Alok knocks out Advani in National snooker

August 8th, 2011 - 9:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, Aug 8 (IANS) Two unheralded players, Neeraj Kumar and I.H. Manudev made their maiden entry into the semi-finals of the Senior National snooker championship on a day that saw the exit of defending champion Pankaj Advani, who lost a marathon tie to Alok Kumar.

Aditya Mehta posted two century breaks to complete the semi-final line-up here Monday.

In the semi-finals to be played Tuesday morning, Neeraj, who put out Rafath Habib 5-4, takes on Alok Kumar who was shocked at his 5-2 win over Advani, while Manudev, a 5-3 winner over inconsistent Manan Chandra, meets Mehta who overcame Kamal Chawla 5-2.

The 25-year old Mehta, the only Indian on the professional circuit, and runner-up at the 2011 Asian championship earlier this year, crafted fluent breaks of 134 and 124 while clearing the table, but the highlight was Advani’s elimination in a match that lasted over three hours and witnessed some shockingly poor snooker.

Alok Kumar, looking rather out of sorts courtesy playing too much of pool coming into the championship, put it aptly when he said: “I was mediocre. I didn’t play well nor did Pankaj. In fact, I am surprised that I have reached the semi-finals.

“Just yesterday, Pankaj and I were discussing the art of winning! Today, I was struggling all the time, but just hung in there and took my chances.”

Advani, the 26-year old from Bangalore who won the billiards crown earlier in the three-week long championship, said: “I was just not in the match today and played poor snooker, may be 30 per cent of what I could. It was one of those matches when nothing went right.

“I was not happy with the table too, especially the cushions which were rather uneven, but I guess that was because so many qualifying matches were played on these tables. However, it is the same for everyone and I just didn’t play well. In the last Nationals, I had four centuries and this time, not even one!”

“I had my chances in the sixth frame that I could have won had I potted the pink before the last red and when leading by about 30 points. I missed the sitter pink and Alok went 4-2 instead of 3-3. I guess, the match turned at that point.”

Meanwhile, Manudev, the 1995 junior champion who took a break from the sport to concentrate on his iron ore mining business, played well enough for his win against the Delh-based Chandra, who won the title at the 2006 edition that was played in Chennai.

“I am striking well and my game came together last night in the pre-quarters. I only concentrated on my game against Manan. That will be my approach against Aditya on Tuesday,” Manudev said.

“It will be my first semi-final in the Nationals and I am quite ready for it,” said the 37-year old Karnataka champion who is considered a “natural” snooker player and for long considered potential champion.

Equally impressive was 31-year old Neeraj Kumar whose best in the championship has been No.6 ranking in 2006 when the event was held in Chennai, but this time, he went one better while wearing down local challenger Habib, clinching the decider on a green-to-pink break of 18.

The results:

Quarter-finals: Aditya Mehta (PSPB) bt Kamal Chawla (Rlys) 5-2: 60-32, 134(134)-0, 39-77, 138(124)-0, 15-63(53), 63-27, 72-09; IH.Manudev (Kar) bt Manan Chandra (PSPB) 5-3: 15-79, 68-31, 59-12, 43-74, 66-25, 33-79, 85-0, 70-43; Alok Kumar (PSPB) bt Pankaj Advani (PSPB) 5-2: 59-27, 47-58, 63-31, 76-63, 44-73, 67-66, 66-58; Neeraj Kumar (Rlys) bt Rafath Habib (Rlys) 5-4: 43-82, 59-29, 66-58, 68-58, 40-65, 41-50, 55-47, 14-76, 45-29.

Pre-quarter-finals: Pankaj Advani (PSPB) bt Subrat Das (Ori) 4-0; Manan Chandra (PSPB) bt Rupesh Shah (PSPB) 4-0; Aditya Mehta (PSPB) bt Siddharth Rao (TN) 4-1; Neeraj Kumar (Rlys) bt Brijesh Damani (WB) 4-2; Kamal Chwala (Rlys) bt Yasin Merchant (Mah) 4-3; Alok Kumar (PSPB) bt Vijay Goel (Del) 4-3; IH Manudev (Kar) bt Pushpinder Singh (Pun) 4-3; Rafath Habib (Rlys) bt Sourav Kothari (PSPB) 4-1.

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