National Finals at Melton: Bowling elite set for battle

2014 National Singles champion Jamie Walker will be aiming to get his crown back in Melton next week EMN-160504-112545002
2014 National Singles champion Jamie Walker will be aiming to get his crown back in Melton next week EMN-160504-112545002
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Former world champions Andy Thompson and Greg Harlow will be two of the big names in action at Melton IBC next week.

They are among a host of past and present England internationals doing battle as 11 national titles are decided at the EIBA indoor bowls finals over 10 days of competition.

Katherine Rednall became the youngest-ever national women's singles champion last April EMN-160504-112457002

Katherine Rednall became the youngest-ever national women's singles champion last April EMN-160504-112457002

Thompson, a three-time world singles champion, has won the national crown four times, including on three successive years from 1989 to 1991, and helped his Cyphers club win the triples title last year at Melton.

He opens his singles account on Friday, April 15 at 10am.

Harlow, former world number one and champion in 2010, comes to Melton to defend his national singles title, having won it for the third time last April. He begins his defence at 1pm the same day.

Both will face competition from 2014 champion Jamie Walker, and our own Les Gillett, a world top 16 player who won the national crown in 2001 and was runner-up six years ago.

Les Gillett (right) climbed back into the world top 16 this season EMN-160504-112509002

Les Gillett (right) climbed back into the world top 16 this season EMN-160504-112509002

Former world champs Billy Jackson (Lincoln) and Mervyn King (Gallow) will line up in the men’s pairs.

Leicestershire will be represented by the Alcock brothers, James and Tom, who will try to guide Charnwood to the ultimate prize.

Jackson will also feature in the men’s triples as will Robert Paxton and Rob Newman, skips of Taunton Deane and Whiteknights respectively, who have both tasted national success here.

The Bournemouth fours team, champions in 2013 and finalists 12 months ago, will take some stopping, but look out for a homegrown talent here.

Former England trialist Matt Bass, who took up the game at Melton IBC and who represented them for many years, returns with his new club Exonia.

Ladies finals

England international Ellen Falkner faces a busy week as she represents the strong City of Ely team in three of the four ladies’ competitions, including the last 16 of the singles.

Falkner and 2014 ladies’ singles champion Sarah Seymour make a formidable team in the pairs and will be among the favourites for that title. The 2-14 champions and finalists in 2011 and 2013 get under way on Saturday afternoon.

They will come up against strong competition from Nottingham pair Sue Mart and Pam Cutts, who beat them in the 2013 final, and last years beaten finalists Rebecca Simpson and Annalisa Dunham (Spalding).

Dunham and Simpson were also bridesmaids in the triples 12 months ago, and will be keen to close out unfinished business when they begin next Wednesday morning with Chelsea Tomlin.

Falkner and Seymour will again feature, alongside Catherine Popple, while the Swale team of Paige Dennis, Sandy Hazell and Wendy King, champions four years ago and runners-up in 2014, will also be prominent.

Reigning ladies’ singles champion and newly-crowned British Isles singles winner Katherine Rednall makes her only appearance of the event in the fours for her Ipswich team (Monday, 9.30am)

Hazell and King also won the fours for Swale in 2014 and will line up here with Dennis and Amy Banes, while experienced international Janice Gower, a regular national finalist and 2014 singles finalist, skips the Blackpool four.

Devon and Norfolk ladies’ teams will battle it out for the Atherley Trophy a week tomorrow, before the event culminates with the men’s (LIberty Trophy) inter-county final.

Durham have lifted the Liberty Trophy 11 times in its 40-year history, and five times in the last 14 years and will be eager to add another when they take on Kent, winners in 2014.