SPORT

Pankaj Advani simply superb

JAMMU DEC. 25. Pankaj Advani brought alive an otherwise dour and soggy day with a scintillating performance and cruised into the final of the 27th Junior National billiards championship at the Hari Niwas Palace here on Wednesday.

Pankaj cracked six century breaks in his two matches, crossed 1000 points in a two-hour contest after having missed the mark by whisker in his two earlier matches.

The Karnataka cueist made his semifinal against Vaibhav Punvatkar of Maharashtra into a literal mismatch. Vaibhav, who finished ninth in the Sydney World Junior championship last month, played like a novice, much against the expectations.

Pankaj asserted his supremacy with excellent table and ball control. He opened with a break of 87 and then added 92 in his second visit before making 124 in the third. Pankaj was 300-plus when Vaibhav was just hovering around 40 and the match was decided then and there.

As if he was possessed, Pankaj scripted the highest break so far of the tournament, 165, in his fourth visit, leaving the audience and his opponent in awe. Then on it was race against time to reach the 1000 mark. He achieved it with a red pot at 999 and then continued till the timer blew off. Defending champion Pankaj won 1088-258.

Earlier in the morning, Pankaj scored four century breaks against Ravinder Singh of Rajasthan, and won 982-282. Playing on the table five, Pankaj led by the mile as he kept compiling the scores. His first century break of 150 came in the eighth visit. Pankaj then added 103 (ninth visit), 131 (32nd) and 128 unfinished (36th).

Also making it to the four-player final league were Rishabh Thakkar of Maharashtra, and Brijesh Damani and Sourav Kothari, both of Bengal. The final league will be played on Saturday and Sunday with Junior snooker commencing on Thursday.

India number three Sourav Kothari messed up an easy chance of making the highest break. At 160, Kothari missed an easy in-off in his semifinal tie against V. Katrela of Karnataka. Kothari was going strong, but he pushed the ball hard and his cue ball wobbled in the pocket and jumped out.

Kothari, who received walkover in the quarterfinal as Haryana's Ankur Nanda reported unwell, started confidently against Katrela. He made a break of 126 and then added 93 as Kothari opened up a huge gap. He won 762-322.

Number two seed Rishabh Thakkar made amends to his slow game and downed Pamin Shah of Gujarat 675-362. Rishabh had just one century break, of 104, to his credit, but Pamin was even more scrappy. Playing without much resolve, Pamin made several silly mistakes and gave the fight mid-way through the match.

Unseeded Brijesh Damani continued with his excellent showing in billiards. After having ousted fourth seed Aditya Mehta, Damani stretched his good run by defeating Sunny Chaddha of Delhi in the quarters and Sagar Yadav of Gujarat in the semis.

The results:

Semifinals: Pankaj Advani (Kar) bt Vaibhav Punvatkar (Mah) 1088-258; Brijesh Damani (Ben) bt Sagar Yadav (Guj) 766-337; Sourav Kothari (Ben) bt V. Katrela (Kar) 762-322; Rishabh Thakkar (Mah) bt Pamin Shah (Guj) 675-362.

Quaterfinals: Pankaj Advani bt Ravinder Singh (Raj) 982-282; Vaibhav Punvatkar bt Chiranjeev Singh (Ori) 504-258; Sagar Yadav bt Aparajit Mittal (Mah) 480-399; Brijesh Damani bt Sunny Chaddha (Del) 673-293; Sourav Kothari w.o Ankur Nanda (Har); V. Katrela bt Deepak Bajaj (J and K) 505-222; Pamin Shah bt Nishant Azad (J and K) 522-391; Rishabh Thakkar bt Dhruv Varma (Pun) 599-420.