Irish eyes were smiling when they completed the second test in the four-game format against Israel last Tuesday. For the Israelis though, it was something of an anti-climax after having shown themselves capable of holding their opponents in the previous day's first test encounter.
The Israelis were under no illusions as to the challenge they faced, yet they came out with creditable performances when they so very narrowly missed out sharing the first test honors with their formidable opponents.
In the morning session (first test), they lost both Triples games when Chaim Shefer with Boaz Marcus and Tzvika Hadar lost 23-9 to Jonathan Ross skipping for Martin McHugh and Mark McPeak, and Raymond Sher with Colin Silberstein and Ari Ben-Dor went down l9-l3 to Jim Baker with Gary McCloy and Simon Martin.
But in a complete turnabout in the afternoon session, Silberstein with Ben-Dor were in outstanding form to win l7-l6 against McCloy and McPeak, after trailing l2-l6 with three heads to play and collecting a two on the last end for their single-shot victory.
More remarkable, though, is the way in which the Israeli foursome of Shefer, Sher, Marcus and Hadar more than matched the powerful Irish side skipped by Jim Baker with Ross, Martin and McHugh. It was only by the greatest good fortune that Ireland earned a peel in the very last head with the very last bowl from Baker. Israel was four up starting the last head and lay two shots which seemed unbeatable.
A full-out drive from Baker shattered and scattered the head, sending the jack sky high to land on the boundary line one centimeter inside the rink and nearest to four Irish scattered bowls. This unexpected result was much to the dismay of the Israeli foursome.
On the day's play, Israel's performances were notable efforts vis a vis the strength of their opposition. Jim Baker has already won the world Outdoor Triples and Fours championships, and was also a world Indoors Singles champion. Ross has on more than one occasion won the Irish national Singles title and is at present ranked No. l3 in the world ranking list. Both McCloy and McHugh were in Ireland's world bowls team at the last World Championships, while the leads McPeak and Martin have already earned their British Isles international caps.
However, the following day's second test was most disappointing for the Israeli squad up against a more determined Irish team. McCloy skipped the one Trip side with Robin Horner (who replaced McHugh) and Simon Martin and won l7-12 against Silberstein skipping for Sher and Ben-Dor, while Baker together with world bowls team player Neil Booth (who replaced Ross) and McPeak, won 29-5 against Shefer's side.
In the Pairs, Booth skipping for Martin won 21-8 against Silberstein and Ben-Dor. Booth too often was successful with powerful drives to the head. In the Fours, Baker in unstoppable form led his side to a 21-11 win over Shefer's foursome.
In their six preliminary matches prior to the tests, the Israelis were up against strong provincial sides, which invariably included British Isles internationals, and did well to win four, tie one and lose one in the overall count.
Both Ireland and Israel used the tests as warm-ups for next year's World Championships for the purpose of determining their respective final five players to be selected.
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