Snooker: Davis slightly off colour

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The Independent Online
Ken Doherty, the Republic of Ireland's Captain Marvel in winning six of his seven frames in their 10-9 World Cup semi-final victory over England in Bangkok earlier this month, took a 6-2 lead over Steve Davis in the best of 17 frames contest which will today yield a quarter-final place in the UK championship at Preston Guild Hall.

Davis, initially quoted at an eyebrow raising 40-1 for a title he won six times in the 80s, continues to resist the erosion of his mighty powers with exemplary commitment but it is 21 months since he won his 70th - and possibly last - major first prize.

He was not in the pink yesterday or, at any rate, he went in-off it to lose the opening frame. He also lost both the second and fourth on the penultimate colour.

Earlier in the week Doherty had made the two highest breaks of his tournament career, 140 and 141, and seized the third with a break of 89. From 0-4, Davis won two of the next three frames to reduce the Dubliner's advantage to 5-2.

Stephen Hendry, attempting to win this title for the third time in succession and fifth in all, has not lost on BBC TV since February last year although he only avoided this possibility at last month's grand prix at Bournemouth through a 5-1 defeat by the Welshman Matthew Stevens before the cameras began rolling.

Electronic surveillance of this kind usually lifts his game and yesterday he had a majestic total clearance of 140 and a run of 104 in overwhelming Anthony Hamilton, 9-1, to reach the quarter-finals. "Playing on television, it's like being at home for me," Hendry said. "I feel so comfortable and relaxed in these situations." He will meet the winner of the third-round encounter between Terry Murphy and Paul Hunter.

Off table, the week was enlivened by the neo-Glaswegian growl of Ian Doyle and the matey Essex vowels of Barry Hearn rising in unison on Radio Five's Inside Edge to suggest a vote of no confidence in the entire board of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association at its AGM on 19 December.

"Administrative chaos... terrible promotion... the game needs leadership," were the kind of phrases floating out into the ether with no rebuttal from any serving board member and only Nigel Oldfield, a WPBSA executive with many portfolios, to assert the party line that everything in the garden was basically lovely if only the critics would go away.

With the resignation from chairmanship and board of John Spencer, the WPBSA has an electorate of only 48 (players ranked in the 40 during the last two years plus board members). Doyle manages Stephen Hendry and 10 other voters; his son, another, and Hearn three. This makes 15 votes towards the 25 needed. The board, whose key figure and implacable Doyle foe Geoff Foulds is expected to move upwards from the vice-chairmanship at the next board meeting on 2 December, has belatedly been persuaded to the merits of an extended franchise.

It plans to propose at the AGM that full voting rights shall be extended to the top 64 players in the last two annual ranking lists, a proposal it has evinced no urgency in bringing forward in its long period in power.