Monday, 11 July 2011

What happened to the 'luck of the Irish'?

Everyone said the home nations would dominate - but maybe we were all wrong.

The Republic of Ireland duo, Ken Doherty and Fergal O'Brien, stole the headlines on the opening day of the PTT-EGAT World Cup, but for all the wrong reasons.

They crashed to a 3-2 defeat against minnows Pakistan - and it got me thinking that maybe this short format and bizarre take on a doubles game could act as a leveller.

I don't want to come across too disrespectful, but you could get extremely long odds on Pakistan's Sahid Aftab and Muhammad Sajjad beating Ireland's experienced professionals. But that's exactly what they did. But with a high break of just 25 points.

The Irish can rightly feel hard done by, but they paid for not taking their chances.

Pakistan will celebrate their win and could go on to grow in this tournament, because they're not without ability. Sajjad was runner-up in the 2010 Asian Championship and winner of the Korat Cup in the same year while Aftab, who won both his singles frames, has already won the Pakistan National Championship this year and was a quarter-finalist at the Asian Championship.

 I'm sure there will be more success stories to come. Played under a short and unpredictable format, there's every chance of shock results.

The Irish can't have too many complaints although big questions were being asked of the alternate shots rule in the doubles match. These frames were long and laborious today. The players failed to find much rhythm and as result, the quality of snooker suffered. That said, it's all part of a new challenge, and I expect the standard in the doubles matches to improve as the week progresses.

Elsewhere on day one, Northern Ireland were the stars of the show. Gerard Greene and Mark Allen combined beautifully to beat India 4-1, and Australia won by the same scoreline against Thailand 1, with 2010 world champion Neil Robertson and amateur Steve Mifsud both playing their part.

It wasn't such a happy hunting ground for Hong Kong with Marco Fu on board. They also fell victim of a shock, beaten 3-2 by Poland, who boast Kacper Filipiak in their ranks.

Egypt's Yasser Al-Sherbini and Thailand's Thepchaiya Un-nooh emerged as players to watch. They both won their two singles matches to steer their teams to 3-2 wins against Germany and Afghanistan respectively.

My tip for dark horses, Belgium, were beaten 3-2 by Brazil but the game of the day saw China, led by Ding Junhui, beat Malta 3-2. Ding lost his singles match to Drago but scored 120 in the final frame to rescue the win.

Tomorrow big guns Wales, England and Scotland kick off their campaign - and they'll be wary of an upset themselves.

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