Snooker: White turns screw to close in on final: Hendry sweeps into superior position after demolition of McManus's defences

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The Independent Online
JIMMY WHITE knew how James Wattana was feeling. A year ago the Londoner sank further and further into his chair as he watched Stephen Hendry win 10 frames in succession to win the Embassy World Snooker Championship. Yesterday White twisted the same sort of tourniquet.

Wattana, playing in his first semi- final at The Crucible, could only watch as his opponent played himself into form and, at 14-8, to the verge of the final. At first it was a negligible improvement on Thursday's opening exchanges which rendered White 5-0 down. But as the 23-year-old Thai failed to take advantage, White grew in confidence.

Behind 5-2 overnight, White lost the first frame yesterday to breaks of 43 and 40, but won the next with a 69 and his cueing became smoother. By the end of the second session the four- times runner-up here had turned the match around to lead 8-6; in the evening it was a massacre. Frame after frame went White's way. A break of 105 made it eight in a row, a further 69 equalled his own 10-frame frustration of 12 months ago.

Still he was not finished. In the morning Wattana had received a message of goodwill from Thailand's prime minister, Chuan Leekpai. 'Myself and all the Thai nation are thrilled you have reached the semi- finals,' it read, 'and all of us wish you the best of luck to win and be world champion.' Now he was being handed humiliation. It extended to 12 frames in a row until the inspiration finally left White. He now needs two frames this afternoon to make his fourth successive final.

The chances that he will face the same opponent as last year also increased yesterday. Hendry's pursuit of a third world title in four years came nearer to fruition yesterday when he gained control of his semi- final with fellow Scot, Alan McManus. He leads 10-5 and requires only six of today's 16 frames.

After McManus had taken a 5-4 lead with a break of 49, Hendry swept his opponent off the table. It was a ruthless demolition that yielded six frames in succession. McManus had to watch his defences being breached time after time.

Hendry's largest breaks - 86, 92 and 86 - were just the more obvious examples of his superiority. More important were the 20s and 30s he stole when McManus tried to slow the match down to take the fluency out of the No 1 seed's potting. By the end McManus had been comprehensively beaten 6-1 in the session.

EMBASSY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP (Sheffield): Semi-finals: J White (Eng) leads J Wattana (Thai)

14-8; S Hendry (Sco) leads A McManus (Sco) 10-5.