Foster claims biggest world bowls prize at Potters
Paul Foster collected the biggest prize in the history of world bowls on Sunday – at the expense of best friend Alex Marshall.
A powerful rendition of 'The Winner Takes It All' was belted out as part of the singing and dancing warm-up for the climax to the Potters Holiday World Indoor Bowls Championships at Hopton-on-Sea.
And the Abba classic could not have been more fitting for a singles final which pitted together two Scottish clubmates who had between them already won the title nine times.
Neither had ever tasted defeat in a world singles final and the unfamilar feeling would have an extra sting this year with the victor taking home a bonus of �40,000 – and the runner-up left with nothing more than his accumulated appearance money.
It could have been a scenario to sour the best of relationships, especially with Foster also looking to close within one title of his World Bowls Tour room-mate's record haul.
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The bond, which had already helped secure them their first world pairs title together just a few days earlier –a success both believed played a big part in their respective singles form – came through loud and clear from the moment they appeared in the arena carrying a Scottish flag to the post-match dash by Marshall's wife, Dianne, to help Foster's spouse, Pamela, deal with her two young children during the presentations.
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'I'm very disappointed, but mainly because I played so poorly,' said Marshall, who had won all of his record five singles crowns in Norfolk.
'But I've said from day one that if I didn't win the title I would want it to be Paul. I'm really happy for him because he has probably been the most consistent player in the world for the past two years and there's no question that he deserves it.'
The only point of disagreement, indeed, after Foster's 11-5 8-8 victory concerned Marshall's statement about the winner having proved himself the game's greatest exponent.
'I'm delighted to get a fourth title,' said Foster. 'But it was never a matter of trying to catch Alex who is far and away the best player in the world, no matter what he says.'
There certainly can't be too many sports where the combatants in a world final spend the evening before it drinking and playing snooker together. What they didn't do during all the buddy time available during a prolonged tournament such as this was to ever discuss sharing the prize money.
Nobody could have argued had they made a pre-final agreement to divide the cash 60/40 or 70/30, whoever was to win, rather than 100/0.
But world number one Foster, who only once before faced Marshall in world singles action, on his way to winning the title for the first time in 2001, insisted: 'The money was never even an issue. It's not like you're ever going to make your fortune from bowls anyhow. For both of us it was always all about trying to be world champion.'
Foster, a 37-year-old taxi proprietor from Ayrshire, had predicted the exact outcome for the BBC TV cameras ahead of the final – him to win the first set before halving the second – before the match.
What neither he nor Marshall was able to deliver was a final to live up to some of the extraordinary quality both players had been delivering throughout the fortnight.
Foster rated the performance which brought him a 10-3 9-2 semi-final success against Suffolk's Mark Royal on Saturday as the best of his career while his precision last wood winner – prising out a shot-wood when lying match down in a breathtaking quarter-final against Andy Thomson – was voted shot of the tournament.
Marshall, meanwhile, had defeated defending champion Greg Harlow with some equally mind-boggling brinkmanship in the tie-break of his semi-final. But for both players such touches of genius were generally in short supply in the final.
'There were quite a few good ends, but I never got to grips with the rink or the red bowls (he'd been playing all fortnight with a more familiar green set) and I've never seen Paul drop as many short bowls,' said Marshall, who despite losing the first set with an end to play looked set to take the final into a tie-break when he led 8-4 after nine of the 11 ends.
A double for Foster on the tenth left him still needing a two at the last to share the set and therefore win the match, and having got the two he needed he had to wait with a hushed capacity crowd to see whether Marshall could draw the second wood which was all he needed to force a tie-break.
There was extra drama when Marshall pulled up at the point of delivery, having been spooked by a noise on the sidelines. But having recomposed himself his draw fell short – and his perfect finals record was broken.
So ended the 13th staging of the world championships at Potters, which is guaranteed to continue as hosts for at least the next four years.
'Any final here is still extra special,' said Marshall. 'You step onto that rink and the crowd, the noise and the atmosphere just makes the hairs on the back of your neck tingle.
'There's nothing else like it in bowls.'
Potters Roll of Honour
World Professional Indoor Singles:
Paul Foster (left, Scotland) beat Alex Marshall (Scotland) 11-5 8-8.
World Pairs Championships:
Paul Foster & Alex Marshall (Scotland) beat Michael Stepney & Andrew Barker (Scotland) 3-8 7-2 2-0
Ladies Matchplay Championships:
Alison Merrien (Guernsey) beat Karen Murphy (Australia) 9-5 0-11 2-1
Mixed Matchplay Championships:Simon Skelton (Eng) & Alison Merrien (Guernsey) beat Greg Harlow & Ellen Falkner (England) 7-4 5-5.