Photo gallery: Dream team fails to fire as Norfolk’s Mervyn King makes early pairs exit from World Indoor Bowls Championships at Potters
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Local supporters had great expectations when they learnt that Mervyn King, the 2006 world indoor singles champion, was teaming up with Scottish legend David Gourlay for a crack at the Just Retirement world indoor pairs title at Potters Resort in Hopton-on-Sea this week.
There was buzz about the International Arena when King, who had previously won the title three times – once with England legend Tony Allcock, who is now CEO of Bowls England, and twice with Aussie Kelvin Kerkow – and Gourlay stepped on to the rink.
But there was a sense of anti-climax in the spectators' gallery when the exciting new partnership failed to ignite, and it was the formidable City of Ely duo, Nicky Brett and Greg Harlow, who came out on top, 8-5, 9-3.
'They played really well, but we didn't – it's as simple as that,' said King last night. 'It was disappointing, but there was something odd about the way the rink was playing, and it seemed extremely difficult to get the line and length right.'
Admitting that he had delivered too many short bowls, King insisted that the portable rink did not play the way it had in practice, and has resolved not to roll up on it again before his singles encounter with South Africa's Shaun Nell on Thursday morning.
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'It doesn't seem any use practising on the rink if it's likely to change when the crunch comes,' he added. 'So I will just go down to my local Gallow club in Fakenham for a couple of half-hour roll-ups this week, and treat Thursday's game just like any away fixture.'
Brett and Harlow take on Commonwealth Games champion Robert Weale and Scottish international Jonathan Ross in today's semi finals, while the defending champions and favourites Paul Foster and Alex Marshall face Welsh duo John Price and Jason Greenslade.
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The 'new' combination of Weale and Ross also dashed East Anglian hopes yesterday, when they denied Mid Suffolk star Mark Royal and England's Scots-born team captain Andy Thomson a place in the semi finals.
Did you hear the one about the Englishman, the Scot, the Welshman and the Irishman? – Royal, of course, was the Englishman, Thomson the Scot, Weale plays for Wales, and Ross, though he lives in Scotland, was born in Northern Ireland.
With the four nations all represented on the rink, it was a classic encounter that could easily have gone either way, but the turning point came on the last end of the first set, when Royal and Thomson held a 7-5 lead, and looked poised to win the set.
A rare loose end from Royal and Thomson coincided with a brilliant sequence of drawing bowls from Weale and Ross, whose full house of four shots gave them the set, 9-7, but the home favourites bounced back to level the scores at one-set-apiece.
Then, with the fate of the game hanging on a best-of-three-ends tiebreak, Weale and Ross upped their game, and won back-to-back ends for a 9-7, 7-8, 2-0 result.
Many observers felt that the best performance of the tournament so far came from Foster and Marshall, whose imperious 9-6, 12-4 dismissal of Stewart Anderson and Darren Burnett marked them out as hot favourites to retain their title.