Bex Field through to World Indoor Bowls Championships semi-final thanks to hard-fought win
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Local favourite Bex Field has moved into the semi-finals of the Just Retirement WBT Women's Matchplay competition, after securing victory in a fascinating encounter against 2011 champion Alison Merrien.
After Laura Daniels, from Wales, reprised the sort of form that took her to the title last year, Norwich bowler Field and Katherine Rednall, from Ipswich, entertained large crowds at Potters on Saturday.
The 26-year-old Field, who won the title in 2013, may not have been quite at her best, but she proved to be too good for Merrien, from Guernsey, winning a fascinating encounter 11-9, 7-7, in which the raw score scarcely tells the whole story.
Opening up a 10-2 lead in the first set, Field was in danger of losing it when the classy Channel Islander scored a single and two trebles to get back to within one shot with only one end left to play.
After Field held her ground to sneak the set, 11-9, Merrien took charge, and looked poised to force a tie-break when she led 7-3 after seven ends. This time, Field did well to score a single and a treble to tie the set and win the match.
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Rednall, who is still only 20, but who lifted two England titles – the singles and triples – last winter, was expected to beat Ireland's Cliodhna Eadie, but the 29-year-old Belfast Tesco store worker dug deep, and thwarted the Suffolk star at every turn to win on a tie-break.
Nothing but singles were scored for the first eight ends, but, leading 5-3 with one end to play in the first set, Rednall faced a lie of two shots, and essayed a runner aimed at cutting the score down. Unlucky, she took out her nearest bowl, and lost the set against the run of play.
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Although she won the second set at a canter, the sets format has a habit of being unkind, and it was Eadie who quite deservedly came out on top, 6-5, 2-8, 2-0.
In the fourth quarter-final, Cambridgeshire's Ellen Falkner, a Commonwealth Games gold medallist in 2002, 2010 and 2014, was slow to start against Scotland's Julie Forrest, but worked at her game so well that she was able to bounce back to win, 4-9, 8-6, 2-1.
Field and Rednall met yesterday in the semi-finals of the mixed pairs championship, and would have met again in the semi-finals of the singles, but it is Eadie who will line up with Field, Daniels and Falkner in the singles on Wednesday.
Judging on current form, Daniels is hot favourite to retain her title, a feat previously achieved by three star players – Falkner, Carol Ashby and Debbie Stavrou – but the question is, can she maintain the form she showed against England pairs champion Janice Gower in the quarters?
Showing no mercy, Daniels, a 30-year-old accountant, developed such a close relationship with the jack that Gower must have felt excluded. Indeed, the Welsh star's comprehensive 13-2, 12-3 demolition of a proud England international was something to behold.
Talking of being excluded, Britain's women bowlers, who have been wondering how they can get in on the act, will be pleased to hear that qualifying events, run by the Professional Bowls Association, are being reinstated next year.
East Anglian starlets battle in semi-finals
Two of East Anglia's finest young prospects clashed yesterday in the semi-finals of the Just Retirement world mixed pairs Matchplay championship at Potters.
On second thoughts, it may be inappropriate to use the word 'prospects' to describe Norfolk's Bex Field and Suffolk's Katherine Rednall, because both have already established themselves among the top stars of English bowls.
On this occasion, 26-year-old Field and Rednall, who is six years younger, were playing a supporting role to two of the planet's greatest male bowlers, Paul Foster and Darren Burnett, from Scotland, who both struck gold at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014. Rednall and Burnett came out on top, returning a 7-4, 10-2 scorecard, though a treble to break a 4-4 deadlock in the first set, and a four at the end of the second set created a scoreline that flattered the winners. Given the strength of the field, the game was patchy, a mixture of superb bowling and loose stuff that the four players were at a loss to explain.
'The rink is unpredictable, and the lines are hard to find,' said Foster. 'But they played better than we did, and deserved to win.'
Earlier, in the first semi-final, two more Scots, Julie Forrest and Alex Marshall, turned on a highly professional display to dispatch Alison Merrien, the WIBC world indoor singles champion, from Guernsey, and Nick Brett, the new world number one, who now plays for Huntingdon.
'They're a good pair,' said Brett. 'And today we didn't play well to match them – though I thought we just might have earned a tie-break.'
Forrest, from Teviotdale, laid the foundations, but there were gasps of astonishment from the spectators' gallery when Marshall produced the miraculous shots he has become famous for, and which have helped him win the world indoor singles title six times. On one pivotal end in the second set, Brett played a clinical take-out to hold four shots, but Marshall had a bowl left, and he picked up the jack, took it through to the back of the rink, and turned four down into two up.
Today sees the final of the open pairs, an all-Scottish affair in which Stewart Anderson and Darren Burnett face PBA qualifiers Ronnie Duncan and Colin Walker, and the final of the mixed pairs will be played tomorrow.