Crucible Diary 2011: Day Six Blog

Day six from Sheffield saw the conclusion of the first round as well as the start of two of the last 16 matches, both of which could not have panned out more differently…

Making it to the venue on time for once I headed in for the start of the match between Mark Williams and Jamie Cope, while Mark Selby looked to polish off his match with Jimmy Robertson over on table one, resuming with an 8-1 lead. To cut a short story even shorter, that is exactly what he did as he opened with a break of 107 before soon adding frame 11 to seal a 10-1 win and passage through to the next round.

As it would transpire, the session was to prove almost as easy for Mark Williams as Jamie Cope had something of a shocker, notably missing several balls with the rest, at least five by my count. Perhaps more disheartening for Jamie Cope fans was the fact that whenever he played a poor positional shot or had a bit of bad luck, he would just get down and quickly play another poor shot, presumably through pure frustration.

Mark on the other hand while missing a couple of balls, otherwise looked very good and at one stage was floating round the table with an average shot time of 13 seconds and a pot success rate of 94%. In truth though he was presented with an easy starter almost every time he came to the table so was under absolutely no pressure at all.

The result was that Mark would finish with a 7-1 overnight lead and if he can start fast tomorrow will be looking to finish with a session to spare which in a long tournament like this is just what you want. I suspect that referee Leo Scullion will also be hoping for that having already taken charge of the two deciders in the first round!

Following what was a speedy first session that was all but completed by 3pm there was little else to do but hang around outside on what was a sunny day which had something of a carnival feel to it. While waiting though I did have a good chat with Scottish professional Anthony McGill who amongst other things pointed me in the way of the entry list for the Q School which was released last week and somehow escaped my radar. More on that on a separate post.

I also managed to catch Shaun Murphy outside and introduce myself as the man behind the blog while shortly afterwards I caught a word with Ali Carter and manager Steve Daintry who had just arrived in Sheffield ahead of the Captain’s second round match with Graeme Dott tomorrow. While chatting to Ali he raised the point that he is currently battling Shaun Murphy for a place at the World Cup this summer representing England, something that I must admit I had not even considered! Again, more on that to follow under separate cover.

Finally during the wait for the evening session there was also an entertaining moment during a chat with Judd Trump’s father Steve as some passing fans approached him to ask if he was Cliff Thorburn!

On the subject of Judd, it was his match with Martin Gould that had everyone talking at the Crucible and tonight’s opening session was to live up to the hype as they both played a brand of attacking snooker that was very easy on the eye for those of us in the audience and I imagine you at home too.

On the tournament’s opening morning when Judd took on Neil Robertson I felt that the youngster looked very nervous during the first four frames, understandably so, but tonight was a marked contrast. From the off he looked far more at ease and walked around the table like he had been doing so for a decade.  Martin meanwhile again looked slightly edgy early on and that was reflected in the scoreline as he fell three behind before taking an important fourth frame despite a good effort from Judd to force enough penalty points to be able to win once again.

They say that you never settle at the Crucible until you win your first frame (here endeth the John Virgo impersonation), and perhaps that was true for Martin as on their resumption the long balls started to find the back of the pocket and an excellent 75 took him one behind before he levelled at 3-3 shortly afterwards.

Judd though has already proven that his temperament is as impressive as his potting recently and he hit back with a fine break of 80 before taking the final frame of the session to lead 5-3 overnight. On balance the score was probably a fair reflection of the play although Martin did come close to completing a gutsy clearance in frame eight only to rattle the yellow and following a couple of very unfortunate kisses, stick it up over the adjacent corner pocket. Judd duly dished to restore his two frame lead but in truth I don’t think that it matters a huge deal at this stage as both are well capable of rattling off a succession of frames if things go their way.

Over on table two meanwhile John Higgins set about completing a seemingly inevitable win against Stephen Lee and that is exactly what he did, a series of big breaks eventually seeing him over the line 10-5. On the other side of the curtain tonight I could not see the match but looking at the scoreboard it would appear that Higgins was in fine form, while Stephen had simply left himself too much to do following a poor first session. The feeling in Sheffield is that Higgins will take some beating and it would be hard to argue after this result. Long way to go however…

Tomorrow I am in for the morning and evening sessions, unfortunately ticketless for the afternoon. Still should be a good day however…