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Reporter T URNAMENTS


THE BEST BIRTHDAY GIFT EVER FOR ALEX! S


cotland’s Alex Marshall celebrated his 46th birthday in some style by producing


a vintage performance to win The Co-operative Funeralcare International Open at Blackpool Newton Hall IBC. Alex, who failed to drop a set all


week, was sheer class as he brushed aside England’s Robert Paxton 10-2 10-1 to win his first World Bowls Tour event outside the World Indoor Championships. He may have experienced a few


lean years since winning the last of his record five World indoor singles titles in 2008, but as they say, “form is temporary, class is permanent”, and the 13th seed was back to his very best here, which, as Robert pointed out, “is a scary thought”. Alex, who had only once before


reached a final outside the World singles, said: “I’m over the moon to have finally won a title outside the World Indoor Championships, as I have been trying now for several years. Robert’s an outstanding player and didn’t get the best of results at times, but on the day I think they were probably the best two sets I have ever put together.” Robert, whose consolation will be


a place in the world’s top three at the end of the season, had to be content with playing the supporting role to a masterful performance when on any other day his overall display might well have been sufficient to have obtained the leading part. “I’m obviously disappointed


to lose, but I’m not disappointed with my performance,” he said. “It must have been a pleasure to watch Alex today, but it wasn’t a pleasure being on the receiving end – he was unbelievable out there.” Whatever shot was required, Alex


appeared to be able to produce it at the drop of a hat, and especially damaging were his running bowls


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I think they were probably the best two sets I have ever put together


that always snuffed out any hint of a possible threat to his domination and invariably turned heads in his favour.


In the morning semi-finals, Robert


produced two bowls from the top draw in the tie-break to defeat fellow Englishman Nicky Brett, the number


16 seed seeking to reach a second world ranking tournament final of the season. Robert had taken the first set


7-5, a brilliant last bowl sealing the issue when a tie seemed the likely outcome, but Nicky stepped up a gear in the second, scoring five shots over the last three ends to win it 10-5 and force a tie-break. The shot changed hands no


fewer than four times on the first end of the tie-break, with Robert eventually clinching it with an inch-perfect backhand draw to an off-centre jack, with Nicky having


Alex and his ‘lucky mascot’ Sheila, a steward at the event


delivery of the match, managed to run both bowls out of the head and remain close enough to the jack to win a match that could have gone either way.


In the battle of the MBEs, Alex


Marshall took the semi-final honours against his old adversary, Andy Thomson, winning in straight sets, 10-7, 10-8, but England’s fifth seed was not without his chances at the business end of both sets. Andy recovered from 4-0 down to


lead 7-6 with two ends to play, only to offer Alex a gift-wrapped three shots, taking out his closest bowl when just one shot down on the head, and the Scot added a single on the last end for good measure. Whether that affected Andy’s confidence, he was all at sea at the start of the second set, where he conceded a cheap maximum count of four to a re-spotted jack, and within three ends found himself 6-0 down and heading for the exit door. To Andy’s credit, he battled back


into the contest, receiving a four himself when Alex unluckily sliced the jack in the wrong direction, and within the space of four ends he had turned a 6-0 deficit into an 8-6 lead with two ends left. However, Alex is a dangerous


player when cornered, and on the last two ends he twice extricated the jack from positions of strength for Andy, who on both occasions failed to find the readjustment necessary to threaten re-spotted jacks, and Alex collected two doubles to book his place in the final.


played an equally impressive bowl across the green to lay shot. Nicky levelled matters on the next end with his counting bowls never under any real threat and it looked as though he was set for a second final in three tournaments when he held two shots on the final end. However, Robert, with the last


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