Twist in big game hunt

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The Independent Online
Nick Pearce, who has appeared on the cover of an Alan Sillitoe novel, guaranteed exposure of an entirely different nature when he defeated Ronnie O'Sullivan 5-1 in a second-round upset at the pounds 330,000 Grand Prix in Bournemouth last night.

Pearce, who has periodically supplemented his relatively meagre snooker earnings with modelling assignments, supported the theory that he finds the bigger stage stimulating by potting a succession of important balls under intense pressure.

The 29-year-old from Gloucester, whose morning suit and designer stubble have earned him the sobriquet of "the undertaker" consigned O'Sullivan to the tournament's overcrowded big-name graveyard in which Stephen Hendry, Peter Ebdon, Nigel Bond and Alan McManus all lie at rest.

Pearce, the world No 95, surprisingly appeared in the semi-finals of last season's Inter- national Open and was eager to demonstrate that it was no isolated moment in the sun. "I think I've done that and I've certainly proved to myself that I can handle the pressure," he said. Losing the fifth frame was undoubtedly the most significant blow suffered by O'Sullivan. He led 52-26 but missed the last red, rolling it across the top cushion, and Pearce cleared up with 35 to plunder a 4-1 lead.

If John Parrott could select his own "home" puzzler when recording three Question of Sport episodes in London today, something like: "Name the player who smoothly reached the last 16 of this year's Grand Prix with a new cue?" would be ideal.

Last month Parrott was fretting as to his short-term future after discovering that his cue had been lost in the post. In beating Neal Foulds, the 1991 world and UK champion removed the last of those concerns. Even under normal circumstances it was a good performance. Parrott began with a 128 break on his initial scoring visit in the first frame prior to runs of 64, 62, 56 and 95.

"There's absolutely nothing wrong with the cue and I'm obviously very relieved," said the amiable Liverpudlian, who is only too well aware of the list of quality players whose careers have been hit by the loss of, or damage to, their cues.

John Higgins and Tony Drago, two surviving members of the game's top 16, both advanced, although neither approached their best. Higgins, despite a 112 break in the fifth frame, laboured to beat Stephen Lee, while Drago exploited the nervousness of the television debutant, Wayne Rendle, to prevail 5-1.