It’s fair to say that Stephen Hendry is enjoying one of the World Snooker Championship semi-final encounters more than the other.
Heading into the last day of the penultimate round of the competition in Sheffield, both matches are still delicately poised.
However, the contrasts between the style and standard on display from the respective ties couldn’t be much starker.
While Si Jiahui and Luca Brecel are combining to produce one of the most entertaining Crucible showdowns ever, the battle of the Marks between Selby and Allen has represented a turgid affair so far.
The latter pair could muster only five of their allotted eight frames from the second session, with Selby slowly clawing his way back from 6-3 down to lead 7-6.
There is the very real prospect of a ridiculously late finish to that match on Saturday night if it remains close all the way to the end.
A lot of their frames went scrappy with unexpected missed pots interchanged with elongated tactical duels against one another.
Both Selby and Allen have a shot-clock average of more than 30 seconds, and it’s a form of snooker that is dividing opinion between analysts and fans alike.
One who definitely isn’t enjoying it is the seven-time former world champion Stephen Hendry, who cut a disgruntled figure while working for the BBC on Friday.
“A dark cloud came over the match table at the Crucible,” a dismayed Hendry said as he tore into the level of play.
“It was not pretty. It’s not the snooker that I want to watch, but I understand that snooker has to be played in different ways.
“It’s almost like they’re trying to be too precise, too exact in their match play. Just play the ball sometimes.”
Hendry will have had no such concerns about the other semi-final fixture between Si and Brecel.
The duo took just two and a half hours to complete their second session on Friday morning and about the same for their third session yesterday evening.
Safety exchanges were kept to a minimum as both young competitors, making their debut appearance at this stage of the tournament, conjured a masterclass in attacking prowess.
Indeed, such was the high level on show, it had former snooker champions purring on television and on social media.
“(I) can’t believe what I’m watching. Whatever happens from here Si Jiahui is an incredible talent,” Neal Foulds wrote on Twitter.
Si, at 20 the youngest World Championship semi-finalist in 27 years, looked unstoppable for a spell as he extended a 5-3 overnight cushion to a seemingly insurmountable 14-5 advantage.
However, having watched his opponent compile four century breaks and nine more 50-plus contributions, Brecel dug deep with a late rally of his own to keep the clash alive.
The Belgian Bullet constructed quick-fire breaks of 108, 60, 66, and 53 to win five frames on the trot, leaving him just four back heading into the final session on Saturday afternoon.
“What a brilliant session that was,” 2019 world champion Judd Trump said. “(I) enjoyed every frame.”
“If I had known it was going to be that good I would have bought a ticket,” was 1991 world champion John Parrott’s reflection.
“It was a privilege to be here to watch that. It was fabulous entertainment from start to finish, with two players at the top of their game.”
It will be fascinating to see whether they can maintain the frighteningly high standard all the way to the finish line, or if Si’s rare missed green in the 14th frame is a sign of the tension and drama to come.
Either way it’s unlikely to take long, and with their match ending first, the winner will be able to put his feet up and relax while the two Marks slog it out on Saturday evening.
For the full World Snooker Championship draw, results, live scores, and session times, click here.
Featured photo credit: WST
In fairness to Selby and Allen, Ken Doherty said he was enjoying it. I obviously prefer the fare on offer in the other semi but I do enjoy the dark arts of snooker but not this many frames going down a route of containment and so little risk being taken. You’ve got to admire how Selby can outfox anyone in this type of hard matchplay snooker. A prime Ebdon v Selby would’ve been fascinating to see who could’ve broken who in the safety exchanges!
All coming from a boring boring man who left his wife and ran off with someone young enough to be his daughter. So he can do one the vile nonentity
It’s shame he doesn’t like the way they play snooker, this the sport has put millions in his bank account.
It is nice to see a tactical game because just potting is getting boring.
Also he doesn’t play snooker to a high standard.
Wow…….watch the game…….leave the folk alone………how dare you talk about their personal lives……..awful human response……
Selbyand a few others play boring snooker Selby in particular I’d rather watch paint dry . Steven Hendry is well placed to comment
Selby is the most boring player in the world he doesn’t play snooker he just bores his apponents to death
I thoroughly enjoyed the Selby Allen match, the tactical safety play is far more interesting than just seeing balls being potted, even though that skill has its merits, but it is called snooker for a reason, Stephen Hendry was never very good at that type if play and seems to have a low boredom threshold. I also wish that the commentators would not chat so much during play, sometimes even reminiscing about when they used to play
Selby could kill snooker. Need a major change in time to take shot or frame should be conceded.
Perhaps the dark cloud is over Hendry’s attitude to how beautiful the game of snooker is.
Watching Selby come back from 6-3 to 6-5 was a beautiful moment and expressed all of what the full game of snooker is about.
Selby needed a snooker in that 10th frame, got it, and one. It took a long bout of safety play to win that edge. Mark Allen fought not to lose that edge, but Selby outplayed him.
But not just this, Selby wasn’t playing great up to that point. But Selby played himself into potting form in frame 11 by building his confidence through tactical play in frame 10. The only other player in the game who can do that is Yan Bingtao. To find your potting game through good tactical play is extraordinary.
Selby’s tactical play weakened Allen’s game. Allen was playing well, but the 10th frame did so much damage to him, when he got a good chance in the 11th frame, he played tentative positional shots to break down early, which is when Selby stepped in with his 90 plus break.
Anyone who can watch those two frames and not marvel at the ‘boa constrictor’ and how that displays the beauty and complexity of snooker, regardless of their stature, reflects a one dimensional attitude.
And it’s no surprise that Hendry has a one dimensional attitude – look at his career: dominant winner, and then nothing prematurely and no ability to address the problems.
Selby looks at a shot then looks at everything thats not on looks around the table to see if there is any fluff about looks again at a few shots then tfakes the shot he first looked at he’s killing snooker i played snooker for 50 years and we used to have a warning for slow play so lets get real it cant be all bout only winnin
I cannot bear to watch the boring Selby anymore . I switch channels when he is playing. Hate his style that much. He bitches about being disrespected by ROS , but he is the one killing the game
Everyone having a go at Hendry!
As if they came EVEN CLOSE to achieving what he did!
He made snooker exciting to watch unlike Selby, he just hides the ball all the time, peeka boo! Yes snookers are part of the game, but the whole point is to SCORE THE MOST to win and set up your next shot. Playing long timeframe snookers over and over again is incredibly BORING. Wake me up when snooker gets exciting again!
Selby brought his A-game tonight and gave us a golden moment. The stick he takes in some quarters is ludicrous. Greatness comes in many forms and snooker, like any sport, is better for a diversity of styles.
Selby is the most boring snooker player in the world. He is a very bad example of entertaining a good game of snooker. He takes an exceedingly far far greater time and goes round the table many many times for the shot. There should be a penalty for taking too much time . If he is not checked then many people will not want to go to see the game of snooker. HE IS AN EVIL MAN FOR THE GOOD HEALTHY GAME OF SNOOKER.