Thursday at Potters: match round up

Six-time champion Alex Marshall MBE was given a huge scare by New Zealand qualifier Ray Martin, before eventually coming through on a tie-break in their Just World Indoor Singles first-round clash.

‘Tattie’ seemed be coasting to victory when he breezed though the first set 11-2, with his Kiwi opponent barely looking up for the fight. But the transformation of the Wellington sports centre manager in the second set was incredible, as from nowhere he suddenly started to play and had Marshall on the ropes for eight ends.

Marshall just kept within reach as they prepared for what was a bizarre ninth end, needing a full house to prevent the match being extended. With jack in hand, the New Zealander attempted a full-length delivery, only to send it into the ditch. Marshall then went short and Martin struggled to get anywhere the pot, as the Scot stuck three relatively close. When Martin failed with his final delivery, Marshall just had to bowl within a yard of the target to win the match, but inexplicably sent his red bowl trundling too far and sending the tie into extra-time, with neither bowler believing what they had just witnessed.

Unfortunately for Martin, though, Marshall wasn’t going to make another faux pa and he delivered the goods in the first two ends to breathe a huge sigh of relief and book a outhitting-watering second-round tie with Nick Brett.

Brett enjoyed a relatively comfortable 9-3 6-4 victory over WIBC World Champion Andy Squire, who had emerged through the preliminary round-robin competition, following win over Canadian Malcolm Whyte, Hong Kong’s Jordi Lo and Lawrence Hurwitz, from Israel.

Squire seemed to struggle cope with the demands of the portable rink in the first set, with Brett always in command, although he performed better in the second half of the match and at 4-4 after seven ends, gave himself hope of causing an upset.

The ever-reliable Brett, though, took singles on the final two ends to clinch the match and end Squire’s hopes.

Elgin’s Andrew Barker fell just short of producing an upset as he lost on a tie-break to sixth seed Darren Burnett.

It was a case of what might have been for Barker, who produced a devastating spell of bowls in the first set, only to run out of juice in the second half of the match, eventually losing 9-6 3-8 0-2.

Barker admitted he “needed to prove something to himself” prior to making the long trip down to the east Norfolk coast after some fruitless sojourns in recent years, and he could not have made a better start against the 2014 champion.

For the uninformed spectator, they could well have thought Barker was the sixth seed and former winner of this event as he produced five ends of brilliance to surge 8-0 clear and leave Burnett wondering how he was going to contain the Falkirk qualifying hero.

The Arbroath bobby finally claimed a double on end six, but Barker then made it 9-2 and although he dropped a three on end eight, he wasn’t going to relinquish his advantage in the final end.

The second set was a mirror image of the first as the former Commonwealth Games gold medallist Burnett stepped up a gear and Barker went down a couple, with the top-16 player powering into a 7-1 lead. The Elgin man picked up a double to give him hope of avoiding a tie-break, but it wasn’t enough and they went into the three-end lottery.

By now, Barker was flagging and after Burnett took the first end, you felt the writing was on the wall and it was Burnett who duly booked a second-round clash with old sparring partner Mervyn King by wrapping up the match on the next end.

In the day’s early match, local hero Mervyn King – again denied a primetime afternoon slot – seemed, much like Marshall, to be home and hosed against qualifier Shaun Jones after bossing the first set 12-2, but the Malvern Hills ace produced a much better display after the halfway point and really took the game to King, eventually taking the second set 8-3.

But as is becoming the way in tie-breaks, the unseeded player just couldn’t quite do enough to topple the 11th seed and was again left to rue a missed opportunity, like Martin, Barker, Damien Doubler, and Craig Rimmington, who all fell by the wayside in the three-end lottery.

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