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Andy Le Butt fifth time champion


24 contestants took part in the Aylesbury annual Hard and Sandpaper Bat competition at Quarrendon Community Association on 15 August. It was a warm evening and all participants tried hard to dislodge the favorite, Leicester's Andy Le Butt, from his winning run. He has won the Hard Bat four times previously only losing to Arun Jogi in 2009. This time a group from the Oxford League including James Speedy, Sam Tanbuni, Feng Gou, Conor Savage and Andy Crofts joined the ranks and with improving Aylesbury players, Clive Westbury, Tim Berendt, Tim Cheek, Dafna Dekel, Dave Bradbury, Frank Beck and Pete Edwards the match play was of a decent standard.

However, Andy progressed to the final of the Hard Bat with increasing confidence. Sohail Caratella from Coventry has been runner up on two previous occasions and he played some scintillating ping pong to move into the final. After 15 or so games it took considerable stamina to play as well in the last match of the night as they had throughout the evening, but they did. Andy was too steady and took his fifth title.

In the Sandpaper competition, Arun Jogi (Yogi) from Birmingham somehow managed to reach the final despite several deuce matches. Sohail again showed considerable reserves to win his group and progress to the final. This final was point for point with Yogi keeping just ahead and nicking it. The evening was viewed as a success and enjoyed by all.

Well done to Andy and Yogi for their 2016 success.


Players from afar again supported the Aylesbury Hard Bat Annual Tournament on 10 August at Quarrendon and Meadowcroft Community Association. Organiser, past winner and past Haddenham Premier Player, Arun Jogi, now Birmingham based, attracted Andy Le Butt (current champion and winner of the event on 3 occasions), Sohail Caratella from Coventry and Pete Hargreaves (past Haddenham Player now based in the Midlands). With Aylesbury and Oxford players entries totalled 30 and all competed in the Hard Bat as well as an inaugural Sandpaper bat event.

Group stages in both events saw close games with many being decided by a solitary point and a frenetic evening of ping pong was not completed until past midnight. Favourites for the titles from the groups included those above, but local Haddenham Hard Bat exponent, Rodney Browne, was threatening to upset the odds. Surprise group winners were James Speedy and Sam Serogo Tabuni from Oxford, Frank Beck from Tring and joining these as expected was our own Tim Cheek from Aylesbury Sports.

Going into the knockout stages, Chris Weatherby (Quainton and North Wales) began to impose his controlled game and Frank Beck improved as the evening progressed. Both events saw the same personnel moving into the Quarter Finals. Rodney Browne played Chris Weatherby on 4 occasions, twice in the groups, then in the semi final of both competitions. He lost to Rodney in the sandpaper semi but squeezed through by a point in the Hard Bat. Andy Le Butt played Yogi in the Hard Bat semi final (how Yogi got there is a story in itself, but he never gives up!)Andy was too strong this time and then booked his place in the Sandpaper Final with a demonstration of perfect play against Frank Beck. Frank had taken the notable scalps of Sohail in the Hard Bat and Pete Hargreaves in the Sandpaper.

The Hard Bat Final was a close affair with Andy taking the first set, but Chris threatened to run away with the Title in the second set, leading by 5-2. Andy used his skill and knowledge with immense stamina to claw the set back and won his fourth Aylesbury Hard Bat Title. He went on to play Rodney in the Sandpaper Final, keeping his nerve against some magnificent match play from Rodney. After two close sets they were equal on points. One further point was to be played to decide the winner and Andy with the serve took the honours to be our Sandpaper and Hard Bat Champion for 2015.

Congratulations Andy, well played to all competitors for a brilliant evening - commiserations to Chris and Rodney.

Aylesbury Tournament

Andy Lebutt retained the Aylesbury Hard Bat Trophy on 17 June 2014 at Elmhurst Community Centre, beating Sohail Caratella in the final. Andy was pushed hard in the semi final by Shunko Cook from Bicester and encountered difficult matches all evening. Aylesbury player, Iain Willcocks retained the Plate beating Bicester's Andy Crofts in that final. Full report will follow soon.

Oxford competition

Karl and Shunko triumphant

The seventh annual ODTTA Hard Bat competition for the “TT The Hard Way” trophy was played on four tables at the Bicester Table Tennis Club on the evening of Monday, 19th May, 2014. An innovation this year was the use of brand new blue sandpaper ping pong world championship bats. The usual band of Bicester faithfuls, Tony Gorman, Pete Hargreaves (now based in Telford), Andy Crofts, Stan Harding and Mike Jobling, was on hand to set up the arena. 27 enthusiasts turned up to play, including Andy Lebutt, Sohail Caratella and Jessica Birbeck from the East Midlands, Richard and Geoff Burton and Birgit Muller from South Oxfordshire, and, receiving a special welcome as newcomers to the event, Maan Younis, Shunko Cook, Guy Plowman and local boy Reece Chamdal. Alas, the inspiration behind the whole edifice, Arun Jogi, was stricken by sun-stroke (yes, in Solihull!) and couldn't make it, which thrust ODTTA Chairman, John Birkin, into an officiating role at the last minute. No problem, as they say, with Mike Jobling sharing the top desk and the rounds as well.

Quarter-finalists in the main draw, after two sets of group matches, were Tim Cheek, Sohail Caratella, Maan Younis, Karl Bushell, Geoff Burton, Tony Gorman, Andy Lebutt and Andrew Legge. Andy dismissed Andrew in ruthless style, Karl took care of Geoff, Tony collapsed against the consistency of Maan, while ace defender Tim squeezed home against Sohail 11-9 in the decider. That set up two intriguing semis, with Andy just getting past Maan's defences (normally an extreme top-spinner, but reverses this style with a hard bat) and Karl emerging from a protracted pushing duel with Tim, who is able to retrieve most of Karl's hits.  It was knocking on 11pm when Karl finally retained his trophy after two extremely close games against Andy.

Losing quarter-finalists in the Plate were Fraser Harris, Tom Brennan, Chris Gorman and Andy Crofts. Junior retriever Jamie Felton used all the back and side space on offer and looked like a winner, until hauled in at the last by evergreen hitter, Richard Burton. But it was Bicester's own Japanese gem, Shunko Cook, who added to her growing array of trophies by defeating Richard in the final.





pictures on rogues gallery


Thanks to all those who entered the recent Hard Bat competition. I hope you enjoyed it all.

It certainly was a challenge to keep 30 people amused and entertained within the hall and thanks to the players and Dave Badham (who helped in the general setting up of the competition and on the night itself) the night went swimmingly well.

I do hope people enjoyed it. That was the most number I've had in any hard bat that I have run so many thanks to you all for all turning up and for being on time.

Due to the extremely high number of entries I had to limit the entries to as many Aylesbury entries as possible and fill the rest with previous entrants from other leagues. This was the first time we have run this competition since 2009. I have a feeling from what most people said after this one that we won't leave it another 4 years before we run this again!

My only apology on the night was that in an effort to get things started and to keep moving so that we could reach a conclusion in the appropriate time, some people were not aware that there was going to be a plate competition, left too early and missed the chance to compete again. Secondly, the criteria being used to separate players who had won the same number of games in the group section was not apparent to one group, so I can only apologise as all this was “lost in translation”!!

As for the competition, the format had to be a little fluid in order to give people as much table time as possible and it worked out in the end that most people had a minimum of 6 “games” and a max of 9 with a slight change of format in the knockout stages of the competition.

The group sections were fast and furious games of 1 game only, first to 15 and no deuce and it made for some exciting close matches especially in group A (the group of death) where there were lots of close matches and 3 that went the distance! One notable match in this group saw Nick Cresswell pull out all the stops to thwart Tim Cheek for the majority of the game only to come unstuck on 14 points and allow Tim to grind his way through the last 4 points to win on the sudden death point!. This group ultimately was fiercely contested and even the head to heads between those in 2 nd place were not enough and we had to separate people by “points won” in those head to heads. Tony Gorman was the stand out player in this group in the end and he went all the way to the final of the main competition (despite playing with the papier mache bats that Jon Abungan had so kindly provided!).

Group B saw another grinder in Mark Penn chop his way to the win leaving in 2 nd place Geoff “the smiler” Burton a seasoned hard bat invitee from Didcot league. In this group Simon Witney edged out Jon Abungan in the head to head for 3 rd place. What this meant was that Simon was placed in the Main knockout and Jon by hook or by crook made it to the Plate section where he was hoping to pick up some silverware. This was not to be as you will see later on as Jon got a rash in some sensitive areas and had to wear a ladies GB Olympic style hockey top (the one without the arms!) and he did indeed proceed to play like a hockey player!!! (again, with the papier mache bats he had provided!)

Group C was the most straight forward of all the groups. Andy Lebutt, an invitee from the Leicestershire area (and in fact the winner of the inaugural Aylesbury Hard bat in 2008 and runner up in 2009), won the group with his subtle mix of defence and attack (hitherto never seen!). This all despite his ever expanding waist!!(Not necessarily the views of the website manager!)

Group D was dominated by another invitee Sohail Caratella from Warwickshire and this as I said was the “confused” group. Ironically Dave Badham the co-organiser was in this group and had he realised the criteria for separating people with the same number of wins he would actually have avoided his nemesis Dave Wackrill in the knockout section!! (My group hid the details from me!Ed)

Finally group E, containing Yogi the organiser (and winner of this competition for the last 4 years!!)(No challenger!!!!). He however had to give second best to seasoned top division player Dave Wackrill who certainly knew how to wield these old style bats with aplomb(sic). Dave won the group and 3rd place was separated on head to head between Iain Willcocks and John Cripps. Iain managed to get himself in the plate where he then flourished as you will see as did Birgit Muller who managed to finish bottom of this group but this was part of her master plan into lulling every one into a false sense of security again see the “plate knockout section”


Plate competition

The plate competition was depleted by a couple of players as it had not been communicated to them that they had another game to play. Nevertheless it was competed with eagerness. This was evident in the fact that Jon Abungan had tried his hardest to get some silverware by appearing unannounced in this section. Sadly for him his form (and his papier mache bat) deserted him at the wrong time and a rejuvenated Nick Cresswell got the better of him in the quarter final.

There were, however, 2 people who came alive in this section

Firstly, Iain Willcocks who smoothly won his matches against Steve Doe, Clive Westbury and Bill McCafferty on his way to the final and never lost more than 5 points in any game. Secondly Birgit Muller who having come bottom in her group suddenly found nerves of steel and resolve as she firstly won a comfortable match and then made the comeback of the night in the quarter final. Having lost 5-11 in the first game, with no thought of losing she played the perfect game and only lost 1 point in the second game to come though on points.

With this confidence she then took on Nick Cresswell (conqueror of Jon Abungan and his papier mache bat) and again having lost the first game 9-11, showed great tenacity to come through 11-8 in the 2 nd game and win by 1 point!!

The final was Iain's hardest match of this section. He had in the back his mind the fact that he had narrowly beaten his opponent in the group stage and he came through to win the match deservedly 11-8, 11-8.


Main knockout

Tony Gorman moved serenely into the semi-finals beating Simon Witney and Dave Wackrill on his way.

Yogi, the reigning champion was sent home with his tail between his legs by Geoff Burton who in turn then had one of the matches of the day against the in-form Sohail Caratella. Sohail himself had dispatched his good friend Pete Hargreaves with consummate ease in the process playing the “shot of the day”,  a “blind” back hand from the forehand wing , with his head looking to the right whilst his hand made a 180 degree turn to the left to propel the ball in that direction. It certainly was a thing of beauty, if not somewhat fortunate (and cheeky!)!!

The match between Sohail and Geoff was based on who would attack first. Sohail kept Geoff away and won 11-5 in the first game. He then relaxed at 4-2 up in the second needing only 2 more points to guarantee going through. The fighter in Geoff took him from 2-4 to 10-4. That was squeaky b*m time. The next point would determine if Sohail had blown his lead or whether Geoff had miraculously turned it around to win. Sadly in going hard at the next point he netted and therefore still had a chance to force the sudden death point. Alas it was not to be and one more mistake meant the great comeback was at an end. Sohail was relieved!

The third semi-finalist was again Andy Lebutt, a course specialist as he had won this event and lost in the final on the 2 occasions this event had been previously played. He had a trouble free passage to the semi-final and needed to conserve his energy because of the style of his normal hard bat play which has been known to be somewhat defensive (though I was led to believe that he had been having hypnotherapy sessions with Paul Mckenna to get over this fear of attacking).

The 4 th semi-finalist was Tim Cheek who throughout the night had showed great resilience when needed especially when playing Mark Penn in the first of his knockout rounds. With the crowds baying for expedite and the twelfth hour approaching (only joking) , he outlasted his opponent by a single point having lost the first game 8-11 and won the 2 nd game by one more point . With no time to rest Tim had to sadly play immediately against Brian McMullan who had been secretly practicing this format of table tennis(with Jon Abungan and his paper mache bats) for the last few weeks but alas Tim was too consistent and a close game was won to allow him safe passage into the semi-final.

The eagerly anticipated first semi-final between Tony and Sohail went the way of the net or edge. By that I mean whoever got a net or edge, won the point. With Sohail in the ascendency Tony kept his nerve to come away with the first game 11-9 despite looking all the way through that game that it was going to go Sohail's way. With that first game in the bag Tony gained a renewed confidence and some more nets and edges and did indeed edge his way into the final. He was trying to do the grand slam of wins on all manner of competitions in the Aylesbury league in the month of April.

The other semi-final was dour by comparison though not in any way less skilful but Andy showed all his guile to reach his 3 rd final in this event.

The final was played with a depleted number of people watching and was potentially an attack v defence game if it had gone to form and previous patterns. Alas , Paul Mckenna had indeed weaved his magic on Andy's mind and he showed great attacking and defensive pushing to make Tony miss once too often each time and Andy romped home to the title 11-6,11-6, thereby regaining his title he had so cruelly lost in 2009.

Well done Andy a deserved champion

    hardbat - PLATE 2013    
Clive Westbury quarter final semi final Final
  Clive Westbury      
Steve Doe   Iain Willcocks 11-5,11-5    
Iain Willcocks 11-5,11-5      
Iain Willcocks        
Phil Blind     Iain Willcocks 11-4,11-1  
  Andy Crofts 11-10,11-10    
Andy Crofts   Bill McCafferty 11-5,11-1    
Dafna Dekel        
  Bill McCafferty 10-11,11-6      
Bill McCafferty     Iain Willcocks 11-8,11-8
Dom Palmigiano Plate Winner
Birgit Muller 11-2,11-5      
Birgit Muller        
Stuart Brewer   Birgit Muller 5-11,11-1    
  Stuart Brewer      
Nick Cresswell     Birgit Muller 9-11,11-8  
  Nick Cresswell 11-5,11-7      
Dave Bradbury   Nick Cresswell 11-7,11-6    
Vic Davies        
  Jon Abungan 11-5,11-5      
Jon Abungan      


  hardbat - KNOCKOUT 2013    
last 16
Tony Gorman quarter final semi final Final
  TONY G 11-1,11-3    
Simon Witney      
    Tony G 11-9,11-7  
Dave Badham      
  Dave W 11-6,11-3    
Dave Wackrill      
      Tony Gorman 11-9,11-9
Geoff Burton    
  Geoff B 11-3,11-6  
    Sohail Caratella 11-5,7-11  
Pete Hargreaves      
  Sohail Caratella 11-3,10-11    
Sohail Caratella    
        Andy Lebutt 11-6,11-6
Andy Lebutt CHAMPION
Andy Lebutt 11-7,11-4    
John Cripps      
    Andy LeButt 11-6,11-3  
Tim Berendt      
  Tim B    
Brian McMullan     Andy Lebutt 11-5,11-6
  Brian Mc 12-10,11-8    
Steve Allen      
    Tim Cheek 11-10,11-7  
Tim Cheek      
  Tim Cheek 8-11,11-7    
Mark Penn    





Aylesbury recently played host to hard bat table tennis enthusiasts at the Elmhurst Community Centre on the anniversary of the tournament that was introduced last year. Entries were received from Didcot, Nuneaton, Leicester and Bicester as well as Thame and Aylesbury and included 2008's winner Andy Le Butt from Leicester. Using Hard Bats was a reminder to some of how they started in the sport, but to today's youngsters it served to show how much skill and ability is needed to succeed without the help of sponge and special bat rubbers that are available today.

In the early rounds local players found life difficult against Geoff and Richard Burton from Didcot, Sohail Caratella from Nuneaton and Andy Le Butt. Young Omar Echcharki enjoyed his early baptism into competitive table tennis, while stalwarts James Gibson and Ken Walton struggled to adapt to the different style of play. Chris Hawkes, Clive Westbury and Arun Jogi achieved better results, each qualifying for the quarter finals.

Chris came up against Geoff Burton, an acknowledged expert along with his brother Richard, in the art of hard bat play. Geoff moved easily into the semi finals where he met Andy Le Butt who Clive Westbury had fought hard against in his quarter final. In the other games, Arun Jogi sailed through against Bicester's Andy Crofts, but Sohail only succeeded against Richard Burton by one point in an attacking and thrilling encounter.

At semi final stage Andy Le Butt defended doggedly against Geoff's deadly hitting and won by two sets to one. Yogi, meanwhile, had to dig deep to resist Sohail's game plan winning a close match 12-10, 11-8.

Yogi, representing Aylesbury, played Andy in the final, trying to bring the title back home and prevent Andy being Hard Bat champion two years running. Losing the first set 11 ? 6, all looked lost, but Yogi found new attacking reserves and levelled the match with a win 11- 4 in the second set. In the decider neither player yielded any ground but Yogi continued to attack with relish and deservedly won 13-11 to be crowned Aylesbury's Hard Bat Champion 2009.

Finally, many thanks to David Ballard who did a fine job in organising the event.

Quarter Finals

Arun Jogi beat Andy Crofts 11-4,11-3

Sohail Caratella beat Richard Burton 11-7,8-11

Andy Le Butt beat Clive Westbury 11-8,11-6

Geoff Burton beat Chis Hawkes 11-3,11-2

Semi Finals

Arun Jogi beat Shail Caratella 12-10,11-8

Andy Le Butt beat Geff Burton 12-10,4-11,11-6


Arun Jogi beat Andy Le Butt 6-11,11-4,13-11


The Oxford Hard Bat Competition 2010


Plate Winner                      :   Peter Hargreaves
Plate runner up                   :   John Birkin

Another great job by Yogi. An enjoyable event and it was good to see representatives from Forum but sad to see a low entry from ODTTA




Aylesbury's inaugural Hard Bat Table Tennis competition on 6 June attracted players from the Midlands as well as Oxfordshire. Staged at The Elmhurst Centre, the event was intended as a jog down memory lane to the days before the advent of sponge and sticky rubbers when durability was a major requirement as well as skill and judgement. It proved, however, to be a very competitive event.

Local stars Andrew Eggleton and Nick Cresswell sustained Aylesbury's challenge to Leicester's Andy Le Butt and Nuneaton 's Sohail Caratella. Nick played very patiently to outfox Arun Yogi from Bicester over 3 sets in his quarter final and provided stiff opposition for Sohail in the first semi final. Losing the first set 11 ? 3, he regrouped and prevented Sohail using his devastating backhand attack to take the second set 11 ? 7. The deciding set went point for point in fast rallies with Sohail taking it 12 ? 10.

Andrew Eggleton proved too strong for Bicester's Andy Crofts in his quarter final and took on the might of Andy Le Butt in the other semi final. Matching Andy point for point initially, Andrew eventually gave ground to Andy's accuracy and persistency losing out 11 ? 6, 11 ? 6.

We were set for a thrilling final but with Sohail's style of play it was never likely to last long. Andy maintained his fitness and proved what we all suspected, that he was the best exponent of the hard bat on the night, winning 11 ? 4, 11 ? 9.

Many thanks to the Organiser, David Ballard, for a very enjoyable evening of table tennis.

Quarter Finals

Sohail Caratella beat Roger Mott 11 ? 6, 11 ? 6

Andrew Eggleton beat Andy Crofts 11 ? 5, 11 ? 5

Nick Cresswell beat Arun Yogi 11 ? 6, 8 ? 11, 11 ? 9

Andy Le Butt beat Geoff Loder 11 ? 3, 11 ? 7

Semi Finals

Sohail Caratella beat Nick Cresswell 11 ? 3, - 11, 12 ? 10

Andy Le Butt beat Andrew Eggleton 11 ? 6, 11 ? 6


Andy Le Butt beat Sohail Caratella 11 ? 4, 11 - 6

Dave Ballard Presents the trophy to Andy Le Butt