The table rather than the players took centre stage in the first semi-final of the World Snooker Championship with ‘soft cushions’ and a possibly defective cue ball blamed for some scrappy early play at the Crucible.
From the off three-time former champion Mark Selby and Stuart Bingham, the 2015 winner, noticed the ball was not behaving as they expected as they found themselves out of position on a number of shots with the white regularly coming up short.
Tables were re-clothed prior to the semi-finals but Bingham could be seen mouthing “This is weird” during the first session, which ended 4-4.
At the interval the match referee spoke to both players and the table was brushed heavily and the cue ball was changed as Bingham felt that was the issue, although when asked Selby reportedly did not think that was the problem.
Selby had coped better with the strange conditions as, having lost the first frame to a 60-break by his opponent, he took a 3-1 lead into the first interval.
Bingham was on a break of 46 before missing a blue but then Selby, with a chance to clean up failed on a yellow at 56-31, although it was not to prove detrimental as he later cut in a brilliant long yellow and cleared the table.
Selby took the next two frames but high breaks of 33 and 46 gave an indication of the troublesome table conditions.
Whether the change of cue ball made a difference or whether it was psychological, Bingham looked a different player when they returned.
A 92-break – the highest of the afternoon – immediately made it 3-2 before in the next frame Selby’s foul potting a red as he sank the blue offered Bingham, who had opened up with 36, the chance to return to the table and a break of 38 levelled things up.
Bingham breezed through the seventh with a run of 82 but after missing a brown on a break of 42, Selby responded to take the final frame 73-42 to maintain his record of not being behind at the end of a session in the current championship.