Mervyn King beaten at World Indoor Bowls Championships
Some stuffy traditionalists may look down on mixed bowls as something inferior, but the players involved in the Fred Olsen Cruise Lines world championships love it – and so do bowls fans, like the thousand or so that packed Potters Arena in Hopton-on-Sea last night.
But local supporters, who were hoping that Mervyn King and his Aussie partner Karen Murphy might make it into the semi-finals of the world mixed pairs championship, were disappointed.
Murphy was sensational at lead, and King was no slouch at skip, but the Anglo-Australian partnership was upstaged by Welsh hope Kerry Packwood and world number one Paul Foster, from Scotland, who beat them, 5-11, 9-5, 2-1.
Murphy and King looked set for victory when they won the first set, 11-5, and, at 5-5 in the second set they held two shots that would probably have been enough to see them home in straight sets.
A brilliant last bowl from Foster turned two down into two up, and another double on the last end sealed the set, and took the game into a tense best-of-three-ends tie-break.
On all three ends, Murphy and King established good positions, but the canny Foster turned things around on the second and third ends to steal victory and deny the home crowd.
The popularity of this mixed pairs event had been in evidence all day, with one game being described as the best game of the tournament so far.
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In it, Scotland's David Gourlay and England's Greg Harlow, who have both spent time at the top of the World Bowls Tour ranking list, paraded their skills, and turned on a scintillating display of quality bowls.
The entertaining match could have gone either way, but it was Debbie Stavrou and Gourlay who earned a place in the semi-finals with a desperately close 7-9, 8-6, 2-0 victory over Amy Stanton and Harlow.
On one occasion, Harlow undid Gourlay's good work by taking out two enemy touchers and claiming four shots – but his bravado was to no avail, as Stavrou and Gourlay wrapped things up in the tie-break.
It was a good day for the Scots. Apart from the wins chalked up by Foster and Gourlay, an all-Scottish pair, Julie Forrest and Darren Burnett, played well to defeat Norwich star Bex Field and Stowmarket's Mark Royal, 11-5, 6-5.
Royal paid tribute to the way Field had played on her first appearance on the portable rink, and insisted that they could have won in straight sets.
'It was 5-5 in the first set, and we were holding shots, when Darren got a rub to take a 6-5 lead, and the set went away from us over the last couple of ends,' said Royal.
'Then, in the second, we led 4-2 after six ends, before dropping a couple of doubles,' he added.
Alex Marshall was one Scot who had a disappointing day to compound his woes after falling at the first hurdle in the singles on Thursday night.
Having endured some horrendous luck against South African Craig Rimmington in the singles, Marshall returned to the rink, and found that Lady Luck was still in the opposite corner.
Teamed with England international Janice Gower, Marshall did his best, but struggled to make an impact, as defending champions Alison Merrien and Simon Skelton pressed home to a 7-6, 7-8, 2-0 victory.
With two bowling MBEs – Marshall, who got his in 2007, and Merrien who was named in the recent New Year's Honours List, on the rink, it was a right royal battle.