Foster recovers from slow start to win fifth world indoor bowls title
- Credit: James Bass
Legendary Scot Paul Foster entered the International Arena, as usual, like a gladiator to a rendering of The Eye of the Tiger.
But he looked as if he was a pussy-cat for the first seven ends, when an up-for-it Greg Harlow, Potters' own Bowls Ambassador, scorched into a 9-4 lead.
But the final of the Just World Indoor Singles championship is not played over seven ends. It is played over two sets of 11 ends, and, over the next 13 ends, Foster restricted Harlow to just two singles, before winning back-to-back ends in a best-of three ends tie-break.
The 7-10, 11-1, 2-0 scoreline that gave Foster his fifth world indoor singles title was a fair reflection of how he improved end-by-end and bowl-by-bowl, and by the end of a fascinating final he was completely in charge.
'I normally start well, but sometimes go off the boil as the match progresses,' said Foster.
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'In this tournament, it's been the other way round – I seem to have got better round-by round. And I have to say I'm more than happy with that!'
Foster, who felt he had played well throughout, was aware that he had a tendency to bowl short early in the first set, but worked at his game, and fully deserved what turned out to be his emphatic victory.
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'Greg played very well in the first set, and I dropped a full house of four shots, which didn't help my cause,' Foster recalled.
'I thought I fought back well in that first set, though I had little chance of winning it, but I didn't realise that I had scored on 13 of the last 15 ends.
Foster, the world number six, who lives in Troon and plays for Prestwick, played down the fact that he has now won the title five times and has only to win it once more to equal the record held by his pal and pairs partner Alex Marshall. Gripping the precious Langham Glass trophy carefully in one hand, he proudly held up five fingers on the other.
'It's always an honour to win this title, and there are brilliant players out there still looking to win it for the first time, so of course I am proud of my achievement,' Foster said. 'But there will never be anything to touch winning it for the first time, way back in 1998, the last year the event was staged at the Preston Guild Hall.'
Harlow's choice of music was Paranoid, by Black Sabbath. Perhaps the selection was influenced by a pang of guilt as the world number four recalled how he had reached the final with three slightly fortuitous last-bowl forehand runners against James Rippey, David Gourlay and Stewart Anderson, at least one of which he admitted was a fluke.
The forehand runner is, it seems, Harlow's shot of preference when he is in trouble – but Foster played so well that he was not allowed to use it, and, ironically, in the end, it was an attempt at an attacking forehand smash that sailed by, leaving Foster with the winning shot.
'He missed it by less than a millimetre, and I breathed a sigh of relief,' said Foster. 'It's been a great tournament, but now I can celebrate.'
In one of two England-versus-Scotland semi-finals, Harlow had reached the final with a cat-and-mouse 6-7, 9-7, 2-1 victory over Blantyre's 2013 world indoor champion Stewart Anderson, who had toppled defending champion Nick Brett in the quarter-finals.
Anderson trailed 6-2 with three ends remaining in the first set and managed to string together a single and two doubles. He looked in control in the second at 6-3 at the halfway stage, but a slack two ends let Harlow back into contention and he won the set with a single on the last.
Both players won an end each in the tie-break and Anderson held a match lie on the last but once again that deadly forehand runner counted the crucial shot.
'I didn't play as well in this match as I did against Nicky Brett,' said Anderson.
'I didn't play that well in the first set and stole it and that was probably the story in the second.'
In the other semi-final, Foster's 11-4, 5-5 victory over Melton Mowbray's Les Gillett was more straightforward, though Gillett came perilously close to taking the Scot into tie-break territory.
'I felt good going into the game and was satisfied that I coped with what Les threw at me,' said Foster. 'In the second set he got off to a good start but I strung a one, two and one to go 5-3 up. The last two ends were tough but I managed to get over the line and that's all that matters.'
Open singles semi-finals: Paul Foster (Scotland) bt Les Gillett (England) 11-4, 5-5; Greg Harlow (England) bt Stewart Anderson (Scotland) 6-7, 9-7, 2-1. Final: Foster beat Harlow 7-10, 11-1, 2-0.