Snooker: Dechawat Poomjaeng has it all to do against Michael White


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The Independent Online

On a night of comedy and high farce at the Crucible, the joke was on Dechawat Poomjaeng.

The 34-year-old Thai played the jester, just as he had in beating world No 5 Stephen Maguire, but wound up trailing 7-1 in his second-round match against Wales' Michael White at the World Championship.

He entered the arena with both arms raised in triumph, jumped from the second step on to the stage floor and punched the air as though he had won the world title.

Spotting Thailand's national flag in the second row, he held out his arms in adoration, hugged MC Rob Walker passionately and walked to the correct seat this time, having gone to the wrong side of the arena at the start of his match against Maguire.

You had to wonder what Maguire made of it all, as Poomjaeng looked every inch the world number 70 he is thereafter, albeit a world number 70 with a sideline in divisive physical comedy.

It was rather like Comic Relief, with Poomjaeng providing the laughs and White the serious, meaningful fare that brings in the money.

Qualifier White, a 21-year-old Welshman, looked like a serious player with a big future as he let none of the japery affect him, unlike referee Michaela Tabb who towards the end of the match forgot to put the blue on the table for the break-off shot and then, mid-frame, picked up the white ball for no apparent reason.

She was embarrassed and saw the funny side but clearly the frippery was causing the experienced Scot's mind to wander.

Where White was amassing his lead, making a 101 break for his first Crucible century in the process, Poomjaeng was fluking a black and punching himself in the head, missing a red and letting his head sink to the table in mock mourning for the ball that stayed up.

Incredibly he lost the fourth frame without a ball being potted when after being put in an awkward position he failed three times to hit a red, conceding three fouls. Under the game's rules, three misses when a red can be hit full ball means the frame is conceded.

It looked as though Tabb encouraged Poomjaeng to calm down as he giddily looked at White before the eighth frame, before she saw the funny side when he pointed out the blue was missing from the table.

But Poomjaeng's hopes of getting anything out of the match were surely affected by his exaggerated antics. The clapping of his own shots, the moment he jumped on the spot after firing in a long red - which he followed by wildly missing the brown - and the constant interaction with the audience, meant his game was suffering.

Evidently he has talent and there were some remarkable shots, but the prospect of him returning to obscurity was looking all too inevitable.

Willie Thorne labelled him "Thailand's Mr Bean" and his co-commentator Steve Davis expressed a touch of sympathy. "He knows he's been struggling out there tonight," said the six-time champion. "He's feeling the heat a bit. We know he can play to a higher standard than this.

"You don't beat Stephen Maguire without being able to play a high standard of snooker."

Yet Poomjaeng now risks losing a three-session match inside two sessions - with 13 frames the target for victory - having needed a third session to win a scheduled two-session match against Maguire.

He might not see the funny side of that.