It was a grey but promising morning on the 7th sept at the South London Bowls club once home to the EBA (English Bowls Association). Venue to the first ever KNCC Trophy an event which was created by Andrew Newell, to try and raise money and the profile of the sport in Jamaica. Andrew had 3 other internationals competing in this event Craig Burgess (England short mat champion and player) Kevin Rees (Walsh Short Green player for over 5 Years) and Ali Akbar number 1 player from the UAE and past competitor in the world championships and champions of champions.
It was a simple format of all four players playing each other once in the group stage getting 4 points for a win 2 for a draw and 1 for a loss. All group stage matches were 5 ends long giving the players no room for error.
First match saw Andrew Newell play his first ever match under a Jamaican flag on the lawn against Kevin Rees from Wales. Although the match was all square after 3 ends at 2-2 Andrew gave away a bad 4 shots on the 4th end. Only to give away 1 shot on the last end to lose the match Kevin 7-2 Andrew
Craig Burgess hit the ground running with a big win other Ali Akbar who seemed to still be getting to grips with the running of the ground. Craig 9-1 Ali
Andrew met Craig in his second match this was a much tighter affair although the odds would have been on a Craig win going on the bases of both their first matches. Andrew was 2 shots down by the beginning of the 5th end and would have to work hard not to end up with another defeat. It was a even end but Craig found his self-2 down after delivering his last wood leaving Andrew the chance to get his and Jamaica’s first ever win on a lawn bowls green with his last wood but Andrew sent his a short wood up and had to settle for a draw. Craig 6-6 Andrew
Ali worked hard in his second match and came out on top with a close victory over the Walsh player Kevin Rees. Giving him his first 4 points of the day. Ali 6-4 Kevin
Kevin and Craig then did battle, in a match that ended with former English short mat champion winning. Craig 8-3 Kevin
The first ever win for Jamaica in lawn bowls came in Andrews’s last group match against Ali Akbar. Andrew was always in control and dominated the match winning it comfortably. Andrew 11-1 Ali
By the end of the group state matches the final standings was
1) Craig Burgess (England) 10pts
2) Andrew Newell (Jamaica) 7pts
3) Kevin Rees (Wales) 6pts
4) Ali Akbar (UAE) 6pts
During the interval the public that came out to watch were given the opportunity to try the sport of lawn bowls and try they did. Even the competitors were out there giving coaching tips to the public to try and improve their game. All this to the music played by Ramjam radio and Dj Glen T to really add that Jamaican flavour to the event. While all the time smelling the scent of jerk chicken being cooked in the air.
The first of the semi-finals started where Craig who topped the group with only a draw with Andrew to blemish his record was meeting Kevin who’s only win so far came in his first match against Andrew. Both players were playing to win which gave the spectators a great example of world class competitive bowls. This match went all the way to the last and 7th end in which Kevin came out on top and booked his self into the final to try and win 2 tickets to Trinidad.
Craig (England) 6-7 Kevin (Wales)
The second semi was Ali Akbar vs Andrew Newell after just beating Ali in his last match convincingly many would have felt Andrew would book a place in the final but Ali didn’t read that script. After winning the first end Ali kept his jack short and stuck to his game plan. Andrew unable to deal with the short jack could only manage to get second shots and found himself falling more and more behind with every end completed. This was not going to be a fairy tale ending for the Jamaican lawn bowls player as he crashed out of the semi in only 6 of the 7 ends. Andrew (Jamaica) 0-6 Ali (UAE)
The final saw the 2 lowest ranked players in the group stage, competing for the KNCC Trophy and 2 tickets to Trinidad which was offered by one of the event sponsors Caribbean Airlines. Kevin too a big and early lead over Ali but unlike the other matches this would be 11 ends. During the middle ends Ali began to take control keeping the jack short and clawing away at the gap. By end 10 Ali was 7-5 down and needed at least 2 shots to force an extra end, with Ali already holding 1 with his last wood to play, he kept his nerve and played a wonderful second shot. With the pressure on Kevin was unable to disturb Ali’s 2 shots bringing the match to an extra end. With the crowd glued to the action the players continued to entertain with great shots. Ali had the advantage with a resting toucher and the security of having the last wood of the end still yet to play. Kevin’s last shot could decide who wins and who losses the 1st KNCC Trophy, but Kevin’s last shot was unable to move Ali’s shot bowls and without playing his last shot Ali claims victory in the KNCC Trophy. Ali 8-7 Kevin after extra end
After the presentation Ali Akbar had gifts of his own to give out. Golden horses with coloured stones imbedded in side was given to each player and officials with team shirts and other stuff given out to catering staff.
When asked about his feelings about the event Andrew Newell said: I couldn’t have really asked for more. The weather was good to us and the standard of the bowls was excellent. We did something different with bowls today.
How often have you watched a bowls match with loud music playing and children running around blowing whistle and making noise? Bowls doesn’t have to be this quite sport people think it is! You can inject a lot of life into it without disturbing the concentration of the players and lowering the standard of the bowls played. I’m so happy to see so many Afro Caribbean and other nationality giving a sport a try which they would never have done if it wasn’t for this event.