The inside track, with Betfred TV’s Matt Hulmes
The air turned blue for the second successive evening at the Betfred World Snooker Championships in Sheffield.
After Kurt Maflin’s ‘offensive’ gesture to the cue ball, reflecting his frustration during his 10-8 win over David Gilbert that resulted in a mid-match warning, Anthony McGill (pictured above) landed a fascinating battle with Jack Lisowski, following a stunning long range pot of the centre spotted ball.
Following Ronnie O’Sullivan’s fastest ever Crucible encounter, it took McGill over five hours to beat Jackpot. After eighteen frames and 1,895 points, it all came down to the final three balls for a place in the second round.
After much safety play, it was left to McGill to fire in a long blue and add the pink and seal a last 16 clash with either Mark Allen or Jamie Clarke.
The Allen/Clarke game will conclude on Tuesday evening with Pistol leading 5-4, a session that included five centuries. That’s just one shy of the record of round one centuries, set by Kurt Maflin and David Gilbert at the weekend.
There was almost the mother of all comebacks earlier in the day when Yan Bingtao, 1/500 for the match when cruising at 8-1 and 9-2 up against Elliot Slessor, conceded five frames on the bounce to have is lead depleted to 9-7, before nervously getting over the finish line 10-7. His reward? A date with reigning Betfred World Champion Judd Trump on Thursday afternoon.
The first former World Champion to fall victim at this years championship was Shaun Murphy. The 2005 winner was always chasing Noppon Saengkham from the early stages and never looked like mounting a challenge.
The Magician was adamant that his performance had not been affected by losing his good friend and former manager Brandon Parker recently.
He said “I was very much below par across the whole match – probably the worst two days of my snooker years came together at the worst possible time. My forms been good this season with two titles and other finals, so it’s a shock to me.”
Saengkham attributed his biggest ever win to compatriot and two time World Champions semi-finalist James Wattana. He told the BBC, “James taught me everything – how to come here and speak the language. He taught me how to get through because for an Asian player to come to the UK is difficult.
“I felt a lot of pressure but I just tried to concentrate on the table and not think about all those people watching me. For the last three or four days I have turned my phone off and not done anything on the internet. If I turn my phone back on it will be too much pressure with all the messages. “
It is estimated over 1 million watched the game back in his native Thailand as Saengkham made the Magician disappear, coasting home 10-4.
Also on Tuesday evening, Barry Hawkins takes on Swiss star Alexander Ursenbacher.
Nobody has played more games at the Crucible in the last seven years than the Hawk, who will be starting his 27th match at the iconic arena, having reached a final and four semi-finals in that period.
It’s safe to say we are being treated to some quality cueing, brilliant break-building and peerless potting in Sheffield.
Long may it continue.