THE world's best bowlers are back in Sheffield next month.
Four days after his 40th birthday, Greg Harlow will step back onto his favourite rink in the world at Ponds Forge, where he will begin his defence of his Co-operative Funeral-care World Matchplay Championship title.
The World Bowls Tour event - featuring the top eight players in the world rankings - will take place on July 10 and 11
Harlow has enjoyed success on the WBT's unique portable rink in Sheffield. The world No 2 from Cambridgeshire arrived at last year's inaugural event following three successive victories in the WBT International Open at Ponds Forge.
In last year's final, he beat the then World champion Mervyn King 10-8, 4-10, 2-0 in a dramatic climax to extend his unbeaten run in Sheffield.
Harlow, one of few WBT players who competes only indoors, reached the semi-finals of last week's Premier League at Potters Leisure Resort, Norfolk.
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At Sheffield in a repeat of their first round clash 12 months ago, top seed Harlow will face England captain Andy Thomson.
His predicted semi-final opponent is Welshman Jason Greenslade, the world No 4. But the fourth seed will first have to overcome Paul Foster, the in-form Scot who became the first Premier League champion last week.
Favourite Harlow is expected to meet Scotland's record five-time world champion Alex Marshall, the No 2 seed, in the final.
Englishman Mark Royal is the only player making his matchplay debut in Sheffield next month. The 33-year-old from Suffolk is the youngest player in the field.
Ranked 13 in the world a year ago, left-hander Royal reached the final of the Scottish International Open, then claimed his maiden WBT title at the Welsh International Open.
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