The night I survived 10 frames with Marvelous

Sometimes, we sports journalists get all the luck. MIKE DICKSON, of the Daily Mail, recounts a surreal night playing 10 pin bowling alongside Marvin Hagler, Ilie Nastase and his mate Franz Klammer

Marvellous: even at 10 pin bowling, Hagler remains an arch competitor

On Tuesday night, I came as close as I ever will (hopefully) to experiencing the full force of what professional boxers go through in the ring. And Marvelous Marvin Hagler was only being friendly.

At a social evening of ten pin bowling with members of the Laureus Academy, I was asked to make up a team of five, which included the all-time great boxer and Ilie Nastase.

To say that Marvelous was competitive would be to say that Nastase’s behaviour on a tennis court used to be ever so slightly unpredictable. Having appointed himself unofficial team captain, Hagler drove us on relentlessly, cajoling the best from my pathetic bowling skills using a variety of tactile methods for encouragement.

There were vice-like grips of the arm and what he obviously considered gentle prods to the shoulder. When he slapped me on the back after one flukey strike, my larynx almost jumped out of my mouth.

The whole evening, in a subterranean bowling alley in central London, was a reminder that the two most surreal events you can get involved with in this job may be things to do with the Laureus Academy or the Dunhill Links Pro-Am at St Andrews.

At both you tend to encounter legends of the recent past or your youth swanning about, and the whole thing ends up as a namedropper’s paradise.

I recalled a strange but wondrous early evening outside the famous Jigger pub at St Andrew’s at the Dunhill, where a meeting with a golf contact turned into a mini-session in the company of Colin Montgomerie, Ruud Gullit and Franz Klammer.

On Tuesday night Klammer, or “Franz” as I have come to know him as a result of our close friendship, was there again as the various members of the Academy congregated after their charitable endeavours earlier in the day.

Unfortunately the two people I had come in the hope of seeing, Steve Redgrave and Boris Becker, were the only scheduled guests who did not turn up, but the invitation to join in the bowling was plenty of consolation.

In the lane next door , for example, was a team comprising Michael Johnson, Sir Ian Botham, Hugo Portas and Serge Betsen. Of course they were not remotely competitive about it, not with Marvelous on one side and Franz, Mick Doohan and Nadia Comaneci in the next lane. Untrained though the eye is, I have never seen anyone as good at ten pin bowling as Portas.

His Beefiness (I had to educate French and Spanish colleagues that he really was very famous) informed me that Johnson used to stay as sober as a judge on these occasions but that now “we’ve helped put him right on that’’. Regardless, they beat us, much to Marvelous’s disappointment, especially as he was easily our highest scorer.

The evening was nothing more than trivial pursuits for the Academy members and ambassadors, all of whom give Laureus a designated number of days per year to assist their charitable projects worldwide, their main purpose for being in London this week.

And enough of the namedropping enabled by surreal occasions. Now did I tell you about the days making up a Bridge Four with Bumble, Beefy and Mikey Holding in Guyana?

SJA WORKING LUNCH: Baroness Grey-Thompson on the 2012 London Paralympics. Thu Nov 17: click here for booking details