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