Norfolk star Field misses out in dramatic pairs final
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Two Anglo-Scottish partnerships contested the Just World Indoor Mixed Pairs Matchplay final at Potters Resort yesterday and in a predictably high quality encounter it was Claire Johnston and Nick Brett who came out on top to record a scintillating 7-6, 7-9, 2-1 victory over Bex Field and Paul Foster.
The 37-year-old Johnston, from Auchinleck, gave world number one Brett, who is 42, good support, but Field, 27, from the Norfolk Club in Norwich, was also in top form, setting up good positions for Prestwick's four times world indoor singles champion Foster, who is 43.
All four players insisted that they had enjoyed every moment, and said they were proud to have played their part in such a fantastic game of bowls in which nothing was safe.
'Unlike the other three, who are accustomed to playing on the portable rink, I would normally be at home watching on television,' said Johnston. 'I could hardly believe I was actually part of the action.'
Not only did the final go all the way to the third end of a tiebreak, that third end had to replayed after Foster invoked a rarely used rule that allows a player to nominate to kill that end – the only time that ends can be replayed.
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What used to be called 'dead ends' are a thing of the past, with jacks being re-spotted if they are hit off the rink. With the greens holding a match lie, Foster took advantage of the rule, thundering a red bowl down the rink at fearsome pace and frightening the living daylights out of the Potters' gallery.
On-target, the jack duly left the rink, and, in effect, a fourth end had to be played – though in reality, of course, it was a case of the third end being re-played.
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Again the leads crowded the head with good bowls, and Foster at skip was forced to use weight.
This time, the jack went into the ditch and his own bowl followed through to claim shot a few inches from the ditch but a metre or so away from the jack.
Only two bowls left, and Field and Foster were holding a championship lie, a situation that, as usual, brought the best out of Brett, who drew unerringly to within a foot of the ditch, and in line with the jack, and significantly hidden away from Foster's artillery.
The last throw of the dice came from Foster, who staked everything on his famed ability to draw. On a perfect line, he appeared to be executing a perfect match-winning delivery on the back-hand. The crowd held its breath. The bowl looked like stopping on the brink. But it toppled harmlessly into the ditch.
Johnston and Brett duly became the fourth Anglo-Scottish duo to win this title, following in the footsteps of Amy Monkhouse and Alex Marshall (2004), Debbie Stavrou and David Gourlay (2012) and Katherine Rednall and Darren Burnett last year.
When the second round of the Just World Indoor Singles championship got under way yesterday, Greg Harlow, Jamie Chestney and Paul Foster, all seeded players, were the first three to book their places in the quarter-finals
Harlow, who is still a member of the City of Ely club, can be regarded as a local, because he works for Potters as their Bowls Ambassador, running the Resort's bowls shop, organising the blue-coats who act as stewards for the championships, co-ordinating bowls holidays at the venue and even hosting Cruises for Potters' No Fly Cruising Company.
The popular four seed had a lot of support but he had to pull out all the stops to get past James Rippey, a Scots-born PBA qualifier, who plays for the Falcon club in Chelmsford, and who had beaten the seeded Jonathan Ross in the first round.
Winning the first set at a canter, Harlow picked up a couple of full house counts in the second set but he was surprised when Rippey conjured up a treble to win the set and then won the first end of the tiebreak. On the third end of the tiebreak, Rippey was holding a match lie when Harlow won it, 9-3, 10-11, 2-1, with what could only be described as a wonder-bowl.
Rob Paxton, the third seed from Taunton, defeated Jamie Chestney, from Exeter, in last year's quarter- finals, but the result was reversed this year, a newcomer to the top 16 coming out on top in straight sets, 8-6, 6-5. Both players gave us glimpses of their true form, but the match suffered by comparison with the mixed pairs final, which it followed. With noises in the auditorium upsetting their concentration, both players failed to settle, and the anticipated match of the round did not materialise.
Foster returned to the rink after taking part in that exhilarating final, and, putting his disappointment behind him, played well to eliminate the 'last-woman-standing' Debbie Wilford, a talented qualifier from Taranaki in New Zealand.
Wilford, who has won medals for Norfolk Island at the Asia Pacific Games, outplayed Foster on the extended trial-ends period before the game started, but was inconsistent once hostilities began, and the number six seed from Prestwick powered to an 11-3, 10-3 victory.