Snooker: Ebdon and Dott go slow in final after high drama in last four

To say Graeme Dott raced into an early lead in the final of the World Championship here yesterday would not be an understatement. It would be a lie. After eight frames of his best-of-35 match against the 2002 champion, Peter Ebdon, the 28-year-old Scot, the 2004 runner-up, had taken a 6-2 advantage. The twist was that those eight frames should have been played in the afternoon, but only six had been.

The pace was so slow that the first session was curtailed to allow the players a break before the evening. Matters did not improve then. It took until 9.15pm to play the next two. Expect Leonard Cohen or Joy Division as the backing track to a highlights DVD.

The day's opening frame got bogged down so quickly that it was re-racked within minutes. It was ominous. Ebdon eventually took the first frame with a break of 63, and Dott took the next with a 62 to top Ebdon's 52, and went 2-1 ahead with a 56 in a cagey third. So far, so mediocre.

The fourth frame then lasted 47 minutes and 49 seconds. Ebdon knocked several superb long reds for starters but failed to build on them. Dott gave away 20 points on one snooker. The highest break was a 22, to Dott. Ebdon had good chances to seize control but went in-off when leading 39-26, and again when 39-52 behind but still in with a shout. Dott clinched it on the blue, eventually. He went 4-1 ahead with a 60 in the next before Ebdon hit a 61 to end the session. The evening began with a 59 and 40 being good enough to bag Dott a 6-2 lead.

The day's events were in contrast to the astonishing scenes on Saturday when Dott and Ebdon secured their places in the final. Dott started the third of his four semi-final sessions against Ronnie O'Sullivan at 8-8 and spectacularly whitewashed the world No 1 for 16-8. That left Dott needing only one frame, a target most expected him to achieve quickly, given O'Sullivan's crumbling form. But the Rocket stole three quick frames to re-ignite his hopes before Dott put them out, 17-11.

Before that, Ebdon had finished his own semi, against Marco Fu, in dramatic fashion. He started Saturday at 15-9, but Hong Kong's Fu fought back to give Ebdon such an almighty scare that Ebdon ended the match in tears. Fu levelled at 15-15, hitting breaks of 68, 100, 52, 75 and 103 in the process. Ebdon's nerve held to edge 16-15 ahead but Fu clawed back to 16-16. A risky red gave Ebdon the start he needed for a match-winning 54 in the decider, and as it became clear he would not be caught, his eyes welled.

O'Sullivan was gracious in defeat against Dott, and unlike last year, when he crashed out to Edbon in the quarters and then said he might give up the game, insisted he will be back next season. "I was pretty awful the whole match and deserved to get beat," he said. "I never scored at all, my safety was bad, my long potting was awful. Graeme beat me comfortably."

The fact that O'Sullivan gave away his cue to a boy in the audience at the end of play was not, he insisted, a symbolic goodbye. "John Parris [a cue maker] needs to make me a new one and I've been asking him for a while," he said. "I think he'll get wind I've given my cue away and do it now. There wasn't anything wrong with it, I just fancied a fresh start."

In the short term, that will be on the international pool circuit, particularly in America. An announcement that O'Sullivan and Jimmy White have signed up to play on a lucrative new-look tour is expected late this month.

World Championship (Crucible, Sheffield) Semi-finals: G Dott (Sco) bt R O'Sullivan (Eng) 17-11 ; P Ebdon (Eng) bt M Fu (HK) 17-16. Final: (after six frames) Ebdon 2 Dott 6. Frames: 79-12 (63); 43-62 (Ebdon 53, Dott 62); 1-91 (56); 48-70; 9-71; 67-32, 6-78, 20-53.

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