Steady start for Norfolk ace Mervyn
David Rhys-JonesOn a day when Jarred Breen, a precocious 17-year-old from the Rhondda Valley, achieved a career-best performance at Potters Leisure Resort in Hopton-on-Sea, local supporters went home happy as Mervyn King qualified for the quarter-finals of the WBT world indoor pairs championship.David Rhys-Jones
On a day when Jarred Breen, a precocious 17-year-old from the Rhondda Valley, achieved a career-best performance at Potters Leisure Resort in Hopton-on-Sea, local supporters went home happy as Mervyn King qualified for the quarter-finals of the WBT world indoor pairs championship.
King and popular Aussie Kelvin Kerkow are defending the title they won last year, and are each hoping to win it for the fourth time - they won it together in 2005, while King partnered Tony Allcock to the title in 1997, the year after Kerkow triumphed with Ian Schuback.
And, for most of the first set, it looked as if the champions would romp home, because their young opponents, Andrew Baxter and Michael Stepney, from Elgin in Scotland, were struggling to find their touch.
King and Kerkow led 11-3 with just two ends to play in the first set, but the Scots scored a treble on the next end, and lifted their game so effectively that they managed to score 10 shots without reply.
Leading 7-0 after four ends in the second set, the Scots must have thought they had done enough to force a tie-break, but the proud holders dug in bravely, drew level at 7-7 after eight ends, and took a vital single on the ninth to win, 11-6, 8-7.
"It all went down to Mike's last bowl, which we all thought was on target to touch the jack," said King. "But it just drifted past, and spared us the tension of having to play a tiebreak, so we breathed a huge sigh of relief."
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King and Kerkow will now face the Anglo-Welsh duo Les Gillett and Richard Morgan on Friday afternoon for a place in the semi finals.
The standard of play in the morning's singles match between teenager Breen and 24-year-old Geordie Rob Chisholm, the WBT Welsh Open champion, was phenomenally high.
Breen has played for Wales at senior level for two years, but was making his first appearance at Potters, and he played with awesome consistency, tying the first set with a drive, and opening up a 7-3 lead after seven ends in the second set. That was when he started to get worried, because, as he put it, "I realised I was in a position where I could win the match, and I started shaking."
Having watched Chisholm win the Welsh Open in Swansea last February, Breen knew he was in for a tough match, but he was clearly ready for it, and ominously put his very first bowl on top of the jack.
Later, when he led 7-3, he dropped a double that put doubt in his mind, and when he stepped on to the mat to deliver the last bowl of the ninth end, Chisholm was probably holding two shots to tie the set.
On target, Breen showed the first sign of emotion when he trailed the jack for two shots of his own, and celebrated his 5-5, 9-5 victory with a clenched fist salute.
Driven home to Tonyrefail by his mum Tina after lunch, Breen will fly to Northern Ireland to play for Wales in the under 25 international series at the weekend, but will be back at Potters to challenge Suffolk's world number two Mark Royal for a place in the third round next Tuesday.
Last night, in a fascinating first round pairs match that featured no fewer than three world indoor singles champions, Billy Jackson and David Gourlay defeated Welsh qualifiers David Axon and John Price, 8-3, 8-6.
Earlier in the day, Ireland's Ian McClure and Gary McCloy got home, 7-4, 11-7, against Chris Chau and Kenny So, from Hong Kong, and Nick Brett, from the City of Ely, made up for his defeat in the pairs by beating Cumbria's Stuart Airey, 8-5, 7-7.
With the players 'miked up' in the pairs this year, spectators have been waiting for the first indiscretion, as someone expresses their joy or dismay rather too colourfully.
Kerkow's regular Aussie mantra of "Well bowled buddy," when King excels certainly amused spectators yesterday - but there was one incident on Monday evening that had everyone in stitches.
Geoff Wilson, the New Zealand lead, left the rink at one stage for what is politely called a comfort break - and forgot to switch off his microphone.
The packed arena was treated to what can only be described as chamber music, as the Potters plumbing was thoroughly tested and found to be in perfect working order.
"It was hilarious," said Midlothian's Sandra McLeish, who was the official in charge. "I don't think that will be beaten as a piece of entertainment."