Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Essex double march on

Not every day can produce fireworks at the Crucible.

Day four was one of those where the action simmered.

After the drama on day three, things settled down in Sheffield as eight players began their World Championship campaign and two matches played to a conclusion.

In the two that finished, Essex duo Ronnie O'Sullivan and Stuart Bingham advanced to the last 16.
For a second day in succession, it was Ronnie who grabbed the headlines.

After an impressive display in the first session, it was going to be interesting to see if he could follow that up with another good performance.

His answer was a resounding yes. He came out to rattle in three breaks of more than 90 and wrap up a 10-2 win against Dominic Dale.

It put a smile on the faces of the Crucible crowd again but with Shaun Murphy waiting for him in the last 16, the hard work begins now.

He said after his win: "I enjoyed that as much as I did the first time I played at the Crucible.

"I didn't want it to end, I wanted to keep playing. I've never felt like that before. Even when I was 16-4 up on Stephen Hendry in the semi-finals here, I had doubts that I could get over the line.

"The most important thing for me is to want to be out there. It doesn't matter if I win or lose, that's just part of sport. I love the game but I have suffered with it. I've tried coaches and psychologists to help me keep going, and this is the last throw of the dice. It doesn't mean I'm going to win the tournament and I've got nothing to prove, I just want to try to play for as long as I can.

"I won't disclose what (the psychology sessions) are about. It won't make me a better snooker player but hopefully it will allow me to feel 99 per cent as good as the other players feel, so I'm on a level playing field."

The other match to conclude saw Stuart Bingham put on a stirring fightback to turn a 8-6 deficit into a 10-8 win against Peter Ebdon.

Bingham has been one of the season's great success stories. His run to the quarter-finals of the UK Championship proved he can mix it with the big boys - and he was it again.

He didn't play at his fluent best in this match but managed to get over the line with a strong finish. There are a large crop of players in Bingham's boat, hovering and waiting for a slot in the top 16. But I think Bingham is more equipped than most. He's proved he can match the top players over the longer formats as well as in the shorter games.

Of the four matches starting out today, the best was saved until last as Mark Allen came up against Matthew Stevens in the evening session. Super breaks, exquisite long potting and classy safety play made sure this box office match lived up to its billing.

Of course to pave the way for this, there were poor misses along the way. But it all made for a very open match.

Welshman Stevens just shaded the session ending 5-4 ahead but it's still all to play for. The banter between the two players was great as well. It was good to see Allen playing with a smile on his face as well.

Predictably it wasn't so entertaining in the morning session as Ricky Walden and Rory McLeod were called off the table early at just 4-4. It was the slog we all predicted.

Marco Fu meanwhile was rewarded for his excellent long potting with a 6-3 lead over Martin Gould. Willie Thorne claimed it's the best he's seen Marco play "in years". So I assume he missed his run to the Masters final in January.

Fu has a knack of going under the radar at the big tournaments but he'll be pleased with how he set out his stall in this one.

The Pinner potter is more than capable of storming back, so my eyes will be glued to this match when they resume in the morning. Gould will probably employ a have-a-go attitude but Fu rarely seems to suffer from nerves.

Graeme Dott incidentally has been to more World Championship finals than any other player over the last seven seasons. He kicked off his championship with a solid display to open up a 6-3 advantage over Mark King.

I didn't see much of this match but hear it was everything you'd expect from Dott who always saves his best form for Sheffield.

King on the other hand showed glimpses of excellence but not nearly consistent enough to worry the Scot.

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