National indoor champion Greg Harlow defeats England’s grass champion David Bolt in first round of Fred Olsen Cruise Lines world indoor bowls championship
It was a clash between the national champions of the indoor and outdoor games, with Greg Harlow, winner of the EIBA singles at Nottingham last April, facing a challenge from David Bolt, England's champion on grass.
Perhaps predictably, the 'indoor' specialist came out on top in the first round of the Fred Olsen Cruise Lines world indoor singles championship at Potters Leisure Resort in Hopton-on-Sea yesterday.
But it was a fascinating struggle in which Bolt, with some vocal travelling support egging him on, took the battle to Harlow by winning the first set.
Harlow, recently voted the Fans' Player of the Year for 2011, hit back to take the second set at a canter, then dominated the tie-breaks to come out on top, 6-8, 9-3, 2-0.
Standing between Harlow and a place in the quarter-finals is none other than his City of Ely clubmate Nick Brett – with whom Harlow was making a confident bid for the pairs title. Brett overwhelmed Irish hope Simon Martin 12-1 9-3 in the morning session, and teamed up with Harlow in the semi-finals of the pairs after lunch – a busy day, indeed, for the City of Ely duo.
Their date with Welsh pair Jason Greenslade and Commonwealth Games gold medalist Rob Weale proved to be the East Anglians' undoing, though the encounter was closely fought with shots hard to come by.
Greenslade and Weale ground out a well-deserved 6-5, 7-5 victory that saw them through to next Monday's final, where they will meet the defending champions Paul Foster and Alex Marshall, from Scotland.
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Yes, Foster and Marshall stayed on course to retain the crown, but they freely admitted that they were slightly fortunate to beat England duo Mark Royal, from Stowmarket, and Andy Thomson, from London, 5-7, 7-6, 2-1, in the semi finals.
'Mark was unbelievable,' said Foster. 'He beat me to the jack more often than not, and Andy was in good form, too, adding shots, and occasionally pulling out something special when we looked like getting on top.'
It fell to Marshall to perform a rescue act, and he did enough to keep the Scottish pair in contention long enough to force a tiebreak.
'After losing the first set, we were 5-2 down in the second,' recalled Foster. 'And we looked like dropping another two shots, which would have put us 7-2 adrift, and virtually out of the running.'
Marshall, showing the great temperament that he is famed for, calmly drew an inch perfect shot to keep their hopes alive – and he performed a couple more miracles later on, using force and finesse.
Once, after Thomson had drawn to dead-length touchers, the five-times world indoor singles champion fired into the head, removing England's scoring bowls, and securing two shots for Foster and himself.
That brilliant delivery drew the Scots level at 5-5 in the second set, and they snatched the vital single on the ninth end to break at 6-6 deadlock, and take Royal and Thomson into a tiebreak.
'We will have to play a lot better than that in the final against Jason and Robert, who seem to be in top form,' Marshall ventured.
Norfolk's Mervyn King starts his singles campaign tonight against Wayne Hogg.
• TODAY'S POTTERS ACTION
10am: John Price (Wales) v Brett Arkley (Eng).
2pm: Jonathan Ross (Scot) v Ian Bond (Eng) followed by David Gourlay (Scot) v Colin Walker (Scot).
7.30pm: Mervyn King (Eng) v Wayne Hogg (Scot).
10am: Stewart Anderson (Scot) v Tony Wood (Australia).
2pm: Jason Greenslade (Wales) v Neil Smith (Eng) followed by Mark Royal (Eng) v Paul Boyd (Scot)
7.30pm: Darren Burnett (Scot) v Tim Stone (Eng).