Albert Einstein is widely (and wrongly, it seems) credited with the remark that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting different results. He – or whoever did coin the phrase – would have seen clear evidence of insanity at Alston in this week’s West Tyne Cup Final, as player after player tried to make bowls bend on a green which was clearly not going to allow any such fancy notions. Indeed, if you caught the wrong edge of the slight slope the bowl would go right against the bias and end up in more danger of finishing on the rink string than on the jack.
It was disappointing to see how much we struggled with that situation, especially as we had had a practice session in the league fixture. Having said that, the Alston players were also struggling to make bowls obey instructions, and the basic point was that once a lead or second had put an early bowl in close it was highly unlikely that anybody would move or replace it. And despite the effects of the straight hand, firing was not an option because the slope and bumps meant that any slight deviation was magnified – a lunar probe heading off into a distant galaxy simply because of a slight miscalculation early on.
Do you get the impression we lost? Yes, of course we did. We were well beaten, with two rinks losing and the third salvaging a draw on the last end; and we should have played (or rather, thought things out) better. Alston had already seen off Hexham House in an earlier round and will be delighted to lift the Cup. There is a good tradition in bowls that one doesn’t criticise other greens, and of course we shall respect that tradition. The point remains that in a game of line, length and luck, we all accept the luck element, but usually in the sense of rubs or wicks – there shouldn’t be any luck involved as to whether a bowl continues on its chosen line or reaches the target area.
We certainly had no luck in the Nines this week, as the game was postponed after about 48 hours of non-stop rain – nothing very heavy, but persistent and showing no signs of improvement on the afternoon of the game. So yet another game is added to the backlog, and we now have four Nines matches on four consecutive evenings starting 17 August. The match reports for that week may seem a bit repetitive.
The rain had not been bad enough to stop the last remaining Triples team from playing a West Tyne semi-final at Hexham House on Monday. Trevor, Keith and Brian played a team including Shaun and Richard Blaylock and despite losing a five quite early on managed to keep the scores close enough before securing a six and an overall lead of four with just three ends to go. Shaun was left with the last bowl to score four to draw, but despite his “hit and hope” finale the bowls were so well spread and mixed up that only a burned end would have done. He scored a one.
The ladies were at Benfield in the Collins & Shipley, playing their nearest rivals in the race to avoid relegation. Calling it a must-win game would perhaps make it sound too pressured, but a win would nevertheless have been very handy. In the event only one rink won and the whole match was lost by six shots on aggregate, so that it finished 10-2 to Benfield, who overtook us in the league. We are now below the dotted line again, albeit with a game in hand on one of the two teams above us. To make matters worse, Amble pulled off a spectacular 12-0 win against league leaders Bedlington, while Cowpen & Crofton beat Ponteland 11-1: the latter result in particular sent them way ahead of us in the table. With four home games now to come the challenge clearly is to perform like those home teams at Amble and Blyth – you don’t have to be Albert Einstein to know that anyone can be beaten on the day.