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Frequent Errors Heighten the Bunbury Drama in First Two Days of World Championship Play
by Hartley Slater
Posted November 10, 1997

RELATED LINKS: for daily results and player profiles:
World Croquet Federation Website
Western Australia Croquet Association

This is the first of several reports from correspondent Hartley Slater, who arrived at the Moorabinda courts in Bunbury midday on Sunday. His report takes us through the first two days of play, which saw the elimination of the lower seeds in each of the eight five-person blocks - from Switzerland, Italy, Guernsey, Spain, Egypt, Jersey, Belgium, and Japan. These players from the weaker and developing croquet-playing countries were given a rare opportunity to compete against the best players in the world in the block play, and will have further competitive play in the knock-out round which will eventually include 32 of the 40 players in the World Championship.

Sunday fine and warm; the sea beckons from my hotel window, cool and refreshing, but I'm off to Moorabinda to watch the world's best in action on the croquet greens - and tennis courts next door. Two cricket games nearby, and all of the tennis cannot deter me from my aim: a feast awaits, who could resist tucking in?

Jerry Stark
I arrive to see Jerry Stark (USA) rolling to the peg from a distance, and missing with his forward ball, giving Bob Jackson (New Zealand) a last chance. No way! 26-20 to the US. But Mik Mehas' opponent, on the next green, the (dreaded?) dreadlocked New Zealander Shane Davis, is turning the tables, finishing off a triple peel against the Californian. But the rover peel gets complicated: the forward ball sticks in the hoop, with the back ball only inches away. Can Davis bundle the pair of them through? Yes!, and with further great fortune leaving the forward ball clear to be rushed past rover to the peg. The Californian goes down 14-26.

Jacques Fournier
In Jacques Fournier's game against fast-hitting Greg Bury (Australia), Fournier (USA) is on 4-back and the stick, but Bury, with a ball on rover, has hit in with his other ball and is looking to have the game. He gives himself a hard jump shot at 3, however, and breaks down in the most fortunate position for his opponent, who has no trouble making his remaining 5 points; the game goes to the 16-year-old Arizonan, 26-13.

Jacques' elder brother, of course, had roundly defeated Colin Pickering (Australia) 26-4. Overall, a fair start for the US of A, with only one loss on the first day.

Robert Fulford
The leading contender, Robert Fulford of England - who had completed a sextuple peel, a three-ball triple and twelve hoops on two balls at practise in Perth earlier in the week, then took on Pickering, in the first full game I was to watch.

Fulford missed with the third ball, but Pickering, who got control with the fourth ball, stuck with red in hoop 1. Further drama came at once when Fulford (wanting to peel red?) also stuck in hoop 1 and had to withdraw to corner 4. Pickering's response? Nine hoops. But a mischance at the end left Fulford with an easy shot at the leave - and Pickering, for some reason, kept his balls together. This enabled Fulford to get hold of all four balls - not a thing to do with the three-time world champion! He TPO'd Pickering, leaving him one ball, twelve hoops to make, and a contact lift! He made three: Fulford won 26-16.

Local heroine and president of the Western Australia Croquet Association, Helene Thurston, won both of her games with very careful and consistent play, to the great delight of the large gallery of supporters. Tonight there is to be a Civic Reception in Bunbury, to complement the "Vice-Regal" reception last week.

Now It's Monday, Day Two

Early morning play, three games together: Jerry Stark v Peter Payne, Bruce Fleming v Masaki Yamada, and Fulford v the elder Fournier.

Peter Payne
Stark gets in, but incautiously attempts a difficult hoop 2 to leave Payne with two balls. Payne sets up but Stark hits in, then misses a short one to give Payne three balls. No-one getting going, with plenty of joining up when opponent is also joined up, which with better play would be fatal. Stark eventually gets moving, but sticks in 2-back leaving Payne an easy baulk lift, with a lovely pilot in 1, and a lovely pioneer at 2. Who could ask for anything more? But a poor hoop approach at 5 leaves Payne with only four hoops, and a defensive withdrawal.

Stark hits in, approaches 2 back and makes it this time - but misses Payne's ball on the other side! Alas and Alack! Payne now goes round to 4-back with his second ball. Stark misses his shot the leave. Payne takes up play with his first ball and makes it as far as the approach to 1-back, but having left a pioneer at 2-back, his tactical withdrawal to his partner ball is too tempting to Stark, who is on 1 with his second ball. Stark hits, and is away! Well away, it seems - but he misses the ball before 3-back.

Payne is then in, but fails the hoop with the ball at 4-back. Stark in. Stark out! Stark back in completing his second ball tour, with a nice controlled leave. No problem finishing: 26-15.

Meanwhile Fleming is showing them all how it's done, taking all the play (except for three hits) from Yamada in a text book triple peel: 26-0.

Top Contender Robert Fulford Takes Iffy Game from Don Fournier

Things are not going so swimmingly on the third green, not by a long chalk; my word! Fulford ambitiously tries to get going with the third ball into play, but does not get position at hoop 1. The fourth ball does not hit, and Fulford is back. No troubles, nine hoops? No - uncharacteristically he misses at 2, giving Fournier a chance. Fournier misses. So Fulford proceeds - it was just a hiccup? No! Another miss after 4. Miss. Miss. 1 hoop to Fournier. Tactic. Tactic. Hit by Fulford! But sticks in hoop 1. All very, very iffy this morning.

Now Fournier is in with a highly convenient ball in 1 to rush peel to his hoop at 2. Misses the hoop! Oh dear! Fulford in, now on 2 himself, thanks to the peel. It looks like he has it all in his grasp. But he faults at the hoop, too, and the tables are exactly turned. Fournier, however, over-rolls and can't make the hoop. Dear, oh dear. Fournier joins partner. Fulford (in desperation?) goes together too; now Fournier has access to all four balls! Can he make 2? Yes! But he can't get the ball on the other side! Joins up. Fulford joins up (!?). Hit and miss - mainly miss. Well, well, well.

After an hour and a quarter a total of eight points have been made. Fournier does not make 4, Fulford hit that open ball, takes off, but goes out! What happened? Fulford is back in, but sticks in 5. Unbelievable! Fournier hits the ball in 5, and with three balls, and then four, gets round to 4-back smoothly. Is the stickiness over? Fulford misses all three balls available from B baulk. So Fournier returns to play the ball that had the horrors at 2. Makes 2 but gets no further, at first, then after mixed play makes it to the stick, with a nice 4-back peel. The upset of the tournament at hand?

Fulford on 2 and 5, Fournier with 4 points to make. Fulford hits! Now he gets through 5. But he can't get the ball on the other side!!! So he hits a ball 14 yards away on the east boundary. As he leaves 1-back he puts one of Fournier's balls in the hoop, ready for his second ball's play: the leave after 3-back has his two balls on the west boundary with his second ball having a rush to the fourth ball between 3 and 4. Long think by Fournier. He fires from B baulk at the three balls to the west, but hits the upright at 2, and stays there. So Fulford has an easy set-up for a triple. No worries!

No worries? Fulford's penult peel goes to one side, then a jump is needed at 1-back - just to keep us sweating! He completes the penult peel on the way to 2-back. Rover peel gets stuck and he has to (fully) jump it, leaving that point still to be made. Which he does, after the hoop, with a very strong rush. He then puts that ball near the stick and pegs out his playing ball, and Fournier's forward ball. Fournier still has 3 points to make. He does not hit in: curtains for Fournier.

Time for some overdue refreshment! But more later.

Monday Afternoon's Play is Not as Messy as the Morning's

New Zealand v the USCA: Jane Macintyre v the elder Fournier. NZ got well into a steady break to 4-back, after US failed at 3 with his first ball. The cross-peg leave didn't work, however, so Macintyre separated her balls. Fournier hits in and sets up; Macintyre hits back in and continues from 4-back - but not to the stick, wisely setting up after penult, and getting the cross-peg leave right, this time. Fournier misses the lift, but NZ takes off and goes out near his ball, giving him the innings again. He takes his ball around from 3 to 1-back, going long after 6 and missing the return shot. NZ sets up for her backward ball on 1. In the following break she starts the rover peel at 5, completing it on the way to 1-back, but missing that ball (now in pivot position) after 1-back. Fournier also misses. NZ gets going again, but fails now at 3-back. Fournier misses and NZ makes 3-back.

In and out, then US gets moving with his forward ball, to 4-back (his other ball being still on 1). NZ misses the leave, giving Fournier a good start on an all round break, even triple peel. Triple peel it is: Fournier wins 26-21.

Stark Loses a Good One to Openshaw

David Openshaw
UK v US: Openshaw v Stark. Into the game a way, and Stark on 4-back with one ball, but the other three are well behind, on 1 and 3. Stark misses a rush to his point, giving Openshaw a break to 4-back, with a very good leave. Stark misses on the lift. Openshaw off with a very controlled second break, including a 4-back peel after making 4-back itself - but sticking in rover with Stark nearby. Stark sets up for his backward ball, on 3, and continues with a steady break through to 3-back, being then, unfortunately, unable to get a ball.

Openshaw had all the balls conveniently together, as a result, and made the rover point, setting up for his other ball. Stark misses, and Openshaw proceeds, but sticks in penult. Stark in; just sets up; Openshaw misses, so Stark makes 4-back, penult and rover with one ball, setting up for the other. Openshaw fires a long shot which is on all the way except the last foot. So Stark rushes to 4 back, makes it - but in approaching penult he does not get position, leaving Openshaw's balls close together. Openshaw makes his last two hoops and pegs out: 26-22.

Good croquet! That's how it goes! Wind blowing up strongly; the weather is set to change.

[In the five days remaining in the 1997 World Championship, we expect much more reportage from Hartley Slater in His most efficient present-tense, staccato style.]


 
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