Cricket: Curtis is the model of control: Stephen Brenkley reports from Preston on an Aussie bowler with spinning powers

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The Independent Online
IT WOULD be quite possible to tire of fair-haired twentysomething Australians who can bend a slow ball prodigiously and still ensure it lands on the spot. What Shane Warne did on most of the Test cricket grounds in England last summer, Cameron Curtis repeated at the Guild Hall here yesterday.

He was much the youngest of the four men contesting the World Indoor Bowls pairs final but, in a way uncomfortably reminiscent (for any Englishmen watching) of Warne, he played with masterly control and assurance. If things went briefly wrong he would do what had worked for him the first time.

The other similarity was that both finished on the winning side. It was not, of course, as one-sided as the Ashes, but the defending champions, Gary Smith and Andy Thomson of England, were eventually cast aside with a cavalier disregard. Cajoled and encouraged throughout by his partner, Ian Schubach, the younger of the Australians responded as his contemporary often does to Allan Border. With zest.

Almost two sets had passed before the title-holders pulled themselves back into the match. Having done so, painstakingly, they immediately found themselves out of it again. Schubach and Curtis charged through the fourth set in three ends. A pair of unstoppable rhinos could not have been so difficult to deter and they won it 7-0.

The match seemed strange without the presence of Allcock and Bryant (Tony and David), the only two bowls players of whom many people, even now, have heard, probably because this was only the second time in nine years and indeed ever that they had not reached the pairs final. The eventual winners beat them easily in the semis and maybe Bryant, after 30 years at the top, is at last too old for the big time. Maybe.

He will have noticed some changes during this time, not least in the performance of the crowd in the minutes before the start of big matches. Yesterday's fervent lot, cheering and foot- stamping, would not have been disgraced before the most fiery of evangelical preachers. They know when to be quiet, however, but the concentration of the players is so intense that little would disturb them.

Curtis was obviously ready for his moment in the spotlight, and Schubach had no doubts. 'I knew he could do it,' he said. 'He's come on so much already since last year and that was his first on the mat.'

Curtis is the pair's lead bowler and time and again got near enough the jack to guide his partner and worry the opposition. Thomson, finalist in today's singles, especially kept putting it wide and short enough for a call-up to the West Indies to be on the cards. It was to his credit that he managed to make a fight of it, but the Aussies were not to be outdrawn.

Afterwards Schubach confided that Curtis had pulled himself together and got himself fit, in all shedding four stone in the past four years. Warne did something similar.