David Rhys Jones
Monday, January 14, 2013
Spectators at the Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines WBT world indoor bowls championships at Potters Leisure Resort in Hopton-on-Sea can expect a great day of top-class bowling today on the blue portable rink.
Semi-finals day in the pairs has the added spice of offering two England-versus-Scotland contests and the chance for local supporters to get behind Norfolk hero Mervyn King, who is leading for his friend Simon Skelton, from Nottingham.
First up this afternoon, King and Skelton have the daunting task of facing the favourites and defending champions, Paul Foster and Alex Marshall, the flying Scots who only last month, in Adelaide, added the equivalent outdoor title to their haul.
The second semi-final features City of Ely clubmates Nick Brett and Greg Harlow, winners of the English national pairs title for the past two years, who face formidable opposition from Scottish duo Stewart Anderson and Darren Burnett.
Having mercilessly disposed of the challenge of Welsh twins Gareth and Gavin Rees, 9-4, 16-0, on Friday, King and Skelton came through their quarter-final with former Exeter postman Rob Paxton and legendary Scot David Gourlay, 10-0, 6-6. Paxton and Gourlay took time to settle, but put up a fight in the second set, and looked as if they might earn them a tiebreak, before a last end double tied the set and saved King and Skelton the anguish of another three ends.
In their quarter-final, Foster and Marshall lost the first set to Stowmarket’s Mark Royal and new MBE Andy Thomson, took control in the second, but still needed a spot of Scottish magic from their skip before they got over the line. Royal and Thomson confidently won the first end on the tiebreak, and, although the Scots levelled at 1-1, the situation was against Marshall when he stepped on to the mat to deliver the last bowl of the match – but an accurate hit, and a shimmy shuffle saw the Scots home, 6-9, 11-3, 2-1.
Brett and Harlow were always on top against Lincoln’s Billy Jackson and Welsh veteran John Price, who stayed in the hunt until 4-4 in the second set, but the Cambridgeshire duo closed things down, and returned an 8-2, 8-4 scorecard.
Their semi-final opponents, Anderson, who played out of Wales last year, and Burnett, a bowling Bobby from Arbroath, were never in trouble against Welsh duo Rob Weale, the Commonwealth Games champion, and Jason Greenslade, whom they beat, 8-5, 13-4.
• On Saturday night, Paul Foster and Andy Thomson won five awards between them at the World Bowls Tour’s annual gala dinner and awards ceremony.
Foster was deemed not only to have played the shot of the year, but to have turned in the performance of the year, and also won the vote for fans’ player of the year, while Thomson was named player of the year, and players’ player of the year.
Welsh teenager Ross Owen, who beat Foster in last year’s event, was named as young player of the year and the name of Guernsey’s Ali Merrien was added to the Hall of Fame.