Smoking row leaves bowlers fuming as Shropshire win bad-tempered match

The genteel world of Shropshire bowls has been rocked by a bad-tempered clash in a county semi-final.

Shropshire’s away aces triumphed in a controversial clash away in Wigan
Shropshire’s away aces triumphed in a controversial clash away in Wigan

Shropshire’s match ended in acrimony after a Lancashire bowler was forced to forfeit his game for breaking the Crosfield Cup’s no-smoking-during-your-game rule.

Then, in an apparent tit-for-tat move, the Lancashire side complained about Shropshire players not wearing the correct style of tailored and black shorts.

Shropshire have faced Yorkshire the last four times they have reached the Crosfield Cup final – and a cracking fifth showdown awaits next month.

As the dust finally settles on a controversy-laden semi-final victory over Lancashire on Sunday, all Salopian bowls lovers are daring to dream of only a third ever British senior county championship triumph on September 4.

And that’s what selectors Mick Jones, Keith Walton, Andy Smith and Phil King have already started plotting after masterminding a 64 shot overall victory over Lancashire in a clash that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

The leg on a sun-baked quick green at Sinclair started well for the home side with Scott Harries winning 21-4, Rich Lawson 21-9 and Callum Wraight 21-13 in the first four to build a 31 chalk lead.

“Away at Garswood Hall, we trailed by seven after four games off with Paul Evans our best winner to 11,” said a Shropshire association spokesperson.

"However, the leg in Wigan changed after Lancashire’s John Crossley had to forfeit his game against Andy Judson at No.5 with the score at 6-6 after breaking the no smoking during your game rule.”

News of the incident spread like wildfire back in Telford and sparked complaints at both legs from Lancashire players about opposing bowlers wearing shorts that were not of the required tailored and black variety.

The referees at both legs were put under severe pressure – and County President Mike Potter, Shropshire’s top referee before illness limited his appointments, was far from happy after seeing events unfold at Sinclair.

“It was a sad day and both Graham Royles (the Lancashire President) and I remarked in our after-match comments on the lack of respect shown towards the referee’s decision which, as per laws of the game, is final,” said Potter.

Thankfully, the semi-final was completed with Alex Jones winning 21-20 from 16-5 down in the middle four at home, when Will Tarrel weighed in with a 21-12 card as eight winners out of 12 added up to a 31 shot win.

On the huge green at Garswood, Gary Neal won 21-9 and Julian Cooke 21-14 on his debut to give Shropshire a 23 shot lead going into the back four, Jack Hewitt adding a 21-10 card in a 33 final margin.

Now all thoughts can turn to trying to conquer Yorkshire, who beat Shropshire by four shots in the 2016 final (at Elland and Greenfields No.2), by 27 in 2011 (Newsome and Old Shrewsbury No. 1) and also in 1998.

But in the midst of all that misery came Shropshire’s second Crosfield Cup success in 2009 when Yorkshire were seen off by 44 at Waterloo and Meole Brace No.2 – and a repeat of that is the goal now!

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