Snooker: Wattana remedies omission

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The Independent Online
THERE was a condition attached to the pre-tournament predictions about James Wattana. The other logical potential winners of the Embassy World Snooker Championship had been to the semi-finals or beyond, he had never been past the second round.

The Thai remedied that omission last night when he defeated John Parrott 13-6. It also answered some of the enquiries about whether Wattana had sufficient experience to survive in the rarified conditions of The Crucible against the world's top four players. Parrott was the 1991 champion and is ranked the second-best snooker player in the world.

It was a thoroughly professional execution. Behind 5-3 overnight, Parrott won the first two frames of the day and the advantage seemed to be flowing in his direction. But instead of the Liverpudlian sweeping to a significant lead, he did not win another frame in the session and Wattana was 11-5 ahead at the conclusion.

Faced with having to win eight of a possible nine frames in the evening, Parrott's cause was hopeless. Nevertheless he fired one defiant broadside, a break of 102, before Wattana ended his resistance, winning the 18th and 19th frames 95-7, 57-31.

'He's a very capable player,' Parrott said, 'Very dangerous.' Parrott believed that luck had gone his opponent's way, but he did concede 'he has the talent to get 50 or 60 points to compound the misery when the balls don't go your way.' Wattana, a player who pays scant attention to caution, will now meet Jimmy White which is unlikely to be a feast of safety play. The 30-year-old Londoner reached the last four when he beat Dennis Taylor 13-8.

Every time White begins a session the compere describes him as 'a Rolls-Royce of snooker', but at times the engine has misfired. He has won matches comfortably in terms of scores, but still scratched around for his best form. The spectre of last year's final, when Stephen Hendry won 10 successive frames, may not have fully disappeared.

Normally White builds big breaks as a matter of course, but so far he has had just one century during the tournament and against Taylor his most productive visit to the table was 74. 'He's cueing better than he was,' Taylor said, 'but he's making mistakes. Jimmy always gives you a chance, at the moment he's giving too many chances.' Ahead 10-6 from Tuesday's play, White surrendered the first frame yesterday in a scrappy, safety-laden exchange. That was a sighter, however, and he won three of the next four frames to clinch victory.

Hendry, his conqueror last year, is also in the semi-finals although for a time yesterday it seemed that he might be in the unusual position of having to play with his normal fluency hamstrung by nerves. It was transitory, of course, but when Nigel Bond led 52-49 in the 19th frame there was the prospect of him getting to within three frames of the champion.

Even then Hendry turned it to his advantage. 'I've won my matches so far fairly comfortably,' he said after reasserting himself to win that frame and then clinch a 13-7 win with a break of 95. 'In a way it was good that I had to play with a bit of pressure.'

Hendry, has been under so little strain to date - 36 frames won, only 12 lost - that his most pressing concern has been potential back trouble from bending over snooker tables too much. Had he peaked too soon? 'I've had a disastrous season, I've not peaked throughout it. I've still got plenty in reserve,' he replied.

He will get a chance to use it against his fellow Scot, Alan McManus, who beat Neal Foulds 13-11 in his quarter-final.