Asian Billiards Championship: Pankaj Advani in finals

Asian Billiards C'ship: Pankaj Advani in finalsGoa: Pankaj Advani of India met Praput Chaithanasukan from Thailand in one of the best recent encounters between two former world champions, the match proved to be a classic display of champagne billiards that had the packed audience at the Clube Tennis De Gaspar Dias Miramar, Goa virtually on their toes as they awaited the outcome with baited breath. Finally Pankaj managed to outwit Praput by 5 games to 4 in the second semi final of the 11th ONGC Asian Billiards Championship.

Right from the outset, the match which was billed as the ‘clash of titans’, expectantly through and through the nine games, it was a sheer toss up between the two highly skilled cueists. Pankaj was the first to gain the required high level of concentration while chalking up an unfinished break of 102 to take the first game. Praput exhibiting matching skill and temperament rallied superbly to take the second and third in which he piled up an unfinished 99 break for an early 2-1 lead. Not to be outdone, Pankaj bounced back with an unfinished 100 break leaving Praput stranded without scoring. Continuing his fine form Pankaj was once again a picture of poise and determination as he uncorked 97 in the process of taking the fifth game to nose ahead by 3-2.

At this stage the home supporters of Pankaj were thinking that from hereon their favourite would run away with the match, but the Thai player was not finished yet. Playing in his usual carefree manner, Praput struck once again to notch an unfinished 102 restoring parity at 3-all.

The crucial seventh game was the most pulsating one as Pankaj began piling point over point after having traded a couple of safety exchanges with his rival in a patient methodical and calculated manner to reach 96 points, but just when he needed only four points to close the game, he went out of position. Having a difficult choice of going for a wild attempt or to play safe, he pondered and paused before choosing to opt for the second alternative putting the balls in relatively safe position. But it was here that Praput showed why he is such a feared opponent, when he exhibited monumental focus and unmatched craft for an unfinished break of 101 to gain a vital 4-3 lead.

Had it been any other lesser mortal he would have succumbed to this pressure situation, but then Pankaj who is surely made of much sterner stuff, once again gathered his wits around him to unleash another unfinished century break to bring the match on a decisive juncture.

The ninth and deciding game, which was full of tension, anxiety and adroitness Pankaj scored an useful 71 break in reply to the 46 points gathered by Praput at the given stage. Subsequently, playing with utmost care and caution, Pankaj finally closed shop with a well executed cannon when just requiring one scoring stroke to win.

However, Thailand had the satisfaction of winning the other semi final match when Thawat Sujaritthuarkarn from Thailand completely white-washed the challenge of the other Indian, Devendra Joshi 5 games to nil.

Thawat in fact has been one of the most consistent and steady performer among all the contestants on view in this particular championship and it would be absolutely unwise to right-off this dodgy exponent of the three ball game when he faces Pankaj in the Billiards final. One can safely predict a high class contest between the two cueists who will be on display on Sunday morning.

Earlier in the afternoon session of quarter final matches in the 13th ONGC Asian Under-21 Snooker Championship 2012, Zhou Yelong of China was the toast of the admiring crowd present at the venue even as he plundered two century breaks, a 111 in the second and a 102 in the eighth and winning frame to outclass Mohd. Lababi of Iran.

Top seeded and reigning IBSF World Snooker Champion, Hossein Vafaei of Iran was hardly in trouble while playing his compatriot Amir Sarkhosh 5-2. Amir had good chances of winning atleast a couple of more frames but fumbling on vital occasions he allowed Hossein to comeback and completes the rout.

In another match second seeded Noppon Saengkham blanked out the hopes of India as he thrashed the national junior champion Laxman Rawat by 5-0 in a tie which saw Laxman reduced to a virtual spectator as Noppon potted with a degree of aplomb in the process of winning this encounter to enter the semi final along with Anda Zhang (China), Hossein (Iran) and Zhou (China).