Premier League Snooker 2009: Night Two Review

Tonight saw two clashes between England and Scotland in the Premier League as John Higgins and Stephen Hendry took on Shaun Murphy and Judd Trump respectively. Click below to read how the evening unfolded…

Shaun Murphy 2-4 John Higgins

50(38)-72(33), 73-24, 53(53)-77(53), 28-70(58), 72(72)-0, 18-92(61)

John Higgins got his 2009 Premier League campaign off to a terrific start tonight with an important 4-2 victory over Shaun Murphy in what was a repeat of their World Championship final earlier on this year.

Having shared the first two frames, it was John who managed to seize the initiative in tonight’s opening match by taking the third frame with a strong clearance of 53 to go into the lead at 2-1.

It was a close match in which both players had chances in virtually every frame and the pattern continued in the fourth as John looked to secure his first point of the new season. Having seen Shaun fail with a long effort, scattering the reds everywhere with the sole consolation that he had moved the black into a non-pottable position, it looked like he would be able to do this almost immediately. Though he soon broke down on just 7, a missed pink to the left-centre from Shaun gave the Scot a second chance and he all but secured the frame with a run of 58. Shaun did play on for snookers but it was to no avail as John ensured that he would end the evening unbeaten.

Down but not out, Shaun responded in style with a nicely taken break of 72, the highest of the match so far to keep alive his chances of taking away a point in frame five. The first chance of the decider also fell his way but having broken down on just 18, John punished him with what proved to be a match-winning break of 65 and ensured that he would take both points available from the match.

Overall it was a good, if not exceptional match with both players looking in decent form and scoring well. I had expected Shaun to be able to come through as stated in yesterday’s preview but as against Liang Wenbo in Shanghai last weekend, he failed to take his chances and Higgins punished him with some solid scoring.

John will next be in action against Marco Fu next week in Southampton while Shaun will have to wait until October 15th and a clash with defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan in Aberdeen.

Stephen Hendry 2-4 Judd Trump

117(104)-0, 125(57,68c)-0, 51(51)-70, 29-51, 0-126(103), 0-88(88)

As pointed out by SkySports commentator Phil Yates during the match, it was actually Judd Trump who entered tonight’s second match as favourite with the bookies but Stephen wasted no time in attempting to prove them wrong as he raced into an early lead thanks to the 734th century break of his career.

Indeed, Hendry looked to be very sharp early in the match and with his safety seemingly leaving Judd tight on the baulk cushion every time he came to the table, he soon forced another couple of openings as he cleared the table with further breaks of 57 and 68.

The six-time champion’s dominance looked like it would continue in frame three as he moved 51-0 ahead early in the frame but a missed red to the right-centre and a safety error allowed Judd to finally get off the mark and pot his first ball of the match. Perhaps suffering a little from a lack of table-time however, he himself missed one to the right-centre and the frame was in the balance with 19 points separating them and just three reds left on the table.

Ultimately however, a terrible safety shot by Stephen on the green allowed Trump in to steal the frame and get himself right into the match at 1-2.

This would prove to be a hugely significant moment and Judd looked to continue his fight-back in frame four as he got in first with an excellent red from distance and looked like he might be able to level the match in one-visit. Though he was losing control of the cue ball more and more with every shot and perhaps inevitably he missed one on 36, eventually after a long tactical exchange he managed to take the frame. Notably, the final pot on the brown was not only a good shot in its own right, but one that he played right-handed which made it all the more impressive.

With the pot success stats at 94% and 78% for Stephen and Judd respectively, it was perhaps surprising that the scoreline was level at 2-2 but Judd was now sensing his opportunity and starting to make some brilliant pots. Stephen was obviously trying to use his experience and keep things tight, but Trump was going for everything and beginning to make them with increasing regularity and he moved into the lead for the first time at 3-2.

Frame six and by now Trump was absolutely in full flight, knocking in a terrific break of 88 to win the match. It has to be said that the pockets on the table appeared to be rather big, particularly evident as Judd knocked in a red to go 53-0 up in the last frame but it was the same for all four players this evening and he certainly made the most of it.

Finishing up with a pot success rate of 93%, Stephen hardly played badly but it is an early blow to his chances of qualifying for the play-off stage and he will need to bounce back quickly against Neil Robertson next week in Southampton. For Judd however it is an excellent result and one that will only help to bring him on further in the game…