Old-timers prefer languid pace

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The Independent Online
And we thought Terry Griffiths was joking. The Welshman had viewed his second-round match in the Embassy World Championship with Steve Davis and estimated the match might be slow enough to last the 17 days of the event. It will not be, of course, but it might seem like it.

Both Davis, who at 38 is trying for a record seventh victory, and Griffiths, 48, the champion in 1979, are not what you would describe as sprightly round the table and now their snooker seems to be more safety than play. Ages of thought was applied before every shot; the foolhardy option was discarded, the semi-bold rejected, the barest of daring jettisoned and caution prevailed. Prevailed? It grabbed hold of proceedings with an iron grip.

The first frame was warning enough that the scheduled Saturday night finish could well stretch into Sunday morning. It lasted 54min 28sec (believe me you were aware every second) which was relatively quick compared to the slowest frame ever at The Crucible, which also involved Davis, at 69 minutes.

On that occasion Davis was involved in the most famous frame in the history of the sport, the decider in the 1985 final against Dennis Taylor. Like that one he finished on the losing side, Griffiths taking the frame after his opponent had screwed the cue ball into a pocket.

Davis then rattled off the next in an alarmingly fast 11 minutes before the match resumed its languid pace, the eight frames completed yesterday taking longer than some completed matches. At 4-4 the players are deadlocked as well as gridlocked and the chances are it will be long night tonight.

The contrast could not have been more complete than the match that had preceded it, Ronnie O'Sullivan versus Tony Drago. Both race round a table like greyhounds after a rabbit and if they are on nodding terms with safety they choose to ignore it.

It requires a large degree of optimism to play this way and Drago matched it vocally beforehand. "There's still a lot of mileage left in this match," he said after the first session. What he failed to mention was that he would be travelling by foot while his opponent was flying.

Drago is a hot and cold player. When the mood is with him no pot seems to be impossible but there are enough temperate sessions to suppress his ranking to 14th in the world. At 6-2 down overnight, he could hope for one of his sublime days; instead he met O'Sullivan in one of his.

Having insulted his first round opponent, Alain Robidoux, by playing left-handed, O'Sullivan belittled Drago in a more acceptable manner, sheer weight of scoring. From 7-4, the third seed put his foot on the pedal and accelerated away with breaks of 78, 73, 61, 72 and 56. The were rattled off at a frightening rate, too, no frame lasting 13 minutes.

By the time the smoke had cleared O'Sullivan was 12-4 ahead and just a frame away from a quarter-final against either Alan McManus or the second favourite, John Higgins.

Rod Lawler's father used to be an extra in Brookside and the chances are that he, too, is going to be restricted to a bit part at The Crucible. Having eliminated the fourth seed, John Parrott, in the first round he found Dave Harold, ranked 13th, a more resistable object.

Harold, who has reached two semi-finals and two quarter-finals since Christmas, won seven of the eight frames yesterday afternoon and will resume this morning 11-5 up and two frames away from the last eight.

EMBASSY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP (Sheffield): First round: J White (Eng) bt E Henderson (Sco) 10-9.