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Winds Diminish, Field Narrows in
First Day of Knock-out Ladder

by Hartley Slater
Posted November 12, 1997

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It is Day Three of the tournament, but the first day of the Knock-out. Hartley Slater devotes his full attention to two matches in the "bottom half" of the Knock-out in this exclusive play-by-play report. The top half (played on Day Four) is lead by the top seed, and the bottom half by the second seed. Each of these balanced sides of the ladder starts with 16 players, halving in successive knock-out rounds to only one player - the two finalists who will meet on Sunday.

Louw (South Africa) v Faulkner (Australia): Game One

Wynard Louw, South Africa
Louw sets up on the fifth turn, and starts break, but leaving a ball behind on A baulk. Keeps moving it in during the break, which ends with a failed hoop at 1-back - Faulkner being then beautifully set up with a ball at 1 and 2. Nice break from him and a controlled leave after 3-back. Louw hits one of the balls in corner 4, and there's a ball at 2. Has he a break made? Yes, to 4-back, setting up a 2-4 leave in preparation for a triple, but not getting it quite right.

But Faulkner misses, allowing Louw to set up, nicely cross-wiring Faulkner's balls at his hoop, 1-back. Faulkner tries to jump the hoop to his other ball - but he does not! Louw then gets going but blobs in 3-back, Faulkner, however, misses the ball in the hoop, so Louw continues with that ball, but a mix-up at penult means he misses after it, with Faulkner too near. Faulkner starts on his second, very secure, break, trying for a straight triple at the end, but not getting a good rush over to penult. Sets a cross-peg leave, after rover. Louw misses and Faulkner proceeds with his ball at 4-back, but cannot get a ball after penult. Louw hits in, and makes the point for his forward ball - rover. Faulkner fires on the leave and misses; Louw makes 4-back but can't get penult. Faulkner hits in - only rover to make. Does so. Game to Faulkner.

Mulliner (England) v McInerney the Elder (Ireland): Game One

Meanwhile, Mulliner hits in with the fourth ball in his game, getting a break going immediately, with control of all balls before 4. Very speedy. Too speedy, in fact, since he over-runs position at 6. McInerney hits in, but takes off and goes out. So Mulliner completes his break to 3-back - not further because of a few unconsidered shots. Good leave, however.

McInerney misses. Mulliner then off on his second, and more settled break, peeling the forward ball through 3-back after 4. But again he gets into trouble on the way to 3-back, leaving McInerney an easy shot. McInerney starts to perform - round to 4-back, no worries, with a smart, tight, cross-peg leave. Mulliner misses both balls on the east boundary, firing from B baulk, so McInerney is away on his second break - now to the stick - knocking Mulliner's forward ball into 4-back, and having to peel it, in the process.

Mulliner hits one of McInerney's balls, at 2, and has a ball near his hoop at 3-back. He manages the straight penult peel, and the rover peel (almost) after that hoop, pegging out both his ball and McInerney's. McInerney, with four points to make, misses the ball in rover, going to B baulk; Mulliner makes rover and approaches the peg. McInerney misses the open ball: Game to Mulliner.

Louw v Faulkner: Game Two

In their second game, Louw hits on the fifth turn and is away. But he misses the return ball after 2, and Faulkner hits in. But then he goes out, so Louw gets the play again, continuing from 3, with a nice wired leave after 3-back. Faulkner misses the lift shot, and Louw starts on his second break, but can't get a ball after 1. Faulkner hits and starts his first break, but can't make hoop 3.

Louw, however, does not hit an easy shot, so Faulkner continues, but after 4 goes out. Louw is in a position to triple, but it won't work, so he just goes round to the stick with a tight cross-peg leave. Faulkner misses on the lift, and Louw goes on the peg out. Second game to Louw.

Mulliner v McInerney: Game Two and Match

Stephen Mulliner, England
Meanwhile, in the second game on the other court, Mulliner hits in with the third ball, and rushes across to 1, making it, then separating his balls. McInerney does not hit in, and in fact goes out near Mulliner, letting him in again. Mulliner does not get a good approach to 1 with his second ball, so he joins up in corner two. McInerney withdraws one ball in the lawn to corner four, and Mulliner tries for 2, not getting position. McInerney throws another ball away, now into corner one. Very cautious stuff! Mulliner makes 2, then goes to corner four croqueting the ball there to hoop 3. McInerney hits that to corner two!

Mulliner rushes over to the west boundary with the ball still for 1, goes for position at 1 with the ball in corner one, but has to retreat. McInerney puts the open ball into corner four, Mulliner makes 1, brings out the ball in corner two, and so has three balls, but 2 is a difficult hoop. He finally decides to try it, and makes it, so he's away, and after hoop 3 he picks up the ball in corner four. No problems in the break to 4-back.

McInerney misses after the leave, giving Mulliner four balls. But he does not proceed, giving McInerney a chance to hit in, He doesn't, and Mulliner capitalizes on the result, getting round to the stick. He leaves one opponent ball in penult, another to the west of it, eight yards or so away. McInerney misses with the ball in the hoop from B baulk, and then Mulliner proceeds to the stick. Game and Match to Mulliner. McInerney is entered into the Plate.

Louw v Faulkner: Game Three and Match

The third and deciding game on the first court starts with Louw hitting in on the fourth turn and setting the green up. Faulkner puts his balls together (is this wise?) which enables Louw to get going. All is O.K. until he blobs at 3-back. But Faulkner misses an easy one, so Louw continues, but only to 4-back, setting the green then for his other ball. Faulkner misses, giving Louw another two balls! Louw organises himself for a triple, and sets off, but he hits the ball after 4, and so can't rush it back to the ball peeled through 4-back. A very big split partly solves the problem, but the rush obtained behind his partner ball goes wild, so it looks like the triple is off. Not so, as it turns out, since a rush after 1-back puts the partner ball in peeling position, and penult is made. But after 2-back there are further problems, leading to his sticking in 3-back.

Faulkner misses an easy one, so Louw continues, missing the rover peel, somehow, from a foot in front, and having to do a saving shot, without rover itself being made. Faulkner hits at last, but from a ball a foot away does not get position at 1! Louw misses the two balls at 1 rom hoop 2, which gives Faulkner the chance of a load and hold out of corner one, which he takes. He's off! But after the first hoop he misses the pilot ball, giving Louw a double.

Louw misses too, so Faulkner continues to 4-back with a nice leave. Louw, four points to make, hits in, and makes one of them, and then lays up, trying to wire himself from Faulkner. But there is an open ball which Faulkner hits. He makes 1 with that ball, but again misses an easy one. So Louw gets back in with the ball yet to make rover, makes that point but does not get the rush back to his partner - or the rush on his partner ball from the take off - to clinch the peg-out in that turn. Nevertheless, he has a go, from beside hoop 3 - and leaves the forward ball near the stick, pegging one ball out.

Faulkner misses all balls. So Louw takes the game and the match. Faulkner goes into the Plate.

[Watch for more exclusive play-by-play reportage by Hartley Slater from Bunbury for Croquet World Online Magazine.]

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