Selby 16-13 Murphy (34-0)
Mark’s played an excellent match so far, because Shaun hasn’t handed him this by any stretch. In particular, he’s punished errors with extreme prejudice – his ability to keep it together under pressure has been the major difference here, which isn’t to say Shaun has crumbled, he hasn’t, just that he hasn’t done it as well.
Selby 16-13 Murphy (19-0)
Mark can do this all night, playing safety from top to bottom. But a really good shot from Shaun, leaving the white tight on the side and near left corner, with the black blocking its route to the cluster, will test him. Two minutes of thinking is what it takes to find a solution, sending one towards baulk and sticking the white behind the black again … but though Shaun finds an alright response, he leaves one to the middle that, if it goes down, will leave the table ready to be rinsed. Shonuff, that’s what happens, and this is nearly did.
Selby 16-13 Murphy (0-0)
Oh Shaun! Mark misses, then Shaun does too! It wasn’t a gimme or anything like it, but when you’re three behind with six to play, you’re struggling if you can’t see those away. He doesn’t leave it, at least, though with a red up in baulk this is shaping up into the bitty kind of thing Mark relishes.
Today is Barry Hearn’s last day in the job, and he’s done alright hasn’t he? He tells us that this has been the hardest year, noting that every time you think you’ve seen it all, something new happens to amaze you. For my part, I’ve spent a fair bit of time in Bazza’s company, and though it’s fair to say that our politics don’t align, he has a phenomenal charisma that we’ve seen revolutionise not just snooks but darts and boxing too. Thanks, it’s been a trip.
“The standard isn’t stratospheric now,” returns Shaun Lawson. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s very good – but if it was stratospheric, no way in the world would three different players in their mid-40s still be right up there. Ronnie wasn’t wrong in what he said last year about that.
One reason is because the game was in so much trouble in the 2000s – very little money, few tournaments – that a whole generation’s path was blocked off. It’s quite similar in that sense to what happened with darts for a good 10-15 years after the breakaway. Both sports have taken a long time to recover.
Meanwhile: Reardon’s prime was when the cloths and balls were much heavier, there were desperately few tournaments – and he dominated totally, with an iron grip. It’s illogical to treat Steve Davis as unquestionably in the top five all-time but not to do the same with Ray, because the standard wasn’t so much higher in the 80s either. Reardon, Davis, Selby and John Higgins all mostly win/won by feeding off opponents’ mistakes. O’Sullivan and Hendry are in a different category – because they both had many different ways of winning.”
I don’t think that’s a fair appraisal of Higgins, who knows his way around the table but is also a potter. I didn’t see Dracula so I’m not best-placed to rule, but I’m not sure White, Thorburn and Parrott weren’t better than Charlton and all the rest. In addition, Williams was in tremendous form before he encountered Selbz, who also whacked Allen. That’s a pretty decent effort, and his performance in the 2014 final, when he ultimately deconstructed Ronnie, was one of the greats. As for the overall standard, there are more superb players knocking around than ever before.
Selby 16-13 Murphy
Shaun’s problem today is that he started four behind and hasn’t been able to win more than two on the spin – and he’s only done that once. He needs to sort that immediately after the mid-sesh.
Selby 16-12 Murphy (11-72)
This is excellent from Shaun, carefully and competently removing balls, a tremendous pink giving him a great chance of securing the frame at this visit. The remaining four reds are difficult and the lead 52 with 67 remaining … and with the rest, he jawses the first of them! It looks like it’s still going down, but at last second realises it’s not Mark who potted it, so bounces back out! Eesh! Mark, though, misses his shy at it, and Shaun sinks a blinder that takes him close. A black follows, then another red with the rest – it tries to stay up but can’t – and that’ll be enough.
Selby 16-12 Murphy (11-21)
Mark takes a long old time seeking a way out of a tricky situation – he’s not snookered, but with reds splayed all over the show, needs to get the white safe … and finds a route off black cush to hit one on the side. That’s a brilliant shot, not just in execution but in conception – in commentary neither Ken nor Angles spotted it. But his next shot leaves one and here comes Shaun, who surely needs to take this frame – and the next one for that matter. He starts well, and begins clearing routes for the black.
Selby 16-12 Murphy (11-5)
He opts for the latter and a poor shot offers Shaun a shy. He can’t take the long starter, but gets away with it and the exchange continues.
“On the Reardon chat (or indeed the comparison across eras of any sport),” says Andrew Moore, “I think the assumption should be the standard then would be the same as the standard now if you transferred the players across, and vice-versa. All a player can do is dominate the era they are in, so for me that means Reardon, Davis and Hendry remain the best.”
That’s a fair point, but I’m not sure I agree – Jim Courier and four majors and Lleyton Hewitt has two, but only because they played in the interregnum between Edberg/Becker/Lendl and Sampras and Sampras/Agassi and Federer respectively. On top of that, dominating then, when the standard was unarguably lower, and winning four in seven now, when the standard is stratospheric are not equivalent to me. But I might well be wrong on all of the above.
Selby 16-12 Murphy (11-0)
Mark attacks a long and nails red, misses by plenty, and a double-kiss saves him from leaving it. This game. Shaun then misses a baulk-cushion red but at no cost beyond the four away, so we wind up playing safety.
“I’m personally a fan of Selby,” emails Yas K, “and interesting the reversal of fortunes these two ‘friends’ have had. Murphy took his first in title in 2005 and this is his third loss, whereas following defeat in 2007, Selby has been the dominant force since 2014 and will be collecting his fourth in seven years. He’s basically doing what Higgins didn’t.”
Not having a prime O’Sullivan and Williams knocking about has been quite helpful; I guess he did well to find a few once that was no longer the case for any of them.
Back on the table, Shaun foul-misses when trying to tickle a red, then finds a really good shot that leaves Mark a teaser: does he attack a long red, or try and navigate back to baulk?
Selby 16-12 Murphy
You’ve got to laugh (unless you’re Shaun). A black that means the prospect of a ton remains takes its shoes off before going down, then goes down. But the last red doesn’t, so dat guy Selbz makes do with going four in front, and it’s hard to see a comeback from here.
Selby 15-12 Murphy (93-0)
Yup, Mark extends his lead again, and if he wins the final two frames of the mini-sesh, he’s a four-time champ!
Selby 15-12 Murphy (64-0)
We’re not serious yet because the reds are split but not spread – Mark could’ve arranged that earlier, didn’t, and when he does try he slides off a red as predicted by Ken in commentary. So it’s back to balk with a nifty lead for company; Shaun goes hard at a long one, misses off the knuckle, and Mark clips home another that thinks about staying out for quite some time. The bags are with him tonight, and here comes a black that, if the following cannon works, will mean the frame … and down it goes! Shaun is in all sorts now.
Selby 15-12 Murphy (32-0)
“The six-times world champion, Ray Reardon – whose game Selby’s most closely resembles – would like a word,” emails Shaun Lawson. “He gets forgotten in these discussions and he shouldn’t. Reardon is so great, he’s even the man responsible for turning Ronnie O’Sullivan into a dominant match player! Ronnie would certainly have fewer world titles had it not been for his input.”
I didn’t forget Reardon, who featured prominently in the show I mentioned a few minutes ago, but when picking the best I don’t think we should look at world titles and nothing else. Dracula was the best of his era, but the standard then is very different to the standard now, and his two extra wins – assuming Selbz wins tonight – are not worth more than the calibre of opponent yerman has beaten, not just in finals but through the rounds. Anyway, an error from Shaun lets Mark in, and he quickly drains for red-black. Yes he does!
Selby 15-12 Murphy
And there it is! Again, Shaun closes the gap, and again, he salutes the crowd … but can he take it on from here?
Selby 15-11 Murphy (48-61)
Sensational shot! Shaun sticks home the yellow, then runs through to develop the aforementioned green; he drains it, then floats back for the broon! This, the blue, and the frame is his…
Selby 15-11 Murphy (48-53)
There’s a red on the side cushion, not far from the middle pocket, and another on the opposite side, not far from the corner pocket; the remaining two are stuck together, just below the pink. So Shaun plays a controlled cannon into the latter – that’s very nicely done – but playing a cut-back red, he goes in-off into the centre! This absolute game! Mark then has a shy at a long pot as misses – the ref takes a dim view of the shouting this elicits, his ensuing chastisement provoking a self-righteous round of applause from the knowledgeable Crucible audience. Ah man, it’s been a while – I never thought that old chestnut would fill my room with chopped raw onions. Anyhow, after a further miss apiece, Shaun attacks a brute along black cush … and down it goes! Screwing up the table off the black, he gets a kiss off the green that makes it a harder pot that it would’ve been – should he get that far – but he’s in with a chance that five minutes ago he’d have paid everything for.
Selby 15-11 Murphy (44-16)
If Mark wins tonight, he joins the great John Higgins on four world titles and, as I mentioned earlier, surely enshrines him as the final member of the all-time top five, along with Higgins, Davis, Hendry and O’Sullivan. He’ll be well aware of that, and a poor shot on the black shows the weight of things … but a terrific redeemer with the rest keeps the break going – though again, the ball does not look in, cracking the far knuckle before deciding to join its mates. But you can only chase for so long, and a further tricky red refuses to force its way down, so here comes Shaun for the biggest visit of this year’s competition. He starts it nicely…
Selby 15-11 Murphy (27-0)
With the white up in baulk, pretty central, Mark clips a red from close to the blue spot into the middle! I’m not sure that was deliberate and the friendly peck he’s handed by the brown certainly wasn’t. But when it’s going for you it’s going for you, and in no time at all he’s into the pack and in the balls; this is a great chance, but as the winning post draws nearer, so does the pressure.
Selby 15-11 Murphy
Shaun’s running out of time now, and he’ll be raging over that pink he missed – especially given the red he sank. If Mark wins another in this mini-sesh, it’ll be the early night that none of us wanted.
Selby 14-11 Murphy (70-28)
OK, Mark sees a chance to sink the difficult red early … can he roll it down the rail … yes he can … no he can’t … yes he can! It wipes its feet, has a wobble, sits down, and then finally drops. This game!
Selby 14-11 Murphy (47-28)
That nervousness is still there – Mark overruns but sinks the red anyway, then gets low on the blue and still gets position on the next ball. He’s warming up here, but there’s a red in the middle of black cush so Shaun still has a hope – although assuming Mark leaves it till last, it’ll be frame ball, so no need for him to do anything other than sink it.
Selby 14-11 Murphy (18-28)
“That video is genuinely, almost inexplicably emotional,” sympathises Matt Dony. “It doesn’t matter whether you like snooker or not, it doesn’t matter whether you care about the outcome or not; it feels big. It feels like something is happening. Sport is simultaneously nothing more than glorified playground squabbles, and at the same time ludicrously important to huge swathes of society. It means something. It engages the heart and the head. I don’t have a strong opinion on Selby or Murphy, but I am SO EXCITED to see that crowd. Chapeau, everyone involved in making it happen.”
Yes, agree with all of that, and LISTEN TO THAT! Shaun takes on a red that’s in mid-table with the white close to the bottom cushion, fairly spanking it to left corner. The black goes next, then another red, and though he’s a shot or two from prime position, this is as good a chance as he could’ve hoped for. Anyway, back to Matt, everything is meaningless until or unless we invest it with meaning, and we’ve done that to sport – ultimately, it’s an expression of love, freedom and being alive, and we’ve never needed it more. Meantime, Shaun misses a pink to middle and that’s the match right there: a lack of consistency and concentration undermining the blazing pots, and Mark will fancy himself to do something here.
Selby 14-11 Murphy (4-11)
Now then. Shaun nails a brutal long red, then makes his way back up the table and splatters the pack … only to go in-off draining the yellow. There’s nothing loose from inside the D, though, so off we go again with some safety; very quickly, the black moves over right corner, so Shaun has to be careful with this next shot; he plays it well, landing on a lonely one on black cush, and Mark eschews a pot for a return to baulk. What a sequel that’d be – and imagine the feeling of delight during the original, when the black and white balls turned to glorious technicolour.
“Watch the paint dry more is exciting once Selby has the table,” says Len Ross, but I can’t be having that. Just a few days ago, he smashed up the great Mark Williams playing beautiful snooker and can pot balls with the best of them, it’s just that the rest of them can’t play tactically with him.
Selby 14-11 Murphy (0-0)
Eesh, bad sign for Shaun who takes on a long red that’s easier than plenty he’s nailed of late and jawses it. But have a look! Mark, who was visibly edgy at the start of this afternoon’s go-around, misses an easier one, then Shaun can’t find the green pocket and we’re back playing safety. While the exchange takes shape, let me point you in the direction of Talking Snooker, now available on iPlayer, which they showed when we finished the previous session early – it’s mainly about Davis and Hendry but also features bare Bazza Hearn and Ian Doyle – and is replete with sensational archive.
I confessed to this earlier, but my eyeballs were in something of a sweat when Rob Walker baized the boyz earlier – he absolutely had it, and so did the CAPACITY CROWD. It was a joyous, beautiful explosion. Burn baby burn – here comes Shaun, bowing then waving, followed by Mark! Come on!
Email! “I was never a fan of Murphy before,” says Gregory Phillips. “I couldn’t forgive him for beating Matthew Stevens in the 2005 final . But his swashbuckling this year has really won me over. That said, Selby simply doesn’t surrender leads in major finals and I fear he will choke the life out of this final session.”
He might, but if tonight is anything like this afternoon, he’s not in good enough nick. And I agree on Murphy, who’s played beautifully this last fortnight. But he too will need to improve if he’s to claw this back – some one-visit frames, rather than falling down and allowing Selbz to clear.
Right then, this is it. I’d say it’s been a brilliant tournament, which it has, but that’s no different to simply saying that’s happened, because it’s always brilliant. This term, though, it’s been special, partly because we’ve had a crowd in, but partly because the matches have been so close and surprising. So, though the temptation is to assume that Selbz has this covered, Shaun has more than enough to get things flip-turned upside down. I guess if the worst comes to the worst and it ends earlier than we’d like, they can always get Ballrun Bingham back to play a decider. Play the music!
Selby holds onto three-frame lead
Mark Selby moved four frames away from winning his fourth world snooker title after preserving his three-frame lead over Shaun Murphy at the end of the penultimate session of their Crucible final.
Selby repelled a flashy Murphy fightback to clinch the crucial final frame of the session and go 14-11 in front ahead of the conclusion of their best-of-35 battle on Monday evening.
Each player summoned a century but neither displayed their best form in a session in which Selby’s fighting spirit cancelled out Murphy’s flamboyant if somewhat erratic break-building bids.
Resuming 10-7 behind, Murphy had drawn first blood with a promising break of 77 and looked to have won the next, only to leave the black dangling over the middle pocket. A nerveless century break put Selby 12-9 up at the interval, and moved four ahead following a rash missed red from Murphy.
The 2005 champion fought back, a superb 100 bringing him back to 13-10 and a brilliant long red helping him over the line in the next. With the chance to close the gap to a single frame, Murphy played a poor break-off shot and Selby pounced with a 62 to stay in control. PA
End of afternoon session: Selby 14-11 Murphy
A run of 69 secures the frame for Mark, who’s a big favourite to take it from here. Shaun’s plenty good enough to stop him if he can put it together, but it’s asking a ludicrous amount to produce your best form in the final session of the final. Either way, though, we’ve got one hell of a buzz in front of us – join me again at seven if you value anything that’s good in this world.
Selby 13-11 Murphy (83-0)
Mark holds it down to despatch a long one and he’s going to leave the afternoon as he entered it, three frames in front.
Selby 13-11 Murphy (62-0)
“I see you’re blogging in black and white,” emails Andrew Benton. “Can you blog in colour (wasn’t snooker chosen for the first colour broadcast on telly back in the 60s)?”
It was Wimbledon, I think, but no doubt colour telly helped grow the game – the colours are so vivid – though I remember watching some of the 1985 final on a black and white one after being sent to bed. Anyhow, with a red and colour needed to settle the frame, Mark runs out of position and leaves a long, hard one that needs clipping diagonally; Shaun’s pretty good at these, but he can’t force it home, and we’re back playing safety with 75 left on the table.
Selby 13-11 Murphy (48-0)
Mark is one of the most intense competitors in all sport, so it’s no surprise to see him forget the last two frames and start remorselessly compiling. On 40, he drops the white a little short, but a prod with the rest and he’s back on track.
Selby 13-11 Murphy (14-0)
I didn’t see this, but when Shaun made his ton the frame before last, he paused to thank the crowd for their appreciation. Now, though, he’s sat in his seat because he’s left a red off the break that Mark canes to left corner, and this is a chance because after a sojourn in the baulk he returns to the business end with the black available; down it goes, pack splattered in the process.
Selby 13-11 Murphy
So that’s the bare minimum for Shaun, a split session at worst. Even if he loses it, we’ve got an absolutely savage evening in prospect, but if he can win it…!
Selby 13-10 Murphy (0-59)
A sensational screw-back yanks Shaun back into prime position but he’s soon faced with a nasty little pink … seen away via rest. But he can’t find another colour to follow the next red, so the blue goes safe with a snooker behind the brown just missed. Still, it leaves Mark with a difficult shot and all he can do is offer a tempter, caressed from middle to left corner. That’s an absolute jazzer, and it surely means the frame. We’re rolling!
Selby 13-10 Murphy (0-35)
Now then. Mark misses his first go at clipping a red and because he lands behind the brown – it’s on the baulk line, close to the side cushion – snookering Shaun, Shaun has a free ball. He has a think about the pot but it’s difficult and if it misses it might mean the frame, so sensibly invites Mark to play from there. With few options, he winds up splitting a cluster under the pink, and when Shaun drains a gorgeous opener, he’s set to win a second straight.
Selby 13-10 Murphy (0-18)
Granted, I’m an emotionally incontinent type, but the sound and sight of a full crowd – never mind one this “knowledgeable” – is extremely moving. What I’m saying, I guess, is that live sport is the greatest thing in the world, an expression of love and joy, of which there’s yet more when Shaun monsters in a starter. He can’t parlay it into more, but another of similar beauty hauls him back in … until he overruns, missing a gap between two reds that would’ve put him on the pink. As such, Mark is not contemplating life from tight to the baulk cushion.
Selby 13-10 Murphy
The crowd go wild when Shaun rams home a pink to complete his first ton of the match, and here we go again! Can Shaun finally close the gap?
Selby 13-9 Murphy (1-74)
This is excellent from Shaun. The balls are nice but the pressure is barbaric, and he eliminates both beautifully.
Selby 13-9 Murphy (1-12)
Oh dear, oh dear. Shaun breaks and leaves a red near the blue – down it goes – but then Mark misses green to middle, and Shaun, who necessarily goes into the pack off his opener, is away! If ever he needed a one-visit win, he needs it the now.
Selby 13-9 Murphy
A second half-century gives Mark the frame, and Shaun will feel this slipping away. He might revise his strategy of going for absolutely everything and just go for everything, because that long red he missed just now was a bit much. He can afford a 2-2 in the mini-sesh, just, but anything more and it’s five to over.
Selby 12-9 Murphy (62-14)
A terrific safety from Shaun elicits an error from Mark, but rather than play another telling shot back to baulk, he tries a long pot to the green pocket and misses by fortnight. The ball in question pulls up nicely for the middle, Mark drains it, and this is going to be 13-9.
Selby 12-9 Murphy (54-14)
This is a lower-key affair than any of the previous four frames we’ve seen today, but it’s an important one. Mark rides a kick on 41, still good for position on the blue … except he runs out of position shortly afterwards, taking more than two minutes – punctuated by some punitive banging of head with palm – to play a gentle prod. On which point, Shaun’s been punished plenty for failing to close out frames – after doing similar Wilson in the semi – and it’s imperative he make Mark suffer having been given the chance.