Friday, 12 April 2013

The Crucible is calling

A place at the Crucible is within touching distance.

Just one win - and ten frames - separates this year's World  Championship hopeful qualifiers and a place at the sport's master showpiece.

So close yet so far. Thirty-two players face just one hurdle to make it to the most important venue of the season, yet cooped up in the famous old cubicles they are miles away from the spectacle that awaits at the Crucible.

The glitz and glamour of a place on snooker's premier stage is just around the corner yet before they earn the right to play to compete alongside the world's very best, a monumental test must be overcome.

The World Championship qualifiers promises plenty. Drama, pressure and numerous twists and turns. The final two days of auditions for the Crucible is often so exciting it rivals the great event itself.

A pivotal chapter towards this year's World Championship tale is about to be written.

As usual, the cast bidding to make it all the way to the best snooker event of the year is as intriguing as always.

Leading the line is six-time Crucible finalist Jimmy White. He's had a great week. Two wins down and just Robert Milkins stands between him and what would be a popular return to Sheffield for the first time since 2006.

The Whirlwind has the whole snooker world behind him but faces his biggest test so far.

Three men fighting for the right to play at the Crucible have been here all week. Liam Highfield and Sam Baird are two promising young players who have both encountered tense deciding frame battles but are living to tell the tale and showing more of their great promise.

Dechewat Poomjaeng has also been here for the duration and has looked as cool as anyone, progressing where others have wilted.

Kurt Maflin has been among the best performers of the week, but isn't the only exciting talent bidding to make it the full way.

Jack Lisowski and Michael White are well talked about contenders. Liang Wenbo and Yu De Lu have shined. David Gilbert is eyeing his second successive season at the Crucible. Alfie Burden has already showed he has the staying power and Ben Woollaston is rated by many.

But there are 16 players coming in fresh and without any form this week behind them. Who will get themselves over the line?

Here's the full line-up for the final World Championship qualifying round:

Ryan Day v Ben Woollaston
Andrew Higginson v Michael White
Ken Doherty v Matt Selt
Fergal O'Brien v Jack Lisowski
Jamie Cope v Dechewat Poomjaeng
Michael Holt v Mark Joyce
Marco Fu v David Gilbert
Tom Ford v Alan McManus
Martin Gould v Rod Lawler
Mark Davis v Liang Wenbo
Mark King v Yu De Lu
Marcus Campbell v Liam Highfield
Joe Perry v Sam Baird
Dominic Dale v Alfie Burden
Peter Ebdon v Kurt Maflin
Robert Milkins v Jimmy White

Who will it make it to the Crucible? Here are my picks: Day, M White, Selt, Lisowski, Cope, Holt, Fu, Ford, Gould, Wenbo, King, Campbell, Perry, Burden, Ebdon and Milkins.

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