Saturday, 5 November 2011

Paul Collier's Premier League nights: Southampton

Paul Collier returns to OnCue with another blog column, as the Premier League really hots up...

It was back to Premier League action this week in Southampton after a one-week break and it’s very much the business end of the competition now.

The big talking point this week was obviously the match between Judd Trump and Ronnie O’Sullivan, which unfortunately was decided by the ball-in-hand rule.

Judd was unlucky to foul and it left Ronnie right in with a chance to seal the match. I’ve got to admit this rule gives a massive advantage. When I first looked at it, I thought it was too big but I do think a lot of people have criticised it because Ronnie doesn’t like it.

It feels like everyone’s jumped on the bandwagon since he said he wasn’t a fan of the rule. I can see why people have a problem with it but there is, of course, another side to the argument.

If a player takes a long red on it’s likely they’ll leave a similar chance to their opponent and there is definitely pressure on the player taking the ball-in-hand opportunity because they’re expected to win the frame.

I do have sympathy for Judd though. It didn’t feel like he had a good crack of the whip in the decider - it felt very harsh.

The start of this ball-in-hand rule originates from people within the game wanting to find a way around letting players earn points from 10, 12 or even more fouls. Originally, the ball-in-hand rule meant a player could put it anywhere in the D. The problem with this is that it doesn’t always give a player an advantage, which is the point of it.

I think being able to put the ball anywhere on the table was thought up in snooker at a time when players like Steve Davis and Jimmy White were playing 9-ball pool. It seemed to work there so it was brought across.

Like anything, you don’t find out how it works until you try it. Barry Hearn is trying to make changes to the sport and it’s all a work in progress.

He obviously believed it might be effective in the Premier League.

All the Premier League rules will be reviewed at the end of the season, so it may not be around for too much longer. I must admit that when I was asked to write this season’s rule book from the guidelines Matchroom set, I was happy with them. It’s only when you start playing with them that you realise ways to improve them.

That said, the match between O’Sullivan and Trump was excellent and pretty much as I expected. Both players were intent on attacking but there were some misses from both players. Unfortunately when you’re refereeing a great match like that, you don’t really get the chance to enjoy it properly.

You’ve always got to referee the table instead of the players or you’ll get in all kinds of trouble. It is nice to see players attack though. It takes the pressure off of having to watch the position of white so closely after every shot. It’s not really until you get in the car after a night that you can appreciate what you’ve refereed.

As I said earlier, we’re into the business end of the competition now and Ding Junhui booked his place in the semi-finals.

I don’t think he’s one of the first names people would have picked to make it through but I know he has always enjoyed playing in the Premier League.

I think the new format has suited him. Maybe because he’s only got four nights to prepare for now, he’s been a bit more dedicated.

The great thing for Ding is that he’s got through without really playing his best yet. He’s played well in patches, but that’s all you need to do in sprint matches.

I’m pleased for him. He’s a great sport. Actually, he passed me on the A47 on the way down to the venue and was waving madly to get my attention. That put a smile on my face.

There are still three play-off places up for grabs in the final two weeks. I’m really looking forward to them. I hope you are as well.

Come back next week for another one of my columns with OnCue.

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