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Good afternoon. Since 1975, the Masters has been producing some
unforgettable moments from Kirk Stevens's white suited 147, two Mark
Williams's triumph over Stephen Hendry, to Ken Doherty's black for a
maximum, to Paul Hunter's wrote back to the wall comebacks. And just when
you thought it couldn't get better, came the first day of this year 's
DAFABET Masters. No few sharp intakes of breath, all in pursuit of
this little beauty. Away we go for what should be a
fascinating week of snooker. He thought he would have a go at
that, but surely that was the wrong choice of shot.
What a chance this is. A little bit of pressure on it, as you can
imagine. No! Can you believe it?
Ronnie thought he was out, the anger Wenbo, how did he miss putting the
black in? We have a deciding frame. That's probably the best part of
this match so far. You can't take it away from the
defending champion, Ronnie O'Sullivan. And he goes through to
the next round, beating Liang Wenbo 6-5.
Slow down, slow down, slow down, cue ball. Slow down, slow down.
He's playing it to the left middle. Get in, you beauty. I'm lucky. Ding
Junhui will be very disappointed. -- unlucky.
Watched the right middle pocket. Watch the right middle pocket. Oh!
In goes black. Sheik of the hand. He moves into the second round. He
beats Kyren Wilson 6-3. Wenbo's twitch on the black that
would have given him between will be seared in his memory. O Sullivan's
and instinct kicked in after that after that emphatic century to win
the decider 6-5. After Ding's near miss, he finished the job 6-3,
despite admirable resistance from Kyren Wilson. Would you believe that
it was Ding's first victory ever at Alexandra Palace, and his first
victory since lifting the trophy at Wembley Arena in 2011.
You have seen a lot in this tournament, but as opening days ago,
that was pretty close to the top, wasn't it?
It certainly was. When we look at the situation, you could argue it
being unfair on Liang Wenbo, but we had an emergency board meeting last
night. The black has been officially upgraded to a twitch. And who would
miss a final black Rose! No names on that one. Ronnie felt
sorry for him, clearly. John, does it go down as one of the most
infamous misses in the sport? Honestly, he must have got to sleep
last night and thought it was a nightmare. But he has woken up this
morning and it is not a nightmare. On these tables, when you play these
shots, you can't hit the near one. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a
twitch. For Ding Junhui, he could have been
the first man to make two maximums in the first round. I think it was a
12th red to get position on the black. He was scrapping a long way
to get it going. This was a brilliant shot.
He went around the table. It was a break where you think to yourself,
no, he is not going to do it, then yes, he is going to do it. He just
lost position. We saw earlier, he had three foot to play the cue ball,
I thought he would get the maximum. A theatrical start at Alexandra
Palace in London. Let's see what Masters Monday brings for us. It
features two men that have already made maximums this season, the world
number three John Higgins, and become bitter, fiery Mark Allen, who
made his first at the UK Championship a few weeks. Despite
the fact that Higgins at having a fabulous season with two big
back-to-back wins and a runner up spot at the recent Scottish open
before Christmas, he is only just ahead in the head-to-head series.
7-6, and despite beating the Antrim man twice already this season, Allen
has knocked the Scott out of the Masters on two previous occasions
they have met. It was at this last 16 stage. Higgins understandably
wary in his pursuit of yet another triple Crown triumph.
I would dearly love to do well here. I would love to get through the
weekend. I have not done that for a fuel year 's. It would be great to
get through the weekend, and see what happens. Obviously, there is a
long way to go, and Mark is such a tough competitor to play against. I
have do enjoy it and see where it takes me.
John is a two-time winner of the Masters. Finding form in the last
three months, but his record in this event has been strangely
inconsistent. That is something you can possibly identify with.
I think this is his own individual event that comes out of the blue.
I don't think the track record during the season counts as much.
There might be some players who are better placed to come straight into
a big arena and play great straightaway, and others need to
ease into it. Maybe we are trying to read into it too much.
Three titles here, a lot of people said you should have had more
success in this one over the years. Everyone is on offer in the first
round, anybody can beat anybody. John Higgins tends to like this then
you better than he did when the arena.
He did not have a good record there, he didn't like the venue very much.
When he went to the Crucible first time, he did not like that either,
but he likes it more that he has won their more times. Mark Allen lost
position in a couple of frames against him last time, and John got
out of it. But this will be close. Mark loves this event. A decent
record, twice a semifinalist, only once going out in the opening round.
Why does it right in this atmosphere?
He is a big occasion player. He likes being the centre of attention.
As ever in the Masters, they have a stage for themselves. That is one of
the beautiful thing about this event. It feels like a final in
every session. Normal service is resumed, the best MC in the business
of Rob Walker is back, take it away. Happy 2017 to you.
Same to you, Hazel. I am delighted to be back at one of snooker's top
tournament. What a great start yesterday here at the DAFABET
Masters, Ronnie being taken all the way, and being going close to the
maximum. We are set for another afternoon of entertainment here at
the magnificent Alexandra Palace -- Ding. APPLAUSE
Please welcome one of the most exciting break-builders in the
modern game. Winning last year 's grand final, semis at the Masters
two years ago, making the last four in the Champion of champions earlier
in the season, the pride of Northern Ireland, here comes Mark The Pistol
Allen. And His Opponent, A Player That Has
Returned To His Very Best Form In The Last Few Months, Winning The
China Championship And The Champion Of Champions In November, Runner Up
In The Scottish Open Just Before Christmas Centres By, Twice Winner
Of The Masters, The Wizard Of Wishaw John Higgins. APPLAUSE
HAZEL IRVINE: Another 11 frame up this afternoon, we will be in the
company of Stephen Hendry and John Virgo. Good afternoon.
COMMENTATOR: Good afternoon, everybody. Good afternoon, Hazel.
This, to me, when the draw was made, was always going to be one of...
REFEREE: Can we have the commentary off, please.
COMMENTATOR: Sorry, guys. REFEREE: Paul, can you ring the
office? We are still hearing the commentary.
COMMENTATOR: We just had a slight problem there with the commentary
feed coming out into the audience, we don't want to put the players. I
was going to say, when the draw was made, this was one of the matches of
the first round, for me. Yeah, this has got all the
ingredients to be a 6-4 or a 6-5. If a player could win 6-1, it would be
John Higgins, with the form he is showing.
But I think it will be close. You can see the virtual reality
view, no path back to baulk, he has to come off the side cushion. No
room to run. REFEREE: Foul and a miss.
Not able to see John Higgins leaving a chance. He just needs a little bit
more pace into the cue ball. Just about missed the pink, but
touching Ball has been declared by our referee, so a nice, easy return
to ball for Mark Allen. This shot, I would be surprised if
he played the snooker here, Mark Allen. You can see where the reds
are, you can never gain an advantage with that. I would prefer to put the
ball into the jaws of the green pocket, and forced John into playing
a safety. Every chance of catching one thick there. You wouldn't expect
to make a mistake here, and he hasn't done. Excellent shot.
That's what John Higgins will do to you.
Absolutely. That's a wonderful safety shot. Now all of a sudden,
Mark Allen has got a problem. Didn't catch it quite right, but
doesn't appear to have left anything easy.
You have, as Steve Davis alluded to in the pre-match chat, there are no
easy games, these are the top 16 players in the world. From round
one, one-table situation, big crowd, always a great atmosphere.
And it's really settled in at the Alexandra Palace. When we first
started at the Wembley conference Centre, you thought, that couldn't
be matched, but this has certainly, well, the Masters has found a new
home, no doubt about that. This is a poor shot from John
Higgins. I thought he might have been tended to play a figure contact
of the bunch there, try to open them up a little bit. It is unforgivable
to kiss the yellow, really. This looks a good cue ball from Mark
Allen. The black becoming more and more
locked up. Just a fraction too hard. The idea
there was to try to stop the opponent playing safe down the
right-hand side of the table as we look, but he's not done that, as you
can see. Well, John has now stopped that
escape down the right-hand side, and it is a little bit congested on the
left-hand side. You have to catch the red very thin to get a return to
baulk. Just letting the REFEREE: Have a look, which suggests to me
that he is going to play this very thin safety, and it's got to be
thin. Couldn't have played it better, good
shot. REFEREE: Foul.
Better of rattling it in-off the jaws and staying this end.
It was one of those, like Mark Allen played previously, had to be caught
very thing, but as I say, fortunate for going off.
A little bit thick, but nothing really left.
Court that too fin. Where is the cue ball going? -- Finn thin.
Now, this time, John has sent one over to the corner. Does the blue,
to his rescue? It doesn't, so first chance of a pot.
Stopping short of the baulk line, will he be on a colour? Just
stopping in time. He is on the green.
The couple of roads above the black spot, if you bring the cue ball
down, you have a choice of those to the right. He will have to play the
one closest to the black spot. He needs the cue ball to stop again.
Yes, that's perfect. I noticed yesterday, Stephen, these
clocks are playing very, very quick. In a way, it is an advantage to have
the first chance. It gives you a chance to get used to
the pace of the table. A slippery, fast table suits Mark
Allen's game. The way he plays snooker, a very compact cue action.
Oh, he's missed that pink. He won't be happy about that. Very
surprising. He maybe took his eye off the pot.
Watching the cannon on the red. I know it's early in the first frame,
but these players, you don't expect them to take time to warm up.
He got the cannon, but didn't catch the red full enough, so he will only
get one point from that mistake. REFEREE: Yellow ball.
Just got to be a little bit wary when playing across the double here,
that you don't catch it to click and get a double-kiss.
No, he played it well. If it runs and the green covers the escape
route down the right side of the table, it is very good. But not
quite hard enough. Now, can he get past the green to
play safe down the right-hand side of the table? I'm not certain he
can. That's looking down the left side of the table. I just wonder
whether he can get past the green to hit one of the reds around the pink
spot area. If he can't, well, he can't, obviously. He's coming off
the side cushion. And not touching, which is
important. If it was touching, it would be straightforward safety.
Just not touching either red. Too thick on the safety. But of
course, we have had too much safety now, the reds are clustered
together. The Blackett out of commission. The pink is out of
commission. The portable red is now covered by the blue. -- pottable.
I think it was John's intention to bring the black back into play. He
has a good cue ball, don't get me wrong. He would have liked to have
released the black. Now, then. We'll John Higgins be
tempted. There is a red two up from the black, which is cut able. No. It
is too whiskey. -- risky. Playing the double. Oh, and not far
away. Noted, Stephen, as one of the best Doublers in the game.
Yes, one of the best I have seen. Well, that was half the chance.
That's why, of course, players don't like playing the double. If you hit
the wrong jaw comic you can leave a pot on, which it did. But Mark
couldn't take advantage of it. Well, as you can see, this would be
a very good pot, this. Only half the pocket is available.
Couldn't have played it better. What a good shot that was.
Well, there is obviously one to the left of the black that would go. He
would like the one to the right of the black to be pottable.
Yeah, it really helps a positional side of the shot if both reds go.
Didn't play to have the cue ball anywhere near to the yellow. He's
OK. Always got to be careful with this
type of shot. Don't take your eye off the pot. He's not certain to be
on a red. O'Connell well, that's a bonus. The
black now goes on the pink spot. He will settle for that. -- own, well.
This is the red he intended to be on, so he's played it. He's got that
read nicely in the open on the black spot, but still a lot of work to do.
Only one loose red to play for. -- he's got that red.
Certainly reinvented himself this season, hasn't he, Stephen, John?
Yeah, that six-week or two-month period before Christmas was
incredible run of form, with those two Invitational events
back-to-back, and getting to the final of the Scottish open. It was a
disappointing end, losing eight frames in a row against Marco Fu, so
you don't know whether he just ran out of steam or what. Perhaps in the
break over Christmas and the New Year he has recharged the batteries.
Just about stopped in time. I think it has, anyway. Yeah, his
performance in the Champion of champions where he beat Ronnie
O'Sullivan from 7-7, the last three frames was vintage John Higgins.
A bit fortunate to be on this red. That's not as he played it. To get
the second kiss was a bonus. There is a lot of things can go wrong on a
snooker table so when you have a bit of luck, take full advantage.
66 points he needs to get to, so another 26 from here, but easier
said than done. Considering where the balls were,
that was an excellent 46 break. Striking down, as he was, you could
see the cue flick up in the air, but he's not left anything.
Might have taken the risk of going for that there to the left hand side
of the pocket. The cue ball down towards the black. It wasn't going
to leave anything. APPLAUSE.
Well, it's OK, but if he's left a path to the red on the left hand
side, which he has, problem for John to get the cue ball back to the
baulk end. I don't think Mark minds John seeing this red, it means he
gets it away from the cushion, being 34 behind. He could be in trouble.
Big target behind brown and green. A bit surprised the way John played
that. I think he didn't really want to bring it away from the cushion.
He thought, if I'm bringing it away, I'll try and knock it and tie it up
with the other reds. He was never going to gain any great advantage
playing it like that. But one of the best tacticians in
the game, John Higgins, so I don't like to question his shot choice.
Yes, I'm certainly not going to question anyone in the tactical
department. But he won't be happy with that one. A choice of reds here
to either corner. On to the left is possibly the easier pot but where is
the cue ball going? Looks certain to run into one of the reds near the
top cushion so you'd be trusting him to look for the position. This the
more difficult pot. A bit edgy in this round to me Mark
Allen. Three pots now by quite a distance.
Somebody is taking their seat. I thought they had stewards on the
door stopping people coming in in the middle of a frame.
APPLAUSE. He's going to be on the blue.
Quite easy to get into the cue ball too much there and cannon the brown.
Great chance to win the opening frame. Yes. Two reds and two colours
would be enough. This red and one more colour would
need his opponent needing snookers because after this, there's only 51
remaining. So this black to go 54 points in the lead. With 51 left.
Quick glance at the score board. At the moment, only one snooker
required. And John Higgins may have got that snooker himself. OK easy to
hit but it will certainly encourage Mark Allen to play on here.
Very important there, he didn't leave Mark Allen a pot. He'll be a
wee bit annoyed that he hasn't finished this frame off. This frame
could go on for another 15-20 minutes now. It's already
approaching the half hour mark. I would like to have a little birth
bet though that this is going to be the longest frame of the match. I
expect both players to pick it up. They're both scorers when they get
in. It's a typical first frame. As you say, he'll be a little
annoyed because he should have been on the red that kept his opponent in
his seat. Snooker quite easy to hit but he doesn't really want to leave
a pot on. And he has done. So that will encourage Mark now to at least
pot two of the reds with blacks. A bit annoyed there. He wanted to
catch that thinner. Is he going to play the pot here? I
think he's going to send the red around the table. Played the pot. A
decent one. Those baulk colours are in good positions.
What you would try to do if you could is get the cue ball tight in
behind one of these baulk colours. Not bad. .
A little bit of room around this red. He had the one cushion escape.
At this level, if you leave the one cushion escape, you don't expect
your opponent to miss. Now, can he get enough bite in this cue ball to
stun the cue ball behind the brown? The red could career into the green
if he played that. If he tries to stun behind the green, good cueing
needed. He's trying to drop in behind it. He's played it pretty
well. The fact that John Higgins is
getting down quickly, the one cushion escape is on.
That's a bonus. He's got the snooker back.
It's easy to hit - needs to get it safe. Well, said easy to hit. That's
careless. He's hit the black, probably left a free ball, touches
the white, concedes. So it was a long, drawn out affair. And a little
bit of tension, you could see, in Mark Allen, but John Higgins won't
mind, he's got the first frame on the score board. 1-0.
32 minutes opening frame. Cagey stuff. John through in the end.
One of the best match-players in game and he always plays the right
shots and generally plays to a very high standard which is why he's won
the matches that he has over his career. A bit of a renaissance in
his career, played brilliant this season and, as ever, he's a match
for anybody. A proper renaissance. World number three, up from six at
the start of the season, the highest ranking since winning the title back
in 2011, that's season 2011-12. A couple of dips along the way, but
the longevity of the man is striking? Especially as you think as
you get older you don't handle the pressure matches as well. It's a
tightrope walk out there and these match tables are incredibly tricky
to play on, slippery as well. Watching the likes of John, he knows
how to cope with these types of tables. Even though he's supposed to
have a long back swing, a long pull back far longer than Mark Allen's
which is short and sharp and works well on these tables, I spotted that
John Higgins has his bridge hand close. The closer you have your
hand, that means you stop yourself pulling the cue back so far and you
could have a shorter back swing which is more controllable on the
faster cloths. OK. Technical tips. Now it's frame
two! Good tip that from Steve. Didn't
really help Mark Allen in that first frame. Stephen mentioned that he's
good on a quick table in and around the pink and black spot area. But he
missed that during that frame which probably knocked his confidence a
bit. I'm sure he'll put that behind him now.
When we talk about this super fine cloths, I can only equate it to
playing this in the middle. Not quite. I was just going to say, I
can only equate it to playing golf. I remember once playing in Dubai and
the greens were so fast and you feel when you're putting you're sort of
half quitting on the shot just to keep control of it.
I wonder if John will risk the cannon here.
Good, solid pot. But now he's got the problem of covering that red
that's over the left corner. Talking about the cloths again, if
you put this in a club, it would last a week. They are so super fine
and slippery but they lose their edge after just a few days' play.
They're not economical. Not compared with the cloths in the
Snooker Club, and I'm not having a go because they have to last six,
nine months. They've gone for a rerack immediately. A good idea
really. Didn't look as though there was going to be a sudden end to
that. Steve was talking about the cue action of Mark Allen and he's
right, a little jabby sort of action. But as we saw in the first
frame, he was in, first one in, and he had this pink to the middle and
just watch his cue action, a little short. Brings it back. And then
pushes it through. But to miss that and that would have been really a
knock to his confidence. If we get a Hans to see John Higgin's action,
it's pretty similar. Most of the top players these days, the tip of the
cue comes back to virtually between their thumb. Their thumb and
forefinger. So it's not a common cue action these days, Mark Allen's.
It's very effective when he gets going.
A tap on the table from John Higgins.
Going to play the snooker with pace. He is. Caught the blue. Couldn't
have played it much better. Can Mark have a two at the red and avoid the
kiss on the black? He could. Now, the cue ball needs to
run in and out of the baulk, needs to miss the green. He could have a
cut on the brown. Obviously an easy snooker but I don't think he's going
to get much advantage from that. Obviously he doesn't fancy the
brown. He's covered the left hand side
escape. But... What did he say, rerack? !
LAUGHTER. There was never really any danger of
John leaving him anything. Yes. A better shot would have been putting
the cue ball on the baulk cushion somewhere. He was never going to
gain advantage from that shot. It's difficult. It would have been
easier from where he was a second ago.
You can see the edge of the red on the left hand side of the table. But
you have to be careful, if you catch it too thick you could not go
towards the corner. Played it nicely but he may have
left a pot on. Just run far enough...
The applause was justified from the audience. Doesn't want the double
kiss. Got the double kiss. Choice of pink or black. Pink is an
easier pot and position. Excellent opportunity. I don't know
whether he feels the need to go into them.
Because there is a red on the right hand side of the table. That's the
one he's going to play for. He's got 39. He needs another 30 points. Then
the frame will be safe. But to do that, although there is still one
more loose red available, he's going to have to disturb that cluster at
some time to win the frame at this visit.
John Higgins' head visibly shakes. A couple of players, like Mark Selby,
there's a bit of movement there too. Gone into them and it couldn't have
worked out better. Surely he'll win the frame now.
APPLAUSE. One of the best scores a game of
snooker has ever seen if he gets in amongst that black ball and plays
the right shot. Knows exactly when the right time is
to go into the bunch. 656 century breaks he's made in his
career, third on the all-time list. I looked at the score board there. I
don't know why he's on 87. There was an air of inevitability
about this when John did get that chance.
Well played. Fifth century of the Masters so far, and this is only the
third match. APPLAUSE.
Good shot needed to get a position on the yellow. Needs to miss the
pink. Didn't quite. What do they call 111 at cricket - Nelson.
APPLAUSE. Well, that was a tremendous break
and John Higgins proved it once again, that he can score as well as
anyone when he gets in the balls and he now leads 2-0.
There was an incident in that frame where Mark Allen potted the first
red, Stephen and he had a choice, he had a thin brown, decided to play
the snooker behind the blue and you have a thought about this? To me,
this is lazy. To roll up behind the green is just gaining no advantage
whatsoever. We have seen a shot forward, John Higgins came off the
left side cushion and went into the bunch, then Mark Allen had to find
the baulk cushion off the next shot, whereas here if he doesn't want to
take the brown which I agree on the on the corner there, leave the cue
ball tight, force John to play into the bunch and open things up. To me
this was just a nothing shot. And also, because I didn't think about
it at the time, but why is he trying to cover the left hand side of the
table? It's the right hand side of the table he should have been
covering because he's two loose reds on the cluster which John could have
left, put his arm up and said thank you to the crowd but didn't gain any
advantage. Only had one more shot after that.
Well, that's a terrific pot. And having lost the first two frames, he
needs to, for his own self-confidence, take full advantage
of that to reflect opening red. -- that terrific opening red.
Yeah, that was a fabulous shot. He controlled that little cannon well
as well. I think he's got just enough angle
on the black to force the cue ball to the red in the same pocket.
A little shake of the head there when he got position on the black.
Deep screw, bit of right-hand side, nicely on this red.
But just misjudged the kiss off the second red. OK, he is still on the
black, but a bit thinner than he would have liked.
The three red Star victory in a line above the black, he would like to
cannon into the side of those three. That would hold the cue ball in the
centre of the table. He has done. He could have done with a wee bit more
pace, though. It is the red he wanted to play on, but he could have
hit it a wee bit harder. I think that's end of break. A possibility
of maybe piling the plant -- playing the plant to the left corner.
Those two reds to the left-hand side of the table. He can play it as a
shot to nothing. He doesn't appear to have looked at
that possibility. He just had a little sly look there.
He just cocked his head to one side. If he is going to play safe, I know
they are not in line, but if you play safe of the red, well, he is
playing this to the far right corner pocket.
Is it there? Not quite, but he's obviously played it in such a way
that he does not leave anything. Having said that, I think there is a
possibility of red to the white middle here, and if there is, that
was a very risky pot to go for. I think what John putts site remiss
is where the cue ball will screw back. He maybe we'll have to come
off the condition. He was worried about that, losing
the cue ball. Yeah, and it was one of those, if
you play it with too much pace, it makes the pot that much more
difficult. But he is still on this black.
Oh, but not quite. So, a second opportunity for Mark
Allen to get his first frame on the scoreboard. Nothing settles you
better than that. That's not a bad little nudge on the
red. All these nice positions, if you
come the wrong side of the blue, you have the red at baulk end. He will
be a little bit disappointed if he doesn't win the frame at this visit.
The reason he's looking at a baulk colour is, he feels that if he plays
the blue, he has two played a cannon. And he doesn't really want
to risk a cannon. It could go wrong. Unless he can pop one to this right
corner, it is not inch perfect. Well, he's obviously just about on
it, no problem. That equates, 52 ahead, 83
remaining, a couple of reds, a couple of colours. He is past the
snooker is required stage. -- -- snookers required stage. Red,
Lou, red needed. But needed two chances, Stephen. It was a risky red
that he played to the far right corner.
Yeah, if John had got on the black properly, or potted the black, he'd
have been mopping these up. -- red, blue, red.
Good snooker term, "Mopping these up"! That should be the
frame-winner. And now the black goes in. No way
that John Higgins will be getting back to the table. He will be
mightily relieved, Mark Allen. He has his first frame on the
scoreboard. He will feel a lot better now. That
opening red at the start of the frame will have given him a huge
confidence boost. Well, it didn't really matter. He
will be pleased to get his first frame on the scoreboard. John
Higgins had a chance, missed the black on the spot. Mark Allen did
the rest. 2-1, John Higgins. John, as you said, that first frame
of 32 minutes, we don't expect too many frames or buy a -- frames like
that in this match. Well, decent break-off shot. Any
time you don't leave a pot on nowadays, you consider it a good
break-off shot. Now, can John just get past the blue to play a thin
edge on this red? It would have to be mightily thin.
The shadows, so he can just hit the red. He has got to catch it thin
now. Not that thin. REFEREE: Foul and a miss.
I don't think it will be taken here, because there is a red to the right
corner. It is on for Mark Allen. Similar situation to John Higgins
playing a similar red with a cannon. Mark Allen, he has to play top half
black ball, but he hasn't got the pink to the middle.
Again, another good, long pot. He can certainly pot the pink, I
think he is just wondering where the pink will go after it has been
ported. Long pot success, but four out of six four Mark Allen. John
Higgins, one out of one. This time, it looks like he has come
pretty straight on the blue. It is not ideal. Right online.
Trying to pinch a bit of the pocket. You have got to say, a schoolboy
error, that. We could see along the line, it was going to be very
difficult to pinch a bit of the pocket. Never sacrificed the pot for
position. Pink obviously available into the
right corner. He just overran it slightly.
No problem. Good pot. Played the cannon well.
Little bit tricky, this black. But he will play it in such a way that
these are miss- able. It looked as if it just drifted up slightly.
The thing is, playing it at that pace, it could run over a finger
mark, a bit of tour, but it definitely looked as though it
pulled to the left. -- a bit of chalk. That is a let off
for Mark Allen. Can he make this Holmes to the left Middle?
-- this red to the left middle. A traffic opportunity to go into the
mid-session interval all square -- terrific. Some of the mistakes he
has made, I would suggest he would feel the better of the two players,
Stephen. Yeah, without a doubt.
When you find yourself 2-0 down in a match when there is an interval
after the fourth frame, you kind of thing 3-1 down is a decent was. 2-2
is a bonus. -- decent result. A quick glance at the scoreboard.
Maybe three of the remaining reds, depending what colours he gets on.
But he's overhit that. Played for the pink, but well, he's still on
the pink, but it's a lot more difficult than it should have been.
But right in the heart of the pocket, and a nice, traditional
shot. He's now looking for red, colour, red, to go in level at the
mid-session interval. So this red to go 49 point ahead
with only 43 remaining. No way that John Higgins will come
back to the table. John Higgins will be disappointed here. He's had
chances to stamp his authority on this. But they are going to go in
all square. John Higgins concedes. He will be disappointed. Mark Allen
will be absolutely delighted. He's made mistakes, but he is all square
at the mid-session interval, to live in two. HAZEL IRVINE:. A couple of
instances in the last round, with his cue action, we talked about the
contrasting cue action of them, how did it manifest itself?
Like Stephen said in commentary, I am not saying he can't play power
shots, but this is the disadvantage of having a short, it Japanese cue
action. A little bit pokey, really. This one, not much angle on this. I
understand what he's trying to do. Sometimes you have to put power in
at it can affect you. He will be delighted to get out to two after
those were stakes. It doesn't happen often.
Your view so far, Steve? There is always tension in the
match, perhaps both players haven't settled down. That is the nice thing
about best of 11, it gives people a chance, especially when you are
thrown in at the deep end, especially when you're first round
opponent is tough. When John looks at the record, it is
not something you actively look at before you play a match, but he will
be aware that Mark has turned him over a couple of times in this
arena. Is there a cagey Ness? Is eventually give you respect for
your opponent. You have the cream of the crop, and when the draw came
out, both of them would have gone, oh, no.
In my experience playing this event, as a separate event to the main tour
as much as the ranking events, coming in here to play a first round
opponent who is decent, I very rarely settled down that quickly.
Then you can be on the back foot for the rest of the match.
We saw what happened with Ronnie coming back yesterday and putting
the defending champion out, it is a tough ask the John Higgins today,
but it has been intriguing and interesting. In the last few months,
John Higgins, what a resurgence. Two back to back big wins and a
runner-up in the Scottish open, banking ?300,000 over the last 2.5
months. Christmas must have been good in the Higgins household.
Surging back up to world number three in the rankings. John Higgins
at the age of 41 is very definitely on the rise again. A fellow better
in old boy, pardon the expression, Ken Doherty had a big discussion
with him yesterday in our big interview.
We are at the Masters, a great tournament got 23 appearances this
year, winning twice, but in the mix you have had a lot of first round
defeat as well, so a bit of a hot and cold tournament for you.
It is too soon after Christmas. Too much turkey!
You know it is tough to get back into it. But I have lost 11 times in
the first round. I have never really settled at the Masters. Winning it a
couple of times and going to a couple of finals, but apart from
that, the record is not that great. Did you prefer the conference
centre? You had more success there. You won it twice in the conference
and. I feel better here. The conference
centre is such a fast arena. You can get lost quite easily. You can go
into your shell a little bit. Wembley Arena is pretty soulless,
such a big arena, but here, I like this event. I like this arena
better. Conference centre was special, but I feel a little bit war
at home here. It has created its own home now. At
Alexandra Palace, the crowds have been fantastic. It is a wonderful
atmosphere. It is great. The darts is played
here, and they get great crowd in. We get the tail end of that. Snooker
is maybe coming up, and that is why the crowds are so good.
Your best moment, the final frame decider against Ronnie O'Sullivan
back in 2000? My best moment was beating you.
I did want to say that, but I didn't want it coming from me.
1998, winning the Masters for the first time, it was a great
achievement. But then, obviously, winning the second time, that was
the last time it was at the conference centre. Beating Ronnie, I
lost a couple of heavy finals to Ronnie. I managed to clear up.
Is that one of the best ever clearances of your career?
I think that was special. The nerves and everything, and the atmosphere
of the crowd. Particularly the first round, that
first round never looked like it would drop, did it?
I don't know what happened, someone must have opened a door. I have
watched it back a few times, and I think, there is no way that is going
in. I was going over to shake his hand, because I thought it was never
reaching. And the rest is history. This
season, particularly, has been a revival for you in many ways. You've
had two tournaments on the bounce, then you had your 147 in a
tournament straight after that. You are back to almost like your best,
it would seem. Is that the same as how you feel?
I think it happened two years ago when I played Mark Allen. I played
as well as I can't wait. I lost 6-4 to him in a high-quality game. That
proved something to me, I can still play at a high level. If you keep
that up, you have every chance of doing OK. I have kept my level up in
tournaments, and it has been good enough to win tournaments.
What about this season itself, have you done anything different? Is it
sometimes a bit of confidence, a bit more psychological?
It is confidence. Although this year, winning a couple of big
tournaments, I think it was last year, as I say two years ago,
getting my confidence back. The last two years, it has been a
lot better. Mark Allen is your first round
opponent here, has your Christmas been curtailed a bit, have you had
too much turkey this time around? Will you be ready from the word go
against Mark Allen, because he has always been a tough opponent?
Has, and we have had some good battles. I have not an much
practising. Me and my wife went away for a few days over New Year, and it
was good to get a break to ourselves. I practised for a couple
of days, and I have to try to come in fresh and hopefully carry it on
now from the first half of the season. Never good to mention your
wife's age on ever. People say that. She is 40, but she
looks 20! That is one way of crawling out of a
hole. What about, it is a very special tournament, one of the
majors, you have won it twice, but you want your name engraved once
more? Of course I do. People say the
triple Crown, obviously it would be great to get through the weekend.
I've not done that now for a few years. It would be great to try to
get through to the weekend and see what happens. Obviously, you have a
long way to go, and Mark is a tough competitor to play against. I have
to try to enjoy it and see where it takes a.
HAZEL IRVINE: John mentioned the triple Crown, and how snooker
players measure their careers increasingly in terms of the triple
Crown. John is online, and another would get him into double figures.
Only you, Ronnie and Stephen Hendry are above him. It sparks a debate
for another time about how we classify majors, but in terms of
John's playability, he has an extraordinary record. For you, he
has always been at the top. He is up there with the best of
them. His break-building is outstanding. Every time you play
him, it is an examination. You are given a stern test. You come to the
table, you are in maximum trouble, and every time you play him you know
it will be a horrible afternoon. It is borne out by match statistics.
We have been having a look. These are basically the greatest match
players we have ever seen. Right at the top of the pile, a certain Mr
Davies with 920 wins in his matches. That career was over 150 years, but
he got there in the end! Interestingly when you look at
Ronnie O'Sullivan, his percentage tops everybody, 74%, but he's played
something like 60 tournaments fewer than John and, it just shows you
that he's right up there, only this man to beat. Steve? It's not really.
You can look at the figures in many different ways because my strike
rate wasn't as high as some of the others but I won a lot of matches
over a long period of time. Doing that, when you are possibly not
always playing at your best and there is a better standard around is
very difficult. But I wouldth you would have to say that all you could
say from the stats is, there are a few troopers in the game, John
Higgins is one of them. You can teach a lot of the game. You can
make sure your technique is as good as it can. You can learn and be
taught positional play but what you can't teach is what John Higgins has
which is a total desire on the table and you know every shot he's giving
it everything. That sometimes, temperament or whatever it is, is
something that's a lot harder to grasp. He's maintained this through
two pretty low periods in his career and he mentioned that match here in
2015 against Mark Allen and that was after a period where his confidence
dipped terribly and he'd been Tinkering around with different cues
and suddenly something like that sparks him back into life. It goes
to show it's about your level of performance. He lost that match and
he came back and said at last I can play and compete again, that's as
good as I can play. He lost the match but he came away getting
something from that tournament and since then he's kicked on. That can
also improve your enthusiasm for the game when you go to the practise
table. If you are not getting the results and confirmation that you
are doing well, that chore, that grind of going back to the practise
table which should be fun, can become something that isn't fun. He
made an interesting point about the Masters being so close to Christmas
and that lethargy that you get into. Did you experience that yourselves?
Yes, but what John's got, he's got a lot of match practise recently so
that would hold him in good stead. He played right up to Christmas. Two
or three days of graft, honestly, particularly in the middle of the
season, he'll be right back to it. By the way, Denise, you still look
20, don't you worry about that, John definitely got it right there!
Tonight, an intriguing match between two 40-somethings. Stuart Bingham,
former world champion and Joe Perry, another 40-something himself. Joe's
dad, Peter, is a former taxi driver, so it will be very interesting for
the Perry family to take a look into the curious Top Gear world of cab
driving that's been steered by a certain part-time cabby, Mr Steve
Davis. We have a bit of a problem with that
VT but I can assure you he didn't crash and he's still here to tell
the tale. Joe Perry's career, he's had a bit of a dip hasn't he, and
that came after a successful season in which he won his first world
ranking title after 20 years of graft. What do you make of him as a
personal player? He's stood the test of time well. I don't know how he
feels daily, but he's been there or thereabouts, kept himself in the top
16 quite well and you would have to say, without the word journeyman
which is sometimes used as a derogatory way of talking about a
player, he's a proper person who has decided he's a career player and
whether he wins or loses, he comes back and gives it everything for the
next match. You cannot ask for more than that, he just needs a few wins
in the trophy Cabinet. He's always a bit of a grafter out there and was
probably slightly nervous when he got back into the cab with Steve.
Anyone order a taxi? Hello, Joseph, how are you. Not bad.
Anyone still call you Joseph? My brother and my mum sometimes, my
mate when I play golf with him and I'm not performing. Only ever been
to one concert? Someone said to me you have got to two to one. Never
been to one? ! I'm not into music. It was one that I didn't enjoy. What
was it? Robbie Williams. Your own fault. The best thing about that was
ABC was the support Act and I quite enjoyed them. Do you get fed up with
hotels? I've just had an absolute crap breakfast. I always go into
them in trepidation. One of my hates is, I hate having a showinger in the
bath so if I go in a room and there's a shower in the bath...
Slippery. I hate it. It don't seem right for me. What about when the
shower curtain sucks up to you? ! What's the worst thing in the world,
the shower comes on and all of a sudden the shower curtain decides to
come and cuddle you. What's that all about? There's a fewers, Mark
Williams -- there's a few players, Mark Williams, you go into his room
and it's as messy as it can be, I'm not like that, I like to keep it
tidy. What would you say are your pet
hates? Well, I had one this morning. Really? One of my mates walked in my
room this morning and borrowed my roll-on. I didn't like it. Really?
Yes, that's not nice. Your hotel's perfect, everything hanging up
perfectly, a bit OCD? No, not OCD. You are getting that way though? Our
little collection of players, Mark Davis, he's OCD. Is he? All his
shoes will be in perfect order, toes will all be at the same bit. Every
time we go in, we'll kick 'em just to wind him up. On the circuit would
you be considered by your close mates, the players you hang around
with, glass half empty or half full, are you a bit of a moaner? I moan
purely for comedy value. Yes, I feel that, yes. I think I'm the same. I
do it to entertain them because people like Mark Davis and that,
they're very boring. Yes. But if you can get it out of him, they are good
company so I play on it really, it's my little character, I just play
point and try and have a laugh. Plenty of things to moan about. Yes.
More and more now. We are on our way to the venue now and there is no
practise slots available. I'll be moaning about that. Can't you pull
rank? That's not me really. I might have to do a bit of loitering and
nick a couple, but no, I'm not one for pulling rank, no. I remember
when you used to check out of airport car parks back in the day.
Yes. There used to be a convoy of six to get through. We had a convoy,
yes, I think five was our record. Getting out the car park. All going
through, yes. What were the consequences? Gerrard got called up
to Gatwick police station once. He was the only one. The worst that can
happen is, you end up having to pay your car park bill, so you either
get away with it or you don't. The secret world of the gelmen, Joe
Perry. If you invite him to your house, don't put him in your guest
room where there's a shower in the bath, he'll not be having it. Joe's
match will be live on the red button at 7. Every ball of the Masters is
live on the BBC either on BBC Two or on the red button so two platforms
for you and I'll be back at 11. 20, in fact I won't, I'm ahead of
myself, Jason Mohammed is coming, I get the night off. Jason is on duty
at 11. 20 and by the way, Marney Rose Bingham, a new member, has come
into the world, she did so, 8 pounds 2 ounces on Saturday, so
congratulations to Stuart and Michelle and I wonder whether that
will have the Danny Willet effect on Stuart bring ham as he comes in
tonight. What do you think? It's happened before. Absolutely, it
could do. Could be inspiring. We'll be hoping to hear from Stuart before
the end of the programme. He's here doing a bit of practise and I'm sure
Steve is going to dash out and have a word with him. But back to the
game. Certainly Steve will have found
something to moan about, Hazel will. But no good moaning, there's nothing
you can do about it. The players are back in the arena.
Chance of a long pot. Not there, but felt that the only one he could
leave was what he was seeling, the frame time just under 16 minutes,
not bad after a 32-minute opening frame. I told you it would get
better. Average shot 21 seconds each. That's
quick. Quick enough. Just makes it a bit more difficult
for John to play a safety shot and get the cue ball back to the baulk
end. Risky if he attempted it. So may just play the safety at this
end. Trying to cover that red near the
brown. Just dictating the safety exchange at the moment, is Mark
Allen. It would be too risky to go to the
baulk end this time. You need to get this cue ball as close as you can to
the top cushion. Well, has he left his cut to the
middle? Can John get to it? I think he can. He's looking at the
potting angle. That was careless. Just having a look to see where the
pink is going to go. It's going to have to go at the back of the pack
which is no problem. Leaving himself a little low on
this. Potting it, bringing the reds into play. The cue ball needs to run
a little bit though. May just be a gap he can get through to the green.
Rather the green than the blue. Nice, solid pot right in the heart
of the pocket. Always a good sign. I suggest pot the blue, leave the
cue ball where it is then the red left-to-middle and leave the blue to
go in the middle of the bunch. Oh, dear. Oh, dear, John. Didn't Seeta
one coming. My sentiments exactly. Maybe he was thinking two or three
shots ahead. Yes, let his mind drift. Easily done sometimes, you
just take a pot for granted. That will annoy him.
Does this pink pot? If he gets through to it, he can pot it then
open up all the reds. APPLAUSE.
He may play the double into the right middle if he feels as though
he's not going to leave anything on but the red he's playing.
Always got to be careful with the double though if it's the wrong side
of the pocket and doesn't go in, it can always come back to the cue
ball. John Higgins playing a double. He's
one of the best in the business. And that is why - no mistake.
APPLAUSE. In Canada they call that a bank
shot. It's a frame-winning opportunity
here. Three reds in-between the pink and black nicely available.
A red in the middle of the table at the far end.
Takes him 36 points in front. Needs to get to 67. Another 24 points
required. He's probably going to need after
this black three more reds. The reason I say that, is because with
the reds being at the baulk end of the table, he's going to take
low-value colours, you would have thought. So it's not a formality.
Quick glance at the score board. This to go 51 points in front, but
still 67 remaining. Red and black put him 59 in front
with 59 remaining. Still looking for one more red to get to snookers
required. Mark Allen went for a double and
missed it, left John Higgins a double, he got it. 3-2.
What an appetite for the game this man has and those stats prove it.
That win in 2006 against Ronnie O'Sullivan. I know you had the great
final black-ball game with Mark Williams but what a clearance he got
to beat Ronnie. Incredible. It was a double in that
one as well. I think John was quoted as saying
that now that there are so many tournaments, you don't have to spend
that much time on the practise table. I think it probably suits
John because, as you get older, that's the hard graft isn't it, the
practise? Yes, definitely. I think finding the appetite, the
desire to put in the four, five, six hours a day, as you get older,
becomes very difficult. So I think, like John said to me during the
Champions Cup victory, I think he only plays an hour a day now,
because you are playing so much snooker. It keeps you match sharp.
He'll be disappointed to have missed that. You always say with that type
of shot, if you are going to miss it, hit it thin and he hit it too
thick. This is a chance now for Mark Allen. I think what stood John
Higgins in good stead over the years, his technique's hardly
changed. Watch his cue action, it's so repetitive.
There are two ways of playing this, you can play a little cannon into
the two reds above the black and still be on the red at just above
the black. He decided to play for the loose red.
Decided to play the cannon that time around. But if he'd have played that
cannon previously, he'd have still been on the red that was just above
the black and now, it appears as though he's on nothing.
A lot to do with break-building in this game is shot selection. I think
this red goes the far left corner, he was looking for something easier
than this. He's played it beautifully. Good
Now, can he drop this in and hold for the red to the right corner?
Delicate shot. He's played it well. Might begin to to the gap with the
two reds that are together or to the right of the bunch. Got the red
first. It's OK. The red that he hit he just wants to miss going into the
gap and it would have been absolutely perfect.
Controlled the cue ball nicely there.
This is exactly what you've got to do at this level. Higgins misses the
long red, you have got to punish him for it. He's missed it so thick, the
cue ball was never going to get back to the table. Mark Allen's getting
the cue ball cleaned. Should have been easier on the red than this.
Put it to the left middle. It now becomes missable.
This match is warming up nicely, John. Yes. Always on paper looked to
be a cracker. They've played 13 times and it's 7-6 to John Higgins
in the head-to-heads. Played the cannon nicely, it's all
over now, surely. The road will put in 60s of an points ahead. 67
remaining. -- put him 67 points ahead.
And this is his highest break in the match so far. 67.
He's taken it very well. APPLAUSE 72, 70 three. -- 72, 73.
Doesn't matter about the blue. Potted a view good balls prior to
that, one mistake from Higgins, frame to Mark Allen.
STUDIO: A couple of shots in the frame, he kept well to keep it
going. Excellent long part, yellow pocket, lovely control, play this
well, straight into it, look where he left the cue ball, played it to
an area that was safe, also, if he knocks in the red, he just has to
drop the blue, which he does, and he is back in the break. -- pot. Well
sorted out, well executed. Unsurprising that it is this close,
because people thought this would go the full distance. Very difficult to
read it the winners of this first-round matches, such is the
standard, the bookmakers have to make someone a favourite, and then
there is an underdog. The pattern is something you picked up on, you were
in the UK, you watched the match. Similar sort of thing, John was
ahead, Mark got him back, the only reason Mark Allen lost that match
was that he lost this is an a couple of times, but he really had him on
the brink of defeat. Just wondering whether it will follow the same
thing. Similar match. You would expect it, because these two are
really evenly matched. COMMENTATOR: Good length of break
off, from John. CO-COMMENTATOR: Textbook break, opened up some reds.
How has he left this? He has done the opposite of what
John Higgins did in the previous frame, he has made sure he left it
thin. Make it safe. Foul. Miss. Mark Allen, four. Does
he put him back in, from where he rises, or does he have the cue ball
put back? I would have it put back, myself.
Quite interesting, at the start of the match, as Steve was saying in
the studio, this first-round matches, top 16 players, world
ranked number three, John Higgins, and Mark Allen, one of the top
seeds. He has got to hit it this time otherwise he will get a
warning. He is going to get a warning now. Mark Allen, four. And
you lose the frame. The bookies made John Higgins nine quarters on
favourite, he's looking at John because he now knows that John is
under pressure. I don't think he will be playing the think at this
time. I will have too warned you, John, you have got to hit a red this
time. He has given him a warning. This is the shot that John Higgins
did not want to play. But it wasn't that difficult, in the end. Now,
they have made John Higgins favourite, six quarters, Mark Allen,
I didn't see the difference that much in the arts. -- six quarters.
-- 6-4. The only reason is that he has won events this season. On the
move quickly there. Funny one, that, couldn't really put
any pressure on John. You think it would not be a problem for John to
play safe now, of this bread. But John could have played it better, if
he has not covered that read near the ball by the yellow, then it is
advantage Mark Allen. Well it looks like he can just get
past the pink. Down the right-hand side of the table. Courted much too
thick. That could spell danger. Nothing nicer coming to the table
after this situation, look at the reds, and the black is in the open.
Already made 80 in a previous frame. So you're scoring.
You wouldn't imagine that the cue ball is going to travel any great
distance. Mark Allen with a frame-winning break here. Very
disappointed with that one. I'm sure that he can pop this rate... Towards
the blue, now. Shake of the head, it's imperative that he gets a good
handle on the blue. Played it in such a way that he didn't want to
risk being alongside the blue. Chance of a colour. Probably played
the green. Cue ball travelling a bit further, in and around the black,
that cue ball is not travelling too far. A lot easier to control your
positional side of the play. Played that well, though, back in
prime position, good shot. Red, colour, red, all that's
required. 72 points is the lead, 75 remaining,
but not for long. After losing the first two frames, Mark Allen is
going to take the lead for the first time in the match. APPLAUSE
Starting to punish John Higgins heavily. For his mistakes. Just made
his highest break of the match, in the last, 81, looks like he can go
better than that here. The table does look an absolute
pleasure to play on. Lovely speed. Little soft screws.
Terrific break their from Mark Allen, now. Highest break in the
tournament now, held by Ronnie O'Sullivan, 121, ?10,000 prize for
the high break. Oh! He will be disappointed he missed that, but the
frame one, and for the first time in the match, it goes in front, he now
leads John Higgins, 4-3. As we say, Stephen, 81 in the frame
previous, 104 there are, all caused by catching it too thick. Yes. The
frame before this one, he has gone for a long ball to the left
corner... Obviously allowing a little bit of left-hand side, so he
has pushed the cue ball across... To the right. Caught this far too
thick, as you say, playing those shots do nothing, if you are going
to miss it, you tend to do are on the thin side, to get the cue ball
back to baulk, and the same here. The same one, playing with a trace
of left-hand side. -- err. Read near the left and cushion, playing this
one, courted much too thick, and once it is the other red and stayed
in this half of the table, it's big trouble. -- -- red. It spelt big
trouble. -- court it much too thick. -- it spelt big trouble. -- caught
it much too thick. Mark Allen did what he was supposed to do, and as
you say, John now I had for the first time and looking the stronger
player. You're never happy when you see that on the red, next to the
black. -- John now ahead the first time. First time that has happened
in this match, when players have been breaking, the black has stayed
in the clear. I disagree, I remember a couple of
times, when we have seen players playing long pots and try to disturb
the black and the red, funny how some people break of different, long
pot success, John Higgins need to improve that. Mark Allen, and...
APPLAUSE ... OK, that's as good as any long pot.
Perfect line, perfect length. Joe has got to catch this just right. --
John has got to. In the end decided not to play back to baulk, coming
off the side cushion, nestling on the reds near the top cushion. One
adrift by it, of course, if he does, he would leave it. Played it well.
Just flipped the green. Has a chance with this read to the right corner.
Play it as a shock for nothing. -- play it as a shot for nothing.
I'm sure if John was not hampered by the green, he may take on one of
these reds, on the right-hand side of the table. Well, he can just cue
passed it, only just. He should keep the cue straight. -- past. Where is
the cue ball going? Mark Allen, four. Always difficult when you are
cueing pass the ball like that, concentrating that much on keeping
the cue straight. The only advantage with the North,
he has not left Mark close to the next red. -- the only advantage with
the in-off. Doesn't look any read here that you would be tempted to
play the pot on, when you just made breaks of 104 and 81, sometimes you
are feeling confident. No, did not want to risk the pot, if he kisses
the yellow, it is not the best safety he has ever played. A chance
now for John Higgins to get the upper hand now in the safety
exchange. Good targets there, yellow, brown and green.
Catch this mighty thin otherwise it will come up the other end of the
table. Played that well. Something you don't see often, John Higgins in
the safety Department. Will that cue ball stopped, will it
stop... Mark Allen, four. Gravity. Settle down, please, thank you. I
thought it had stopped for a second. That is why the Apple fell from the
tree. The kiss on the brown has left the
pot on, you can stun it in and play for the black but more likely you
will run up for the blue, but it needs good accurate cueing, and he
has not ported a ball for over 27 minutes. And considering that,
excellent pot. APPLAUSE OK, a little bit thin on the blow,
but he won't mind that, he will play the cannon here, weighing the
cannon, he can bring the pink into play.
Not the best opportunity, went near the side cushion, the black is in a
tricky position at the moment. Just concentrating on trying to
accumulate points here rather than think too far ahead of himself. This
is a big moment in the match, for me.
13. Nearly got into it too much but it's OK.
19. This time, wrong side of the blue. Last thing he wanted. Can he
roll in the blue and find a red that is easily potted? I don't think so.
The other side of the blue line. I suppose he could screw back to the
right-hand side cushion and play for them one which is closer to the
right-hand corner, looking at the one around the pink spot area, but
certain to be on a colour of that, we'll see what he decides. He has
played for the one round the pink spot area, the problem with this, it
is easily missed and he has got to find a path for the cue ball to come
back up for the blue or play for the cannon, and hope for the black.
Don't miss the pot. Good pot. The way he played it, I think he was
trying to avoid the kiss on the second red, only a safety shot now.
At least if you pop the ball, you get the next shot. -- pot the ball.
It was always going to be difficult to score heavily from that
opportunity, green and black, awkward as they were.
More concerned with avoiding other reds and getting the cue ball back
to the ball can, he has not left any thing, should be a better safety
shot from John here. If he misses the yellow, it will be. He has just
flicked it. Hit it much too thick, John Higgins
gets another chance now. Trying to swing it round, just putting that
little bit of right-hand side... Super fine, if you don't time it
correctly, you push it to the left, much too thick. Twixt and between.
The only slight advantage with this, and it all depends on the potting
angle, I know that it is a thin cut, may cannon them together.
Concentrate on the pot. APPLAUSE That is what he did and he has been
a little unlucky, nudged the reds open. Just watch, for a moment, on
the reds, to the corner, and then the other one came and blocked it.
He's looked at it a couple of times. The only thing that would make me
want to play it, he's looking now, if he leaves the cue ball near the
top cushion, if the red goes in, he could play the snooker behind the
brown and leave Mark Allen in all kinds of trouble.
I wouldn't risk playing the pot and trying to play for a colour.
He's looking at the possibility a plant.
Ideally he'd like to leave the four reds that are closer together in
that same position. Can he get a better safety off this red?
Wasn't too worried about bringing the green into play. He's got the
yellow and brown in awkward positions. Should Mark Allen get the
next chance. Mark Allen will have no hesitation in bringing these four
reds into play. But he could have played it better
than that. This red cuts to the right middle. OK, you won't have
much clue where the cue ball's going. Make certain you pot the red
and trust the luck for position. If he gets on a colour, he's got the
frame at his %ery. -- mercy.
The one to the left is a more difficult pot. But he has more
control of the cue ball. Right in the heart of the pocket.
You've got to say that could be the frame winner. Good shot.
That's where we talk about making the right shot selection. If you
look where the cue ball finished, he didn't play any shot for nothing. He
played it so that if he got it, it won him the frame.
That's run on a little about the more than he wanted. But he's OK.
Probably need four of these remaining reds. I don't think he's
going to be bothering with pink or black.
It was a very weak safety shot from Mark Allen.
Every credit to John Higgins playing the right shot. He knew it would be
a frame win perit went in. That tells me he's not too bothered
now. He knows Mark Allen won't be coming back to the table.
And that's enough. So John Higgins needed a couple of chances. Now
we're all square. We started off best of 11. Now it's turned out to
be best of three. STUDIO: We're not complaining about
that. It's certainly an intriguing match so far. We talked about safety
and how John Higgins' safety has always been one of the key elements
of his game. Just in the last couple of frames, the guys in the
commentary box mention today as well, seems to be struggling a
little bit in that department today. If you look at the stats, yeah.
Sometimes they don't always tell the exact story. Playing against a great
player, you can't always hide the ball. These days, putting it tight
on the bottom cushion doesn't guarantee anything. How do you read
it? He had a couple of shots where he missed the ball completely one
side of the table. What he played down the other side he hit it thick.
It might welcome back one of those days when you're not in the middle
of the cue ball. The safety department is usually has backyard.
It's a great crowd, for a Monday afternoon, close to 1500 people
here. It's always so beautifully crowded this venue. I did notice
that in terms of pretournament sales, best ever. Seems to be one of
these tournaments that's growing and growing. Yeah, for all of the people
who think snooker is on the way out, even in the UK, we know worldwide
it's buzzing, but this proves that's not the case. People love watching a
live match. They do. John, it is a good crowd. For a January blues
situation, it does alleviate that a lot. A lot of people really look
forward to this. London's always been popular as a venue. What they
moved to Ally Pally, you never know when they come to a venue, but
people have come in their droves. Over the years they've had to up the
capacity every year because that many people wanted to come in. It's
gone from 1200, 1500, now 2,000 this year. Every year it's getter more
crowded. You can't go further back, otherwise you can't see the tables.
They cantilever the stands now. In this event, you bump into people you
know, I know from the London area, in this Essex area, the catchment is
quite big, obviously. I'm not absolutely sure, but I think there
are more snooker players come to watch the Matchers than would come
to watch some ranking events. Not just the sthoocker fans. I've even
seen Patsy Fagin in the room as we speak. Yesterday as well. His
birthday last night. Many happy returns of course. There he is,
yeah, here with his wife. It's always lovely to see him here. He
loves his snooker and a great player in his time as well. He was indeed.
Back we go, get to the sharp end of this now.
COMMENTATOR: Yes, we certainly are. A massive frame for John Higgins,
that last one. Mark Allen looked as though he was
on a role. John didn't win it with a big break, but it was a solid frame
he played. It makes this safety a little more
difficult for John. He hasn't got that open red in the
middle of the table that play-off. If you catch it fractionally
thicker, chance you'd leave it on. That's what he's done.
Once again Mark Allen getting the advantage in the safety exchange.
Could have done with another couple of rolls of the cue ball. Still a
thin cut on this red. He's going to do well to control the cue ball
here. If he misses the green, he's OK.
Well, he may just be able to pot the green. It begs the question: Where
does the next red come from? In practice you'll have two cushions
into the bunch here. Whether he does that at 4-4 situation, I would doubt
it. Playing for the open red. You can
only assume, yes, it does pass the main bunch and goes to the right
corner. Well, it was two that went. Can only
play the bottom one. Has he got the angle on the blue? He
has. Pot the blue, into the pink.
Couldn't have played it much better than that. He's finished absolutely
perfect. That's all you're looking for. It's an easy red to continue
with. He's got that. The blacks available into both
corners. Good chance. Can you turn your ear pieces down a
little bit. Thank you. If the ear pieces are up too loud,
then the players get a whiff of what we're saying.
Often when it hits the knuckles of the pockets, two, three times, they
don't go in. There was a black earlier for John Higgins like that.
The shot from Mark Allen with just enough pace to keep the direction.
He's got this red. He needs another 27 points.
He's got one loose red to the left of the cluster.
He needs more than two reds and two colours.
Down to just over 14 minutes a frame.
It's been excellent snooker. Has he got the angle on this?
The 16 best players in the world, a match in this situation, to be able
to win frames in one visit... Crucial to be a top-class snooker
player. Couldn't have worked out better.
Just a red and a colour needed. This blue to go 72 points in front
with just 67 remaining. Would you believe it? Has he got
position on the red? There's a red in the middle of those five that
will pot. Would you believe that? Quietly
please now, thank you. John Higgins came to the table 67
points behind. There were 67 remaining. He needs all blacks. And
the six colours to force a respot. Tall order.
There's not many players in snoocker in front of John that you'd put to
do this, though. Played that well. He'd like to have
been a bit straighter. No problem. Remember, he's got to
get blacks off every red. It's the red in between the blue and
pink that's so important he gets the right potting angle on that one. He
thinks he can do it this time around.
He could. Now it looks on. Now it looks on!
One good positional shot from black to yellow.
This looks inch perfect. Six colours to force a respoted black.
He miss aid straightforward blue. Mark Allen is sat in his chair
thinking heads or tails? That's the blue he missed, miss today because
he was playing it with left-hand side to get position.
That's just about inch perfect on the blue. Pot the blue and hold for
the pink in the same pocket. What character this man shows. He
has done all his career. Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant. Boy
has he got a will to win. So it's a respoted black. As Stephen said,
Mark Allen will be thinking, "Heads or tails? John, you want to call it?
Tails? It's a head, it's your choice. John Higgins called tails.
It was heads. Mark Allen puts him in. Settle down, please. Quiet
please. People are coming in, this is
ridiculous. They should be stopped. They shouldn't be coming in during a
frame. He's played the double, where's it
going - is it coming over the middle pocket or running past it? Well,
you'd be a brave man to play the double. The double's on. But if you
play it and don't get, it you don't know where the blacks going to
finish. I think he's playing it. There it
goes. Well, what do you do here? Easy
safety. But the pot wins you the frame.
The pot wins you the frame! What a pot that was. And listen to the
Absolutely superb pot on the black. He nearly threw it away. But a pot
like that deserved to win any frame. He's now one frame away from
victory. He leads John Higgins 5-4. STUDIO: A wry smile from John. We
heard it, Mark Allen, we heard it. What a pot to win it. What a frame
of snooker. Mark Allen nearly threw it away. This long pot, straight in,
a beauty. There he is, asking for the adulation which he certainly
deserved for a great shot like that. You also have to give it to John
Higgins, 67 on the table and he manages it. Both players showing
great character. The miss on the blue was something that could have
cost him. It was a very easy shot to be honest. He had to put a bit of
side spin on. From that position, John Higgins gets well back into it.
A fantastic frame of snooker. I don't know if that was relief or a
bit of like chest pumping there from Mark at the end, deservedly so.
Having to take that 67 break and then to have to knock a ball in,
easy to crumble. Your reading of that blue? What was on his mind? As
I was watching it live, I said the only way he could miss this shot is
to play the correct shot to get position. If he pots the blue he
wins the frame. To get position he had to half punch it in with a bit
of run inside. That did happen. He will be relieved to get over the
line. It's as if the energy levels have gone up a notch from both men,
the reaction from Mark there. And you could see the adrenaline
coursing through John's veins. Any type of sport where it's one on one,
the analogy with boxing may not be apparent, there's two gladiators in
there. They start off feeling each other end. They get into the fight.
Then you get pumped up by the end. Mark Allen will be walking out a
mixture of relief, but he'll be buzzing. He will try to keep things
under control when he comes back. He's such a combative player. He
seems to thrive on the increased energy. That's why we're all here. A
good idea to go out. He will be pumped up after knocking the black
in. Try to calm back down. It's not over yet. Mark Allen is one frame
away from completing a hat-trick of Masters wins over John Higgins. --
in round one. COMMENTATOR: Mark Allen breaks off
and after that last frame, which he nearly threw away, but what a
tremendous pot this was. Right in the heart of the pocket.
So relieved, I think. That's why he did that.
That's a tremendous opening red from John Higgins. You never count this
man out. Let's not forget, even though he lost the last frame, what
a tremendous 67 break he made to force the respot.
He's just making sure at the moment. Probably just a little bit too
straight. He had to force it over. I don't see him going into the bunch
here. His body language, you have to fancy
him winning the frame at this visit. He looks so focussed.
He may go into the main bunch. He may just play a cannon into the two
reds. That worked out perfect. He'll be
happy with that. Four reds into play.
Balls potted up till then 124 apiece.
This has been a tremendous match since the interval. Snooker of the
highest quality. The first frame was a bit scrappy.
But since then, it has been top quality stuff.
You'd expect that with the best two players in the world. That's what
you get and expect at at the Masters.
Two reds, two colours, that cluster of five, that will mean there's 67
left. He's got this red. That first long red was a carbon
copy of the one he missed by such a distance thick before.
When your back is against the wall, no problem.
The sign a great champion. This was the opening red.
He caught one too thick which cost him the frame. Trying to get into
the reds. He's into them. He's knocked them on. Well this is superb
stuff from John Higgins. Back firmly against the wall and one
chance. Brilliant. You knew at the beginning of the
frame, I sensed it would go 5-5 from this visit.
That's just what he does. I mean this in the best possible way, his
greatest asset, John Higgins, always has been, he late losing.
-- he hates losing. The red hasn't gone in. But it
doesn't matter. Mark Allen won't bother coming back to the table.
We've got a decider. Listen to the crowd!
The crowd are going to look forward to this.
John Higgins doing his impression of Mark Allen.
STUDIO: Who can blame him, both players really enjoying this
occasion, we are thoroughly enjoying this. What a response. There is a
camaraderie amongst the players, Mark Allen can see the funny side of
that, serious stuff, plenty of prize-money, but the game of snooker
has always been such a game of gentlemanly conduct, that is what
gives it that special edge. These two lads are just fighting out
there, and... I'm not going to say that there does not deserve to be a
loser but this match does deserve to go to the final frame, and after the
interval, absolutely. Who will come out of this? And straight into the
John Higgins, 30. Settle down, please is. -- settle
down, please. Quite, please. -- quiet.
23. 24. CO-COMMENTATOR: He can play the cue ball into the area for both
threads here, from the brown, in between the two reds, he will have a
choice. He will be tempted to play get now,
the one next to the middle pocket, obviously trickier than it looks on
screen. If he is straight on the black, it means he can't get close
to the awkward red, and he can't. Need a better angle on the black
than this. John Higgins maybe thinking this is a chance to come
back to the table. It's there. Quick glance at the
scoreboard, pot the blue, 25 points in front with 27 remaining, John
Higgins feeling the worst -- fearing the worst. That should be that, what
a match. Missed a black off the spot, I will
give him the benefit of the doubt and say that it was not the best of
contact, when the black jumped in the air, every credit, Mark holding
himself together. And he is now 31 points in the lead, 25 remaining.
Two snookers required. APPLAUSE
Is there a gap? There is always a gap!
Normally you think of one cushion to escape, at this level you would not
expect them to miss it. When the object balls are in the middle of
the table. The bit of doubt in your mind.
If John were to put green, brown and blue, he would need one snooker on
the pink too tight, at the moment, two required, but he is feeling to
keep more balls on the table, does not want the green in! He did not
want it in. Still two snooker is needed. He has called this much too
thin, he has left the brown, he has left the brown. John walks away from
the table. Dropped his shoulders, drops his head, this brown for the
match. Would you believe it! Well... I know it is two snooker 's,
but the match should have been over. Good shot, good shot. Needed at this
moment, fair play to John Higgins, taking time to tap on the table to
say, good shot. Needs to hit this and get it safe, he has got it safe.
And that pink and black and blue, in that line down the middle of the
table will give John Higgins some hope. This is not over just yet,
even though two snooker 's are needed.
It's a good line. It's a good line. But the brown has just come across
the table enough, not quite the snooker, even if it is an easy
swerve. I was thinking before, if he potted
the two colours, one snooker on the pink too tight, refused to pop the
green, will be playing the snooker of the brown, he's decided to pop
the brown. If he is going to pot it will he pop the blue? One snooker to
try on the pink? -- pot. That is the plan. The fact that Mark Allen
missed the very easy brown, moments ago, if he does get a snooker, has
put himself under pressure. Just ran a little bit too far. Can he get in
behind the black? Needs this to run, otherwise he will leave it for the
middle. The pink, for the match. He did not
want to risk it, he has played it over the corner, it is there anyway,
doesn't matter, it is in! What a great match, John Higgins gives him
warm congratulations, and Mark Allen has really done well, John Higgins
led 2-0 but Mark Allen battled away, after the interval, absolutely
top-class, could have gone either way, but in the end, it went the way
of the man from Antrim, Mark Allen, he has beaten the world number
three, John Higgins, through to the quarterfinals, he wins, 65 -- 6-5.
STUDIO: I'm sure that you haven't tried that one at home, a hat-trick
of triumphs in the first round from Alan over John Higgins, deserved the
drama and the dramatic finale, even when he missed the brown to the
yellow pocket, it was not done, it was not a done deal. You will
probably be very disappointed, first in among the balls, unforced error
's, including the black from the spot, at his level, unforgivable.
This is the lorry of the match in one shot, final frame, all you
looking for is every good chance, black the spot. -- this is the story
of the match. Mark Allen plays a great shot, does not play a good
shot there are, really good shot around the ankles, see him, he
thinks, come the wrong angle, potted a great shot, and once again, had to
die a thousand deaths to get over the line. But they got there. Missed
black in the final frame decider, just like the Wenbo. Not right at
the death. Impossible to tell who was going to win that. Mark Allen
will be delighted, nearly lost a frame from 6-7 in front and got
himself out of jail, and looks like he will lose that one, he will sleep
very nicely tonight, I'm sure. Here he comes, Judd Trump or Marco Fu to
come. Congratulations, what a match, we were quite happy with the
deciding frame going all the way, I sure you had other ideas. Some up,
three times you have not John out of the first round of the Masters, you
have the Indian sign over him. Got one back on him, lost a lot of good
plays lately, it is up to me to step up and beat these good players, I
was not at my best but I think I competed well, my safety was good.
Forced errors from John that I have not been doing recently, any win
against John is a good win. Frame number nine is where it was all
happening, after you got to 67, 67 on the table, did you know that he
was going to clear up and force the Reece Burke? Once he got the first
black, quite high on that, once he got that, you fancied him. -- force
the respot. And then you get a chance on it, after a couple of long
doubles, what is going through your mind? You just want a chance, I
could have played safe and thought, no,... Big pressure putt, you
deserve the accolades from the crowd, but it seemed like you were
really strong, not shaky, you got it to the top. I would rather be
positive rather than trying to drop it in. I don't believe I won it
there, because I don't feel great, but a win is a win. Pretty
confident. Yes, it was fun to do that, and John, great to see him do
it as well. Some people would say, look at him, but we know, that is
pot of the fun. A bit of fun, nothing directed at John, John knows
that, I broke off the next frame, he made 79! LAUGHTER.
Didn't work today. Again, tale of a missed black off the spot in the
final frame which lets you in again, your heart must have been in your
mouth. I will be honest, I fancied John to miss, he looked really
nervous, a lot of times playing shots and I was right behind him,
but his arm was all over the place. I have never really noticed that
before. Could be he does it every match. He does shake a bit, yes. You
said, more than... Raqqa a green nervous... Well, his arm was
definitely shaking. You can miss anything. The red before you played
here, you did not play it as she wanted. Had to play below the pink.
If I go above the pink, horrible shock. Even after that, it is not
great. Especially if you think, if you miss it, you have lost, because
all the colours are pretty much there, did not even play for the
yellow, just get the blue in the hole and it is pretty much over.
Under so much pressure there are, you think, two snookers, you are
pretty much guaranteed to win, you miss easy brown. Some people think,
two snookers, you all right, not this one. At no point are you
comfortable until the pink drops. Last time you beat him in the first
round, he went on the run to the semifinals, ironically he was saying
that match spot in him the revival. In terms of the positivity you will
take from that, good memories of another run to the semifinal. I love
the tournament, have never got to the final but I love the tournament,
you have to play well. You don't win any matches here by playing poorly.
I love the big occasion, when all eyes are on you and the opponent,
that is what you play for, you want to be in the big arenas in front of
the big crowds, even the matches I have lost, I love playing here.
Marco fee, just winning in Scotland, before the break. -- Marco Fu. Or,
Judd Trump, who will win that one? Current form, very tight, the
snooker that Marco played in Scotland were some of the best we
have ever seen and Judd Trump is capable of beating anyone on his
day, super aggressive. I'm going to Z back and watch. The good news is
that you are not going to have to worry about it. Actually I am going
to fly home tonight, and I will spend some time at home, because I
do not play until Thursday, they can slug it out and use energy. -- I'm
going to sit act and watch. You will be able to see Stuart Bingham and
Joe Perry tonight, 7pm, and I will be back, 1120, with highlights of
that. -- 11:20pm. Dank you so much for your company, this Masters
continues to enthrall, goodbye for now.
They want me to write and produce - for a boy band. Oh.
Two-time champion John Higgins starts his 2017 Masters campaign against Northern Ireland's Mark Allen, who has twice been a Masters semi-finalist. The first to six frames books a place in the quarter-finals.
Live coverage is introduced by Hazel Irvine.