SNOOKER White finally gets the breaks

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The Independent Online


reports from Sheffield

You would think Jimmy White would be sick of The Crucible. The closeness of the crowd ought to give him claustrophobia, the words "Embassy World Snooker Championships" should send barbed thoughts through his mind. When you have had the blows he has had, the natural reaction is to walk away.

Six finals, six defeats. In the last five years alone he has got within one match of the title he craves. The disappointment would have crushed most people but he perseveres.

This time. It is always this time for his supporters, a proportion of whom were packing the auditorium yesterday. The law of averages, the date of the final, the astrological position of the planets, anything to pin their hopes on. Now, the theory goes, so much has gone wrong for White this year, something good must be round the corner.

In the last month alone he has had a cancerous testicle removed and been an innocent participant in the match-fixing inquiry that followed his first-round match against Peter Francisco. When the the tip on his cue broke on Saturday, thoughts of last straws surely flickered through his mind.

Certainly he looked strained yesterday. Never exactly the picture of health, his face was pallid even by the ghost-like colours that normally shade his features. The previous evening he had complained of playing so poorly he did not have a hope of winning the championship and a stranger to his habits would have assumed the search for form had taken its toll.

There was little to encourage him either in the opening frame against John Parrott. The 1991 champion inflicted one of the world final defeats on White and although he is ranked one behind him, he arrived in Sheffield with a 5-1 defeat of Stephen Hendry fresh in his mind. Parrott struck first taking a 2-1 lead as White mixed the good with the bad. Then shortish breaks of 34 and 25 gave Whiter the fourth frame and he was away, showing a fluency that has so far eluded him.

The second half of the session yesterday was a landslide in White's favour as breaks of 58, 69, 63 and 51 gave him a 6-2 lead to take into today's two sessions. He requires seven more frames to reach the semi-finals.

In contrast with the White-Parrott match a more subdued contest was taking place between two players who have created their own opportunity by removing James Wattana, the third seed, and Alan McManus, the sixth.

Nigel Bond, McManus's conqueror, gained a slight advantage, taking a 5-3 lead over Gary Wilkinson although this was a painstaking, careful affair whose eight frames took 45 minutes longer than the Parrott match.

It was time that Bond, the 11th seed and a quarter-finalist for the third year in succession, used well. He is not a spectacular player but he traps opponents with guile rather than expansive breaks and Wilkinson, who was once ranked No 5 in the world but has now slipped to 22nd, was eroded rather than bruised. As a consequence, Bond was able to take the final two frames of the day 70-50 and 103-5.

EMBASSY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP (Crucible Theatre, Sheffield) Second round: N Bond (Eng) bt A McManus (Sco) 13-10. Quarter-finals (to be completed): J White (Eng) leads J Parrott (Eng) 6-2; N Bond (Eng) leads G Wilkinson (Eng) 5-3.