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Bowls: Skelton through to finals

PUBLISHED: 11:12 24 January 2009 | UPDATED: 12:51 03 July 2010

FORMER Lincolnshire county team-mates Simon Skelton and Billy Jackson will meet for a place in the final of the Potters Holidays World Indoor Singles Championship after impressive victories over fellow Englishmen in yesterday's (Friday) quarter-finals of the flagship World Bowls Tour event at Potters Leisure Resort in Norfolk.

FORMER Lincolnshire county team-mates Simon Skelton and Billy Jackson will meet for a place in the final of the Potters Holidays World Indoor Singles Championship after impressive victories over fellow Englishmen in yesterday's (Friday) quarter-finals of the flagship World Bowls Tour event at Potters Leisure Resort in Norfolk.

Skelton, now based in Nottingham, became the lowest seed to reach the last four when he edged to a 7-6, 11-11 upset over England team-mate Andy Thomson, the eighth seed and twice former champion.

Jackson, from Lincoln, was in commanding form in his 7-4, 12-1 victory over Les Gillett, the 13 seed from Loughborough.

But Australian Mark McMahon put paid to an all-British semi-final line-up after fighting back from a set down to beat Mark Royal 7-8, 6-5, 2-1 - a defeat that prevented the sixth seed from Suffolk from overtaking world number one Alex Marshall in the new world rankings.

McMahon will face Robert Weale after the tenth-seeded Welshman battled back from a set down to beat England's No2 seed Greg Harlow 2-7, 8-5, 2-1 in the final match of the day.

Billy Jackson, the 12th seed who put out Scotland's former three-time world champion Paul Foster in the previous round, raised his game considerably in the opening match of the day against Gillett.

"I was flying - and had him under pressure from the beginning. I was inspired when I saw the comments Paul had made about our match yesterday - it gave me a lift," said 38-year-old Jackson, twice a World Pairs winner.

"The match was played in a great spirit and the crowd were brilliant. I'd never played Les before, but we've had a friendly rivalry for years.

"That's the best I've ever played on the portable rink," added Jackson, now in the semi-finals for the second year in a row.

A disappointed, but not downcast, Gillett agreed that he had no excuses: "Billy played the way I've been playing up to now - he played some massive bowls.

"If you put pressure on people, you find their weaknesses. I never really nailed it."

Simon Skelton, the 16th seed, led in both sets against Thomson, his England team captain. But then the more experienced Thomson also had three-shot leads within two ends of the completion of both sets.

In the fourth end of the second set, Thomson scored a sensational four shots - then in the penultimate end had a disastrous sequence of shots which handed his opponent a full-house, leaving Thomson needing two shots to force a tie-break.

The 53-year-old Londoner was holding two when Skelton delivered a mighty bowl which knocked Thomson's bowls out and had the jack re-spotted. With almost no chance of securing the double, Thomson played an impressive runner which did some damage, but only left him a single!

"Both sets could have gone either way," agreed Skelton. "I played the big bowls when I needed to - and that last bowl couldn't have been any better."

Of his next opponent, Skelton said: "Billy and I grew up together, but I've never played him on the World Bowls Tour."

Thomson knew he had his chances: "I made a mess of that - especially after being three shots up in both sets. I felt I was playing better than him most of the game. But that eighth end - when he got a four - was a terrible end. We all have them.

"But I'd played a brilliant bowl in the previous end to get a three!"

Marks McMahon and Royal played a nip and tuck game in which neither player dominated and only a handful of shots separated the pair throughout the encounter.

"We both struggled - it took me a while to settle down," said McMahon, who beat world No2 David Gourlay en-route to the quarters. "And, surprisingly, I felt a bit nervous. Maybe it was because it's the quarter-finals - but I've now got everything to play for."

Local hero Royal, the world No6 from Stowmarket, was "extremely disappointed" with the outcome: "I thought it could be my year this time. It was there for the taking!"

A further disappointment for the left-hander was the ending of his four-year run of tie-break successes - a run of 14 wins. "I had to lose it eventually," said Royal. "But I didn't think the match was going to a tie-break!"

Saturday (24 Jan) schedule:

World Indoor Singles Championship, semi-finals:

10.00am:

[16] Simon Skelton (ENG) v [12] Billy Jackson (ENG)

1.40pm:

[14] Mark McMahon (AUS) v [10] Robert Weale (WAL)

Sunday (25 Jan) schedule:

2.30pm:

World Indoor Singles Championship FINAL


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