The first week of the World Championship behind closed doors inside the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield comes to an end on Thursday when two more second round matches get underway while the two that have already started continue.
We have no fewer than five world champions gracing the green baize on Thursday and one of the hottest young properties in the game, so a tournament that has been full of quality already could be ready to be cranked up a notch here.
I’m sure everyone knows the format by now but for those who are unsure of it, it is long course snooker all the way over this 17 day marathon. The first round is the best-of-19 frames which goes up to the best-of-25 for the second round and the quarter finals. The semi-finals at the best-of-33 frames and then the four session final will see a champion crowned on the third Saturday and Sunday over the best-of-35 frames.
The first round drew to a close on Wednesday and it did so with the two men who led 7-2 overnight going on to secure wins before the need for a mid-session interval. Barry Hawkins didn’t actually lose a frame on Wednesday and came out as a 10-2 winner over Alexander Ursenbacher while Martin Gould was made to wait an extra frame by Stephen Maguire but he came through 10-3. In the two second round matches that got underway, Kurt Maflin holds a 5-3 lead on John Higgins and Mark Williams heads Stuart Bingham by the same score.
In Play Betting
Those two matches are nicely poised and while the even money on Kurt Maflin to go on and beat John Higgins is very tempting, I’m on Maflin on the handicap so there isn’t much sense in getting involved again. I’ll take what should be a winner and crack on. The other match might be worth a bet on Stuart Bingham to beat Mark Williams but unless he wins their one session on Thursday 6-2 he isn’t going to be a lot shorter than he is now assuming he has a chance of winning when they finish off on Saturday so I’ll watch that second session with an eye of getting involved going into Friday.
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Mark Selby vs Noppon Saengkham (Thursday 10am, 7pm & Friday 2.30 pm)
The first match of the two which gets underway on Thursday sees the three time former winner of this tournament Mark Selby going up against a Noppon Saengkham who is entitled to be on cloud nine after his fine win over Shaun Murphy in the first round.
Most judges are expecting Mark Selby to improve on his pretty average performance in his win over Jordan Brown to kick off his campaign. To be fair to the Leicester man, he certainly can’t play much worse, but he’ll need to offer up an improvement of some kind. I think I would need to see that improvement before I trust him in this match. I’m a little wary of backing Saengkham because we see it all the time that it is hard to back up a big success with another straight away. It is a watching brief for me to start with in this one.
Judd Trump vs Yan Bingtao (Thursday 2.30pm, Friday 10am & 7pm)
The more appealing of the two games that start out on Thursday is the second one of them which sees Judd Trump continuing what he hopes will be a full defence of his title. He takes on Yan Bingtao who is gracing the second round of the tournament for the very first kind.
You couldn’t really say either of these players were at their best in the previous round. Trump was let off the hook big time by Tom Ford in a match Ford should have been at least 7-2 up at the interval but only led 5-4 before succumbing 10-8. Bingtao looked to be cruising past Elliot Slessor when he led 7-1 but in the end he fell over the line 10-7 and certainly can’t afford a drop off like that again here.
I don’t think Trump is at his best but he played well under pressure in the first round and that might draw something closer to his best stuff out of him. One thing which will give him confidence is the head to head between these two. Not only does Trump lead it 5-0 but he also has a 30-7 advantage in frames courtesy of 5-1, 6-1, 5-1, 4-0 and 10-4 wins. I don’t see anything that suggests Bingtao will get much closer here so the 4/5 on Trump to cover a 4.5 frame handicap looks good to me. We need him to win 13-8 or better and that looks to have every chance.
Back J.Trump (-4.5 frames) to beat Y.Bingtao for a 3/10 stake at 1.80 with Boylesports
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