Thursday at the EISS: The full version!

Having now had a bit of sleep, here is my report from yesterday at the EISS as Jimmy White’s Crucible dream was ended for another year and Ken Doherty booked his place in the final qualifying round…

Apologies for not having updated the rankings, unfortunately time has just not been on my side, but as there is no snooker tomorrow (Saturday), I will post a full round-up then!

Due to work commitments I arrived mid-way through the afternoon session and with four very hard to call matches between some very experienced players,  found myself torn with regard to who to watch! Eventually I opted for the matches that involved Jimmy Michie/David Gray and Robert Milkins/Mike Dunn, particularly having been told of the excellent start that Jimmy Michie had made.

Indeed I had expected the contest between Michie and Gray to be a close one but as it was Jimmy opened with breaks of 73, 75 and 62 before making what I’m told was an exceptional clearance of 45, from a position where the final three reds were all on cushions and the colours were just as awkward.

Although it was the first match to reach the interval however, the standard dropped somewhat after the break and almost every frame went scrappy as David desperately tried to get off the mark. He had his chances in frame five but a missed black off the spot when leading 42-12 followed by an in-off handed Jimmy another frame and a 5-0 advantage.

Milkins considers his options

David did finally break his duck in frame six but the next was to be another grind on the colours which ended with Jimmy potting green, brown and blue to stretch his lead to 6-1. Gray’s frustrations were all too evident now (much like a year earlier against Jin Long), and as Jimmy took the last of the session to take a 7-2 lead into tomorrow it looks to be too much of a gap to make up for David.

The match between Mike Dunn and Robert Milkins meanwhile got off to an interesting start as I understand that despite being around 60 points behind with just blue, pink and black remaining, Mike played on for snookers for an unusual amount of time. Whether it was gamesmanship or merely an attempt to gain table time, it seemed to work as he won the next two frames before Robert levelled at the interval.

In terms of quality it was not the best of matches but it was always close, though Mike could have gone 5-3 up only to go in-off when potting the last yellow which allowed Milkins to clear and eventually finish the session with a 5-4 lead. Will be one to watch to the conclusion I think.

A streamline Mike Dunn

As an aside I should also say it was very noticeable how much thinner Mike looked than a year previously when I saw him play at the same event. Not quite Thepchaiya un-Nooh thinness yet but…

The slowest match of the session was that involving Marcus Campbell and James Wattana. Although Marcus led 3-1 and went 46-0 up in the next frame, James kept his composure to make a 90 when back at the table and looked like he might repeat the feat from 40-0 down in the next frame. Campbell though managed to take the frame eventually and from there stretched his lead to 6-3 by the end of the session, a useful if not insurmountable lead.

Jimmy Michie on the march

I did not see a great deal of the remaining match between Mark Davis and Barry Pinches but it is Mark who currently leads 5-3 as they were called off one frame short of the scheduled nine due to the imminent start of the evening session.

Observers during the session were Jimmy White (suited and booted for his evening match), Michael Judge, Liang Wenbo and Tony Drago. As was the case during the Paul Hunter event in Leeds last year will remember, it made me smile to see how interested Tony was in the matches and how talkative he is, saying “great shot” and clapping for example. Even after all these years it is obvious that he still loves the game and perhaps that is something that has contributed to his so far excellent season.

Doherty v White

The most anticipated match of the day was that between Ken Doherty and Jimmy White which saw Ken resume the evening session with a 6-3 advantage against the man who destroyed him twice during qualifying tournaments last season.

Ken however is in a much better frame of mind this year and wasted no time at all in extending his lead to 7-3 with a break of 73 following a missed red from distance by Jimmy.

Ken breaks off in frame 11

The second frame was a longer affair as both players potted initial reds without being able to follow them up with a colour. With the reds in the open both players were understandably cautious and careful not to make the first error but in the end the difference proved to be a timely fluke for Ken which without marking the start of a frame-winning break, gave him the upper hand in the safety exchange and led to a very good break of 31. Jimmy did get back to the table but having missed a red on 36, Ken fluked another one into the green pocket and then added the next frame to make it 9-3.

Could Jimmy at least make the interval? As Ken missed an easy pink into the left-centre it looked like he might as he made a break of 50 to make himself favourite for the frame. Having missed a red however he then left Ken in prime position with the reds available and though he needed two bites at the cherry, he eventually came through to secure a straightforward 10-3 win. I actually managed to record much of this frame on my camera and will upload when I get time tomorrow hopefully.

As a Ken fan, probably one of about three people in there supporting him, it was great to see him looking confident again and a marked difference from his loss to Gerard Greene at the same venue 12 months ago. For Jimmy it was always going to be a tough ask having been on the table until the early hours the previous evening against Mark Boyle and I think it showed tonight. Incidentally I also noticed during the second frame of the session how much weight he has lost. Perhaps his participation in I’m a Celebrity was worth it after all!

Move over Pete…

While this match was done and dusted in little time at all, the others looked like they had midnight finishes written all over them as apart from the one involving Adrian Gunnell and Joe Delaney which resumed at 8-1 to Adrian, none were close to a finish. As things transpired however, by 10:00pm the scoreline had only advanced to 8-4 in that match as Joe steadily began to mount a comeback.

The second match of the session to reach its end was that between Tom Ford and Anthony Hamilton. Nottingham’s Hamilton had finished off the morning in some style by taking the final three frames of the session to lead 6-3 but the evening was to see a total reversal of fortunes as Tom reeled off seven in a row to claim a very impressive 10-6 victory. I had expected him to win the match beforehand but even so it was a notable result and one that sets up a mouthwatering tie with Judd Trump in the final round, very tough to call.

Next man through was Martin Gould though it was not without a scare as having looked set to clear up at 9-6, he missed a simple pot and could only watch as Bjorn Haneveer completed a marvellous clearance to steal it and get himself right back into the match. As he added the next it looked like he really fancied the job and Martin must have been fearing another deciding frame defeat this season but in frame eighteen Bjorn made a major mistake, leaving a black short of the right-centre pocket and this proved to be pivotal. Having had such a good season last year Martin has not seen things go his way this time around but remains a talented player who might now be able to kick on from here against Nigel Bond.

Gould in gold

Bjorn meanwhile has at least qualified for China and importantly done enough to keep his place on the tour for another season which is pretty much all that you can ask for of a tour newcomer. Despite his disappointment he was happy to stand for a picture and eventually came up to watch the remaining three matches to a conclusion.

Having re-started at 3-3 in the evening it looked like the match between Rod Lawler and Dominic Dale might still be going on the next evening but in the end it was Rod who managed to get a grip on the game and from 5-5 take the next five frames to progress 10-5. I did not see much of the match but I understand that Dominic was not feeling particularly well and combined with problems with his cue action at the moment, struggled out there. Like Bjorn however he came up to watch the remaining two matches, helping to almost take the crowd into double figures as at this stage I counted just eight of us left watching!

With Adrian Gunnell eventually getting over the line against a spirited Joe Delaney, this left just the match between Alan McManus and Paul Davies going as the clock ticked past 1am and the players shook hands for the start of the deciding frame.

Bjorn post-match

I has seen little of the match up until this point but the final frame was to prove a fascinating watch as the body language of the two players could not possibly have been any more different. Alan McManus is a course a player who has been there and done it several times before. While he might have problems with his game, his temperament is something that has not deteriorated and I noticed how his demeanour was like it was the first frame, not the 19th in a match that had progressed past 1pm!

Paul Davies though could not have been more different. During the deciding frame he had at least three good opportunities to win the match but unfortunately for him he became extremely edgy and while down on the shot struggled to deliver the cue. It became particularly apparent when on one particular shot he got down on it, feathered the white several times, paused to take the shot and then resumed feathering it before getting up off the shot entirely. Though he actually played that shot perfectly, the pressure built up until he missed a couple of shots later and though he had another couple of chances on the final yellow and blue, the same thing happened again and he missed both times as a result.

Not to take anything away from McManus who eventually potted the last blue to seal a crucial victory, but it was uncomfortable to watch Paul lose that way and I understand from speaking to other players that it is not the first time it has happened to him. Certainly though it was something that I have never seen to such an extent before.

By the time that match finished it was around 1:20am so unsurprisingly I did not hang around for too long!