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

Alok Kumar, Manan cruise ahead

By Michael Ferreira

EINDHOVEN (HOLLAND), NOV. 21. The first two sessions of the World snooker championship saw National snooker champion Alok Kumar and young hopeful Manan Chandra sail to comfortable victories by identical 4-1 margins against Holland's professional player Karan Chand and Ahmed El Aal (Egypt) respectively.

Others to catch the eye were last year's runner-up Saleh Mohammed (Pak) who ran up breaks of 62, 66 and a 90 clearance in thrashing the 1987 world runner-up Joe Grech (Malta) 4-0, former world champion Steve Mifsud (Australia) who made 86 and 77 en route to disposing of Chih Wei Ku (Tpe) 4-2 and Kieran McMahon (N.Ire) who had efforts of 83, 74 and 63 in a 4-0 annihilation of Charl Jonck (SA).

The distinction of making the tournament's first century went to Stefan Mazrocis (Netherlands) who had an even 100 in beating Gavin Pantal (Wales) 4-1.

Alok is a pretty remarkable man. He is afflicted with a sore throat and a slight touch of fever. Sheer strength of character saw him through in a very important Group B match. Karan, of Indian origin, is a one of the leading contenders in the group for a place in the knockout phase and the feeling that Alok would be fortunate to survive was not unreasonably pessimistic. The Mandi-Gobindgarh based Indian was at his best in the first frame when he latched on to a miss by the obviously nervous Dutch player, with a 68 to win the frame 101-0. However, he won the second and third frames somewhat less spectacularly, giving his opponent a sample of the typical grinding tactics for which he is renowned.

Karan drew first blood in the fourth but a promising 19 came to an untimely end on a missed red. The Indian champion responded with a 56 and looked to be cruising to 4-0 when an error on the last red gave his opponent a sniff of a chance. The longhaired Dutchman grabbed the lifeline with a superb colours clearance to stay in the match. One more frame by Karan might have been curtains for the Indian who was clearly in physical distress, but fortunately he was able to compose himself enough to fashion runs of 36 and 23 and fall across the line.

Close duel

The Manan/El Aal encounter was much closer than the final scoreline suggests. Manan was trailing 28-43 in the first before he seized an opening to construct a 38 clearance to pink. The Egyptian had an opening 44 in the second and followed through with a 23 clearance to finish the frame in double quick time. The ding-dong third saw Manan trail 27-37 on the colours, but a fine yellow to blue streak took him 41-37 ahead. A loose safety shot on the pink, however, allowed El Aal to pocket the ball to take the frame to the black.

A few safety exchanges later, Manan sank the black from a distance to go 2-1 up. The fourth followed the pattern of the third, but this time it was Manan who was slightly ahead (38-34) on the colours. He increased his advantage by taking yellow to pink, wriggled out of a brilliant snooker and finally won the frame as El Aal shot himself in the foot by inadvertently potting the pink. The fifth was all Manan, a flowing 96 taking him to a well-deserved victory.

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