Singapore's five-woman duel with Malaysia ends in heartbreak
Singapore's five-woman team lose the gold to Malaysia by 55 pinfalls
Their start was not heartening, but they mounted a heart-stopping comeback, where the result went down to the wire.
But, in the end, it was heartbreak for defending champions Singapore in the SEA Games bowling five-woman team event, which they lost to arch-rivals Malaysia by 55 pinfalls.
The hosts' quintet of Cherie Tan, Daphne Tan, Jazreel Tan, Shayna Ng and New Hui Fen started badly on lanes 11 and 12, despite needing a good lead over the first three games on their favoured long-oil pattern.
They gave themselves an uphill battle after an opening-game total of only 893 pinfalls, which put them in fifth place.
Still, the 2011 champions fought back gallantly and even led Malaysia by seven pinfalls at the halfway mark.
With the final three games played over medium oil, on which Sin Li Jane and Esther Cheah topped the women's doubles earlier this week, the Malaysians regained the lead after the fourth game.
It was an advantage they didn't relinquish, even though the hosts mounted another courageous comeback in the final game, in which they outscored the Malaysians 1,018-983.
The Singapore women were too distraught to speak to the media after taking silver with 6,012 pinfalls to the Malaysians' 6,067, with a bowler and coach seen in tears.
But head coach Remy Ong hailed his lion-hearted charges for fighting on bravely against the odds.
The former world champion said: "I think they did really well. We came back fighting... And I would say that it was not a bad outing today.
"We bowled really well, but the Malaysians bowled better than us, so I think we should congratulate them.
"I am very proud of my team today."
The Malaysia team of Shalin Zulkifli, Natasha Roslan, Syaidatul Afifah, Esther Cheah and Sin Li Jane were understandably ecstatic after their victory, especially as they held their nerve in the last game amid vociferous cheering from the partisan crowd.
Veteran Shalin said that they just ground out results even when shots weren't going their way in the pressure-cooker environment.
"That is normal. Sometimes you can't have a fairy-tale ending, you have to grind it out and make every shot count and make good shots when it matters," said the 37-year-old.
"All of us made good shots when it mattered... We fought tooth and nail till the last ball because we knew they (the Singaporeans) would put up a tough fight."
With yesterday's victory, the 2005 and 2007 women's team champions have exacted revenge for their loss to the Singaporeans in 2011.
It was double joy for Malaysia, as they also clinched the men's team gold with 6,238 pinfalls. Indonesia (6,066) and Thailand (5,852) claimed silver and bronze respectively, while Singapore finished fourth (5,713).
They may have suffered a setback yesterday, but Ong promised that his charges will bounce back today in the Masters.
All six Singaporeans are in the Masters, with Shayna topping the All-events list with 5,138, while Keith Saw and Javier Tan made the men's list.
Ong said: "The women's fightback in the last game was something positive. This (result) will definitely make them stronger.
"We will go back tonight and re-strategise. Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day."