The second round of qualifying for the World Championship continues on Thursday when another 12 matches take place in the English Institute of Sport as we get a step closer towards finalising the field for the main draw.
The dream ended for Stephen Hendry on Wednesday evening but it remains very much alive for the 24 men who will be taking to the green baize over the course of Thursday, each hoping to move two wins from a spot at the Crucible.
Lu Haotian shouldn’t be coming into the competition this early but his slide down the rankings means that he is and he will hope to make it into the third round when he steps out in the main arena to take on his countryman Gao Yang, who is good enough to cause hi a few issues. The other main table will see the fastest player in the game outside of Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan in action when Jamie Wilson takes on Jak Jones.
As ever there are a couple of matches on the outside tables with Joe O’Connor looking to go under the radar but make it through to the third round when he goes up against Fraser Patrick while the talented Chinese player Chang Bingyu is the other higher ranked player hoping to make progress in this session. He takes on the Belgian amateur Julien Leclerq who came from the clouds to dump out Sohail Vahedi earlier in the week.
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Tian Pengfei is the leading light on show in the afternoon session on Thursday. He doesn’t necessarily have an easy task on his hands though as he takes on Billy Joe Castle for a place in the third round. Andrew Higginson is the next highest ranked player on show on Thursday afternoon. He looks to have a much easier time of it on paper as he faces up to a Brandon Sargeant who was absolutely terrible in his win over Rebecca Kenny in the first round.
Two other matches take place in this session with the first of them seeing a match between two men who will open their qualifying account when Jamie Jones takes on the main who received a bye in the first round in the form of David Lilley. The other match in this session is the most even of the lot in terms of the world ranking when Eden Sharav goes up against the player who ended the hopes of Reanne Evans in the first round in Andy Hicks.
There are a few recognisable names on show in the evening session with the man ranked the highest being the Gibraltar Open semi-finalist Stuart Carrington. He takes on a Fergal O’Brien who had a pretty good win in the first round despite playing nowhere near as well as he can. Jimmy Robertson is also in action in this evening session and he’ll take to the baize knowing he has to beat Zhao Jianbo if he is going to give himself a chance of remaining on the tour.
The other two matches see Yuan Sijun, who is in a similar boat to Robertson, taking on the ultimate veteran plodder in Rod Lawler for a place in the third round. The closest match in this session in terms of the rankings is the last one though. That sees Jamie O’Neill playing a Jamie Clarke who seems to have something of an affinity for this competition having come all the way through it last year.
There is only the one bet which interests me over the course of what is actually a trappy little card on Thursday. That comes in the afternoon session where Andy Hicks looks like being the man to support when he takes on Eden Sharav. We saw some right guff in the opening round of qualifying but to be fair to Hicks he wasn’t included in that. When you consider the pressure he was under playing Reanne Evans I thought he performed well enough.
He made three 50 breaks and while it wasn’t flawless it was good enough and if he comes on for the run to use a racing term in Grand National week then he won’t be far away here. In terms of proper events as in anything not the Pro Series, Sharav has only won matches in one tournament all year so he can’t be carrying much in the way of confidence into this event with him. Hicks has the benefit of a win here to boost his confidence and also the advantage of having had a match on the tables too. In a 50:50 match given their respective campaigns the 7/5 on Hicks is a little too big here.
Back A.Hicks to beat E.Sharav for a 3/10 stake at 2.40 with Betway