Snooker: Question of confidence for battling Parrott

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The Independent Online
What happened next? John Parrott is more familiar as a permanent feature on Question Of Sport these days, but while that normally suggests retirement has either been reached or is impending, he obviously plans something more vigorous.

Parrott, 36, reached his ninth quarter-final in 14 Embassy World Championships yesterday when he defeated Anthony Hamilton 13-11 and while that might not sound like a overwhelming margin, he began making comparisons with his 1991 title victory.

"No one is talking about me as a potential winner," he said, "and in that I'm in a similar position to when I won here. I had a poor season then and this year, although I got to the final of the European Open, my results have been mixed.

"I still haven't got my safety together, I find the tables very quick, but I believe I'm still a good match player. I'm very hard to beat." Did he feel good? "If I got any happier I'd be walking around looking like Bonnie Langford," he replied.

The smile on the fourth seed's face frequently looked strained, however, during a match which he described as "bizarre". He began by scoring only nine points in the first four frames and forfeited the 11th when he was called for three successive misses when the cue ball rolled away from a red.

"Whoever put the spirit- level on that table must be from the Marty Feldman school," he said. "There was no way the table was straight. I've never seen a roll like that before."

Away from these deviations from the straight and narrow, the quality of the snooker was often very high. Hamilton has reached the last 16 in ranking tournaments nine times and failed to get any further, yet he had three century breaks in this match and refused to let Parrott run away when the former champion appeared to be heading for a commanding lead.

At 11-11, Parrott found his best form, knocking in a 133 in the penultimate frame and then trapping Hamilton in a web of snookers in the last. "I've got a bit of experience on my side," he said. "I need something against these young lads."

In between his first- and second-round matches, Parrott filmed two Question of Sport programmes for the BBC but he does not see it as a distraction. "If anything it's a bonus," he said. "It's a good way to relax. I wouldn't let anything interfere with my snooker. It's foremost in my mind."

Snooker has always been high up in Steve Davis's list of priorities, but sometimes you cannot win no matter how you are playing. He used to inflict horrible defeats on opponents who did little wrong but could not cope with the weight of the scores he would post against them. On Sunday night the biter was well and truly bit, his worst world championship defeat since Tony Knowles beat him 10-1 15 years ago.

Davis was, by his own admission, annihilated 13-3 by Ken Doherty. "It was very therapeutic watching it all drift away," the six-times champion said. "It was an interesting experience to say the least." When you have been beaten a session early and by such a comprehensive margin, the pain of defeat is deadened to the point of jocularity.

"No matter what I did it wouldn't work," he continued. "I tried to take the foot off the pedal and still it made no difference. By the end, I adopted the 'couldn't care less' philosophy. At one stage I'm sure I was playing with the wrong cue, by the end I'm sure it was the wrong arm."

Doherty, by his own manager Ian Doyle's admission, is an under-achiever in snooker. He has won one ranking tournament, but so much more was expected when he made his debut at the Crucible in 1991 at the age of 21. Against Davis, he displayed what people had predicted six years ago: relentless potting.

Was that the best he had played recently, he was asked: "Never mind this season, I haven't played played like that for a couple of seasons. Every time I got in I seemed to score heavily. Steve has given me a few beatings in the past and I was happy to return the favour."