2023 Masters Inter County – Men’s O45’s Finals

MATCH REPORT: ENGLAND SQUASH MASTERS INTERCOUNTY 2023, MEN’S OVER 45’s – FINALS WEEKEND

After winning 3 matches at stage 1 of the England Squash Masters Intercounty over 45’s, against Warwickshire, Gloucestershire and hosts Oxfordshire, the Berkshire over 45’s team had qualified for the national finals that were played in April 2023 at Peterborough Squash & Racketball Club. With a strengthened squad of Tim Burrell, Stuart Milton, Jon Hope, Darren Gray, Jeremy Baker and Dave Weston, there were high hopes of a strong showing against the top teams in England. The format changed from the league group stages to straight knockout for the finals, with Berkshire on early with a 9am first round matchup against Kent.

Berkshire vs Kent (Round 1)
First on court were Jon Hope and Jeremy Baker at third and fourth strings, matched against Kent’s Matt Horder and James Hall. Each started brightly by taking the first games, however things changed quickly for Berkshire with both players being pulled back to 1-1. While Jeremy managed to steady the ship and go into a 2-1 lead, Jon was not able to hold on and fell to a 1-3 (11/7 6/11 8/11 5/11) defeat. On the other court, the momentum swung once again as Jeremy lost the fourth game, meaning the match would go to the wire in a deciding fifth game which would be crucial for Berkshire to avoid going 0-2 down in the match and face being sent home before lunch on day one. Storming to 9-3 in the fifth it looked very much like Jeremy was romping his way to victory, but his opponent dug deep and clawed the score back to 8-9. This being the stage where heroes emerge and legends are made, Jeremy stood up to be counted and took the next two points and secured a 3-2 (11/3 10/12 11/2 5/11 11/8) win. 

With the match tied at 1-1, next on were Tim Burrell and Dave Weston, playing at numbers one and five versus Tom Woods and James Voyle. Unfortunately, both got off to a shaky start as they went 1-0 down and once again things needed to be turned round pronto. Tim was up against a talented left hander but after losing the first game, he managed to knuckle down and take a 3-1 (5/11 11/5 11/8 11/5) win with some dominant, quality squash, befitting of the first string position. At 0-2 down Dave suddenly looked strong as he took the third and it looked like the comeback was on, however it was not to be as the Kent number five pulled through, a 1-3 (9/11 3/11 11/9 1/11) loss for Berkshire and squeaky bum time going into the final match with the tie finely poised at 2-2. Did anyone remember to bring their Superman pants with them?

Always ready to be the man of the moment, Stuart Milton took to the court, pitched against Hugo Feitor and knowing he had to win to take the team into the semis. He delivered in the most emphatic way, crushing his opponent 3-0 (11/8 11/3 11/3). So, a 3-2 (16-9) Berkshire victory saw them marching on to the semi-finals where local rivals Wiltshire lay in wait.

Berkshire vs Wiltshire (Semi final)
Wiltshire had beaten Cheshire in their morning match and the Berkshire team knew they were in for a hard match. Jon was on first, again playing at number three and this time matched up with Wiltshire’s super fit Nigel Rowe. Looking for a better result than the morning, he duly delivered, taking care of business after a tough tussle with a 3-1 (12/10 11/3 6/11 11/5) scoreline. On the other court Berkshire had introduced some fresh legs with Darren Gray coming in at number four, looking to repeat his heroics of Stage 1. Once again he had a very tight five setter that swayed one way then the other, but after narrowly taking the fourth 12-10 to take it to the fifth, he looked in control. Sadly however, it was not to be this time as he went down to Simon Lucas 2-3 (9/11 11/9 11/13 12/10 7/11).

Next up were Tim and Jeremy, the pointy and blunt ends of the team all at once. Much like his morning match, Jeremy’s encounter with Paul Clark swung back and forth. He won the first (looking good), then lost the second, regaining the lead in the third only for his opponent to draw level by winning the fourth. Completing the saga in style and for the second time in the day, Jeremy dug deep into his seemingly unending reserves to take the fifth game and the win 3-2 (11/7 7/11 11/8 6/11 11/5). Tim had a fast paced game with the flamboyant ex England Junior Adam Giles and although nip and tuck, he was able to win the points that mattered to go 2-0 up. The third was close and with Tim saving three game balls in a tiebreaker, the match was won 3-0 (11/7 11/7 13/11) and Berkshire were into the final! The evergreen and ever dependable Stuart then rocked up and applied the icing to the cake by beating old foe Julian Beckett 3-0 (12/10 11/4 11/8).

THE FINAL – Berkshire vs Cambridgeshire
After a night recuperating, Berkshire took on Cambridgeshire who had overcome Somerset and Surrey the previous day.

This was guaranteed to be a tough match and what was in store quickly showed as Jon went 0-2 down to Grant Bryant and Jeremy 0-1 against Vinod Duraikan. Somehow Jon managed to get his act together to take a close third game and all of sudden found confidence and was in the ascendancy, with another controlled display to make it 2-2. In the fifth Jon demonstrated supreme class to take the match 3-2 (9/11 5/11 11/8 11/7 11/5). 1-0 to Berkshire and Jeremy was having a similar fight on his hands, much like the previous day. 0-1, 1-1, 2-1, 2-2… Jeremy loves a five setter and once again he came through with a display of tough fighting squash to win the fifth and the match 3-2 (11/13 11/9 11/4 7/11 11/5).

At the same time Darren was on court looking for a better result than the previous day and with the rewards of Jon and Jeremy’s efforts in the bank, a chance to end the tie early and take the win for Berkshire was there. Always in control, Darren turned on the style against John Williams, cruising to a 3-0 (11/5 11/5 11/4) victory, taking the match for himself and the overall title for Berkshire.

All that was left was for Tim and Stuart to wrap up the matches. Tim worked hard for a 3-0 win versus Nick Brown while Stuart, feeling the effects of the previous day’s exertions, was unable to complete his match with John Dewis.

A 4-1 (17-7) win for Berkshire to claim the Men’s Over 45 Intercounty National Championships! Well done to all those that played over the two stages:

Tim Burrell (Captain)
Stuart Milton
Jon Hope
Darren Gray
Jeremy Baker
Dave Weston
Richard Bodkin
Steve Brackley
Rick Weatherall

For detailed results see here