Day 2 – Monday 20th January
Last night the team of officials enjoyed a spot of Bingo in the Atlas Theatre and walked away with £100. This was followed by a spectacular show from the Potters Theatre Company rivalling anything I have seen in the West End. After a nice midnight snack of sweet n sour pork and a beer or two it was off to bed.
Today was World Indoor Pairs Finals Day. My usual daily routine didn’t change though as we had a singles match this morning. Alarm went off at 7:30 for an 8:15 breakfast. I tend to stick to the same thing as we are constantly shoving food down our throats here. So I have a nice smoked haddock breakfast with plenty of Tea to wake me up.
The first game at 10am was between Robert Weale from Wales and Michael Stepney from Scotland. It promised to be a cracking match and didn’t disappoint. I was operating the Shot Clock for this match. Perched high above the rink at the back of the smaller stand, I have a good view over the whole rink, ideal for this role.
The Shot Clock was introduced last season and initially caused us Officials some concern. However, we now have no issues with it and it just becomes part of our match duties. The main change is that we have had to introduce a fourth official to allow each of us a break during the day. The Shot Clock demands a high level of concentration at the crucial stage of the ends and of course the match. The clock is started when a players bowl comes to rest or when the rink becomes available for play (I will explain that in a moment). The following player then has 30 seconds to deliver their bowl. If the bowl does not leave their hand by the time the buzzer sounds then that bowl is declared dead. The first 4 bowls are always delivered within about 5 seconds of each other so not too much stress there. It is when the players visit the head and play their final bowls that it becomes crucial. So I mentioned that the clock will not start until the rink is ready for play. This covers the duties that a marker has to carry out such as marking touchers, clearing dead bowls and re-spotting the jack etc. The player would not be able to bowl if we were dancing around clearing things up and eating into their time.
Robert eventually managed to come out on top in a tense tiebreak and then it was off for an early lunch. It hardly felt like a couple of hours since we were tucking into breakfast so it was a salad for me today. The early lunch was due to the 1pm start time for the Pairs Final.
On paper this looked to be an amazing battle and it sure was. Greg Harlow and Nick Brett; the local boys, against the defending champions Paul Foster and Alex Marshall – both of whom are honoured with an MBE. Incredible bowls from all four players. Couple of calliper measures for me as umpire and fantastic crowd support made this a great final broadcast live on BBC2.
This match was quickly followed by a singles tie between defending Singles Champion Stewart Anderson and qualifier Joshua Grant. Quick changeover matches are a bit of a headache for us officials, especially when they are going out live and they involve a final. But like a well oiled machine we all know where we should be and what we should be doing.
Stewart dominated the singles match, which I marked, but full credit to Joshua he played some amazing shots. In the end it was all down to experience and Joshua admitted in the post match interview that the rink is hard to play. Choice of shot is so crucial.