Marshall beaten as Kiwi qualifier Kelly pulls off a Potters shock
- Credit: Nick Butcher
The World Indoor Bowls Championships, which are being staged for the 40th time, have seen some triumphs and disasters in their time, but Wednesday afternoon produced one of the biggest surprises since the event was first staged in Coatbridge, near Glasgow, in 1979.
The man they call the Greatest Bowler on the Planet, Alex 'Tattie' Marshall, was brought down to earth, 6-5, 10-2, by the New Zealand PBA qualifier Andrew Kelly, who says his game has been transformed by the intervention of Bowls New Zealand's sports psychologist, John Quinn.
Kelly may have won the first set by a whisker, but he was well in control of it, and he romped to victory in the second, leaving a shell-shocked Marshall shaking his head, and stunning the large crowd gathered in the International Arena at Potters Resort.
When you consider that Marshall is a six-time winner of the title, and that he has also won the pairs five times, and the mixed pairs twice, and all that on top of a mantelpiece full of world honours outdoors on grass, this was a notable scalp for Kelly.
The Kiwi was the first to acknowledge that Marshall was below par, and it turned out the Scot was suffering from shortness of breath and pains in his chest.
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'I came here to win, so I won't admit to being surprised to have done so, but I am surprised at the scale of the victory,' said Kelly. 'I've played against Tattie many times all over the world, and soon realised that he was not his usual self out there today.'
Kelly, a 29-year-old engineering technologist, had to remain focused, and says he used mindfulness strategies recommended by Quinn, who looks after the Blackjacks, the New Zealand elite bowls squad.
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'He's made a big difference to my game, and I find it easier to concentrate,' said Kelly, who has two national titles to his credit. 'He's taught me to visualise, and to use key words to help me concentrate. Today I kept repeating to myself the word 'smooth'.'
The word may sum up neatly the way Kelly dispatched the number four seed – but, while lauding Kelly's achievement, we should also feel sympathy for Marshall, who was, to put it mildly, out of sorts.
The shock exit of number four seed Marshall shook everyone at Potters Resort, and was such a wake-up call to the seeded players that Norfolk's Mervyn King, the 14th seed, was determined to avoid a similar fate when he faced a young challenger, Ian McIntosh.
King, a 52-year-old estate manager who lost to Paul Foster in the final in 1998 – the year before the sport's flagship event moved from Preston Guild Hall to Potters – but memorably won the title in 2006, is one of the most consistent drawing players around.
McIntosh, a 33-year old building surveyor from the South Shields club in County Durham, is one of a thousand or so PBA members who are hoping to break into the elite WBT circuit. He qualified for this event through the play-offs in Carlisle and was clearly keen to make his mark.
However, the odds are stacked quite heavily against challengers, because the WBT Top Sixteen know the portable rink so well, and are used to the unique atmosphere of the Arena, which is unlike any grassroots bowls club.
King got on top from the start, won the first set 8-3 without having to play the first end, then produced a superb take-out to score a treble on the very first end of the second set. And, although McIntosh never gave up, and showed signs of defiance, it was King who breasted the tape in straight sets, 8-3, 11-4.
The atmosphere in the International Arena always ratchets up a notch when a Norfolk bowler steps on to the rink, and King proudly brought a busload of supporters with him from his Gallow club in Fakenham.
It will be the same on Thursday night, when Wayne Willgress, a member of the Norfolk bowls club, which can be found in Unthank Road in Norwich, takes on 62-year-old Anglo Scot Andy Thomson, who will surely be made aware that there are enemy supporters in the spectators' gallery.
Willgress, a 30-year-old decorator, who at 6ft 5in is so tall he can paint most ceilings without using a ladder, was delighted to be invited by the sponsors, retirement consultants Just, to play as a wildcard entry, and is looking forward to his joust with the English team captain.