King derailed by flying Scotsman at world bowls championships

Friday, January 25, 2013
10.23 PM

Yesterday, if you hadn’t noticed, was Burns Day, but Andy Murray was not the only Scot to celebrate by hitting top form in the sporting arena: at Potters Leisure Resort, four Scots came out on top in the quarter- finals of the Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines world indoor singles championship.

Auchinleck’s Stewart Anderson, high-flying Prestwick duo David Gourlay and Paul Foster and Midlothian’s Colin Walker will line up in today’s semi finals, so the world final tomorrow is bound to be an all-Scottish affair.

Hopes that Mervyn King, who has been in good form, might repeat his triumph of 2006, were dashed when Foster beating the estate manager from Norfolk 11-3, 9-5 while, in an even more one-sided contest, Gourlay overwhelmed veteran Welshman John Price, 11-2, 12-4.

Disappointing? – Yes. But, what those games lacked in drama was more than made up for in the breathtaking levels of skill that the winners showed in dealing so emphatically with two fellow world champions.

Some of their shots were nothing less than miraculous.

First, Gourlay, who won the world title in 1996, but has recently been concentrating on his administrative role as Bowls Scotland’s head coach, rolled back the years and produced a near-faultless display of drawing to the jack that made Price, who played a tidy game, look like a novice.

“I watched John practising, and he seemed to be in very good form,” said Gourlay,

“So I psyched myself up for a very hard match, and was delighted to open up a 5-0 lead in the first three ends, but the four shots I scored on the fifth end really put me out of reach.”

Another full house on the first end of the second set followed immediately by a double meant that Price, whose one success in this event was in 1990, was always playing catch-up, but he might as well have been chasing rainbows as Gourlay rolled on relentlessly, showing no mercy.

As so often happens when you are on the back foot, Price’s good bowls were ineffective – if there was a gap to go through, his running bowls would find it, and every time the popular 52-year-old Welshman actually drew the shot, Gourlay ruthlessly beat it with the very next bowl.

Having witnessed such a brilliant display of bowls, spectators were treated to a similar masterclass, conducted this time by four-times champion Foster, who would not allow King a look at the jack.

“I was expecting a tough game, because I know Mervyn has been playing really well, but I was glad to bring my ‘A’ game to the table, and felt I played very consistently,” said Foster.

“ It was the understatement of the week from the man they are calling the Troon Terminator.

“It will take someone playing exceptional bowls to beat me this week – if I can keep it up,” added Foster, who is still resolutely refusing to contemplate winning the title tomorrow.

If he does, of course, he will equal Alex Marshall record of five world indoor singles titles, and become the first player to do the Potters hat-trick by winning the pairs, mixed pairs and singles titles in the same year.

“If I should win it, it would be wonderful, because Sunday is the birthday of my son Logan,” revealed Foster, “But no – I’m not even going to think about it!”

Yesterday morning, Stewart Anderson, now back in Scotland after a spell in South Wales, showed the sort of form that took him to the final in 2010, when, as a raw newcomer, he had to give best to world number one Greg Harlow.

This time, facing Harlow’s City of Ely clubmate Nick Brett, Anderson took the first set by storm, 9-4, before his opponent had time to settle. But when Brett found his touch, he took control in the second set, opening up a 6-2 lead after six ends.

Anderson bounced back with a treble, but Brett weathered to storm and edged home in the set, 7-6, and, to the delight of the large crowd, the match moved into tiebreak territory.

Brett won the opening end but Anderson took the second and the third, decisive end, had to be played twice, after Anderson accurately fired the jack out of bounds to earn a replay – something that is only permissible on the third end of a tiebreak.

The replay was hardly the stuff that dreams are made of: Anderson played four decent bowls but left Brett with room enough to draw the winner, but the Cambridgeshire man was short with his final attempt to deliver the winner, so Anderson won, 9-4, 6-7, 2-1.

Last night, Exeter’s Rob Paxton looked on course to spoil the Scottish party but was pipped by Colin Walker in the first set, when the Midlothian man broke a 6-6 deadlock with the last bowl of the set, and the Scot pressed on to a 7-6, 7-7 straight sets victory.

In today’s semi finals, Anderson will play Gourlay and Foster faces Walker.

nNorfolk’s new world champion Bex Field has been invited to Carrow Road for today’s FA Cup match with Luton Town, and can expect to be introduced to the crowd at half-time.

Field beat Guernsey’s Alison Merrien 11-7, 8-10, 2-1 to win the Women’s Matchplay singles title on Thursday afternoon.