Swail suffers touch of the blues

For a man who normally expresses emotions with a raised eyebrow and a quizzical smile, it was the equivalent of Pat Cash's climb through the crowd to celebrate his Wimbledon victory. As he made it to the quarter- finals of the Embassy World Championship last night, the fifth seed thumped the air and shouted with relief.

It was, John Parrott said, the only way to express his emotion at escaping from the clutches of Joe Swail who harried the 1991 world champion almost to extinction at The Crucible. The score was 13-11 but the winner could have been either player and may have been decided by a large slice of luck.

At 11-11 Parrott fluked a blue into the centre pocket to steal the frame 65-51 and take the lead for the first time in the match. With his nose in front he staggered over the line with a clearance of 28, surprised that he was still in the tournament.

"I honestly didn't realise he was as good as that," Parrott, who will now meet Jimmy White, said. "I was hanging on to his tail for two sessions and had to knock in the odd clearance just to keep in there. It was one of the toughest matches I've ever had."

Parrott likened Swail to himself in 1991 when he arrived in Sheffield with barely a win to his name but found he was less jaded than his opponents. When the Northern Irish 12th seed led 10-6 it seemed the fresh approach might prevail again but Parrott clawed back. But he still needed that piece of fortune in the 23rd frame. "I've had one fluke in 12 months," he said, "so let me have it. It was a massive moment."

Andy Hicks has had his big moments, too, in the tournament but if he thought his 13-7 defeat of Willie Thorne, to add to his ousting of Steve Davis in the first round, would be the talking point he was mistaken.

An argument the previous evening was still simmering yesterday, leaving Thorne not exactly bitter but certainly bewildered. "It will never happen again in the history of snooker," he said referring to the 16th frame. His real message was it ought not to recur.

Snooker has a rule for frames that assume such negative postions that no result seems possible, but when the referee, John Williams, told the players that they had eight shots each to contrive something more promising or he would order a re-rack, Thorne was furious. For a start, he argued, he was 57-4 up and the frame had lasted only 11 minutes.

"The rule wasn't made for when someone is nearly 60 in front," he said, "but when it's tip-tapping about with 13 reds on the table. It was absolute nonsense. It just can't happen." It can, and it did, and to add to Thorne's anger he lost the frame 68-57.

That gave Hicks a 10-6 overnight lead and he soon rattled off the frames he required yesterday with breaks of 117, 66 and 38. Did he feel sympathy for Thorne? "If he didn't huff and puff round the table so much he would probably be a better player," he replied.

White, meanwhile, reached the quarter-finals with a 13-7 win over David Roe, and he was joined in the last eight by Nigel Bond, a 13-10 winner over Alan McManus.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 31

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