The Republic of Ireland suffered a shock 3-2 defeat to Pakistan in the opening day of the Snooker World Cup in Thailand today.
Despite a century each from Ken Doherty and Fergal O’Brien, the Dublin duo lost three scrappy frames to lose their first group stage encounter.
Indeed, Pakistan’s Sahid Aftab and Muhammad Sajjad could only muster a high break of 25 between them but it was enough for a surprise early foothold in Group A and, with it, three valuable points.
The Irish unit still come away from the defeat with two points as scores are awarded for each frame win as opposed to a match victory.
That means that Ireland are still in a decent position to be one of the top two teams to qualify from their group for the quarter-finals despite putting some unwanted pressure on themselves for the remainder of the round robin stage.
The first day in Bangkok was filled with tight contests as four other matches ended 3-2.
The Belgian professional pairing of Bjorn Haneveer and teenager Luca Brecel suffered defeat at the hands of South Americans Brazil while 7th seeds Hong Kong – captained by Marco Fu – lost by a similar 3-2 scoreline to Poland.
Likewise, Thailand 2 – Thailand have two teams as host nation – matched the Polish in Group D with a 3-2 triumph over Afghanistan.
Three of the top six seeds did, though, prove their class during the early exchanges of the tournament.
Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen and Gerard Greene made light work of India, eventually overcoming the Asians 4-1 in a match that included a break of 108 from Allen.
2010 world champion Neil Robertson and Steve Mifsud of Australia beat the Thailand 1 team 4-1 as well while the match of the day between 4th seeds China and dark horses Malta ended 3-2 in favour of Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo – Ding with a high break of 120 in the last frame.
It has to be admitted that most of the matches were drawn out affairs that left a lot to be desired in terms of entertainment.
The stop-start nature of the format – two singles, doubles played using an alternate shot method and the reverse pair of singles matches – ensured that a lot of the players found it understandably difficult to find their rhythm.
It was no surprise that the most fluid ties of the day included those that boasted cueists higher up the rankings which would lead one to believe that the likes of Wales, Scotland and England will surge through the group stages when they get under way tomorrow.
That said, it is very early days and the standard is certain to increase throughout the week as the players adjust to the unusual format.