Potters Leisure Resort in Hopton-on-Sea all set for Fred Olsen Cruise Lines world indoor bowls championships
Potters Leisure Resort in Hopton-on-Sea has been buzzing this week as bowlers from all over the world have congregated for their sport's flagship event – the Fred Olsen Cruise Lines world indoor championships.
Some preliminary rounds were played yesterday and the first of the big hitters enters the fray tonight with two men's pairs matches, starting with home favourite Mervyn King and his partner Simon Skelton against Welsh qualifiers Daniel Salmon and Neil Collett.
But the contest really begins in earnest tomorrow and will unfold over the next fortnight before the identity of the new world indoor singles champion will emerge on Sunday, January 29.
The BBC TV cameras will arrive at the end of next week, and will focus on the final stages of the singles, pairs, women's singles and mixed pairs from Monday, January 23.
So, as irrepressible compere Richard Beare jokingly points out, readers who intend to pay a visit to Potters during that week should make sure they are not sitting next to someone they shouldn't be seen with.
The last couple of days have been notable for the range of accents, as competitors from Canada, USA, Hong Kong, Israel, South Africa and Ireland have been doing battle for places in the main events.
Players from those countries, accustomed to the green, green grass of the Great Outdoors, have limited experience of playing on carpet, but are all talented individuals, and could cut a dash on the portable rink.
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However, by the end of the tournament, Scottish or English accents are likely to dominate the arena, with the possibility of a Welsh lilt, or an Australian drawl adding variety. Looking at the records, Scots have won the main event eight times since the championships rolled into town at Hopton in 1999, while England's four successes were in 2002 (Tony Allcock), 2006 (Mervyn King), 2009 (Billy Jackson) and 2010 (Greg Harlow).
Commonwealth Games champion Rob Weale took the title back to Wales in 2000, but Scotland's dynamic duo of four-time champion Paul Foster and Alex Marshall, who has won it five times, seem to have claimed proprietorial rights over the coveted trophy.
'Fossie' and 'Tattie' not only faced off in last year's final – which Foster won – but teamed up to win the pairs, and are hotly tipped to do so again.
One competitor who breaks the mould is Ali Merrien, from Guernsey, who has won world titles at WBT, WBL and WIBC codes, and is defending the women's Matchplay singles and mixed pairs titles at Potters.
The feisty Channel Islander was surprised to be appointed MBE in the New Year's Honours list, and is hoping her great start to 2012 is going to continue.
King, who lines up with Aussie Karen Murphy in the mixed pairs, will have to wait until Thursday for his first round singles clash with Tour Card holder Wayne Hogg.
King – and Marshall – agree on one thing. 'Darts gets more than its fair share of hype and publicity,' says the Gallow ace.
'It's a game I enjoy – and sometimes I wish I had taken that up professionally instead of bowls.'
Marshall adds: 'We could have our names on the back of our shirts, and encourage more crowd participation, perhaps entering the arena to our own signature tunes, with the crowd waving flags.'
If it's more razzmatazz you're looking for, Potters, who are experts in the subject, are just the people to orchestrate it.
Watch this space.
World Indoor Pairs, final qualifying round 7.30pm: Mervyn King & Simon Skelton (Eng) v Daniel Salmon & Neil Collett (Wales).
9pm: Jonathan Ross (NI) & John Price (Wales) v Ian Bond & Luke Harwood (Eng).
World Indoor Pairs, final qualifying round 9.30am: Robert Weale & Jason Greenslade (Wales) v Colin Walker & Ronnie Duncan (Scot).
11am: David Gourlay (Scot) & Billy Jackson (Eng) v qualifiers.
Noon: Paul Foster & Alex Marshall (Scot) v King/Skelton or Salmon/Collett.
3.30pm: Mark Royal & Andy Thomson (Eng) v Ross/Price or Bond/Harwood.
World Indoor Pairs quarter-finals
10am: Darren Burnett & Stewart Anderson (Scot) v Weale/Greenslade or Walker/Duncan.
2pm: Greg Harlow & Nick Brett (Eng) v Gourlay/Jackson or qualifiers.
World Indoor Singles, preliminary rounds
7.30pm: Jeff Harding (Can) v David Contente (Israel).
9pm: Jim Roth (USA) v Ken Chan (HK)
World Indoor Singles, first round
10am: Nick Brett (Eng) v Simon Martin (Ire).
World Indoor Pairs, semi-finals: 2pm & 3.45pm
World Indoor Singles, first round
7.30pm: Greg Harlow (Eng) v David Bolt (Eng).