Belfast Telegraph

Bowls final quite a draw

By Billy Weir

If it's nail-biting, edge of the seat, no-holds-barred sporting action you want, then look no further than the World Bowls Championship.

Apologies, look no further than the Just Retirement World Bowls Championship, which isn't good but not just as bad as the Co-Operative Funeralcare Scottish Open, and I'm not making this up.

Oh aye, I hear you cry, another series of easy and cheap jibes that bowls is just a way of keeping gangs of marauding pensioners off the streets and the aroma around the arena hang heavy with the smell of custard tarts, tea and Voltarol, with the silence only broken by the noise of a half-sucked Werther's clattering off the back off someone's dentures.

Yes, there will be quite a lot of that, but as a sporting spectacle it's fantastic, so the message to the powers-that-be is don't try and make it what it isn't. You wouldn't expect Rage Against The Machine to turn up a W.I. meeting, although having Barry from EastEnders warm the crowd up with a rendition of (Something Inside) So Strong is about as believable.

No matter how they try to jazz, or rock, it up, it will still be two plump men (or women) dandering along in comfortable white shoes and white slacks like two hospital orderlies heading for the canteen.

There was nothing wrong with bowls when you had one man in red, one in blue, the rink was green and the bowls were black, and it was David Bryant playing Tony Alcock.

Now we have white tops with red and green flashes, covered in bowls, while the bowls themselves are red and green and the rink is a garish blue fashioned from melted down Smurfs.

I think this is to give the fans the idea that they're at the seaside, and they're all in the crowd wearing 'kiss me quick, toucher me slowly' hats.

And talking of just retired, it was nice to see that former Bank of England governor, Mervyn King, was in the final. Oh, not THAT Mervyn King, this one was a gamekeeper from Norfolk, playing in front of his home crowd at the Potters complex in Great Yarmouth.

BBC presenter Rishi Persad, who looked like he'd dressed up for a visit to his granny's house, was our guide and started, bizarrely, with King taking on opponent Darren Burnett in a game of Scrabble. Watch BT Sport sign this up soon.

Back to the bowls and former champion Greg Harlow pondered was 'Dazza going to dazzle, or is Merv going to swerve?' but then it time for the walk-ons.

First up was Dazza, as he bounced onto the rink to the strains of 'You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet' as the crowd tutted at this new-fangled music, but nodded approvingly as the flag-wielding walk-on girl was dressed like a Brethren schoolgirl, and barefoot so as not to damage the rink.

It was the same for King, different girl and flag but same outfit, and he didn't come out to 'Money's Too Tight To Mention' but 'Don't Stop Me Now' as King plumped for Queen, and the commemorative plate-buying public approved.

And we were off. Slowly. There was no risk of a cardigan button having to removed in steady start to proceedings in a final where you really hope no-one from the audience loses the run of themselves and streaks.

Then all hell broke loose, a two-shot lift for Dazza, and Doris in row nine dropped a stitch, but it all came to a head in the 10th end when Burnett, holding three shots, hashed it all up, and ended up losing one and the set. Cardigan alerts were now at amber.

He hit back in the second set, and commentator David Corkill was apoplectic as we reached a deciding end, yelling, or whispering quite loudly, 'Ohhhh, it's drama, live sporting drama, we love it' and the crowd hadn't witnessed anything like it since V.E. Day.

Dazza prevailed, forcing the confusing tie-break, where they only play three ends and it doesn't matter how many you score, and, fittingly, it went right to the wire with Corkill saying the crowd were 'getting a bit hot and bothered out there' as cardigan levels were now at Defcon 1.

The final bowl of the game and championship would decide it, King delivered but it was Dazza who won the crown, to ensure they'd be dancing on the streets of Arbroath that night. Probably at a tea dance to the soothing strains of Rage Against The Machine.

Belfast Telegraph

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