Sunday 9th March saw the University of Birmingham debut not only their first competition on the BUTBA Tour, but also a new format to the calendar – Baker Fives.
Students and ex-students travelled to Rugby Superbowl to compete in the second tournament of the year in which student and ex-student’s competed against one another. With the addition of Birmingham’s fives competition to the calendar along with the annual fives held in Nottingham at the start of the season, this year’s BUTBA Tour has been all about coming together as a team, and Birmingham are by far one of the best university teams out there to represent a team orientated event. To add a twist to the generic baker format, all teams played five games of five man, followed by five games of baker before qualification.
Fives Man Team
Straight off the bat, it was apparent that, with ex-students and students in the same division, competition was fierce. Nottingham Trent’s team of Kirsty Ralph, Mike Chan, Alex Girling, Naomi Drury and honorary Ben Williamson took an early lead in the competition with a first handicap game of 1171. Portsmouth also held up the student side, scoring a handicap total of 1165 after the first game, with their team of James Horwood, Jamie Kingston, Chris Hunnisett, Stuart Midwinter and newly appointed BUCS Men’s Captain Jon Spivey all bowling high games. Not wanting to disappoint on the ex-student side, however, Team Awesome (Dave Abbott, Rich Balaam, Paul Williams, John Plumridge, and Alex Fitzpatrick) equaled the second highest first handicap game, also bowling an 1165. With Abbott bowling an impressive first game of 271 (224 scratch). Both Team Awesome and Portsmouth continued their impressive streaks into the second game, with Team Awesome bowling an 1163 handicap and Portsmouth boosting their score by 1190. It was Sheffield, however, who put themselves on the map by this stage, with their team of Julie Lymath, Aleksander Parvanov, Abdullah Al-Tamimi, Carl Whitfield and Darren Ellis bowling a massive second handicap game of 1236, including a 257 (200 scratch) from Al-Tamimi and a massive 299 (259 scratch) from Ellis.
By the half way point, it seemed as though the students were dominating the competition, with Loughborough’s team of Curtis Hooper, Mark Hodds, Roy Meng, Nikki Stam and Philippa Relf picking up their games to a steady pace, with a high third handicap game of 1163 boosting them up the tables. Kate Brown and The Gentlemen Bowlers (Kate Brown being joined by Simon Wilkins, Jared Allen, Tom Dunn and Matt Kokolski) bowled an impressive third game handicap of 1176, showing a steady rise in scores from them throughout the day. Nottingham’s A team of Saiful Salihudin, Simon Atkins, Tom White, Declan Greaves and Mike Hales finally found a line in the fourth game, scoring a handicap game of 1130, setting them up for a good finish. It was Birmingham’s B team, however, who skated through the first four games without dropping below a 1100 handicap game, with their whole team of Sam Bond, Saqib Shabbir, Reena Kaur, Julia Greenwood and Poppie Simmonds, bowling above average. Their massive score of 1197 in the fourth game put them at the top of the tables. A position which they held to the end of the fives, with a fifth handicap game of 1127 settling them at the top with a total of 5744 (3229 scratch). A massive last game from Loughborough of 1201 saw them climb to second place at the end of the fives, with a grand handicap total of 5718 for the first five games. Kate Brown and The Gentlemen Bowlers kept their third place position, just 24 pins behind Loughborough on a 5684, and only 4 pins ahead of Portsmouth.
Going into the baker fives games, with each team being allocated a composite handicap based on their fives players, pressure was on for each individual member to bring two good frames to each game, meaning competitiveness amongst the teams became high. Nottingham Trent fought back going into the baker games, scoring a massive 251 (169 scratch) on their first game, closely followed by Sultans of Swing (Damian Gray, Lee Burrows, Chris Herbert, James Larkin and Bob Nethersole) using their scratch bowlers to their advantage in getting a line of strikes, finishing on a 237 (210 scratch). Birmingham B, not wanting to let their poll position go, equaled the Sultans of Swing on a 237 (137 scratch). Nottingham Trent continued this brilliant streak throughout the second game also, ending on a 280 (198 scratch), pushing them into a top 3 position by this point. Loughborough finally found a line in the second game, putting their first game of 199 (139 scratch) behind them and bowling a massive 270 (210 scratch).
Having dropped slightly, and almost losing their table topping position to Loughborough, after their second handicap baker game of just 186 (86 scratch), Birmingham B fought back with vengeance, scoring 253 (153 scratch), and two 245’s (145 scratch) in the remainder of their baker games, boosting them even further ahead of the pack by qualification. Team Awesome also pulled themselves up in the baker section to be the highest scoring team for these fives games, finishing on a total of 1244 (1089 scratch) for their baker series, with a massive 284 (253 scratch) in the third game, and not dropping below a 200 scratch all set.
With the addition of their 1166 baker set to their 5744 from the team set, Birmingham B lay at the top of the tables at qualification with a handicap total of 6910. Closely behind was Loughborough, keeping their second place position with a total of 1119 in the baker’s added to their 5718, giving them a grand total handicap of 6837. Just 22 pins behind, and climbing the tables throughout the baker set was the only qualifying ex-student team, Team Awesome, with a grand total handicap of 6805. Nottingham Trent took the final qualification position, with a 6801, just 4 pins behind Team Awesome, and knocking out Kate Brown and The Gentlemen Bowlers by only 31 pins.
Round Robin Finals
The round robin, played as baker games, with the addition of a 50 pin bonus, meant that team were not only competing against their opposition, but also against the other two teams in the round robin for the highest scores. In the first match, 1st place seed, Birmingham B, faced 4th place seed, Nottingham Trent. Struggling to find a line, Nottingham Trent fell short in the middle of their baker game, giving Birmingham B an open playing field, leaving them to win 249 (149 scratch) to 178 (96 scratch), putting Birmingham B’s total to 299 with their 50 pin bonus. A different story was told with the first match against Team Awesome and Loughborough, with both teams struggling to find a line, ending in one of the closest matches of the day, with Team Awesome losing to Loughborough by just 1 pin, Loughborough winning 206 (146 scratch) to 205 (174 scratch). By the second match, Team Awesome had found their line again, winning their match against Nottingham Trent, who were still struggling with the baker games, with team awesome winning by a massive 100 pins (150 with bonus) 276 (245 scratch) to Trent’s 187 (105 scratch). On the other pair, despite being a much closer match on scratch games, Birmingham B won over Loughborough by 53 pins on handicap, winning 259 (159 scratch) to Loughborough’s 206 (146 scratch). Nottingham Trent finally found a line by the last game, winning their match against Loughborough, 237 (155) to 207 (147), Loughborough seeming to struggle in the round robin. Despite bowling a 200 scratch game, Team Awesome just fell short of beating Birmingham B, who won the final match 266 (166 scratch) to an admirable 231 (200 scratch), making them the only team to win all their matches in the round robin.
Starting with the individual awards, Student Male High Scratch Game went to Darren Ellis of Sheffield with a massive 259. Nottingham took the Female High Scratch Game prize, with Charlotte Richardson’s 188. In the handicap section, Portsmouth’s Jon Spivey was awarded the Male High Game with his 282, and the female award was given to Philippa Relf of Loughborough for her impressive 277. Men’s High Average in the student section went, to no surprise, to Mark Hodds from Loughborough, with a massively high average of 223.4 for the day. Kirsty Ralph of Nottingham Trent took the Female High Average with her 153.4.
In the ex-student section, the scores didn’t reflect the overall team standings, with the top scorers being mainly ex-students. Male High Game Scratch went to ex-Loughborough and Staffordshire student, Aiden Wright, for his massive 268 game. Louise Parker took the Female High Game Scratch with an impressive 245. Wright and Parker also took the High Average prizes in the ex-student section, with both bowling well above their entering averages, Wright finishing on a 210 and Parker on a 206.2. The handicap awards in the ex-student section went to scores of 279, with Dave Abbott for the men, and Kate Brown for the women. Brown also picked up the Most Above Average prize, bowling a massive 34 pins above her entering average.
In the team section, it was Team Awesome who picked up the Team High Game Scratch with their massive 1007 game, followed closely by runner’s up to the prize, DILLIGAF (Paul Marks, Louise Parker, Nicky Donowski, Steve Donowski and Phil Manning) with a 989. The Team High Game Handicap prize went to a massive 1236 game from Sheffield, who just piped Loughborough’s 1201 to the post. Awards were also given for the Baker games, with High Game Scratch going to Oscar Pistorious Doesn’t Have A Leg To Stand On (Chris May, Tom Prickett, Nicki Ewan, Jack Adams and Antony Lakey) with a massive 163, just 10 pins above Team Awesome’s 253. 10 pins also stood between Baker High Game Handicap, with Nottingham Trent taking the prize from Loughborough 280 to 270.
Nottingham Trent kept their fourth place position in the end, but Loughborough and Team Awesome traded positions, with Loughborough finishing in third and Team Awesome in second. Throughout the whole day, Birmingham B had been dominating, and at the end, the tale was no different, with them claiming victory position.
BUTBA thanks University of Birmingham’s Shaun Parsons and Georgina Overy for a brilliant competition, and an interesting addition to the formats seen previously on the BUTBA Tour. Hopefully, this will be a president for more interesting and diverse formats being used in the future, gearing all players up for the next stop on the calendar on the 29th March, where BUTBA members travel North one again to MFA Bowl Sheffield for the Combination Quads.