It was a heartbreak for Amy Pharaoh in the most dramatic of circumstances, as the final bowl of the last end denied her a second Commonwealth medal, 12 years after her first.
The Grimsby lawn bowler had to settle for silver in women’s duets with Sophie Tolchard, after Australia’s Ellen Ryan won the match with a daringly aggressive final bowl in the extra set.
Pharaoh herself had gone big with a runner to send the match to an extra end, but it was Ryan and partner Kristina Krstic who led a thrilling encounter.
Leamington Spa was unusually loud during these Games, with crowds behind the bowls in ways some might not expect.
But tense silences steadily spilled over Victoria Park as the four bowlers delivered by far the highest quality match of the tournament, before bursting into cheers when another bowl landed with incredible accuracy.
As Pharaoh and Tolchard left the rink, they were given a standing ovation by the Australian team assembled along one side of the green, a reflection that this was a game where it was cruel for there to be a loser, such was the quality and drama on display.
“It’s hard to understand right now,” said Pharaoh, who was looking to add to his gold medal in the same event won at Delhi 2010.
“We came here, we came to win, that was always our goal and we were less than a quarter inch away from doing it. It was out of our control.
“You have to take the positives, we got a lot of wins, it was close – we can’t ask for more than that.”
This summer, the England team, supported by funds raised by National Lottery players, includes more than 400 athletes, all vying for a medal.
It’s been a monumental week for the balls, with the sport suddenly going rock and roll as TVs across the country suddenly tuned to what’s happening in Leamington.
England’s men’s treble delivered the first dose of drama as they fended off a formidable Australian comeback, but the Antipodes got their revenge in the second act of an edge-of-the-siege thriller.
“We did everything we could do and unfortunately it just wasn’t planned,” added Tolchard.
“It shows how thin the margins are between winning and losing.
“At this point you need to have some luck on your side and get things done for you.”
“We certainly gave the crowd a lot to cheer on, but unfortunately we just couldn’t get over the line in the last run.
For Pharaoh, it’s the end of a long journey from Delhi. The PE teacher stepped away from the elite level of the sport to have her son, Harry, in 2013.
It was only recently that she made the decision to return to the fold, and while medals were the goal in Birmingham, Pharaoh hopes she, and the balls, have won people’s hearts too.
“I don’t think the balls will get any better than what’s happened here this week,” Pharoah said.
“As a showcase event, the number of people, non-bowlers, who said I had watched.
“Yes, we came here to win, but we wanted to put the balls back in the spotlight and I think we did.”
National Lottery players raise over £30m a week for good causes, including vital funding for sport – from grassroots to elite. Find out how your numbers work wonders at: www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved using the hashtag: #TNLAthletes.