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US players get to grips with the British obsession with the weather

[<<] [>>] by James Hawkins
1st July 2004 (International)

US players in the Solomon Trophy must have finally understood the British obsession with the weather, which was - to say the least - changeable, even by Manchester standards. With flooding followed by light drizzle, blazing sunshine, stormy winds and heavy downpours, this was surely a supreme test of the players' ability to adjust to variances in pace.

I was unable to watch all of today's play, Day One of the event, and understand that results will be posted here by someone who stayed right to the bitter end. I did see a couple of games which provided much entertainment.

Fulford vs Soo started typically, with Fulford taking the first break to 1-back. He peeled both R & Y (Soo) to 2, leaving a wide join - in Corner III and a few yards down the East Boundary. Soo shot and missed, and RF started the delayed SXP. At 2, black (peelee) became lodged on the wire on the playing side. Rob cannoned it off with yellow anyway, and peeled 1-back after. With his remote hoop 4 pioneer (yellow) at 2-back, he rushed black full-face into it, leaving peelee and pioneer in contact mid-lawn. The break became more and more delayed, and the roquets on escape balls longer and longer. Eventually, he succeeded in peeling 4-back on the way to 3-back, straight peeled penult from 6 inches, and went out with a standard rover peel.

Even with an almost total lack of luck Robert ground out the sextuple from nothing. The break never looked controlled, but then again it never looked like failing.

Game 2, when I left it, had Soo on 4-back with the first ball. Jeff stuck in 3 with the makings of a laid triple in front of him. I didn't wait to see the outcome, but it looked poised to swing either way.

On the neighbouring lawn was the most drawn-out endgame I believe I've ever seen in 20 years. I only saw the last 3.5 hours of play, so can't comment on how they'd got there. Jonathan Kirby (Red) was for penult. Doug Grimsley's Blue was on Peg, with Mik Mehas on 5 with Black. Chris Clarke's yellow had been pegged out some time just after lunch.

Mehas seemed intent on ultra-defensive play, and played to wire Kirby at every opportunity. Even when open Kirby's shooting failed to come good, but the American pair made little progress. Eventually Mehas laid up on the west boundary level with 6 (his hoop). Kirby took the east boundary by 4-back. Mehas finally played a decent rush, made 6, made 1-back and played the wrong ball. Kirby took on the 12-yarder at balls in contact, hit, took an easy rush which failed, underapproached and clanged penult.

Mehas clambered round to penult one hoop at a time, and laid up with balls on boundaries by hoops 2 and 4. Kirby used the lift to take good position at penult. Mehas hit him and joined up. More cat and mouse play ensued.

Some time later, Black made penult and laid up on the south boundary with a fully wired rush to rover. Kirby, just off the end of B-baulk, saw this as his last shot, and, having nothing else to do, ran penult hard. Stopping at the peg, he shot at the double, hit and finished. All over by 5:15pm.

On paper, the GB side is as strong as it could be: four of the winning test team, with Gibbons and Kirby nearly but not quite on form. As expected, the visitors are underdogs, but they seem not to be as outclassed as they would have been a few years ago. Everything so far seems to have been going the way of the home side, but only just. The smart money is still on GB retaining the trophy, but success here depends on players' adaptability to the vagaries of the British summer.

Alas, I shan't be around for the next few days, but I'm assured that scores at least will be making their way here somehow or other.


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