David Rhys Jones
Friday, January 18, 2013
Bish! Bash! Bosh! Spectators at Potters Leisure Resort yesterday witnessed a very different form of bowls from the orthodox and sublimely accurate drawing displays turned on by the likes of Norfolk’s own Mervyn King and top Scot Paul Foster over the past few days.
Finesse gave way to force, as players like Jason Greenslade, Billy Jackson, Kelvin Kerkow and David Gourlay decided to chance their arm with some adventurous attacking play in order to clear the first hurdle in the Fred Olsen Cruise Lines WBT world indoor singles championship.
In the morning session, 2009 champion Jackson, from Lincoln, a wildcard entry to the event, was clearly determined to regain his place in the WBT top 16.
His running bowls worked well for him in the first set, which he won quite comfortably, but the initiative changed hands in the second set.
Throughout the game, the jack moved around, and it became a thinking man’s game, in which nothing was safe, and tactically placed bowls became invaluable – like a physical and fast-moving game of chess.
Firing alone is no guarantee of success, but Greenslade’s drawing game soon emerged, and he mixed his tactics astutely, drawing neatly to the jack at times, but reaching for the big gun when appropriate – and last year’s runner-up pressed on to win the encounter with a topsy-turvy 4-9 10-1 2-0 scoreline.
Much as spectators admire the drawing skills of the Kings and Fosters of this world, they respond to the drama created by the aggressive players, and there was a buzz in the auditorium, which continued into the afternoon session.
Like Jackson, the bronzed Aussie Kelvin Kerkow received a wildcard invitation to compete at Potters.
And the crowd showed how much they appreciate his brilliant play, and his broad smile, which lights up the arena, and certainly made him welcome.
Kerkow, who suffered from Guillain-Barre Syndrome in his youth, is well known for the stick that he carries on to the rink to help his balance, and even better known for his ferocious firing, that has been known to send all the bowls and the jack hurtling off the rink.
Yesterday, he faced the legendary Scot David Gourlay, a natural player, who won the world title in 1996, then spent ten years in Australia before returning to his native land, where he is now Bowls Scotland’s head coach.
Gourlay outdrew Kerkow on short lengths, and, although the Aussie’s blunderbuss destroyed some of the Scot’s best handiwork, Gourlay pocketed the set, and started the second set with confidence, opening up a 7-1 lead after five ends.
Then, when Kerkow looked poised to make a comeback on longer jacks, it was a brilliant hit from Gourlay, followed by two perfect draws that gave him a 9-6 9-5 victory.
Stowmarket’s Mark Royal produced a typically solid display to beat South Africa’s Tracy Jean Meyeridricks, the only women bowler in the 32-strong field, 14-4 13-0, then admitted that he had felt sorry for his gallant opponent.
“Tracy was late arriving, because her flight was delayed, and she missed her practice session because she overslept,” said Royal. “But I got my head down, because I felt I owed it everyone to give it my best shot.”
Robert Paxton, ranked number ten in the world, found the uncapped Scottish PBA qualifier Robert ‘Flash’ Gordon, from Lanarkshire, a hard man to beat in the evening session, but stuck at his task to win 8-6 4-7 2-0.