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Bingham On Top Of The World

Stuart Bingham

Bingham came through one of the strongest ever Crucible fields to take the title

Stuart Bingham won the Betfred World Championship for the first time by beating Shaun Murphy 18-15 in an extraordinary final at the Crucible.

Murphy looked to have the momentum when he came from 15-12 down to 15-15, but Bingham won a crucial hour-long 31st frame and went on to take the next two to win the famous trophy and £300,000 top prize.

After his second round win over Graeme Dott, Bingham revealed that “once I was out there, a calm descended on me, and stayed for the whole match.” That state of calmness at the table remained throughout the tournament, and he finished a superb match in the style of a true champion.

It’s just unreal,” he said. “You dream of it as a kid playing. But it’s reality now. I’m going to be the same person, playing in all the tournaments, and I’ll be hopefully a good role-model. Any kids out there growing up that want to play, just stick at it. With a lot of hard work, a lot of practice and a lot of self-belief, something like this can happen.

Starting the event a 50-1 outsider having never previously been beyond the quarter-finals in Sheffield, Bingham has won the tournament the hard way, knocking out Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump before coming from 8-4 down to see off 2005 champion Murphy.

Basildon’s 38-year-old Bingham, who made his Crucible debut 15 years ago, is the oldest first-time winner since Walter Donaldson, who was 40 when he took his maiden title in 1947, and must be grouped with Joe Johnson, Graeme Dott and Murphy himself as the shock winners of the modern era.

Considered something of a journeyman pro for much of his 20-year career, Bingham didn’t win a ranking tournament or figure among the world’s top 16 until capturing the 2011 Australian Goldfields Open. That victory added a huge injection of self-belief to his undoubted talent, and he has since become a prolific winner. Indeed this season he had already won three tournaments, including his second ranking title at the Shanghai Masters.

He may have carried the nickname Ball-Run since his amateur days, but there is nothing lucky about this triumph. It’s reward for countless years of hard work, dedication to practice and playing in virtually any tournament he could enter. He is a man who simply loves nothing more than playing snooker, and has won the affection of many for what Barry Hearn described as a “beautiful ordinariness.”

Bingham, who was supported tonight by wife Michelle and three-year-old son Shae, climbs to a career-high ranking of second, and also earns a place in the England team at the World Cup in China in June, where he will play alongside Mark Selby.

Murphy missed out on the chance to become only the sixth player to lift the trophy more than once at the Crucible, after Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, John Higgins, Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan. The 32-year-old has enjoyed great success this season with an all-out attack approach at the table, notably winning the Masters with a 10-2 thumping of Neil Robertson. The Nottingham-based cueman played superb snooker en route to the world final and was odds-on favourite before the match. But after a strong start, not enough of his trademark long pots found their target, and he was picked off by Bingham’s superior all-round game. Five-time ranking event winner Murphy takes home a cheque for £125,000.

One of the highest quality finals in Crucible history featured six centuries and 24 more breaks over 50 in the 33 frames. Trailing 14-11 going into the concluding session, Murphy dominated the opening frame tonight with top runs of 33 and 28. Bingham responded with a 102, his tenth century of the tournament and the 86th in all, to restore his three-frame lead at 15-12.

Bingham looked to be cruising further ahead when he led 55-0 in the next, but a missed black off the spot let Murphy in for an excellent 75 clearance, highlighted by a cracking pot on the last red. There was also a chance for Bingham in the 29th frame but he missed a tricky pink with the rest and Murphy capitalised with 64 to trail by just one at the interval.

Further errors from Bingham in the 30th, twice missing reds to a top corner, allowed Murphy to take it in three scoring visits to draw level at 15-15.

The epic 31st frame lasted 63 minutes and came down to the colours. Murphy missed the final yellow when he had a chance to clear, then gave away 38 points in fouls after being trapped in three snookers. Bingham then potted yellow and green to edge 16-15 ahead.

Bingham made a classy 55 early in the next before missing a red to top corner, but Murphy was unable to manufacture a counter-attack and when Bingham potted the fourth-last red he was two up with three to play.

And when Murphy missed a risky long red early in frame 33, Bingham seized his opportunity brilliantly with a match-winning 88.

“At 15-15 I thought my chance was gone, my arm felt like someone else’s and nerves sort of got to me,” said Bingham, who joins Ken Doherty as the only player to win the world title at amateur and professional level. “But we had a marathon 31st frame and I pinched it on the colours, and from then on I played pretty solid.

“I got through my first round against Robbie Williams with a bit of a cold, and then went from strength to strength. I had a great win over Graeme Dott and then a great, great win over Ronnie. I was worried playing Judd, because I needed to capitalise on my chance. I could easily not be sitting here, Judd had a kick when it was 16-16. As Shaun said, sometimes your name is on the trophy.

“In the last frame I was just playing one ball at a time. I actually didn’t realise I’d won the frame until the crowd clapped, then I looked at the score and realised.

“I was the underdog against Ronnie and Judd, but when I came out for the final I might have had 80 per cent of the crowd and I just thought ‘wow’. It’s just unbelievable to be sitting here as world champion.

“Just to witness and experience the final, I didn’t care if I won or lost to start with. In the first session I came out at 4-4 and then I thought ‘I can do this.’ Then we had a good battle until the end.”

Murphy said: “I’m disappointed, nobody wants to lose in the final. But the way Stuart played all the way through the tournament, he played like a champion. When I went 8-4 up he wasn’t worried about it, he played like a winner all the way through the match. Sometimes in sport people are meant to win things. Stuart is a massive fan of the game, he loves snooker more than life itself, he fully deserves to win this tournament. I’m disappointed to lose but I’m very, very happy for him and his family.

“I know how hard it is to win this championship. He made such a nice break in the last frame. I can have no regrets really, I feel I’ve played some really great stuff throughout this championship. There can only be one winner and again unfortunately this year it wasn’t me.

“It seemed to be very good scoring throughout the final, good tactical play, not many missed chances. I thought we put on a really good show.”

Stuart Bingham

Bingham celebrates with wife Michelle and son Shae

Stuart Bingham

Top of the world

Shaun Murphy

Murphy interviewed by Hazel Irvine