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Lawn bowls

The opening day of the Commonwealth Games lawn bowls competition will be almost 414 years to the day since the most famous game of bowls in British history.

That took place on Plymouth Hoe on 15 July 1588 when Sir Francis Drake declined to interrupt his game despite the proximity of the Spanish Armada.

"There is plenty of time to finish the game and beat the Spaniards," Drake is said to have replied when he was urged to board ship and set sail to intercept King Philip II's fleet.

And, of course, the English admiral was right. He went on to score an emphatic triumph over the Spaniards although, sadly, posterity does not record the result of his bowls match.

However his refusal to leave the bowling green is an indication of how seriously the British have always taken the sport that dates back to the 13th century, although there is a school of thought that claims the Egyptians were playing a form of bowls as early as 5000 BC.

Bowls historians record that the first British bowling club were founded at Chesterfield and Southampton just before the start of the 14th century.

Not long afterwards, King Edward III is reputed to have banned his bowmen from playing bowls because they were neglecting their archery practice and 200 years later, 11 of Shakespeare's plays included references to the sport, although the academics are still debating whether the Bard played the game himself.

WG Grace, the legendary English cricketer was also a bowls enthusiast and was the first president of the English Bowling Association from 1903 to 1905. The Women's Bowling Association was formed in 1931.

The game is now played in almost 40 countries and has been a featured sport at the Commonwealth Games since the inaugural event in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1930.

Althought established in England, Australia and South Africa many counties have broken through with Zimbabwe, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Botswana and Papa New Guinea all winning medals.

The longetivity of the games is shown by winners such as Englandís Percy Baker, who won silver in 1958, and David Bryant who won Commonwealth Gold in 1962, 1970, 1974 and 1978 at the age of 46.

It was a major success at the last Games in Kuala Lumpur four years ago and the sport's popularity in the UK ensures that there will be no shortage of interest when nine days of Manchester 2002 action start at the state-of-the-art bowling complex at Heaton Park on July 26.

So count yourself in!

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The English Bowling Association

*Lawn Bowls Schedule
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*Medals and Records
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