It's Alok Kumar vs. Rupesh Shah; Thakur sisters in semifinals

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PRIZE SCALP: Alok Kumar stunned Pankaj Advani to make it to the title clash. Photo: K. Murali Kumar
PRIZE SCALP: Alok Kumar stunned Pankaj Advani to make it to the title clash. Photo: K. Murali Kumar

Avinash Nair

BANGALORE: It will be Alok Kumar versus Rupesh Shah in the final of the Jain Heights 73rd senior National snooker championship. At the KSBA's McDowell hall here on Thursday, Alok stunned local favourite and young sensation Pankaj Advani 5-3 while Rupesh of Gujarat showed tremendous resilience and gumption to pull back from a 1-3 deficit to edge out twice Asian champion Yasin Merchant of Maharashtra 5-4.

Gritty show

Pankaj was not his usual self, but this does not take away any credit from Alok's gritty show. After a year's hiatus Alok did not qualify for neither billiards nor snooker last year at Chennai and instead opted for pool after winning the snooker title in 2005 and a double in 2004 Alok's performance is indeed creditable. The bespectacled PSPB cueist from Punjab played `safety-shots' to shut out Pankaj and at odd times came up with some brilliant long pots that turned the tables around even after Pankaj had recovered to draw level 2-2 after trailing 0-2.

"The fifth frame was crucial," admitted Alok after the match. "But then Pankaj is dangerous and very crafty and one never knows when he will bounce back," Alok added.

Pankaj did show glimpses of a fightback with a fluent clearance of the table unfinished 31 to clinch the seventh frame and make it 3-4 but that was the last hurrah as Alok with a meticulous 76 took the sting out of the former World IBSF champion.

Pankaj did play a good safety, or so one presumed in the frame too, but with only one option left Alok went for the long red and succeeded and then on it was machine-like performance from the former Asian and National champion Alok.

That it was just not Pankaj's day could be defined with his five successive `foul and miss' in the sixth frame that Alok capitalised upon. The pressure to perform in front of his home crowd probably seemed to weigh heavily against Pankaj.

Paying the price

In the first semifinals too, after a breezy start, Rupesh was cowed down against a belligerent Yasin and trailed 1-3. But then Yasin, very much against his style went into a negative mode and resorted to `safety play' that just did not come off well.

Once Rupesh got the better off Yasin in the mind game by winning three frames on the trot the interest picked up amongst the decent crowd. Yasin did level at 4-4 winning the eighth frame but in the decider Yasin despite leading by 20 odd points gave a chance with the yellow and the canny Gujarat cueist cleared the table to emerge worthy victor.

The Thakur sisters will once again clash, but this time in the semifinals of the 15th ladies snooker championship.

Meenal Thakur (Maharashtra) outclassed Heena Khandelwal (Maharashtra) 48-39, 73-28, 57-30 while Anuja proved too good for Sangeetha Hemchand (also of Maharashtra) 43-23, 69-34, 66-24.

The results: Senior snooker: (Semifinals-best of nine frames): Rupesh Shah (Guj) bt Yasin Merchant (Mah) 73-36, 29-80, 14-64, 52-65, 62-52, 73-21, 53-52, 29-60, 65-58; Alok Kumar (PSPB) bt Pankaj Advani (PSPB) 73(52)-49, 84(62)-51, 10-120(115), 10-60, 79-51, 74-52, 55-57, 82(76)-0.

5 to 8 placings: Manan Chandra (PSPB) bt Kamal Chawla (Rlys) 72-43(45), 00-87(87), 65-18; D. Raj Kumar (Kar) bt Sarang Shroff (Mah) 75-38, 1-73, 62-3.

5th & 6th placing: Manan Chandra bt D. Raj Kumar 95(47,42)-0, 57-18.

7th & 8th placing: Sarang Shroff bt Kamal Chawla 72(48)-49, 73(66)-59.

Quarterfinals (late on Wednesday): Rupesh Shah (Guj) bt Kamal Chawla (Rlys) 44-41, 46-73, 86-1, 79-41, 45-78, 77-19, 4-79, 42-69, 57-41.

Ladies snooker: (Quarterfinals): Meenal Thakur (Mah) bt Heena Khandelwal (Mah) 48-39, 73-28, 57-30; Anuja Thakur (PSPB) bt Sangeetha Hemchand (Mah) 43-23, 69-34, 66-24.

Pre-quarterfinals (Best of three frames): Anuja Thakur bt Asha (TN) 93(46)-1, 46-11; Heena Khandelwal bt Soumini Srinivas (TN) 86(31)-12, 60-14; Chitra (Kar) bt Jagruthi Patel (Mah) 69-17, 59-17; R. Uma Devi (Kar) bt Arantxa Sanchis (Mah) 39-44, 52-18, 47-25; Sangeetha Hemchand bt Neeta Sanghvi (Mah) 72-48, 44-15; Meenal Thakur bt Renu Barkatiya (MP) 74(33)-24, 48-35; Vidya Pillai (TN) bt Saraswathi (Kar) 94(34)-2, 79-23.

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