Snooker: White on course for return to Crucible

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JIMMY WHITE made a promising start in his effort to secure a 19th consecutive appearance in the televised stages of the Embassy World Championship yesterday at Telford.

The Whirlwind, an ever-present at the Crucible since he made his debut as a professional in the 1981 season, held a healthy 6-3 lead over Dean Reynolds after the first session of their final qualifying round encounter.

It meant that White required only four of the remaining 10 frames last night to have his name included in the draw for the first round proper, to be conducted on Grandstand on BBC1 this afternoon.

Reynolds, only released from a drink-driving jail term a fortnight ago, had high hopes of wrecking White's proud Crucible record, having already ousted the 1986 world champion, Joe Johnson, 10-5 in the previous round.

However, White, successful in six of his previous seven meetings with Reynolds, fired in a confident 60 break in the opening frame and always looked in control from then on. By snatching a scrappy second frame on the brown, and putting together runs of 37, 32 and 104 - the 198th century of his career - White smoothly moved 4-1 ahead.

Reynolds found a reply and temporarily stopped the rot by accounting for the sixth frame before White, a semi-finalist on his two most recent tournament appearances, at the Liverpool Victoria Charity Challenge and the Benson and Hedges Irish Masters, further increased his lead.

Contributions of 72 and 53 served to push him into a 6-2 lead and although Reynolds salvaged the last frame of the afternoon, White, a six times World Championship runner-up, remained handily positioned.

The most surprising scoreline of the day was a commanding 8-1 lead for world No 74 Joe Perry over Stoke's former Asian Open champion, Dave Harold, who constructed a 136-total clearance to claim his solitary frame. Defeat, which now looks highly likely, would be a serious blow for Harold, currently standing 13th on the provisional world list and battling for a spot among the elite top 16 next season.

Darren Morgan, who captained Wales to their Nation's Cup triumph in January, was held 2-2 early on before pulling away to lead Nick Pearce 7-2.