Merchant notches up third straight win

MUMBAI, JULY 12. National champion Yasin Merchant notched up his third straight win in Group B by drubbing Chih-Wei Ku of Chinese Taipei to ensure his entry into the pre-quarterfinal knock-out rounds of the Asian snooker championship at Hong Kong on Tuesday.

His compatriot and India No. 2 Rupesh Shah showed better cue touch on Wednesday after losing his opening Group F tie on Tuesday when he despatched Sri Lanka's Henry Boteju 4-2 after taking a commanding 3-0 lead, according to information here today.

Former champion Merchant now has to beat a virtually unknown Philippines cueist Joven Alba to top the pool.

The bespectacled Mumbai-based former professional played poorly to drop the first frame on the black ball against Ku before clinching the next four frames, but without also showing his wonted cue touch, Shah looked much more composed and notched up runs of 35, 67 (clearance) and 43 to race to a 3-0 lead before going off the boil and allowing lanky Lankan Boteju to fight back to 3-2.

Ahmedabad-based Shah recover poise and clinch the deciding frame to win the clash.

Shah was given his next match on a platter when his South Korean opponent Seung Ghil Park failed to turn up and has now only to subdue Wong Sieu Lone of Brunei to join Merchant in the last 16.

Pakistan's former world amateur runner-up Saleh Mohammed strung together breaks of 70, 34, 33 and 52 on way to demolish Vong Tat Keong of Chinese Macau 4-0 and ensure his last 16 berth. His last league clash in Group E against former Asian champion Marlon Manalo of the Philippines would decided the pool topper.

Thai No. 1 one Nappadon Sangmil put a sterling display by outclassing United Arab Emirates' Mohd Sultan Al-Joker 4-1 in another league clash with a top-class clearance of 94, the highest in the event so far, spotlighting the show.

Hung Chung-Ming of Chinese Taipei, among the favourites for the title, displayed his potting prowess when he whipped Tan Hsu Huei of Brunei 4-0 to storm into the last 16.