Semi-final line-up to savour in Fred Olsen Cruise Lines world indoor bowls championships at Potters Leisure Resort in Hopton-on-Sea

What a difference one weekend makes! It seems the Fred Olsen Cruise Lines WBT world indoor championships have only just started, but we are already down to the semi- finals stage in the popular pairs event.

Today, on the blue portable rink at Potters Leisure Resort, the defending champions Paul Foster and Alex Marshall take on England duo Mark Royal and Andy Thomson while Welsh hopes Jason Greenslade and Rob Weale meet East Anglian stars Nick Brett and Greg Harlow.

It's certainly a star-studded field, but, make no mistake, the four pairs in contention have left some top performers in their wake following the departure on Friday night of local hero Mervyn King.

Ian Bond, also known as the Devon Destroyer, who is hoping to get out of the doldrums and find his way back into the top sixteen, soon followed King, but the biggest surprise of the opening round was the eclipse of twice champions Billy Jackson and David Gourlay.

Jackson and Gourlay, who won the title in 2006 and 2007, were bundled out by the Australian qualifiers Karen Murphy and Ben Twist, who powered to a 10-3, 10-7 straight sets victory.


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Welsh hopes Daniel Salmon, a 17-year-old left-hander, and his Cardiff skip Neil Collett followed up their win over King and Skelton by turning in an impressive performance against the holders Foster and Marshall.

In a hard-fought quarter-final, young Salmon, in particular, looked a class act, often outplaying Foster, and the Scots were clearly relieved to get home, 5-5, 7-4.

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Royal and Thomson, playing together as a pair for the first time, took time to settle, but soon developed an understanding, and were well worth their 5-7, 13-3, 2-0 win over Price and Ross.

Yesterday Greenslade and Weale proved too good for two talented Scots, Stewart Anderson, who is playing out of Wales these days, and Dundee policeman Darren Burnett.

The Welsh pair, who were runners- up in this event in 2003 and 2007, cruised to a surprisingly comfortable 8-3, 8-4 win to set up their semi-final clash with Brett and Harlow.

The City of Ely clubmates know each other's play so well that they are always a dangerous partnership, but they found the Aussies, Murphy and Twist, in defiant mood. Murphy's presence on the rink was a timely reminder that both the singles and pairs are 'open' events, in which women compete on equal terms in the qualifiers.

As it happens this year, there are no women through to the last 32 of the singles, and Murphy, one of Australia's finest, was the only woman in the last 16 of the pairs.

In perhaps the best game of the tournament so far, Murphy and Twist bossed the first set, before the East Anglian duo recovered their poise to prevail, 6-7, 8-3, 2-0.

• Paul Foster walked off with three awards at the 'Bowls Oscars' on Saturday night, after being declared Player of the Year and Players' Player of the Year, and being adjudged to have delivered the Shot of the Year for good measure.

Rob Paxton produced the Best Qualifying Performance, and Ali Merrien, who has just been appointed MBE, was rewarded for the Best Performance, after winning the women's singles and mixed pairs titles last year.

Greg Harlow was voted Fans' Player of the Year and Scotland's Andrew Barker was named as Young Player of the Year.

Melvyn Beck, who is retiring as editor of Bowls International magazine, received a Services to Bowls award while Brian Davies, from Bridgend, was honoured with an award for Lifetime Achievement.

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