Hi – it’s been a long time since my last post, but with a new outdoor bowls season looming (whatever the current dismal weather might suggest) it seems a good time to take up the threads again. Remember, this loose series of comments and observations about bowls is not supposed to be coaching, or detailed instructions about the sport, but simply a few hints about getting the best results – both in terms of personal satisfaction and match scores.
One other reminder: the notes are tilted towards helping new – or newish – bowlers. However, since this game can, on a bad day, reduce any of us to a frustrated sense of being a beginner, I rather think that any bowler could get some benefit, even if only in having their own ideas and experience confirmed.
So where to start, this year? Maybe indoors, with a game I watched the other day. Yet the subject of my advice today would apply to any match, indoors or outside.
I say I watched the game, but actually I came into it on the penultimate end, and in truth that was just as well – the pace of play was so slow that I’d never have managed to watch the whole thing. This pairs match managed just 11 ends in two hours, whereas at our club the normal duration would be 16 ends, and 15 minimum. Oh my! So I suppose one point I might add here is: get on with it!
However, to the main issue. When I arrived at rinkside, ready to play my own game on this rink, the lead player of Team A was involved in a lengthy and tedious debate, giving his skip all sorts of advice and options for the last bowl of the end. Team A were leading 7-5 on the board, and holding five shots on this end. So they had a potential lead of seven with one end to go.
“Come in here!”, the lead finally shouted, with a flourishing gesture. The skip duly followed the instruction with a fine backhand – the trouble was, it was too fine a backhand, connecting full-on with the jack and trailing it through to an opposition bowl, so that Team B were gifted a shot, which put them at 6-7 on the board. You’ve probably guessed already what then happened. Team B won the last end by two shots, and took the match.
As we all know, in any sport, or perhaps in any either-or decision in life, hindsight is always 20/20; it’s easy to criticise when the outcome is known. But in this case, the issue was simply one of game management. The match had clearly been very tight (12 shots on the first nine ends). With a lead of seven on offer, there was no point in taking any risk at all. Even advising the skip to not play the bowl, taking the five shots, would have made perfect sense. This was a knock-out match, not one where shots difference might count later on, so why be greedy?
Obviously each situation is different. Had there been no danger whatsoever, maybe with two or three yards of clear green to draw to a cluster of bowls, the call might have been justified. But the very nature of the agonising and doubt suggested from the start that there were pitfalls waiting. In that case, and in that situation, it wasn’t worth the risk. In earlier posts I’ve mentioned the risk-reward calculation that underpins so much of the tactics in bowls. The game is hard enough without scoring any own goals!