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International Championship Final: Mark Selby vs Mark Allen

Mark Allen will challenge defending champion Mark Selby in the International Championship final after beating Yan Bingtao 9-2 on Saturday in Daqing.

Mark Allen International Championship (WS)

Allen had high breaks of 105 and 102. Photo credit: World Snooker

The Northern Irishman was in blistering form as he schooled the 17 year-old, who was featuring in a maiden ranking event semi-final.

Allen, who has won two out of his three ranking events in China, was never really troubled and offered several high-scoring contributions in a one-sided affair.

The 31 year-old compiled breaks of 70, 55, and 64 in opening a 4-0 interval lead during the first session, which set the tone for the remainder of the contest.

Yan offered a brief hope of a revival upon the restart with knocks of 73 and an excellent 98 getting him off the mark.

But any chance was quickly squashed as Allen compiled a brace of centuries to leave the afternoon’s play 6-2 in front.

Later, Allen refused to let up his relentless scoring and further runs of 50, 90, and 72 saw him coast passed the winning post.

It was a disappointing conclusion to an otherwise wonderful tournament for Yan, who can now boast triumphs over multiple world champions Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins on his CV.

The teenager was hoping to break O’Sullivan’s long-serving record as the youngest ranking event champion and there’s still a couple of months to achieve that feat but, either way, the Chinese cueist will be a regular feature at the business end of events in the years to come.

Allen, though, was imperious and it was brilliant to see him play with a confidence and composure that had been distinctly lacking from his game during the entire last campaign.

Following his 2016 Players Championship success, the Antrim man suffered a huge dip in form and, though it was always expected that he’d eventually come through it, it perhaps took a little longer than everyone expected.

Allen is a notoriously streaky player and, after runs to the quarter-final and semi-final of recent events, he’ll now contend for what would be the biggest title of his career to date.

To lift the trophy and collect the hefty £150,000 winner’s cheque, he’ll have to overcome the most prolific champion in the game at present.

Selby, the runaway world number one with well over a million pounds to his credit from the rolling two-year standings, is back where he rightfully belongs challenging for top honours after a quiet opening few months of this term.

The reigning International champ was equally dominant in his last four victory over Martin Gould on Friday, and the 34 year-old will have fond memories of his 10-1 drubbing of Ding Junhui in the final twelve months ago.

Allen, runner-up three years ago when the event was last staged in Chengdu, will likely put up a sterner test on this occasion, particularly if he can match his previous displays from this week.

The pair has met on eight occasions outside the short format Championship League with Allen actually boasting a marginally superior head-to-head record.

Amazingly, the former UK finalist has prevailed in their last three encounters courtesy of a hat-trick of 6-5 victories.

Before that, the duo traded wins against one in another in finals of European Tour events, while all three of their original battles all also incredibly ended with 6-5 scorelines.

If that doesn’t whet the appetite for Sunday’s showdown, nothing will.

Let’s hope, despite the obvious problems this week with attendances, that the final has a full house and a cracking atmosphere for what promises to be a thrilling conclusion to this ranking event.

While it was unfortunate that both semi-finals were so one-sided, the snooker on show this week has predominantly been very entertaining and it would be fitting if Selby and Allen could conjure up another classic between each other.

Live coverage will be on Eurosport.

Click here to view the draw. (Times: CET)



Creator of SnookerHQ and a journalism graduate, David has been actively reporting on snooker since 2011. He has been published in national publications and has appeared on BBC World News and on talkSPORT radio as an analyst.