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Sport - Billiards & Snooker Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Advani puts it across Shahzad

By Michael Ferreira

AQABA, JUNE 8. An India versus Pakistan sporting encounter always generates more than the usual interest not only for the players concerned, but also for the spectators, who for the most part are aware of the traditional rivalry between the two countries.

Thus when world champion Pankaj Advani met Imran Shahzad, the Pakistani number two in a vital Group A match in the Asian snooker championship, there was a touch of electricity in the air. Though the 18-year-old Indian won 4-2, he had to pull a few rabbits out of the hat to prevail over his gallant opponent.

Except for the first two frames which Pankaj won with fluent ease, the standard of play was not of the highest, but the sustained cut-and-thrust of the match made for compelling viewing.

Pankaj started off with a bang against Imran, consuming the first frame 113-8 with runs of 46 and a 64 clearance and the second 76-1 with successive efforts of 37 and 25. But the 24-year-old Pakistani number 2 restored parity by capturing two on the trot with the aid of runs of 42 and 40.

The fifth looked to be going Pankaj's way as a shocking error by Imran on a straightforward blue saw him construct a run of 36 for a 54-12 lead on the colours. Taking a leaf from compatriot's Mohammed Yousuf's book, Imran refused to buckle, a couple of cunning snookers enabling him to close to 54-30.

A stunning yellow along the cushion followed by the green once again gave Pankaj the upper hand at 59-30 on the brown, but Imran smacked the brown in and extracted a further seven points via a diabolical snooker behind the black.

A fumble on the blue by Pankaj, amidst mounting tension, saw Imran calmly pocket the lot and force a re-spotted black. The Pakistani however, make the first mistake in the ensuing safety exchanges and Pankaj dispatched the black with an almost audible sigh of relief.

The feisty Imran stuck to his task in the sixth, putting his opponent under pressure as he established a 50-29 lead on the colours. But in a wonderful display of character, the world champion responded with an exceptional clearance to nail the match.

It felt good when the entire Pakistani contingent came up to offer their congratulations after the absorbing contest.

On the adjoining table, National champion Alok Kumar had four breaks of over 40 in another solid performance to beat Taipei's Chih-Wei Ku 4-1 in his penultimate Group G match.

Keith Boon Ee (Singapore) embellished his 4-0 win over Ida Bagos Sutasoma (Indonesia), in Group C with breaks of 97 and 50 and should finish at the top of his group, while Thailand's Issara Kachaiwong, in pole position in Group E, had an 82 in disposing of Ahmad Altarkait (Kuwait) 4-1.

In his penultimate Group H match played on Monday night, Yasin Merchant won a dour battle of attrition against Iraq's Sadr Idin Hussein. Though the final scoreline read 4-0, the disjointed nature of every frame, to say nothing of the quaint ways of his opponent who ceremoniously donned half-glasses for certain shots, frequently changed to his left hand, and defied the rules by striding off the table for an unauthorised interval, militated against the fluent break building one has come to expect from the former Asian champion.

Yasin finished his league engagements on Tuesday with a fluent 4-0 win over Mohammad Banali (Qatar), compiling breaks of 55, 65 and 44 in the process. He was however, somewhat careless and needlessly hurried on key shots, a failing that he will have to cut out in the stern tasks that lie ahead.

Supoj Saelna, one of the contenders for the title, was taken to a nerve-tingling decider on Monday night against Ahmad Ogaily of the host country, but stormed back in his last league encounter on Tuesday with a 4-0 win over Naif Aljawaween (Saudi Arabia) to secure his appointed place at the top of Group D.

Selected results:

Group A: Pankaj Advani bt Imran Shahzad (Pak) 4-2.

Group B: Md. Yousuf (Pak) bt Mohammed Hameed (SL) 4-0

Group C: Keith Boon Ee (Sin) bt Ida Bagos Sutasoma (Ina) 4-0

Group D: Supoj Saelna (Tha) bt Naif Aljawaween (KSA) 4-0

Group E: Issara Kachaiwong (Tha) bt Ahmad Altarkait (Kuw) 4-1

Group F: Benjamin Lee (Mal) bt Mohammad Hashim (SL) 4-1

Group G: Alok Kumar bt Chih-Wei Ku (Tai) 4-1

Group H: Yasin Merchant bt Mohammad Banali (Qat) 4-0.

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