Suffolk trio are England hopefuls
BOWLS: Three Suffolk bowlers have been given the opportunity to shine in this year's England International trial and stake their claim for places in the squad which will duly attempt to defend the Home Internationals trophy at Worthing in July.
Three Suffolk bowlers have been given the opportunity to shine in this year's England International trial and stake their claim for places in the squad which will duly attempt to defend the Home Internationals trophy at Worthing in July.
The trials will be held at the Leicestershire venue of New Lount Bowling Club, Coleorton, on Sunday, May 26.
The great achievement of winning the National Top Four competition last year has resulted in the selectors acknowledging Suffolk's first success in that particular event, rewarding consistent performances and recognising potential by selecting three of the victorious quartet.
A first trial for Adrian Holden is more than deserved following blistering performances at Worthing in last year's semi-final and final.
Every selector watching could not fail to have been impressed as the Suffolk skip exuded confidence and executed every shot in the book with aplomb.
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End after end, my Felixstowe and Suffolk Bowling Club colleague contributed to the scoring pattern, adding shots, trailing the jack and removing opposition bowls for multiple scoring opportunities.
It takes some individual performance to cast shadows over a skip as awesome as Kent's Andy Thomson, an international skipping exponent of the highest quality.
However, Holden's performance in the final illuminated the Suffolk man's ability to skip on the stage of one of the sport's great auditoria.
Few observers in our county would wish to deny Adrian the chance to compete in his first trial. His successes in county bowls competitions have already extended over three decades and built up an impressive array of entries in rolls of honour.
A former Suffolk Singles champion and Champion of Champions in the same year, Adrian took solo events by storm in 1984.
However, it is his expertise within the skipping role that most contenders and spectators admire, respect and fear.
County titles have followed in triples play, 1991 and 1995, fours in 1992, 1998 and 2000, and pairs in 2001.
In the England trial, Adrian has the privilege of skipping against the current World indoor champion and stalwart international, Tony Allcock.
The Gloucestershire man will again be partnered by Andy Wills, Stuart Airey and Ian Bond, his successful rink from last year's international campaign.
The Allcock team is well established and looks set to line up together again. However, there is no reason why Holden, accompanied by Mark Royal at lead, last year's National Singles finalist Mark Clarke and the highly-respected Dion Auckland should create a positive impression in their exploits.
The fact that Holden has been selected to skip in his first trial pays tribute to the Suffolk man's ability in that position but is slightly unusual.
Normally a county skip is selected at number three or even at second in the rink formation. A top class performance could lead to a reserve spot in that position, or at least promote a chance to slot in to an established rink should a "pencilled-in" candidate fail to impress.
Royal will be pleased to have earned a recall to the international trial. He was indeed unlucky to lose his place at lead from the England line-up of 2000, the season in which he made his debut at the highest level.
The Rookery, Stowmarket player last year added a second Suffolk Singles title to his list of personal glories, before going on to perform so well as third man in the Top Four set.
It seems that the talented Royal would be at home in any position for he leads in the indoor international team, skips for Suffolk in the Middleton Cup and excels at third in the Top Four.
It is perhaps surprising that Royal has not been chosen to play at second or third in the trial as he now plays most of his games at the back for club and county.
His trial battle against Andy Wills should be a compelling encounter. The Cheltenham lead man is a well respected and experienced international lead and should bring out the very best in Mark.
From looking closely at the trial team, the inference is that last year's successful England line-ups have been kept intact; at least for the trial!
Selectors, we assume, will urge the successful quartets who performed well in Northern Ireland last year to produce more of the same quality, thus making their selection task an easy one.
I am therefore extremely pleased to have been kept in the same quartet as that of last year.
Partnered by Durham's Chris Palmer, John McGuinness and Kirk Smith of Buckinghamshire, I enjoyed a
particularly enjoyable and satisfying recall to the international scene after just one year's absence.
My new team-mates were exceptionally enthusiastic to play with and excellent victories in the second and third matches seem to have been rewarded by returning to the trial "en block".
The disappointment of losing my place in 2000 after a run of 44 consecutive appearances spread over 14 seasons was clear yet not entirely unexpected after poor individual and collective performances in Jersey. Yet the recognition of medals for a national singles semi-final, a national double fours semi-final, a national pairs runner up and winner's berth in the Top Four – all in the last four seasons presented me with the opportunity to step back in.
I now have the chance to try to hold onto my leading place and hopefully receive my 50th international cap on home soil at Worthing.
Of course, time never stands still and complacency is a word that features in no selector's dictionary.
Make no mistake, a less than satisfactory trial spells the end for anyone, whether a team is a winning team or not.
With reference to the other rinks, Norfolk's John Ottaway and Mervyn King, both competitors in this season's forthcoming Commonwealth Games, team up as last year alongside Graham Shadwell of Wiltshire, and skip Stephen Farish of Cumbria.
Another Commonwealth Games team member, David Holt of Lancashire, returns from his premier league campaign in Australia to skip his current quartet consisting of Mark Bantock, Neil McKee and Robert Newman.
With Gary Smith moving to Scotland to take up his post as a World Bowls official, Brett Morley, a former world fours champion and current National Triples holder returns alongside Andy Thomson, though this time at third position.
Nick Cammack will try to win a place in the team after such resolute performances last year at Worthing, while Simon Skelton looks set to retain his second spot in this rink.
Danny Denison, so upset to have been ommitted from the Commomwealth seven, skips his highly effective team of Greg Moon, Dean Morgan and Grant Burgess.
Last season's national singles winner, former international Gordon Charlton, plays at three to Trevor Taylor of Cumbria.
Having mentioned the senior trial, it is also pleasing to announce that Cornard's Greg Nash features in the Junior trial for the first time, and Stuart Gaught, the promising Risbygate player is reserve.
Nash was the Suffolk champion two years ago and made an instant impact at Worthing as he took the scalp of David Holt, while Gaught was at Worthing last year as Suffolk's Under-25 champion.