Week four of the SportyStuff Champions Cup this week, and my I-Spy Book Of Superlatives was already worn out and this week has had me digging the depths of the thesaurus in the hunt for something new to use. The professionalism exhibited here by players, presenters and technical crew alone are easily the best yet seen on pool (just look at the sharpness of the picture for evidence, there really is no contest), and the scary thing is, there are add-ons still to come – watch this space for details, or better still, watch the pool, Monday to Wednesday at 2.30pm and 10.00pm.
Despite the technical side getting better week on week and the presenting spot on both on and off screen (and a big thank you to the players who have put in a shift behind the microphone, we want to heat your opinions), it’s the matches themselves that we love to see, and have we had some drama this past week.
On Monday we “only” had the one World champion in action as Jack Whelan faced up to Curtis Lee in the second match, but not until after we sat down to see Andrew Mckie take on Craig Brown as the day took shape. In my view (and what do I know), Craig looked the more at home under the television lights before coming home the 6-3 victor with some stunning clearances that suggest he will be a player to take very seriously on the IPA Tour, which hopefully gets started next month in Coventry, government rules permitting. Jack looked his usual laid back self and started as well as you would expect for player of his ability but Curtis was never going to be a pushover taking it to a final frame decider before bowing out 6-5. Everyone (partner bookmakers included) saw it as a foregone conclusion that Jack would now get through on the day but it was Craig who shone once again, taking the evening final 7-6 (last frame again, my nerves can’t take it), and knocking out a World Champion in the process.
Tuesday had an even stronger line-up with as another past World Champion in Craig Marsh saw off a very spirited television debut from Matt Steeper, with a 6-1 scoreline and looking very much like the man in form. His evening opponent was never going to be an easy one as good friends Simon Fitzsimmons and Arfan Dad were drawn to face each other, but there is no room for friendship during the match in a tournament this prestigious. The two of them played quite exquisite pool on occasions but it was Arfan who crept through 6-5 after clawing his way back from an early deficit, leaving us with a game to savour at 10.00pm. Once again we had a last frame decider, and once again we waved a reluctant goodbye to a World Champion as Craig bowed out 7-6 on one of the most intriguingly well balanced matches I have seen in many a year.
It seemed pretty obvious that Wednesday would struggle to live up to the hype created earlier in the week, but how wrong can you be – this sport makes fools of us all. Our first match looked a classic on paper as two previous World Champions took to the table with Ben Davies v Tom Cousins, two of the biggest breakers in the game. This wasn’t a match I would ever to attempt to call, but Ben looked back to his very best before going though 6-3, seeing his odds tumble to take the title in the process. In game two, we had Jason Rimington against Karl Page which Jason won 6-2 in fairly short time ahead of the last match of the week. No offence intended (sorry Jason), but the bookmakers saw this as a very one-sided affair but as we keep pointing out, these are the top pool players around and in a race to seven, all things are possible. Ben’s pool CV would suggest he would come home victorious but yet again, we ended up with a last frame decider, and Jason held his nerve at a crucial stage to fall over the line 7-6 after another exhausting and exciting match. A feat even more amazing as he was 6-4 behind before reeling off the final 3 frames in a cool, calm manner.
Next week we see three more days of top class action from Monday to Wednesday, and the line-up includes previous World Champion Marc Farnsworth, current World Champion Jon McAllister, the pride of Scotland Mark Boyle and your very own commentator and author of Pickers Picks, Marc Pickworth – and remember 2.30pm starts on Sportystuff.tv from now on – enjoy.