"I am a Norfolk man and Glory in being so." Horatio Nelson

Mann & Davidson on collision course in Norfolk Singles

The draw has taken place for this Sunday’s Norfolk County Singles Championships which also serve as the Norfolk qualifying heat of the ESMBA National Singles Championship. The event has attracted a field of 41 bowlers this season and will be played at Hingham Sports and Social Club with an 8.30am book-on time for a 9am start. The event will be played with nine groups of four and one group of five and played to a finish. The draw for Group “I” catches the eye immediately with an opening game between defending Norfolk Singles Champion Chris Mann of Wymondham and four time winner Neil Davidson of Hempnall. Neither of these players will want to lose their opening game and all eyes will be on the outcome. Also in the group is Steve Easter of Wymondham, who has appeared for Norfolk “A” in the singles this season, and fellow Norfolk Squad bowler Peter Harvey of Thetford. Halvergate bowlers Keith Cooke and David Lamb are both in a strong Group “A” along with East Tuddenham’s John Turner and Wymondham’s Melvyn Barker. England international David Lamb is still looking for that elusive first Norfolk Singles title with his runner-up appearance in 2011-2012 still his best showing to date. Cooke, without a doubt one of Norfolk’s most accomplished bowlers, has also failed to find success in this event and has yet to reach the final. John Turner on the other hand has lifted this title four times during his long career but his last appearance in the final was back in 2009-2010 when he beat Lee Fallows in the final. Turner in fact was the first ever Norfolk Singles Champion when he beat George Clarke in the final thirty three years ago in the 1986-87 season. Wymondham and Norfolk bowler Melvyn Barker knows that he will certainly have three tough games on his hands in this group and will need to be on the top of his game if he is to qualify for the knock-outs. Group “G” will be hard to predict with three serious title contenders drawn out together. Former West Mids star Simon Willies of East Tuddenham has reached the final for the last two years before losing out to Gary Best and Chris Mann and he will be determined to make it third time lucky. But a stiff challenge to qualify awaits him as he will face Bob Carter & England bowler Jamie Forster and 2007-08 champion Jon Sparham of Wymondham. County bowler Mick Colledge of Thetford completes the line-up in this group. Group “E” is probably the hardest group to call with any of the four bowlers more than capable of progressing to the latter stages of the competition. 2013-14 champion Nigel Willard of Bob Carter is always a dangerous opponent as is Halvergate and Norfolk Premier bowler Robbie Lamb. Two very talented female bowlers will also be determined to qualify for the knock-outs from Group “E”. The Norfolk County Singles has never seen a female bowler lift the coveted title but both Debbie Sparham of Wymondham and Lesley Crowe of First Bus will be attempting to rectify that situation. Only twice in 33 years has a lady bowler reached the final. Carol Aggas, who then played for Thorpe Marriott, reached the final in 1994-95 and Kim Bridge pushed Nigel Willard all the way in the 2013-14 final. Another who is more than capable of reaching the final is Bob Carter’s talented Morgan Warnes who has been drawn to play in the five player Group “J”. Previously playing for both Horsford BC and Halvergate, Morgan is playing for Carter in the Tens League this season. Another highly talented young bowler in Group “J” is Ryan Fox of Halvergate & England who just keeps getting better and better. Players of tender age have triumphed in the Norfolk Singles before with Josh Baxter of Halvergate winning in 2012-13 and Danny Oakes winning in 1993-94 when he played for Woodbastwick. Another young newcomer in the group is Kieran Suffolk of Thetford & Norfolk and experienced county squad bowler, John “Rocker” Jeffery of Wymondham, completes the group.  After his arrival from Kent, Gary Best quickly established himself as a “tour de force” on the local scene and won the title in both 2016-17 and 2017-18. Gary will be expected to ease through Group “D” into the knock-out stages leaving Forncett’s Tony Ottewell, Thetford’s Chloe Suffolk and Trish Taylor of Diss to compete for the other qualifying place. 2009-2010 runner-up Lee Fallows of Connaught and Wymondham’s Jack Marshall, who will represent England in the British Isles Triples Championships in Scotland this season, are favourites to qualify from Group “B” while Forncett’s Mike Smail and Carter’s Jason Woods will be expected to qualify from Group “F”.  Two bowlers who have come close to winning the title in the past are Carter’s Melly Woods, runner-up in both 2007-08 & 2014-15, and Simon Warnes of Horsford BC who lost the 2015-16 final. They have both been drawn in Group “C” and will be favourites to qualify for the knock-outs.  Bob Oatway of First Bus & Norfolk is the stand-out name in Group “H” with Thetford & Norfolk bowler Jason Martin and Wymondham’s Hayley Stratton & Billie Barker also featuring. Bob Oatway was runner-up in the 2002-03 final where he lost to Vic “Quiet Man” Woods who at that time was a major force in Norfolk reaching the final six times and winning three times over a ten year period. Whoever comes out on top in the 34th Norfolk County Singles Championship this weekend the event is sure to provide its normal moments of high drama and tactical intrigue, so if you are near Hingham on Sunday why not drop in and watch a couple of games.

National Triples Champions RS20

Neil Davidson, Jack Marshall & Chris Mann - all will be in action in Norfolk County Singles on Sunday