AFTER rolling back the years to make a 147 on the opening day of the Betfred.com World Championship on Saturday, Stephen Hendry last night set up a first-ever Crucible meeting with fellow Scot John Higgins as he put the finishing touches to a comprehensive 10-4 first-round victory over Stuart Bingham.
Hendry, the seven-times champion who had to come through qualifying this year, set the tournament alight as he made his third Crucible maximum on the way to opening up an 8-1 first session lead. Bingham won the first three frames of last night’s session to narrow the gap to 8-4 before the Scot closed out the game.
He now meets compatriot Higgins in a mouthwatering second-round tie after the world champion survived a huge scare to beat Liang Wenbo 10-9 on Saturday night. Incredibly, it will be the first time the two legendary Scots have ever met at the Sheffield venue.
Mark Allen last night became the first big name to crash out of this year’s tournament and he then accused his surprise conqueror Cao Yupeng of failing to own up to a “blatant” push shot at a pivotal stage in the match. Northern Irishman Allen, who lost 10-6 to the world number 81, said he was “disgusted” with the behaviour of his 21-year-old Chinese opponent, who was making his debut in the tournament.
Allen, 26, also criticised the sportsmanship of Chinese players in general – sure to go down badly in the nation where snooker is a boom sport.
Cao firmly denied any knowledge of yesterday’s incident, which Allen stated came with his opponent on a break of eight in the tenth frame and playing a red with awkward bridging. The break later ended on 33 and Cao won the frame to extend his lead to 6-4.
Allen said at his post-match press conference: “I thought the big turning point in the match was at 5-4 when he was in the balls and Paul Collier, the referee, missed a blatant push. It was quite obvious to me and anyone who was watching at home would have been able to see it.”
There is no rule covering the issue but players are expected to call fouls which are not spotted by referees. Allen believes he was denied what should have been a chance to make a substantial break. He added: “It seems to be a bit of a trait for the Chinese players because there’ve been instances in the past, of fouls and blatant cheating going on. It needs to be corrected.
“He’s a good enough player and he doesn’t have to do that. He looked at the referee as soon as he did it, as if to say, ‘Are you not calling a foul here?’ I looked at Paul and I looked at Michaela [Tabb] who was marking the match, and I spoke to [Terry] Griffiths at the interval. He was commentating on the match.
“I was pretty confident at the time it was a foul, and he [Griffiths] pretty much confirmed it to me at the interval. It’s very, very sad the state of snooker if it has to be down to that, but it’s not the first time. I’m disgusted that it happened. It shouldn’t happen in professional sport.”
Allen named two players from the Far East who he claimed had cheated in the past. Cao picks up double his previous career winnings for knocking out the current World Open champion. Cao was asked in his press conference if he remembered the incident, but replied through a translator: “No.” He said: “I was just focusing on playing. I didn’t realise if I had fouled. If I fouled, I say sorry. If I didn’t foul, and Mark said that, then I would feel very upset and angry.”
A World Snooker spokesman confirmed the comments from Allen would be examined by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association.
Scotland’s Stephen Maguire resumes today 6-3 up on Luca Brecel, the youngest player ever to appear at the Crucible. Maguire led 4-0 and then 6-1, but the 17-year-old baby-faced Belgian kept himself in the match with breaks of 96, 63, 116 and 62.
Neil Robertson, the 2010 champion, last night completed a 10-4 victory over Ken Doherty. The Australian set up a second-round clash with Dave Gilbert, a 10-8 winner against Martin Gould.