Snooker: White caught before his wake-up call: Hendry's touch deserts him as McManus pulls back to level terms

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The Independent Online
JIMMY WHITE denies an aversion to playing while the sun still shines but you have your suspicions. His sharp features look as they have been chiselled by long nights in smokey rooms, his eyes can sometimes look like those of a nocturnal animal inadvertently exposed to light.

Yesterday he carried a haggard expression into his Embassy World Championship semi-final with James Wattana. It might have been the afternoon start that made him sickly pale, but the scoreline would not have made him feel any better. White ended the first day of the best-of-31- frames match 5-2 down. It might have been far worse.

The four-times runner-up was so out of sorts you feared he might blow his chances completely. In the first five frames he could barely pot a ball without following it with a mistake and to compound his problems Wattana was playing inspired snooker. White could barely drag himself out of his chair; his Thai opponent had to be virtually man-handled off the table.

The first frame fell to Wattana with a break of 64, the next to a 47. The third was White's nadir, a frame of misses explicable only if you put them in the context of nerves. In practice he would have potted the red and black he missed at 15-24 and 16-24 respectively almost without thought, but yesterday the balls would not drop. Wattana, surely delighted to meet White while they were at the extremes of their form, mopped up with a 43.

The next two frames also fell to Wattana and at 5-0 White was in serious trouble. He is renowned as a free- flowing potter but this time he had to rely on a formula of safety and short visits to the table that his opponents usually employ to bring himself around. He broke his duck by taking the sixth 71-39 and then revived further, winning the next 60-1. To be only three frames behind after such a session will have been a considerable relief.

As to what Stephen Hendry's feelings were last night is debateable. A piper played 'Scotland The Brave' to introduce the first all-Scottish semi- final and, like the Black Watch, the world champion was inspired by the sound. He won the first two frames with breaks of 60 and 45 and was on target for a 147 and a prize of pounds 100,000 when he potted 11 reds and blacks. The maximum slipped him by but the momentum was so obviously his it seemed scarcely to matter.

The 32-0 lead he reached in the fourth frame proved to be the high tide mark, however. McManus won a scrappy frame 69-53 and then astounded everyone in the Crucible by winning the next three. Hendry, 4-3 down, had not been headed in the championships before and certainly he had not shown the fallibility he displayed in a series of missed pots.

The rot had to stop and it did at

17-0 down in the last frame of the night. Hendry recorded 47 and 20 to win 67-17 and level the match at 4-4.

EMBASSY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP (Sheffield): Semi-finals: J Wattana (Thai) leads J White (Eng) 5-2; A McManus (Sco) level with S Hendry (Sco) 4-4.