England international Matthew Orrey will be flying the flag for Lincolnshire as the county’s sole representative at the World Indoor Bowls Championships this week, although the Grantham ace has been handed a huge task on his first-ever appearance in the singles at Potters Resort in Norfolk.
Orrey has to face none other than four-time world champion and 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Paul Foster when he makes his debut in the tournament at the hallowed venue on Wednesday, but he will be travelling to Norfolk in a positive frame of mind.
“It will be my debut at Potters and you don’t get many better players than Paul Foster,” admitted Orrey, who has a big future ahead of him in the sport. “I’m hoping to go there and beat him. I believe on my day I have got as good a game as some of the top players, but it’s all about your level of consistency and more than anything for me, it will be the ability to adapt to the atmosphere and the venue.
“I have never played him before. I do have the element of surprise as I doubt he will know me at all. It’s only recently that I have broken into the full England squad – he won’t have seen me at internationals yet.”
Foster may have ruled the world in 1998, 2001, 2005 and 2011, but he has been known to bow out to qualifiers at the first hurdle, most recently in 2012 when he lost to Welsh youngster Ross Owen, and this chink of light has given Orrey food for thought.
“If you’re going to meet any of the top boys then you’re better off meeting them in the first round as they get more consistent once they get more into the tournament,” he said.
“He has got everything to lose and I’ve got everything to gain so there’s no pressure on my shoulders, which is an added bonus as when I’m playing national competitions and events in my area, the pressure’s more on me to perform. It’s nice to be the underdog for a change.”
Orrey came through a tough qualifying event at Lincoln in September, winning five matches in one day to book his place at the indoor sport’s blue riband event at the Hopton-on-Sea leisure resort.
“I have been trying to qualify for World Bowls Tour events for the last two or three years and it’s a gruelling day when you’re playing five or six games all against decent opponents,” he went on. “There have been the likes of Billy Jackson and Simon Skelton in them, so they are always pretty busy fields and I was pleased to qualify back in September.”
He beat Lincoln’s Danny Brown in a nail-biting final, winning the first set easily 10-2, before tying the second 4-4, which was enough for victory.
Orrey, an IT engineer, said: “My first two bowls in the first set against Danny were pretty good and I put him under a lot of pressure. I didn’t play so well in the second, but thankfully got over the line and had to draw the shot with my last bowl to tie that set and win, so that was very pleasing.
“I actually lost to Danny in the final of the International Open qualifying a couple of years ago, but was fortunate to get a wildcard instead that year.
“I played Mervyn King at the International Open at Blackpool, but lost on a tie-break – he drew the shot with his last bowl. He had about a foot to win the game and it was too much to leave for a player of his quality.”
On last minute preparations for the match, he added: “I should have a good three hours on the portable rink before my game on Wednesday afternoon.
“As it is my debut, I just want to take it game by game, but I genuinely believe I can give Foster a run for his money and hopefully just get over the line. I believe I will have a fighting chance.
“I will have a lot of support going from my bowls club in Grantham – they are putting on a bus for them, so they are really putting in the effort to support me and I hope to repay their faith in me.”