Despite holding an impressive 5-1 winning record to date, the Europeans were this time arguably second favourites on paper. However, as in previous Pryder competitions, what proved to be the crucial factor was the choice of teams and individual lane allocations which is all done in secret.
Such strategy by the EU team has arguably been the deciding factor in several of their victories whilst questions have been raised in previous competitions in relation to the ROW strategy and comprehension of complexities of the format.
Captains have to choose the team line ups and lane allocation unbeknown to their opponents.
The decisions required to be made by the captains were whether to choose a strong team and a weak team or mix them up and also which lanes to allocate the bowlers; some lanes, as with golf greens, proving more difficult when judging the line and length.
Of course, neither captain would know what line ups and lane allocation their adversaries would choose because, as in it’s golfing equivalent, the allocation of players and lanes is all done in secret.
With seven players in each team the format was one game of fours, a triple, three doubles games and eight singles with one point for a win, a half point for a draw, and zero points for a loss.
The “magic” number needed by the EU to retain the trophy was six and a half points whilst the ROW needed a minimum of seven points to be victorious. A draw would see the EU team retain the trophy.
The Rest of the World team consisted of players from Australia, Canada and Thailand whilst a certain amount of poetic licence, as seems to be the case in most international sports these days, was employed in the EU line up. Sweden and England provided most of the players whilst Thai Noon Mslkq qualified for the EU through paternal rights and Kunlawo Jaew thanks to her Croatian connections.
So, the stage was set for a possible very close contest.
The score after the fours was 1 each but following the doubles contest the ROW edged ahead 3 and a half to 2 and a half. Confidence was now high in the ROW camp!
However, this was when the previously mentioned decisions on lane and player allocations became perhaps a crucial factor.
Knowing they had to claw points back but not play their totally strongest players first, the EU team hedged their bets and played two of their stronger players for the first three of the crucial last seven games, saving two other strong players for the following games.
In the authors opinion, the ROW failed to factor this in and questionably fielded players on lanes they hadn’t played before.
Whether this was relevant or not, the EU team won two of the three games meaning heading into the final four games the scores were once again tied at 4 and a half each.
Pivotal in the turnaround was underdog Noon Msldk’s comprehensive victory over serial individual champion George Sasonow.
So it was all down to the last four singles to decide this year’s match.
During the early exchanges the ROW team held a one point advantage and it was looking good for them with two games remaining after Jorada Vunkiri had beaten Kunlawo Jaew for the ROW and Rob Knight had beaten Duncan Kennedy for the EU meaning they were ahead in the final two games.
ROW player Ray Austin was holding a 5-0 lead over EU player Pat Ailm and the other remaining ROW player Ken (Sammy) Sampert was leading the other EU bowler Glenn Collins by 8-5. Massive comebacks were required by both Glenn and Pat to rescue the situation for the EU team.
On the final end of their game, Glenn came in with three points to make it 8-8 in their match, settling for a half point rather than make a risky final bowl and once again the overall score was tied at 6-6.
So, all rested on the final epic battle between Ray and Pat.
Coming back from a 0-5 defect in the early exchanges of the final match, Pat had produced great recovery bowls, which were very much required against an in form Ray, to hold a slender 9-7 lead.
With all the contestants looking on, once again ,a competition at the bowls club had come to a nail biting conclusion!
After 1186 bowls had been bowled throughout the day the competition and title rested on the final eight bowls to be delivered by Pat and Ray. Immense pressure on both guys, which manifested itself in the initial deliveries which were somewhat wide of the mark.
Pat then delivered two exceptional bowls to put the onus on Ray who had to come up with “world class” bowls to stand a chance.
With his last bowl Pat played a great “cover” bowl to make Ray’s chances of victory even slimmer.
Unperturbed Ray girded his loins and by the narrowest of margins missed his mark, leaving Pat the victor 11-7 and securing the trophy for the Europeans after an epic contest!
Stand out players on the day were Ulf Egerstaad for the EU team and Sammy Sampert and Ron Blackwood who scored 2 and a half points out of a possible 3 for the ROW and who were both unfortunate to be on the losing side.
Congratulations to the EU team on retaining the Pryder Cup!
Kamala lawn bowls is open three days a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Private parties are welcome to play on other days and all equipment is provided. For further details on Lawn bowls in Phuket contact the club on 0991307299.