Premier League Snooker 2008: Night Two Preview


Premier League Snooker – Night Two from Basingstoke, SkySports2, 7:30pm

John Higgins v Ding Junhui
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Joe Perry

Following on from last week’s terrific start to the new Premier League season, the circus now moves on the The Anvil in Basingstoke for the second set of matches.

Match One: John Higgins v Ding Junhui

Playing their second match of the tournament so far, both Higgins and Ding will be looking for their first win of the season in order to really get themselves in contention for a play off place.

Having failed to secure a single point in the last four frames of his 4-2 defeat to Mark Selby in Grimsby last week, Ding in particular will be keen to put that behind him and earn his first points of the campaign. In addition with his home tournament at the Shanghai Masters coming up next week, he will want to go into that full of confidence so a win tonight is perhaps even more important than usual.

Higgins meanwhile will be in good spirits following a very creditable 3-3 draw with the four times defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan last week and a semi-final in the Northern Ireland Trophy. Looking comfortable with the shot clock from the very start this season, he will be confident of strengthening his position in the top four and a win against Ding would do him no harm at all.

The match should be a close one as both players when at their best are right among the best in the sport sport today. On current form though you would have to make Higgins favourite to add to his points tally, but you never know with Ding who notched up 13 centuries in this competition last season…

Match Two: Ronnie O’Sullivan v Joe Perry

Having started his Premier League season with that draw with Higgins last week, O’Sullivan will be hot favourite to record his first win against debutant Joe Perry. Indeed this would be his second win of the season over Perry following his 5-3 win in their recent meeting in the last 16 of the Northern Ireland Trophy earlier this month. As if things didn’t look tricky enough for Joe, he will be making his debut in the Premier League and so the conditions (which so far have suited O’Sullivan perfectly), may take some time to get used to.

So what chance has Perry got? He has definitely improved a lot as a player recently, winning the Championship League and reaching his first World semi-final this May. Although not particularly a household name, if he plays to his very best then he is certainly capable of giving O’Sullivan a game and taking a point or two.

Despite this, you cannot help but fancy O’Sullivan to win the match, given his current confidence levels and his liking of the event. Mark Selby showed last week though that a debutant can win straight away against top opposition and if Perry were to follow in his footsteps then it would really be an eye-opener. Premier League Snooker: Night One Review

Match One: Sublime Selby earns comeback win

And to think I doubted him, Mark Selby put in arguably the most impressive debut performance that the league has seen whilst in this format to beat Ding Junhui 4-2 and go top of the Premier League.

He didn’t get off to the best of starts however, in what was a scrappy opening for both players. Selby eventually took control of the frame before breaking down on the last red. Following a brief safety exchange, Ding capitalised on a poor safety to take the frame with a break of 30 and lead 1-0.

Selby again got in first at the start of frame two but landed on nothing when he attempted to split the reds. A few shots later and what at the time looked like a key moment took place. Ding managed to put Selby in a very tough snooker behind the green and it appeared to be an ideal time for Selby to use his first ‘time-out’ of the match. He chose not to however and his attempted escape fell way short of the intended red, allowing Ding to come in and take full advantage with a break of 100.

At this point I was wondering whether Selby was indeed struggling to adapt to the shot clock and whether Ding would move on to win comfortably, after all he looked to be cueing well. What followed from Selby however was an absolutely stunning response which erased any doubts about his ability to cope with the 25 second limit.

He quickly drew level with breaks of 86 and 80 before a run of 73 following a missed red from Ding and then a well deserved century in the final frame of the match secured him the points. In truth he could have made a century in each of those four frames but for some poor positional play once the frame was won, though I doubt he will be too worried about that with £5,000 and two points earned tonight.

Selby said:

“I had a few chances to make a century but I’m not complaining – I’m chuffed to bits winning 4-2 on my debut,” said Selby.

“I only played one bad safety in first frame, then he took the second and then I performed. I always try and enjoy it and put on a good performance.

“With the shot clock, I played a little bit quicker than last season so I’ll need to get a bit of exercise in.

“I’ve got to take it one game at a time and Stephen’s record speaks for itself but I’m certainly looking forward to it.”

Ding will be disappointed to have come away from the night with no points but it is early days and he will be hoping to get his campaign back on track when he meets John Higgins next week in Basingstoke. Selby meanwhile now has a week off before he plays seven times world champion Stephen Hendry in Derby.

Match Two: Points shared as Higgins denies the Rocket

In what was a high quality match from the start, the spoils were shared as defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and Scotland’s John Higgins drew 3-3.

In what was a highly enjoyable start to the match, O’Sullivan thought that he had taken the frame when following a break of 62 he left Higgins needing a snooker. Higgins however had other ideas as he got that snooker and cleared up to force a respot. Eventually it was O’Sullivan who blinked first and left an unmissable shot for Higgins to knock in and take the frame.

Following a break of 83 in the next to put Higgins 2-0 up, it was O’Sullivan’s turn to hit back with breaks of 72 and 85 to level the match. He then went into the lead when Higgins’ break ended at 38 when he missed a tricky long blue that he was forced into taking following a kick on his previous shot.

Lesser players might have given in at this point but Higgins is far too classy for that. He potted a superb long red at the start of the sixth frame and although faced with a number of tricky shots early on in the break, held firm and sealed a point with a run of 74.

Both seemed fairly happy with the result in their post match interview:

“That was a point gained for me as I was 3 -2 behind,” said Higgins. “You’ve got to raise your game against Ronnie as he never misses. You only get in off a bad safety and whenever you leave him a chance it’s game over.

“I’ve not played in the Premier League for a few years, and last year I realized I missed it. It’s a great tournament and everyone’s a great player so you just do your best,” he added.

O’Sullivan said: “It’s a point and at the end of the day I’m not disappointed so we both got out of jail.

As previously mentioned, Higgins now faces Ding Junhui in the next event while O’Sullivan will be up against league debutant Joe Perry.

September 11 – Grimsby Auditorium

£5,000 Mark Selby 4-2 Ding Junhui £3,000
51(43)-64(30), 15-105(100), 86(86)-0, 80(80)-0, 73(73)-0, 104(104)-0
£3,000 Ronnie O’Sullivan 3-3 John Higgins £3,000
63(62)-70(respot black), 1-91(83), 98(72)-0, 85(85)-0, 67(46)-46(38), 0-74(74)

For a list of centuries, money earned and the league table, please click here.

Selby on League debut

Mark Selby has been speaking to the Leicester Mercury about his debut in the Premier League competition tonight.

He said:

“There are only six matches and I need to win four to reach the semi-finals,” said Selby.

“Ding has been struggling lately, but you play only six frames against each player so it can be a bit of a lottery.

“Hopefully, I’ll have a good run, because I want to stay in it for next season.”

On the shot clock:

“The 25-second shot rule will be interesting,”

“I’ve quickened up my action and I feel confident with it.

“But it doesn’t happen overnight and will still take some time before I’m used to it completely.”

On his Northern Ireland Trophy defeat to Ian McCulloch:

“I didn’t play drastically. It was the first tournament of the season and I got some ranking points on board. There is still time to improve.” Premier League Snooker 2008: Night One Preview

Premier League Snooker – Night One from Grimsby, SkySports1, 7:30pm

Mark Selby v Ding Junhui
Ronnie O’Sullivan v John Higgins

So here we are, night one of the new Premier League season and what a tournament it promises to be. Please click here for my tournament preview posted yesterday.

Match One: Mark Selby v Ding Junhui

So to start with we have world number 3 Mark Selby against Chinese star Ding Junhui in what should be a close match. Selby, last season’s Masters and Welsh Open champion is making his debut in the competition tonight and it will be interesting to see how he handles the 25 second shot clock. He has said that he has shortened his cue action to become a quicker player which should help here, but it is still early on in the season and it remains to be seen whether he is entirely comfortable with it at this stage. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see him take a week or two to settle into the conditions posed by the League, we shall see.

As for Ding he should have no trouble settling in. Having topped the league phase last season, making an incredible 12 centuries on the way, he will be keen to keep that form going this time around. He did lose his opening match of the season in the Northern Ireland Trophy to Mark Davis but I wouldn’t expect that to count for much tonight. Ding seems to enjoy the glitzy atmosphere provided by the league and produce his best snooker on a consistent basis in the competition.

The match could go either way but my gut feeling is that Ding will win this, possibly 4-2.

Match Two: Ronnie O’Sullivan v John Higgins

New season, same old story? Judging by O’Sullivan’s success in Northern Ireland it seems that way, and coming to a tournament that he has made his own for the last four years he will be confident of getting off to a good start tonight. Interestingly however, only last week O’Sullivan described Higgins as the only man who can stop him when on full form. Given some of their matches in recent years (THAT performance in the Grand Prix and the 2006 Masters from Higgins), this is perhaps unsurprising, and O’Sullivan clearly won’t be taking anything for granted.

In what is a repeat of last season’s final, Higgins will be hoping for a better result tonight. Having reached the semi-finals in Northern Ireland he has started the season well and will look to give his confidence a further boost with a win tonight. Twice a world champion, we all know that Higgins is capable of beating O’Sullivan, but it has to be said that these conditions and the shot clock in particular favour Ronnie tonight.

O’Sullivan beat Higgins 5-1 on the opening night last season but Higgins will be more used to the shot clock this season and I expect it to be a closer contest. A draw would not surprise me but I will stick my neck out and say 4-2 O’Sullivan. Premier League Snooker 2008: Tournament Preview

Tomorrow night marks the start of the 2008 Premier League and what promises to be another hotly contested series of matches culminating in the semi-finals and final in early December.

The Players

The field this year is headed by world number one and reigning World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, who has won the Premier League for the last four years. With his quick, aggressive game being perfectly suited to the shot clock conditions he will be favourite to win the title again and at this point it is hard to see anyone stopping him.

Leading the chasing pack however will be both finalists from the 2007 World Championship final, John Higgins and Premier League debutant Mark Selby. Despite a disappointing end to last season losing to Mark King at the Crucible, Selby had a memorable year, capturing his first ranking event title in Wales as well as winning the Wembley Masters in January. It will be interesting to see how a player who in the past hasn’t been the quickest out there, adapts to the 25 second shot clock in the League. He has said that he has made some changes to his cue action in an effort to improve his game, and no doubt his chances during this event so we will have to wait and see. John Higgins meanwhile is a player who at times last season appeared to struggle with the quick pace, but still did enough to reach the final. Now he will be used to the rule from the off he will be hoping to hit the ground running and go one step further this year.

Also back again for another year are the duo with 13 world titles between them, Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis. Hendry, a six-time winner of the event, will be looking to reach the play-offs once again and show the form that enabled him to beat O’Sullivan in the league phase last year. Davis meanwhile will be sure to entertain the crowd with his quips and having spent the summer working on his cue action it will be interesting to see how competitive he is. Either way he will enjoy every minute of it.

Finally the league is completed by Chinese star Ding Junhui and last season’s World semi-finalist, Joe Perry. Ding will be hoping for a better season this time around having seen his career stall somewhat following his 2007 Masters defeat to O’Sullivan. He certainly knows how to cope with the shot clock, having scored a record-breaking 495 points without reply against Stephen Hendry in last season’s competition, so it would be no surprise to see him make the play-offs for the second season in a row.

Perry meanwhile is another debutant in the Premier League and he certainly made it the hard way, qualifying by winning the inaugural Championship League final in May. Also reaching the semi-finals of the World Championship that month, Perry finished the season in the best form of his life and started well this time round, narrowly losing to O’Sullivan in the first ranking event of the season. It will be interesting to see therefore whether he can carry this form over to the conditions posed by the Premier League or whether he will take some time to adapt.

Overall it should be a close league with virtually every player having a realistic shot at qualifying for the semi-finals. Again though, O’Sullivan is undoubtedly the man to beat in the end and in these conditions it is hard to see anybody doing so.

Venue and ticket information

For a full schedule of the matches please click here to visit view my ticket information page. More information on the tournament can also be found via the Matchroom sport website.

If you get a chance to attend an evening at a Premier League event then be sure to take it, I have attended the Grimsby round for the past two years and have found it to be great fun. The atmosphere is relaxed, the live TV action is broadcast on the monitors in the arena and MC John McDonald does a great job during the intervals. I will be going to the Sheffield leg this time around and hopefully it will be just as good.

A preview of tomorrow night’s matches will be posted tomorrow.