Defending Champion O’Sullivan Leads Pang
Defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan made a strong start to his Cazoo World Championship campaign, emerging from the opening session with a 6-3 lead over debutant Pang Junxu at the Crucible Theatre.
This morning’s tie saw O’Sullivan break the record for most appearances at the Crucible. It’s the Essex cueman’s 31st time competing at the Theatre of Dreams, surpassing Steve Davis’s previous record of 30.
O’Sullivan’s 18-13 win over Judd Trump in last year’s final earned him a record equalling seventh Crucible crown, drawing level with Stephen Hendry. The Rocket came out of the traps quickly this morning in his bid for an eighth world title.
China’s Pang, who reached a maiden final at the recent WST Classic, took some time to settle on the sport’s grandest stage and even walked out through the wrong entrance to the arena after he was introduced to the crowd. However, a strong rally at the end of the session saw Pang stay in touch.
The first chance of the morning went to Pang, who crafted a run of 50 to take control of the opener. O’Sullivan got himself back into the frame and a missed blue from Pang allowed him to deposit the last three balls and move 1-0 up.
Further breaks of 61, 53 and 71 helped 47-year-old O’Sullivan to secure a commanding 5-0 lead. However, those who were expecting 23-year-old Pang to wilt in the Crucible cauldron were mistaken.
A stunning run of 133 earned Pang his first frame. Despite O’Sullivan then moving 6-1 ahead, the momentum was with his opponent. Pang shut the 39-time ranking event winner out for the following two frames and made breaks of 83 and 44 to come out of the session just three behind at 6-3. The match will be played to a finish this evening at 7pm.
On the other table, 2015 World Champion Stuart Bingham came from behind to secure a 6-3 lead over former semi-finalist David Gilbert.
Gilbert faces an almighty task turning the tie around given his horrendous record in previous meetings with Bingham, who has won all of their clashes as professionals. The Basildon potter leads the head-to-head standings 11-0.
Bingham opened the match with a century run of 108, but it was Tamworth’s Gilbert who fired in contributions of 60, 90 and 121 to lead 3-1 at the mid-session interval.
When the players returned, the tie was turned on its head. Bingham stormed to five frames on the bounce, making breaks of 78 and 87 along the way to end 6-3 ahead. They return to play to a conclusion tomorrow morning at 10am.