Perplexed King suffers pairs exit

Mervyn King – who usually has an answer for everything – was at a loss to explain how he and Aussie star Karen Murphy came to lose their WBT World Matchplay Mixed Pairs semi-final at Potters Leisure Resort last night.

'It was strange,' said King, who looked bitterly disappointed after giving best 7-4 5-5 to crack City of Ely pairing Ellen Falkner and Greg Harlow at Hopton-on-Sea.

'We didn't play well enough to win, but the closeness of the score suggests that they didn't play that well either,' he sighed.

'It was a funny sort of game, in which I often thought I had got it just right out of the hand, only for the bowl to pull up a couple of feet short.'

Players have been talking about how the pace of the carpet is slower than usual, and that the speed is prone to change during the match, but King was reluctant to offer any detailed explanation.

'I just don't know what went wrong,' he said. 'I thought Karen and I were capable of going on to win the title, but Ellen and Greg (who were actually playing competitively together for the first time) go back a long way.'

Falkner has won the women's world title twice and recently brought Commonwealth Games women's pairs gold back from New Delhi, while Harlow – the 2010 world champion – has won an impressive clutch of WBT titles.

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Club-mates for almost 20 years, they have practised together regularly of the years but had not previously linked up in anger, and are clearly delighted to be given this chance of gaining further honours.

In a low scoring contest, Murphy and King just could not seem to get going and were never in the lead in either set.

Falkner and Harlow opened up a 7-2 lead with two ends to play in the first set, and a brace of singles merely made the score more respectable.

And while a similar finish in the second set was enough to tie the set, it still left Murphy and King one short of forcing a tiebreak.

Murphy had beaten Falkner in the quarter-finals of the women's singles, so this was sweet revenge for the English star against the Aussie for whom she has the utmost respect.

In tomorrow's final, Falkner and Harlow will play Guernsey's Alison Merrien and Nottingham's world number five Simon Skelton, who toppled the holders Carol Ashby and Alex Marshall in the quarters, before getting the better of Scottish champion Julie Forrest and Devon Destroyer Ian Bond 9-3 9-1.

Today's pairs final – which will be transmitted live by BBC TV – is an all-Scottish affair, featuring top dogs Paul Foster and Alex Marshall and humble PBA qualifiers Andy Barker and Mike Stepney, from Elgin.

The result, however, is not a foregone conclusion – outsiders Barker and Stepney have humbled three top-ranked pairs, including defending champions Ian Bond and Andy Thomson on their way to the final, without dropping a set.

In doing so, they have piled up 53 shots and conceded only 26, and they will certainly be up for their biggest ever challenge on the portable rink today.

Looking forward to then week's activities, local hopes will be at their highest on Thursday when King takes on his England team-mate Brett Arkley for a place in the quarter-finals of the singles, while Acle's Tim Stone stands toe-to-toe with Alex 'Tattie' Marshall with a place in the last eight at stake.

• Three local youngsters – Kirsty Clarke and Louise Catchpole from Beccles, and Norfolk Bowls Club ace Bex Field – helped England win the British women's under-25 team title in Arbroath yesterday.

Clarke starred at lead on the rink skipped by Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Sian Gordon, and played her part in a 29-4 demolition of their Scottish opponents.

Ireland withdrew because they were unable to field a side, but wins for England over Wales and Scotland saw them retain the title, ahead of runners up Wales with the host country trailing in third.