Meikle hopes to extend good run

BOWLS: It has been my pleasure over the last five seasons to report on the progress of Suffolk's competitors as they strive to qualify for the last 64 of the prestigious EBA National Champion-ships at Worthing.


It has been my pleasure over the last five seasons to report on the progress of Suffolk's competitors as they strive to qualify for the last 64 of the prestigious EBA National Champion-ships at Worthing.

Coverage of last year's Worthing fortnight was so enthusiastically received by fellow bowlers and readers that the Evening Star will again be letting me loose to keep you up to date with Suffolk's fortunes this season.

The race is certainly starting to hot up for those jostling for positions in the quarter-finals of the county singles and pairs championships. The spotlight this week is on the Ipswich area of competitive play that consists of participants from 21 clubs.

Of the 206 men who have entered the Suffolk County EBA Single-handed Championship this season, 77 are from the Ipswich region.

That area entry has now been whittled down to six bowlers who will contest the three Ipswich section finals. The winners of these will then join the winners of the Framlingham, Stowmarket, Bury, Sudbury and Lowestoft areas to contest the last eight.

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Ian Meikle of the Felixstowe and Suffolk Bowling Club takes his place in the section one final against the 1993 champion, Philip Last of Marlborough. Meikle has played at lead in most competitive situations this season and has found a great deal of consistency. Last Monday, Ian who qualified for Worthing in the triples with yours truly and Clive Webb in 1997 and 1998, defeated Middleton Cup player, Andy Catchpole, now of Ipswich Bowling Club, by a 21-17 scoreline.

Last is a reigning Suffolk Fours champion and national quarter-finalist last season in that particular event. In his previous round he conquered the county singles champion of 1989 and 1996 and Marlborough club-mate, Alan Barnes 21-15.

Another Marlborough player, Terry Swift took the scalp of the experienced Brantham player, Doug King on his way to the last 16. He now faces last season's semi-finalist, Kelvyn Earthroll who was so close to getting to Worthing in the singles, just beaten by the eventual winner, Mark Royal.

If the IBC player can maintain the good form of last year's campaign, he will be among the favourites to greet the hallowed turf of Beach House Park. Earthroll saw off the challenge of Cliff Catchpole in his previous round.

The third section sees a Marlborough versus Roundwood battle as Andrew Friend takes on Colin Hunting. Friend is another former semi-finalist who is yet to qualify for the national singles championships outdoors, although he contested the Suffolk semi-final stage in 1998, losing to Mark Royal. Andrew is of course an experienced singles exponent with qualifications in the indoor equivalent.

His opponent, Colin Hunting has been in fine form this season and reached this stage with a 21-14 victory at Bramford over Philip Parnell. Colin's last gasp victory over my club-mate Clive Webb in Round two must have been inspirational as Clive has again been a formidable figure in Eastern Counties and Middleton Cup fixtures this term.

The above fixtures are all due to take place tonight, Monday, June 24.

Now to the Suffolk Pairs Championship, where a total of 180 pairs have made up the total county entry.

Fighting for places in the neutral green stage are Chris Hunt and Neil Hills who, with the help of substitute Neil Prentice, defeated last year's champions, Andy Meikle and Adrian Holden of the Felixstowe and Suffolk Bowling Club, 23-18. Their opponents will be Colin Chick and his partner Martin Friend who had no time for brotherly love as they rose victorious by a single shot against Philip Page and Andrew Friend.

It's another Marlborough versus Ipswich Bowling Club encounter as Peter Peakman and Philip Last prepare to take on Neville Cook and Ken Wright. The former will doubtless be trying to add the Pairs to last year' Fours title while the Ipswich pair are long term playing partners with a wealth of experience.

The format of outdoor competitive play is demanding in terms of the tightness of schedules and frequency of games. With each week that passes one is glad to have survived another round and to have edged one stage further to the white trousers stage.

This has certainly been the case for Clive Webb and I who have had to endure particularly tough draws to reach the section final stage. Top form performances away to Ivan Parnell and Colin Rumsby and Mark Betts and Andy Catchpole, followed by home matches against Neil Thomas and Alan Barnes, and last week, Jimmy Page and Val Tricker, have ensured that we have been kept well and truly on our toes.

My partner and I have always set extremely high standards for ourselves, and wish to equal or surpass the achievement of being national runners-up in 2000. Tomorrow we take on John Walker and Philip Ebdon of Hadleigh.

ADRIAN Holden and I were pleased to hear that the English Bowling Association selectors have invited us and our England rink-mates John McGuinness and Kirk Smith to play against the England Commonwealth Games quartet in Gloucestershire this Friday.

The match is seen as a practice one and gives Adrian the chance to play a game with his new international colleagues before embarking on the International Series the following week.

David Bryant, the legendary Somerset and England bowler will be in attendance to give advice and coaching to both teams as part of the Sport England initiative, while Tony Allcock will oversee the progress of his squad of players who hope to pick up medals in July.

SUFFOLK'S defence of the Top Four Championship is underway. On the green of the Liberty of Havering Club, yours truly partnered by Duncan Snape, Mark Royal and Adrian Holden achieved a well deserved seven shot victory over former indoor world singles runner-up, Nigel Smith and his Essex colleagues, Steve Mitchinson, Scottish internationalist Jamie Rippey, and the experienced Joe Stamper.

The next round is on July 7 at Chesterton.

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