World snooker: Advani cruises into knock-out stage

By Anand Philar, IANS,

Hyderabad: Pankaj Advani, the 24-year-old from Bangalore, lit up the rather damp day with two century breaks en route to a 4-1 win against Qatar’s Ali Obaidly and qualify for the knock-out phase in the men’s section at the 35th ONGC-IBSF World snooker championship here Wednesday.

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Title favourite Advani, the 2003 champion, was on a roll as he crafted a 100 in the third and 110 clearance in the fifth to take his tally of centuries to three in the current tournament while registering his fourth consecutive win. In the process, he played the shot of the tournament to sink the yellow after clearing the last red during the 110 break.

“I wanted to cannon the yellow (that was near brown spot) and release the brown after I covered the last red with the black. The only shot was a thin slice into centre-pocket. Since I had already won the frame, I went for it and hoped that the yellow would get into the centre-pocket and it did,” he said.

The cue-ball was near the yellow spot and even as one thought he had snookered himself, Advani came up with the stunner that earned him a huge applause from the galleries.

Joining Advani in the knock-out phase was Manan Chandra who came through 4-1 against James Mifsud of Australia for his third win in four matches in Group D that Finland’s Alex Borg tops. Borg put in a break of 112 in the first frame while demolishing Faaris Kahn of South Africa 4-1.

Earlier, India’s Alok Kumar, hailing from Mandi-Gobindgarh in Punjab, continued his quiet and virtually unnoticed progress to the knock-out stage in the men’s category as he wrapped up his fourth win in as many group matches.

The 41-year-old five times national snooker champion besides winner of the Asian title, may not enjoy a high visibility or a profile that some of his contemporaries do, but his versatility has never been in doubt as could be gauged by the four national billiards title he has won.

Cueing quite smoothly, Alok hammered Sri Lanka’s Ryan Somaratna 4-0 this morning to confirm his berth in the round of 64 where the tournament enters the knock-out phase.

Also advancing to the men’s knock-out with unbeaten record after four matches were Anthony McGuill (Scotland), Fung Kwok Wai (Hong Kong-China), Mohammed Al Joaker (UAE) and Ang Boon Chin (Singapore).

Meanwhile, India’s Vidya Pillai, playing quite fluently, overcame compatriot Neeta Sanghvi 3-0 for her fourth win and qualify for the knock-out round in the women’s section.

Thailand’s Santhinee Jaisuekul came through 3-1 against India’s Chitra Magimairaj for her fourth consecutive win and advance to the knock-out phase. Chitra, with three wins from four outings, is also assured of a berth in the next round.

In the masters category, India’s Geet Sethi rebounded from his defeat Tuesday night to post a fluent 3-0 win against Abdul Mohsen Khamis of Qatar aided by a half-century break.

Among the other impressive winners Darren Morgan of Wales and Chuchuart Trirattanapradip of Thailand, both recorded 3-0 wins. The 1987 champion and also winner of the Masters title in 2007, Morgan, who cracked a 103 earlier in the league, was in a class of his own in blanking Paul Thomerson of Australia while Trirattanapradip crafted a 104 while getting past Bambos Kuzis of Cyprus.

Both Morgan and Trirattanapradit also qualified for the knock-out rounds with four wins out of four as did another Thai, Noppadon Noppachorn who brushed aside local challenger K. Venkatesham 3-0 to post his fourth victory.

The day’s programme was not without a few hiccups. The Masters match between India’s Arvind Savur and Frank Schroeder of Germany saw both players docked a frame apiece by referee Deryck Brown (Wales). Savur eventually won 3-2.

The start was delayed by two minutes as Savur had forgotten to wear his waistcoat and had to wait for it to be fetched while Schroeder left the table without informing the referee and was penalized.