Robert Paxton will meet Mark Dawes in the final of the World Indoor Singles, at Potters, in just the second all-English final in the last 12 years.
It will also be the ‘youngest’ final since 2001 – when Paul Foster beat Richard Corsie – with the two thirty-somethings set to do battle tomorrow afternoon after overcoming Wayne Willgress and Darren Burnett respectively.
Potters wildcard Willgress has been the talk of the tournament after knocking three former world champions out en route to the semi-final, but he found Paxton too tough a nut to crack, with his vocal band of supporters unable to roar him on to victory, although he exits not only with his head held high, but also with a great chance of being back next year after climbing up to 15th on the provisional world ranking list.
He must now cross his fingers and hope – from the sidelines as he has not qualified – results go his way at the International Open and he secures a coveted spot in the elite.
For Paxton this could be a monumental year as he will be jetting off to Australia in April to represent England at the Commonwealth Games and heading there as a world champion will give him a huge boost.
“I’m pleased to be back in the final and hopefully Dawesy doesn’t turn up,” laughed Paxton. “He’s due a bad game, he’s found too many good ones these past two weeks. He’s been ridiculously good. I haven’t been here many years, but I don’t think I’ve seen anyone play that well through pairs and singles without having a game where they’ve had to scrap.
“It should be a great game, you just want to give yourself a chance to compete and I hope to go one better than last tme.”
The scoreline of 6-3 11-4, with Paxton winning 12 of the 17 ends, suggests a one-sided affair, but it was nothing of the sort as every end was keenly contested, with the luck just going the Ilminster clubman’s way.
Six singles gave him the first set and although he edged 3-0 ahead in the second, his plucky opponent wasn’t about to throw in the towel and by end six lay just one shot adrift.
But a big count of three on end seven put Paxton within touching distance of the final and needing to score multiple shots on the next to give himself a chance of extending the match into a tie-break, Willgress drove at the head and discovered his luck had all run out with Paxton’s three red bowls left near the jack and victory was his.
Dawes is through to his first-ever final after beating 2014 champion Burnett 8-7 10-5 to maintain his terrific run in the competition.
The Blackpool Newton Hall ace has enjoyed a fabulous championships so far, winning the Pairs with Jamie Chestney and now finds himself on the cusp of a historic double thanks to a brilliant display against the Commonwealth Games gold medalist.
Dawes bowled excellently to overcome Mark Royal in the quarter-final on Friday, but this was a notch above that as he barely gave the Scot an inch, finding the jack with laser-like precision end after end, with his grimacing, gurning opponent unable to stem the tide.
He carved out an early 4-1 lead with two doubles and that soon became 8-4, and with Burnett chasing the game, he managed to claw back three shots but it wasn’t enough and first blood went to Dawes.
Burnett afterwards spoke of a back problem that was hindering him, but even without any such issues, he would have struggled to contain Dawes, who turned around a 2-0 deficit in the second set to a 7-2 advantage across four ends.
The Arbroath policeman used weight to keep himself in the game, picking up a three on end seven, but this only served to delay the inevitable as Dawes claimed a treble on the next end to wrap up the match and book his place in the showpiece event.
Twelve months ago, Dawes suffered an ignominious first-round exit to 70-something Charlie Bence, but what a difference 12 months makes as he now prepares to compete for a second world title and first in the Singles, and just one word from the Radcliffe ace summed it up, “unbelievable”.