
This reporter’s childhood experience with croquet was limited to a desperate attempt to run the balls straight across a small, shaggy and blotchy backyard lawn, and more often than not watching them take the considerable camber and rolled away in the waiting flower beds.
But at this level, the game is an exercise in precision, tactics, strategy and ruthlessness. Make no mistake, croquet—an activity that still conjures up clichéd cucumber rolls and Pimm’s—can be bad. You put your foot on the opponent’s throat and hold him there.
In one of the many parallels to snooker, a mistake will leave players waiting for their next turn which could easily be half an hour away, though they have a much healthier glow about them than their pasty cue sports counterparts, since that downtime takes place outside sitting on wooden courtyard chairs smothered in sunscreen and soaking up the rays.
And finishing with a ‘Triple Peel’ swing, where you pass both balls through the last three hoops on the same turn and then slam them against the stick to win the game, is a feat closer to a snooker maximum 147 than a snooker max. more average turn of the century.
The successful England team was led by their captain David ‘The Beast’ Maugham, with a squad made up of number 1 player Samir Patel, Dominic Nunns, Mark Suter and Nick Parish – all three winning their matches to become both International Challenge winners. turn into. and Home International champions, wrapping things up when England beat Croatia at Wembley.
Like most sports, croquet has been hit hard in the past 16 months, as England’s No. 1 player for the event, Samir Patel, was quick to see. He said: “With everything that has happened during the Covid pandemic and the cancellation of last year’s event, it has been great to finally be back on a croquet pitch and playing for England.”
And there are obvious challenges in popularizing the sport. A protagonist once told me that the images in the national newspapers in 2006 of former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott leaning on his gavel in his official Dorneywood mansion make the game’s image recede “by about 20 years.”
And like golf and cricket, the sport needs space in a country where the pressure to develop and build new homes is never far away.
The top echelons of the world rankings are dominated by players from England, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Scotland and Wales. And in the clash of the ‘Auld Enemy’ in Poole, it was the host nation who finished 3-2 in a thriller.
Gareth Southgate and Harry Kane almost certainly wouldn’t have paid much attention to the happenings on the south coast, but could England’s success portend another higher-octane clash on Friday at Wembley?
Beating a similar double from Scotland and then taking home the trophy at the end of the tournament would go down very nicely in many circles.