Final heartbreak for Norfolk’s Mervyn King at World Indoor Bowls Championship at Potters Resort
09:59 27 January 2014
Norfolk’s Mervyn King played some of the best bowls of his career at the weekend - but he still didn’t manage to add a second world indoor title to his collection at Potters Resort, Hopton-on-Sea.
King was in superb form as he beat title favourite Paul Foster 9-4 12-4 in the semi-finals on Saturday, with bowls legend David Bryant saying it was the best performance he had ever witnessed.
The man from the Gallow Club, Fakenham also played well in yesterday’s final against another Scot, Darren Burnett, and looked well set to win the Just Retirement world singles when he won the first set 7-5 and led narrowly in the second. But Burnett hit back to level the match - and then won a thrilling tie-break to lift the trophy.
“Mervyn was more consistent than me on the day,” Burnett admitted afterwards “But I hung in there, and played some pressure bowls when forced to do so, and I think that made the difference – but, from a television point of view it was a dream final, which went down to the wire.”
Both players had scaled the heights on Saturday to book their places in the final, and, although they played well yesterday, and brought off some superlative shots, they lacked the consistency they had shown in the semi-finals.
Yet another capacity crowd of 1,200-plus in the International Arena were captivated by the closeness of the encounter, and were on the edge of their seats when, at one-set-all, and one-end-apiece in the tie-break, everything depended on a one-end shoot-out.
King’s first bowl was surprisingly short, and Burnett took advantage, propelling his reply to within three inches of the jack, and, although the Fakenham man drew close, he could not beat the Scot’s opening delivery.
Local supporters were stunned, but there was prolonged applause for Burnett, who later conceded that King had probably been more consistent, and that he owed his victory to some ‘big bowls’ he played at crucial stages of the final.
King won the first set, 7-5, but Burnett took the second, 10-8, and had the better of the early exchanges on the first end of the tie-break, before King produced a humdinger of a draw with his final delivery, his inch-perfect, dead-length toucher beating a Burnett bowl that was less than an inch from the jack.
Opting for force, Burnett disturbed the head, sending the jack into the open, and, after a tense measure, was awarded the shot. King drew better on the second end, and Burnett surprisingly overplayed his hand with all four deliveries.
Then came the sudden-death decider, with Burnett’s first delivery carrying the day, and King’s last despairing effort being the worst bowl he had played in the entire tournament. It was not the ending most of the spectators had been hoping for.
“I’m very disappointed that I could not rediscover the form I showed against Paul (Foster) in the semi finals,” said King. “But, on the other hand, it would have been quite surprising if I had, because you can never guarantee how well you are going to play.
“However, if someone had told me at the start of this event that I would be playing in what was my fourth world final, I would have bitten their hand off,” he added. “I can also take a lot from the way I played on the way to the final, especially in the quarter- final against Nicky Brett and in the semi-final against Paul,” he said. “I collected enough ranking points to keep me in the top eight (he is provisionally ranked fourth in the world), am looking forward to playing in the International Open in Blackpool next week.”
The highlight of the week for King was obviously the manner in which he dispatched Foster, the world number one and favourite for the title, with a display of drawing bowls that caused a buzz in the arena on Saturday, and produced an incredible 9-4, 12-4 scoreline.
Clearly in a daze after the final, Burnett said: “I’m totally in a dream. It’s an unbelievable feeling, because I’ve had my sights set on winning this title for years, but, to be honest, I didn’t honestly think it was ever going to happen.”
Paying tribute to his travelling support, a group of bowls fans from Inverness, who were referred to by the BBC TV commentators as the Tartan Army, Burnett said: “They were absolutely fabulous, and made up for the fact that most of the spectators were, understandably, shouting for Mervyn.”
Burnett was also delighted to have his wife Linsey, and two young daughters Isla and Evie with him to share in his success. “They came down from Scotland for the final stages, and having them here made quite a difference.”