05 May 2024

Kyren Wilson on top in World Championship final after checking Jak Jones rally

05 May 2024

Jak Jones missed a golden chance to pile the pressure on his opponent Kyren Wilson as his improbable Crucible comeback came up short at the end of the first day of the World Snooker Championship final.

Jones scraped away at an early 7-1 deficit but lost out in a dramatic black ball climax to the final frame of the day which let 12th seed Wilson off the hook and heading into Monday’s concluding sessions with an 11-6 lead.

Reflecting on his missed chance to move within three frames of his opponent, a visibly deflated Jones told the BBC: “It’s a miracle that I’m still in it, I played shocking. I’m absolutely knackered and I think if I’d had a decent night’s sleep last night I could have done better.”

Jones had experienced a nightmare start and had to wait until the last frame of the first session to get on the scoreboard and avoid becoming the first player since Dennis Taylor in 1985 to lose the first eight frames of the final.

The Welshman, who fought through a gruelling semi-final win over Stuart Bingham on Saturday night, was clearly relieved when he sunk the frame-ball red, but thoughts focused on whether Wilson could go on to become only the fourth man to win the title with a session to spare.

Wilson had been imperious form from the start as he rattled in two centuries, including a break of 129 in the opening frame, and four further half-centuries.

But the 32-year-old Englishman, in his first final since losing to Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2020, was far from perfect, a straight missed blue in the third frame handing his opponent an opportunity that he failed to convert.

It was the story of the session for Jones, only the ninth qualifier to reach a Crucible final, who was ruthlessly punished for spurning further opportunities and began to look increasingly ill at ease in his chair.

The Welshman was criticised by six-times world champion Steve Davis – who inflicted the eight-frame lead on Taylor – for not heading straight for the practice table at the interval.

“He’s been sitting in his chair for four frames,” Davis told the BBC. “Why would you not go to the practice table? I don’t understand why not.

“He’s absolutely not even got out of the blocks, and he’s expecting to pot what could be difficult shots. It’s a no-brainer to me to go to the practice table.”

Besides Taylor’s poor start against Davis, the only other time a player lost the first seven frames of a Crucible final was in 1991, when Jimmy White fell 7-0 behind against John Parrott.

But Jones looked like a revitalised player at the start of the evening session, pouncing with breaks of 75 and 52 in the first two frames to claw back the deficit to 7-3.

Jones also had chances in the next two frames but Wilson pulled them back, and when the 12th seed went into the mid-session interval having restored his seven-frame advantage, it looked like the underdog’s valiant effort had come to nothing.

Wilson responded to Jones pulling another frame back with his fourth century of the day, a flamboyant 122 to go 10-4 in front, but it sparked Jones into fashioning a gutsy turnaround.

It's a miracle that I'm still in it, I played shocking. I'm absolutely knackered and I think if I'd had a decent night's sleep last night I could have done better

The qualifier took the next two frames, then made a superb break of 64 under the utmost pressure that looked set to turn the momentum of the tie in his favour.

But a missed yellow left Wilson with one snooker required, and after Wilson’s failure to clear the colours, it culminated in the black ball decider that has made a huge difference to the pair’s prospects when they resume on Monday afternoon.

Wilson said: “It’s not about the scoreline, it’s about the way the frame was won. I’m proud of the way I held it together. I had in my head that I wanted to get to 11 tonight, so target achieved.”

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