Scottish aces aiming to continue their Potters World Indoor Bowls Championships domination
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015
The battle of the British bowlers at the World Indoor Bowls Championship has belonged to Scotland recently, as David Rhys Jones reports.
It was Horatio Nelson, who was born in Burnham Thorpe in Norfolk in 1758, who sent the famous message, 'England Expects,' from his flagship HMS Victory as the Battle of Trafalgar was about to commence on 21 October, 1805.
Those sentiments will surely inspire the likes of Fakenham's Mervyn King, City of Ely duo Nick Brett and Greg Harlow and Suffolk stars Katherine Rednall and Mark Royal as they embark on the biggest challenge in the world of bowls this week.
When the Just Retirement WBT World Indoor Bowls Championships get under way at Potters Resort in the coastal village of Hopton-on-Sea today, England's finest will be well aware that the event has been dominated by Scots over the last few years.
Darren Burnett, a community policeman from Arbroath, won the world indoor singles title for the first time last year, before striking gold in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Since the sport's flagship event came to Potters in 1999, Alex Marshall has been champion five times, his pal Paul Foster has notched up three wins, and Stewart Anderson and Burnett were champions in 2013 and 2014. That's a massive 10 out of 16 to the Scots.
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Welshman Robert Weale won it in 2000, while the five English winners have been Tony Allcock (2002), King (2006), Billy Jackson (2009), Harlow (2010), and Andy Thomson (2012) - though perhaps it should be noted that Thomson, the English captain, was born in Scotland.
The burly Burnett will be the top seed at Potters, though Foster, who has won a record number of World Bowls Tour titles, is still the world number one, and is these days regarded as the man to beat on the professional circuit.
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And, although he has not won the world title since 2008, the incomparable Alex 'Tattie' Marshall, now 47, is still universally regarded as the best bowler of the planet.
Marshall may have lost to Foster in the final of the International Open in Blackpool in 2014, but he was the star of the show in Glasgow, where he produced two memorable deliveries to eliminate England on his way to the Commonwealth Games pairs title. He also showed how driven and determined he is, when, after being heckled by a section of the crowd, he turned triumphantly to the spectators' gallery and made a rude gesture that was translated in the next morning's papers as 'Gerritupya!'
That's what the home contingent will be up against at Potters over the next few weeks, but Norfolk's own King has proved he is the man who can send the Scots back over Hadrian's Wall with their tails between their legs. Known as a bowling machine, the 48-year-old has appeared in four world singles finals - in 1998, 2006, 2007 and 2014 - and can always be relied on to make a spirited challenge for the title.
King is lined up to meet young PBA qualifier Ben Sherwen, from Cumbria on Wednesday in the first round of the singles, but will first be looking for success in the pairs, in which he partners Scotland's head coach David Gourlay on Sunday.
But local supporters are really looking forward to watching him link up with Ipswich ace Rednall, pictured, in the quarter finals of the mixed pairs next Friday (16th), when the opposition will come from none other than Scots Julie Forrest and Alex Marshall.
Nick Brett is currently ranked number two in the world behind Foster, whom he beat in the Scottish International Open in Perth in November, and must be one of the favourites for the singles title this year, along with his City of Ely clubmate Harlow.
Brett and Harlow won the pairs last year.