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London B 25 v 19 Surrey B

Inter CountyWembley, London, 30 July 1966. Old Trafford cricket ground, Manchester, 17 August 1981. Telstra Stadium, Sydney, 22 November 2003. Super Saturday, 4 August 2012. The All-England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon, 7 July 2013. And now, almost 50 years to the day since Geoff Hurst’s hat-trick heroics, a new chapter of equal – if not greater – significance has been written in the annals of British sport: Spots & Stripes, Southwark, 10 July 2016.

It began modestly enough, as British summer days are wont to do, with grey skies and melancholy drizzle that bore no hint of the golden wonders that were to follow. North of the capital, in torrential rain, Lewis Hamilton romped to a famous victory at Silverstone to reignite his challenge for the Formula 1 driver’s championship. A mere hour or so later, Andy Murray lifted the Gentlemen’s Singles trophy at Wimbledon for the second time in four years. As England’s favourite Scotsman prepared to give his victor’s speech, the crowd on Centre Court dutifully fell silent. Not out of respect, as many observers wrongly assumed, but rather dumb-founded astonishment as the news filtered through to SW19 of an even greater drama that was unfolding a few short miles to the north-east.

Shortly before Murray and Raonic had emerged from the locker room, the first frames had begun in the hotly-anticipated top of the table clash between London and Surrey in the EPA Region 7 Men’s B division. In the reverse fixture on the opening day of the season, a new-look London side had raced into a commanding lead against their more experienced opponents. Buoyed by the vigour of youth, with several new recruits freshly promoted from the juniors’ squad, London had eagerly sprinted towards the finish only to be gripped by white-line fever. A four-frame lead was surrendered with only six frames left to play, the match ultimately ending in a draw that would feel like a bitter defeat.

This time round, led by the irrepressible Declan ‘Ginger Dre’ Kelly, London charged out of the blocks into a 1-0 lead and swiftly opened up a three-frame advantage by the end of the first session (scoreline: 7-4 to London). A minor Surrey revival ensued in the second session as the visitors never allowed London to get more than three frames clear, with the half-time score reading 12-10 in London’s favour. Wins for the Ginger Dre and Danny ‘Motormouth’ Moffatt at the start of the third session looked to have struck the knockout blow, as London stretched the gap to four frames and threatened to open an unsurmountable lead. At this stage, none could have foreseen the drama that was to follow. Like a boxer rising from the canvas, Surrey found a second wind and promptly took four of the next five to close to within a single frame. Were London destined to suffer the same fate as before? Had the mental fragility been replaced by steely determination, forged in the heat of battles fought since, or would the psychological scars be reopened anew? A nation held its breath.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. As the drama looked to be building to a thrilling denouement in the final Act, one man stepped forward to tear up the script, and Surrey’s hearts with it. Playing in the unfamiliar No.8 position, Andre “the real Dre” Cox taunted his opponent with the casual arrogance that comes naturally to all great champions. As Dre deliberately missed a simple black to the middle pocket, London and Surrey players alike thought the game was up as his opponent laid a simple snooker. Was this the moment that the match would turn, that Surrey would pull level and that London’s resolve would finally crumble to be revealed as no more than a flimsy façade?

Not a chance. Where lesser men might have accepted the inevitable, succumbed to defeat and passed the burden of responsibility on to their teammates, not this man. Not Dre. The crowd watched in silence as the London player lined up an audacious treble. Moving seemingly in slow-motion, drawn inexorably towards the final target not merely by the laws of physics but by sheer force of will and determination, the cue ball followed the path plotted by Dre to millimetre perfection. Once, twice, thrice across the table, coming within a hair’s width of the jaw of the opposite pocket, the crowd held its breath as the cue ball drifted ever onwards to finally persuade the 8-ball to drop with the gentlest of nudges. A moment’s silence followed. Then, pandemonium as the home crowd erupted in glee. The noise that only London can make. The noise of twelve men (‘Motormouth’ Moffatt counting double) united in triumph. The noise of victory.

The brief comeback snuffed out, from that point on there could only be one conclusion. London powered remorselessly onwards, extending their lead time and again to emerge victorious, 25-19. A seismic result that would not only send shockwaves through Region 7, but would create ripples capable of reaching the farthest corners of the Earth. We lucky few were there to witness it first-hand. This truly is a golden era for British sport, and we shall cherish every minute.

Man of the Match: Andre Cox.


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