The Northants Bowling Federation county team face one of the most important matches in their long history this weekend.
They go into Saturday’s final county match of the season knowing that victory over local rivals Hunts at Whittlesey Manor will clinch their place in the final of the English Bowling Federation’s Adams Trophy for the first time since 1959.
Norfolk currently head the southern section following their last match victory over North Essex at the weekend, but Northants are only 12 points adrift, so an overall victory (worth 10 points), irrespective of how many rink wins they achieve (two points are awarded to each winning rink), will guarantee their place at Skegness against the northern champions.
Northants have only ever been to the final twice in the inter-county championship – 1929 and 1959 – and on both occasions they were runners-up, so victory against Hunts and then again in the national final on Sunday, August 23, would see history created.
Meanwhile, the Northants county competitions are reaching their climax ahead of finals day at Ketton on Sunday week.
There will be an all-Whittlesey Manor final in the two-bowl singles, with Lee Welsford facing Gavin Jinks, and there will be a repeat of last year’s Under 25 singles decider between defending champion Stephen Harris (Blackstones), who has also booked his place in the four-bowl singles final, and Jack Corney (Peterborough & District).
Crowland’s Andrew Grief will be hoping to go one better in the secretary’s singles when he faces Melvyn Beck (Whittlesey Manor), and the same goes for Whittlesey Manor duo Roger Stevens and Tony Mace in the senior pairs.
After struggling in the Johns Trophy since the decision to switch from a weekday knockout competition to a weekend ‘round robin’ contest, Hunts women ended the season on a winning note, defeating Bedfordshire 121-109 at Brampton to lift themselves off the bottom of the four-team section.
Rink wins for Judy Ford, Joan Meadows and Sheila Craig and a tie for Dina Barlow saw Hunts finish 17-3 winners to relegate Beds to the foot of the table.
Hunts men ended a disappointing campaign in the Middleton Cup with a 113-99 defeat at home to Hertfordshire that left them bottom of their four-team section.
Team manager Bob Morton commented: “Although a disappointing season, the youngsters brought in to replace experienced players played really well and can only have gained from the experience. We will be back stronger next year.”
HUNTS COUNTY CHAMPS
There was a glut of walkovers in the opening two rounds of the Hunts men’s four-bowl singles, with only 15 of the scheduled 40 ties actually settled on the green.
Defending champion Trevor Collins (Parkway) opened up with a 21-20 defeat of England international Tristan Morton (Warboys), but then lost 8-21 in the third round to clubmate Stuart Reynolds.
The first batch of county semi-finals are being staged at Brampton on Saturday – the other is at Parkway the following Saturday – but at the time of writing only the women’s fours was finalised, with Angela Kenny (Parkway) facing Val Corn (Buckden), while Linda Darani (City of Peterborough) and Catherine Popple (Parkway) clash in the other at 10am.
Hunts’ Middleton Cup player Lewis Baker (Warboys) has been chosen to make his debut for the England junior team when they bid for a hat-trick of British Isles Under 25 series titles in September.