Underdogs learn to bite

Snooker
Click to follow
Snooker's first authentic world cup at the Amari Watergate Hotel here has provided some lessons for the good and the great of the game.

Scotland - fielding the world No 1, Stephen Hendry, No 2, John Higgins, and No 6, Alan McManus - are expected to meet England - with Peter Ebdon, No 3, Nigel Bond, No 5, and Ronnie O'Sullivan, No 8 - in next Sunday's final, with the winners on pounds 35,000 a man. But there are some unusual factors to consider.

Players tend to take fewer risks for a team than they do for themselves and all the stopping and starting of one-frame matches tends to minimise differences in class. There is also general agreement that almost all the virtual unknowns here are of much better standard than expected.

Some giant-killing dreams have been fulfilled. On Friday, the Belgian trio, Bjorn Haneveer, Mario Geudens and Patrick Delsemme, beat the No 4 seeds, Northern Ireland (Joe Swail, Dennis Taylor and Terry Murphy) 5-4 to put themselves in contention for a quarter-final place. With one match each to play and only frames counting, the Republic of Ireland lead group A with 17, from Northern Ireland, on 15, and Belgium, 13.

The Republic's world No 7, Ken Doherty, spent Friday in bed with an infected throat, an upset stomach and a glandular fever. He lost his first two frames as Northern Ireland led 5-1. With Taylor leading 57-0, 6-1, a potential drubbing loomed.

But Fergal O'Brien cleared with 71 to snatch this frame on the black. This proved a tide-turner as Doherty and Stephen Murphy narrowed the Republic's losing margin to 5-4.

While Taylor was losing seven of his nine frames, another great name of the Eighties, Cliff Thorburn, was winning eight out of nine for Canada. Jim Wych, twice a world quarter-finalist but also semi-retired, is the only undefeated player after playing nine frames. Alain Robidoux, their world No 14, has won six and Canada's frame count of 23-4 means they have already qualified from group B whatever happens against Scotland tonight.

Wales comfortably lead group D while England, who beat James Wattana's Thailand 6-3 yesterday, lead group C with 19.Thailand and China are level on 13. Pakistan, whose top player, the Accrington born and bred Shokat Ali, has won five out of six, are on 11 with a match in hand.

Comments